Where is Jinnah’s Pakistan? Timeline of terror attacks on minorities. Carnage in Lahore – Pakistan and UK Governments Failure to Challenge Persecution or the Culture of Impunity. Links to previous posts about Pakistan’s Christians, Shahbaz Bhatti, Asia Bibbi, and the report on systematic persecution of the country’s minorities.

MRC Newsletter – May 2016

The Sunday Times April 3rd 2016 







See the Daily Times –Pakistan

 Where is Jinnah’s Pakistan? by Nasir Saeed  March 31, 2016

Saeed writes: “Instead of recognising minorities’ role in the making of Pakistan, and considering them equal citizens, it was suggested that non-Muslims had to enter into a covenant with the Islamic state. Sadly, because of Quaid-e-Azam’s untimely death, we lost his vision. The factions and groups who opposed the idea of Pakistan and Jinnah, began emphasising their ideas of Islam, which led to extremism, division in society and hatred against minorities. Politicians and bureaucrats intentionally ignored minorities to avoid confrontation with religious extremists, and until today we are reluctant to consider minorities equal citizens of Pakistan. Many Muslims still believe that non-Muslims are dhimmi, while a few consider them mohaideen (non-Muslims who have entered into contract with an Islamic government. But according to the founder of Pakistan, they are not dhimmi or mohaideen, but first, second and lastly are equal citizens of Pakistan. Pakistan was achieved as a result of democratic struggle.”




Subject: An article with a timeline of major attacks on minorities in Pakistan



The war on Christians



Attempt to prevent the world from seeing the conditions in which escaping Pakistani Christian refugees are kept:



Carnage in Lahore –  Pakistan and UK Governments Failure to Challenge Persecution or the Culture of Impunity 

Pakistan christins

Just one month ago, I launched a report in Parliament which catalogues the systematic campaign targeting Pakistan’s religious minorities, particularly Christians and Ahmadis, a campaign played out in a culture of impunity. The report followed evidence taking sessions, witness statements, and a visit I made to a detention centre where escaping Pakistani Christians are held.


  The assassination, five years ago, of the country’s Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was the curtain raiser for an orgy of bombings, killings, rapes, imprisonment and abductions, of which the Lahore massacre is the latest bloody and shocking example.


  In 1947, Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah crafted a constitution which promised to uphold plurality and diversity and to protect all its citizens.  Jinnah said: “You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State…Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life and their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste and creed”. 


   In the aftermath of this systematic campaign of visceral hatred there is little evidence that Pakistan’s contemporary leaders are doing anything whatsoever to uphold Jinnah’s vision – and, equally, there is little evidence that more than £1 billion of British aid, given over the past two years, is doing anything to support beleaguered minorities, often the poorest of the poor, or to promote religious freedom or peaceful co-existence.


  Just as disturbing as the UK Government’s refusal to describe the annihilation of Christians in Iraq and Syria as the genocide that it patently is, in Pakistan they say Christians in Pakistan merely experience “discrimination” not persecution. They should tell the grieving, mourning, families of Lahore how they come to that conclusion.




Please find an immediate link to the BBC documentary on detained Pakistani Christians. The password is Pakistan.


Password: Pakistan

Also see:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35654804 and

Chris Rogers’ Disturbing Report for the BBC on the conditions of Pakistani Christians held in detention centres: 


For background also see:




19 February 2016

APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief Inquiry Finds UK Government Policy on Pakistani Religious Minorities Inadequate



On Wednesday, 24 February, the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief launches its inquiry report on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Pakistan & UK Government Policy. The report challenges the Home Office’s Country Information and Guidance on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts while also finding that Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus in Pakistan face a real risk of persecution, the likelihood of which depends on their encounters with and actions amongst people of other faiths or beliefs.


The APPG inquiry’s main findings and recommendations include an urgent requirement for a new country guidance case regarding Pakistani Christians to provide sufficient and accurate guidance for Pakistani Christian asylum cases. At the very least, the APPG urges the Home Office to limit the use of the current AK and SK country guidance case in its Country Information and Guidance (CIG) report on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts to be used only for cases involving Evangelical Christians and blasphemy charges from non-State actors. In the report, the APPG urges the Home Office to acknowledge the strong evidence highlighting Pakistani authorities’ failure to protect minority religious communities from rights violations and amend its CIGs accordingly. The inquiry also highlights concerns about the possibility of internal relocation of Pakistani religious minorities, which the APPG urges the UK Home Office to recognise as unsafe and unviable.


Home Office staff involved in asylum cases, including interviewers, interpreters, case workers and presenting officers, are also recommended by the APPG to be sufficiently sensitised and trained in the different religious doctrines and terminologies of religious denominations in Pakistan, as well as the cultural contexts which have enabled and supported the persecution of members of Pakistan’s minority religious communities.


Furthermore, the APPG urges the UK Department for International Development to ensure that overseas development assistance is only provided to organisations and government departments in Pakistan that can demonstrate their understanding of and commitment to upholding Pakistan’s international human rights obligations. This appeal is made in conjunction with the recommendation that the Government of Pakistan be supported in maintaining its international obligations that include protecting freedom of religion or belief, repealing punishments that are cruel, inhumane and degrading or amount to torture and preventing hatred and incitement to violence that is broadcast on Pakistani media channels, including in the UK.


The APPG inquiry into the treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan and as asylum seekers stems Lord Alton’s visit to UNHCR’s Bangkok detention camp. During the visit, it was discovered that the UK Home Office’s CIG Report on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts, which states that such individuals are not at “a real risk of persecution”, was being used to justify unduly prolonging granting asylum to Christians fleeing Pakistan. The APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief subsequently launched an inquiry into the treatment of different religious communities in Pakistan and the adequacy of current UK Government policy regarding these communities. The report due to be launched on Wednesday 24th February is the result of the APPG’s three-month long investigations and analysis which draws on evidence from over 20 organisations, lawyers and academics.

At the launch of the report Lord Alton said:

Our report emerged from a visit to the detention centre in Bangkok where escaping Pakistan Christians are kept in degrading conditions. Instead of being helped to find asylum they have been left to fester while being told by the UNHCR that their cases will take years to process.  In London, we then held evidence  sessions at Westminster at which parliamentarians heard accounts of Christians being burnt alive, bombed, tortured, raped or mown down by murderers – while those responsible have been protected by a culture of impunity.  Others have been imprisoned on spurious charges.  


The official line of the UK Government is that there is no persecution, the reality is the opposite of that and our report dispenses with that illusion.


Pakistan is the biggest recipient of British aid – more than £1 billion in the last couple of years – and we should be demanding that British aid is used to protect minorities and to staunch the flow of refugees. And we need to dispense with the fiction that the Christian minority, and other minorities are treated fairly and justly. There is outright persecution and we should not hesitate in saying so.

Previous Posts






















http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TEOBIlZs1I&context=C3edb8c0ADOEgsToPDskJ55Bb422uTeEmiNJll-Iiz   https://davidalton.net/?s=shahbaz+Bhatti&x=8&y=13


First Anniversary of the Killing of Shahbaz Bhatti – one of a long line who have courageously given their lives for their beliefs and for their friends…


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TEOBIlZs1I&context=C3edb8c0ADOEgsToPDskJ55Bb422uTeEmiNJll-Iiz   https://davidalton.net/?s=shahbaz+Bhatti&x=8&y=13   This weekend marks the first anniversary of the assassination of Clement Shahbaz Bhatti. Aged 42, the life of Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities, was cut short by self described Taliban assassins. His murderers scattered pamphlets describing him as a “Christian infidel”. The leaflets were signed “Taliban al-Qaida Punjab.”

Shahbaz Bhatti – one year on since his brutal assassination: what to make of his sacrificial life and the treatment of minorities in Pakistan


The First Anniversary of the Death of Shahbaz Bhatti David Alton   On March 2nd, 2011, aged 42, Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities, was brutally murdered. His assassination not only robbed Pakistan’s National Assembly of a dedicated, honest, and able politician but his death also threw into sharp relief the plight of […]

Pakistan’s Treatment of Minorities and the Murder of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer


http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2012/01/lord-alton-speaks-out-for-minorities-in.html Pakistan Question January 19th 2012. 11.29 am Asked by Baroness Falkner of Margravine To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Pakistan and other interested parties regarding the current political situation in Pakistan. Baroness Warsi: My Lords, when I visited Pakistan last week, I called on Prime Minister […]

March 2nd: 5th Anniversary of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti. February 24th: Report Launched at Westminster on the Persecution of Religious Minorities In Pakistan. Link to Chris Rogers Disturbing Report for the BBC.


https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2016/26-february/news/world/home-office-guidance-on-pakistan-has-serious-flaws-say-mpshttp://www.leadfamily.blogspot.comhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b072sbqr/our-world-thailands-asylum-crackdown Watch Chris Rogers’ disturbing documentary on the plight of incarcerated Pakistani Christians held in detention centres in Bangkok. You will need to use the password: Pakistan and click on this link:https://vimeo.com/user18375217/review/156847557/edd7ed8b33For UK viewers:http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b072sbqr/our-world-thailands-asylum-crackdown http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/01-Mar-2016/pakistani-minorities-and-the-british-parliament   See Chris Rogers’ Disturbing Report for the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35654804 BBC ON LINEhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35654804   BBC […]

Debate on Overseas Aid – Is aid to Pakistan challenging intolerance and persecution and helping minorities? Dr.Paul Bhatti addresses members of both Houses of Parliament as persecution of Christians and other minorities continues to be raised in the British Parliament. Parliamentarians paid ribute to the memory of his murdered brother, Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities in Pakistan.


19 Nov 2015 : Column 372  7.01 pm  Debate on Overseas Aid – Is aid to Pakistan challenging intolerance  and persecution and helping minorities?   Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I thank my noble friend for initiating this debate and join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Barker of Battle, on his maiden […]

October Hearing on Eritrea to be followed by November Hearings in Parliament on Pakistani Christians and other minorities – Call for Evidence – Latest Replies From The British Government on Pakistani Escapees; New article “Why does the world stand idle as Pakistan persecutes Christians?”


ERITREA: Briefing in Parliament organised by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, to be chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool, on Tuesday October 20th at 2.00pm in Committee Room 2A of the House of Lords.  Opening Comments by lord Alton   The Current Situation The human rights situation in Eritrea is one of the most deplorable in the […]

Full transcript: House of July 16 Lords Debate on Article 18: Stop Killing Christians – including speeches by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, and other senior Peers from many faith and humanist backgrounds

JULY 5, 2015EDIT

Freedom of Religion and Belief Motion to Take Note Watch the debate at: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/53d07cde-20ee-4f53-80d3-f4c075deb3d0?in=16:20:35https://freedomdeclared.org/   4.20 pm Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool To move that this House takes note of worldwide violations of Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the case for greater priority to be given by […]

Save Asia Bibi – Christian woman facing execution in Pakistan


The recent decision to award Malala Yousafzai the Nobel Peace Prize was a good one for women and a good one for Pakistan but the decision to sentence Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, to death was a bad one for all women, all minorities, people of all faiths, and Pakistan. The brutal killing of a […]

Paying A Price For Belief – the Assyrian Christians abducted by ISIS and face execution. Also, recent parliamentary interventions and the paltry sum we set aside to promote freedom of religion and belief


Also see: July 1st 2015 article on the targeting of Christians worldwide: http://www.geopolitical-info.com/en/article/1435726790089290800 8.01 pm: Thursday June 25th, 2015  Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):⁠ My Lords, Syria is the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our time, generating the largest movement of displaced people since World War II. We are all grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady […]

More than 80 Churchgoers were murdered in Pakistan -100,000 Christians killed each year – An Appeal for Religious Freedom and Toleration.

MAY 26, 2013EDIT

Report of A Lecture Given to The Disraeli Society at Christ Church, the University of Oxford, October 2013.http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/opinion/columns/10766682.YOURS_FAITHFULLY__Let___s_be_tolerant_of_other_people___s_beliefs/At the very moment when the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was taking place in Woolwich, the House of Lords had just begun a debate about religious violence in Pakistan. Pakistan: Religious Violence Read full debate





What Chesterton had to say about the Resurrection;Good Friday and Easter Reflections – From the Holy Week Carnage of Brussels, Sneha Mehta’s message of hope to her unborn child – a promise of new life

What Chesterton had to say about the Resurrection:



Maundy Thursday: Pope Francis washes the feet of refugees…



via dolorosa

Carrying their cross

Why the United Kingdom should start acting on behalf of religious minorities in the Middle East



Good Friday 2016 in Lancashire

On Good Friday, Christians will pray and – in many churches – also walk the way of the cross – the Via Dolorosa – a tradition dear to those who attend the Easter services. Each year I am profoundly moved as I watch my sons shoulder our own parish cross as they, and other parishioners, carry it to a joint Good Friday Service with Christians from other denominations.

The Via Dolorosa – the way of sorrows, the way of grief, the way of suffering – is commemorated in the fourteen stations of Jesus’ suffering. Pausing at each we try to understand what was happening on the way to Mount Calvary – the place where the most inspiring figure in history was executed. To more than a billion believers, He is more than just an inspiration. Having suffered greatly Himself, the Son of God represents redemption to all of mankind.

Over the centuries, Christians have lived in the knowledge that they are subject to persecution for their faith. Today, Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world.  However there is one particular region of the world where the suffering of Christians has reached levels of persecution comparable to what the early Christians experienced under the Roman Emperor Nero – where their existence is under threat of eradication.

The cross is not just something Christians in the Middle East under the reign of the so-called “Islamic State” or Daesh will be remembering when they will join their brothers and sisters in faith around the world during this year’s Easter celebrations. They may be facing it themselves – as they have done for the last two years.

There is no need to endlessly recount the atrocities Christians in the Iraq and Syria have been subjected to. Abundant evidence is accessible to everyone online. All major newspapers, radio and television stations have reported on the beheadings, the rapes, the crucifixions, the abductions, the intentional targeting of Church leaders and strategic destruction of Church buildings. There are very few instances of such crimes against humanity being committed where the perpetrators have been so outspoken about their goals and objectives to the global public.

Daesh have issued countless statements, video-messages and official declarations clearly stating that there is no room for any religion other than Islam – and only their particular version of Islam – in areas under their control. In fact, there might be hardly anyone who is yet to be confronted with the reports of extreme violence carried out against Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Modern technology has enabled all of us to become eye witnesses, in a way, to what is happening.

And yet despite our awareness we react like the Apostle Peter on the night Jesus was arrested: we claim to have nothing to do with what is going on. We refrain from officially recognising that the ongoing plight of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq is a genocide, even though all the criteria defined under international law that determines the “crime of all crimes” appear to be met. We rather vaguely defer the matter to the judgment of the international judicial system, wash our hands and remain silent, while Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities are being forced to shoulder their own cross and continue their march towards Calvary.

Of course, use of the term genocide should not be made lightly. Its recognition sets into motion legal obligations to “prevent and punish” acts of genocide. If we take human rights seriously, we would be obliged to start acting and to actively seek ways to bring this genocide to an end. As a permanent member to the UN Security Council, the United Kingdom could play a highly influential role in referring the ongoing situation in Syria and Iraq to the International Criminal Court.

Alternatively, the U.K. could use its influence to call upon the UN Security Council to establish a commission of fact-finding experts, which could lead to the establishment of an international tribunal, as was the case with the genocides committed in Bosnia and Rwanda. Either option would ensure the prosecution of the perpetrators and bring justice to the victims. However, the main objective would be to bring an end to the killings.

A recent ComRes poll commissioned by legal organisation ADF International showed that just under two-thirds of the British public support not only an official recognition of genocide, but also believe that the U.K. should use its international influence to bring the genocide to an end. 69% of the public was of the view that the U.K. should be looking to raise the issue with the United Nations Security Council with the aim of referring the situation to the International Criminal Court – a proposition that only 7% opposed. The Government however seems to be of a quite different opinion, as it has not yet engaged the UN Security Council on either of the aforementioned fronts.

Standing up for religious minorities in the Middle East may come at a cost. France has always been very clear on its concern about the ongoing atrocities being carried out in the Middle East, and the European Parliament recently condemned the Daesh atrocities as genocide in early February. Both have paid an incredibly high price for their courage. The appalling bombings in Paris, and more recently in Brussels, could well be perceived – at least in part – as retribution for open opposition to Daesh. Courage provokes consequences. But to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as Baroness Cox did in a recent debate on the topic in the House of Lords; “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” 

For Christians, the cross has always been a sign of hope. At Easter, we remember that after death comes life; that after having carried the cross, resurrection awaits. It is my hope that this Easter, we all keep our persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East firmly in mind, and that we do not neglect them as they continue to carry their weighty cross along their Via Dolorosa.

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away.  In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night.  What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.”  (G. K. Chesterton; The Everlasting Man)


G.K. Chesterton and the Resurrection

‘God raised Jesus from the dead!’  This was the fundamental and unalterable testimony of those who had physically seen Jesus dead and then alive again.  The historical fact of Jesus resurrection is the ground and basis of all true love, hope, and joy; for if Jesus is still in the grave then all of humanity will remain in the grave too.  But he is not in the grave, and this makes all the difference.  Now those who put their hope in Jesus may find their way into a fullness of joy: partially in this world; fully in the next.  May praise to God and joy in Jesus be the main thing in your Easter.  He is risen indeed! 

Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial.  Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.  Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live…The sceptic may truly be said to be topsy-turvy; for his feet are dancing upwards in idle ecstasies, while his brain is in the abyss.  To the modern man the heavens are actually below the earth.  The explanation is simple; he is standing on his head; which is a very weak pedestal to stand on.  But when he has found his feet again he knows it.  Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small…Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. 

     The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels [namely, Jesus] towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall.  His pathos was natural, almost casual.  The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears.  He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city.  Yet He concealed something.  Solemn Super-men and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger.  He never restrained His anger.  He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell.  Yet He restained something.  I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness.  There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray.  There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation.  There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth. (“Orthdodoxy” ).



Easter Sunday

The Christ is risen the preachers say
“Cry, for today is Easter Day”.

Yea; if the dead might rise; then he
Might rise for one thing verily.

He has not heard the mouths that moved
The faint and fallen that he loved

The wheels that rack, the lips that rave
Stern is God’s guard about the grave.

Peace—for the priests in gold array—
Peace—for today is Easter day.

The bannered pomp: the pontiffs wise
(Great God—methinks he might arise) via dolorosa

Might break for once from death’s eclipse
To smite these liars on the lips.

Passover 2016 begins in the evening of Friday, April 22

Some Good Friday/Easter Day reflections:








From the Holy Week Carnage of Brussels, Sneha Mehta’s message of hope to her unborn child – a promise of new life:

letter to an unborn child



Sneha Mehta is 28 years old, 16 weeks pregnant and a survivor of the suicide attacks on the Brussels airport.

She and her husband had just landed  after a trip to Dubai. They had collected their luggage when the explosions began.

Through the smoke they made their escape, initially into a car park and then out onto the road nearby where a passing taxi stopped and drove them to safety.

Sneha could run no more but despite the terror she was utterly calm – determined that every move she made would protect the life of her unborn baby.

In a book of memories for her first child, she has written about their shared experience and her hope for a kinder world:


Hi sweetheart. I don’t know if we already acknowledged this with you in person, but when you were 16 weeks old, mum and dad were at an explosion at Brussels Airport.

And no matter where humanity is today, I just want to tell you that life is a wonderful thing, and the world is really full of remarkable people.

You didn’t just give mum and dad faith and reason to live, you gave us the awareness and presence of mind like never before.

I felt more alive than I ever have, and I knew I had to protect you, so I was calm, composed and fully aware that we will survive.

When we reached Sint-Augustinas [hospital] emergency, and we saw you oblivious and sucking at your thumb at the ultrasound, and doing your general acrobatics, all the mistrust, hate and angst for the terrorist attack vaporised.

I do hope with all my heart that you are born into a better world, and if not, then you do absolute best to make it that.

You are absolutely precious to us, and have already been a hero today. I guess much of the world,and has sent so much love your way.

May you always be brave and healthy. We love you beyond words. Mum and Dad


From: http://www.itv.com/news/2016-03-23/the-world-is-full-of-remarkable-people-pregnant-brussels-bomb-survivor-pens-inspirational-message-to-her-unborn-baby/

st.george's hall belgian flag

Liverpool’s St George’s Hall lit up in the colours of the National flag of Belgium after the Brussels terror attacks: Holy Week 2016


Christian Heritage Centre : Easter News See…



Easter 2016.jpg



Government’s April 1st replies on genocide. Conservative Home Page. Spectator:”War on christians”; Times Leader “Christians are victims of genocidal terror”. Boris Johnson “baffled” by Foreign Office; Daily Telegraph and Com Res Poll Call for Genocide Declaration but Government Oppose Genocide Amendment. Read Guardian coverage; Op-Ed piece by Lord Alton and Baroness Cox ,full debate on genocide, Easter Day Homily by Bishop Mark Davies, and earlier posts on genocide against Christians and Yazidis. New Petition Launched

wilberforce quote.jpg

Luke de Pulford on Conservative Home


Isis ‘bans all Christians from leaving Raqqa’ as military operations against group intensify in Syria | Middle East | News

The Independent.

Twisted ISIS ‘poised to slaughter every Christian left in Raqqa’

Daily Star9 hours ago

Latest parliamentray replies repeat the same old circular argument…it’s up to the “judicial process” to declare a genocide but then the Government vote down an amendment to establish a judicial process. It may be April 1st but this is no joke for those who are experiencing genocide. ISIS will be laughing all the way from Raqqua to Riyadh


Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7122):

Lord Alton of Liverpool To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they will respond to, and what is their assessment of, the statement by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, that Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis and Christians. (HL7122)

Tabled on: 17 March 2016

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is right to draw attention to the appalling crimes Daesh are committing, both against minority groups and Muslims. We will continue to work closely with the US and our other partners in the Global Coalition to defeat Daesh and to ensure justice for those who have suffered at their hands. It is a long standing UK policy that any judgement on whether genocide has occurred should be a matter for judicial decision, rather than for governments. As Secretary of State Kerry said, “ultimately, the full facts must be brought to light by an independent investigation and through formal legal determination made by a competent court or tribunal.”

Date and time of answer: 01 Apr 2016 at 12:35.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7120):

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the remarks by the Minister of State for the Department for International Development, Desmond Swayne, on 16 March (HC Deb, col 937), what assessment they have made of measures required to confer on the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over crimes committed by Daesh in Syria and Iraq. (HL7120)

Tabled on: 17 March 2016

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor has set out some of the complicated issues involved in the ICC investigating Daesh in her press statement of 8 April 2015. As neither Iraq nor Syria are State Parties to the Rome Statute, the ICC has no territorial jurisdiction over crimes committed on their soil. In order for Daesh’s crimes to be investigated by the ICC, Iraq and Syria would have to declare their acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction, or the UN Security Council could refer the situation to the Court.

Date and time of answer: 01 Apr 2016 at 12:34.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7119):

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the remarks by the Minister of State for the Department for International Development, Desmond Swayne, on 16 March (HC Deb, col 937), whether it is their position that no non-state party is capable of committing genocide under the 1949 United Nations Genocide Convention. (HL7119)

Tabled on: 17 March 2016

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Under Article IV of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III of the Convention shall be punished whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals. Any member of Daesh who has committed an act of genocide is therefore liable to prosecution. Individual criminal responsibility, rather than by organisations or groups, is determined by courts. The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor has set out some of the complicated issues involved in the ICC investigating Daesh in her press statement of 8 April 2015.

Date and time of answer: 01 Apr 2016 at 12:32.




The Guardian:


Times leader, March 28th,: the destruction of Christians from the Middle East  “now amounts to nothing less than genocide“‎; “ Christians are victims of genocidal terror”….“Christians from the Middle s East have a moral and legal claim to western asylum based on the recent rulings that the wholesale destruction of their communities now amounts to nothing less than genocide. That crime, most hideously demonstrated by the Nazis, now enjoins others to take active steps to protect the victims.”


Boris Johnson– Daily Telegraph March 28th:  Isis are engaged in what can only be called genocide of the poor Yazidis ,though for some baffling reason the Foreign Office still hesitates to use the term genocide.”




Home Office claims that Pakistan’s Christians are discriminated against but not persecuted:  tell the grieving, mourning, families of Lahore how they come to that conclusion.”






The Salesian priest, Fr. Thomas Uzhunnalil held by ISIS  by the men who killed  the Sisters of Mother Teresa in Yemen.Prayers are asked for him:

frtom (1)




Latest Information on the campaign to have the persecution of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Syria and Iraq declared a genocide:

Other Motions for Debate: (tabled March 23rd 2016)

Lord Alton of Liverpool to move to resolve that this House concurs with resolution 75 of the United States Congress, resolution 2016/2529(RSP) of the European Parliament, the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the recent declaration of the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, that religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria are suffering genocide; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to refer those resolutions to the United Nations Security Council with a view to conferring jurisdiction on the International Criminal Court or to having the Security Council establish an independent fact-finding commission of experts to investigate the allegations of genocide.

Questions for Short Debate 

Time limit 1 hour or 1½ hours

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they are taking to ensure that those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity against minorities in Syria and Iraq are brought to justice. (tabled 27 January)


Conservative Home Page: Luke de Pulford, member of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission:


Genocide Petition: sign here – 



Would Mr Cameron still refuse to use the g-word if, like me, he had met the young Syrian Christian father of five who was kidnapped, told to convert at gunpoint and who watched helpless as icons were smashed on the ground in front of his face?” – John Pontifex of the charity, Aid to the Church In need. He has just returned from Syria.

Also see:



Diocese of Shrewsbury : Thursday 24th March 2016 For immediate release:

End the genocide of Christians and work to build peace

The Bishop of Shrewsbury will on Easter Sunday encourage the Government to re-consider its refusal to recognise the genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq at the hands of the so-called Islamic State terror group.
In an Easter morning homily preached in Shrewsbury Cathedral, the Rt Rev. Mark Davies will echo the opinion of Pope Francis, the United States and the European Parliament that the atrocities committed by ISIS constitute a campaign of genocide.
He will call on Catholics to ask the British Government to follow the examples of other major western powers and to acknowledge that the terrorists are intending “to destroy a people” by acts of extreme violence. This hate-filled violence is reflected in the “indiscriminate terror”, which has recently been seen in the cities of Brussels and Paris.
Standing in solidarity with Christian leaders of the Middle East, Bishop Davies will also urge political leaders to seek to address the humanitarian crisis not only by assisting refugees but also by building peace in the war-torn countries from which they are fleeing.
Europe, the Bishop will say, will find the strength and right direction to be a peace-maker and to resolve the refugee crisis if it is guided by the Christian vision at the heart of its foundation.
Bishop Davies will say: “This Easter, we must ask our own Government to re-consider its refusal to recognise the crime of genocide being perpetrated against Christians and other minorities in the very region where the Christian faith began. The British government has refused to join other western governments in recognising this intent to destroy a people. The indiscriminate terror visited on the streets of Europe’s cities, whose victims we are remembering today reflects the same hate-filled violence which is focused on the destruction of whole communities. In addressing the refugee crisis on a historic scale we also need to urgently address what causes families to flee from violence and terror.”
“… Christian leaders across the region … remind us that in responding to the symptoms of this crisis, we must not turn our eyes from its cause.

The danger of ‘compassion fatigue’ or despair at the chaos of a whole region
demands we find renewed energy to work for peace. In this past century Europe has learnt the lessons of peace amid death and destruction and a vast refugee crisis. In 1945 and again in 1989, Europe drew on its inheritance of Christian faith and values to re-build the peace of this continent and the life of its peoples shattered by war and genocide.

It is only in being true to this faith, which teaches us the value and dignity of every human being, that Europe will be able to rise to meet new challenges and be capable of building peace rather than contributing to further chaos and destruction. The world looks to us not for the politics of narrow self-interest; but for the hope that enduring peace can be built.”
John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, this month declared the actions of Islamic State to be genocide. Earlier, the U.S. House of Representative had voted unanimously to recognise the crimes as genocide and the European Parliament and the Council of Europe have also reached the same conclusion.
If a resolution recognising the genocide was adopted by the United Nations, the countries which have signed the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide would have an obligation to bring the activities of ISIS to an end, to prioritise the protection of the victims, and to pursue and prosecute perpetrators once the hostilities were over.
In seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate, ISIS has since 2014 persecuted anyone who does not share its ideology.
Terrorists have assassinated Church leaders and have driven millions of Christians and Yazidis from their homes in a campaign which has included mass murders, crucifixions, beheadings, torture, kidnapping, sexual enslavement, systematic rape and forced conversions. Many Christian churches, monasteries, shrines and cemeteries have been destroyed.
Pope Francis, during a trip to Bolivia in July, used the word “genocide” to describe the plight of the persecuted Christians.
In Britain, the Government has resisted calls to recognise genocide in spite of receiving a letter from 75 politicians asking it to do so. Among those who signed was Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, the former head of the British armed forces, and Lord Evans of Weardale, the former head of MI5.
On Monday an amendment to the Immigration Bill was rejected by 148 votes to 111 after the Government imposed a whip on Conservative peers to ensure that it would fail.
The measure, tabled by Lord Alton of Liverpool, had proposed that the High Court should decide if the atrocities committed against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria constituted genocide.
For the full text of the homily of Bishop Davies contact Simon Caldwell, communications officer for the Diocese of Shrewsbury, on either 07730 526847 or at simon.caldwell@dioceseofshrewsbury.org   Twitter: @ShrewsRCnews 

Website: www.dioceseofshrewsbury.org


Isis is committing genocide. It is indefensible for Britain not to say so | Helena Kennedy: click here to read:


Daily Telegraph Editorial

 Telegraph View
6:30AM GMT 18 Mar 2016

America has finally acknowledged that Christians and other religious minorities are being butchered in the Middle East. Why does the UK government not do the same?

Why has it taken so long for the United States to acknowledge that there is a genocide happening in the Middle East? Yesterday John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, said that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is ethnically cleansing “Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims. The White House has hitherto avoided sectarian language for fear of pouring fuel on the fire – but the fire is already out of control. Antoine Audo, Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, said this week that two thirds of Syrian Christians had either been killed or driven away from his country.

Barack Obama’s refusal to call a genocide a genocide is representative of a halting, often contradictory approach to the crisis in the Arab world. In Libya, the mess of an earlier intervention is still being cleaned up. After five years of anarchy, an internationally-led effort to establish a stable government is finally being implemented; there is talk of British military advisers stepping in to the fray. The ambition is to help Libyans help themselves and, by so doing, halt both Isil and the flood of refugees across the Mediterranean.

The West needs a proper plan in Libya, and labelling Isil as a genocidal movement reflects greater realism about the task ahead. It must involve recognising what the fanatics’ goals are, including ethnic cleansing. Sadly, the British government still refuses to do this, insisting that it is up to judges to define genocide. Next week a group of peers will table an amendment to the immigration Bill triggering just such a judicial decision. Government opposition to this amendment would seem odd following Mr Kerry’s intervention. Religious minorities are being persecuted: the West has a moral duty to speak up for them.



Cross-party peers in UK campaign to recognise Islamic State ‘genocide’
Dozens back immigration bill amendment to declare killing of Christians and Yazidis a genocide, but government opposes it

Harriet Sherwood  The Guardian 21 March 2016 07.00

A cross -party group of peers is stepping up its campaign to have the persecution and killing of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria declared a genocide with an amendment to the immigration bill. A vote to decide is expected on Monday.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said last week that Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and others, and there was a unanimous vote along similar lines in the European parliament last month.

The UK government has refused to make such a declaration, insisting it is a matter for international judicial bodies. Its position is “morally indefensible”, said Helena Kennedy, one of those backing the amendment in the House of Lords.

Dozens of peers have backed the amendment but the government is instructing its members to vote against it.

The amendment says that a person seeking asylum in the UK, who belongs to “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” that is subject to genocide as defined under international law, should be presumed to meet the conditions of asylum. Crucially, it adds that a supreme court judge should adjudicate on whether genocide has been committed “after consideration of the available facts”.

As well as Lady Kennedy, others peers supporting the amendment include Michael Forsyth, Emma Nicholson, Caroline Cox and David Alton.

In a letter sent to peers urging their support, Cox said: “It is noteworthy that, in the past two years, two serving foreign secretaries have lamented the failure of the international community to decry the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda quickly enough, despite overwhelming and compelling evidence. We have an opportunity to prevent history from repeating itself.”

Kennedy has cited the evidence of Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi MP in Iraq. “Her testimony is like a knife in the heart. Her voice shakes as she describes the slaughter of hundreds of men and boys, the kidnapping of women and girls from their families, who are then raped and raped again continuously over months, their vaginas and uteruses torn and shredded by [Isis] men who treat them like animals. Some of the girls are as young as eight and nine,” said Kennedy.

“A few who have escaped are suffering such severe trauma that doctors visiting the refugee camps are in despair. Vian describes the mass graves, the beheadings of children, the crucifixions. She cannot understand why western governments are doing nothing to help them when barely a day passes without news of further genocidal atrocities.”

According to Alton, a campaigner against the persecution of Christians, actions committed by Isis include “assassinations of church leaders, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom, the sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women, forcible conversions, the destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and Christian artefacts and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike”.

He told the House of Lords last month: “History proves that once the word ‘genocide’ is used to designate heinous and targeted crimes against sections of humanity, as in Yugoslavia or Cambodia, it is followed by swift international action to stop those atrocities.”

In December, 75 peers wrote to David Cameron, urging the government to declare events in Syria and Iraq a genocide. Signatories included Charles Guthrie, the former head of the UK military, and Jonathan Evans, the former head of MI5.

“This is not simply a matter of semantics,” the letter said. The consequences of a declaration of genocide would be twofold: firstly, to warn those responsible that they would one day face justice for their actions, and secondly to require the 147 countries that have signed the convention on genocide to take action to prevent and punish the perpetrators.

Cameron dismissed the calls in a letter to Alton last week, reported in the Daily Telegraph. “It is essential that these decisions are based on credible judicial processes,” he said. “Not only are the courts best placed to judge criminal matters but their impartiality also ensures the protection of the UK government from the politicisation and controversies that often attach themselves to the question of genocide.

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office recently reviewed this longstanding position and I agree with their conclusion that there is no need to reconsider it at this time.”

If the amendment wins a majority in the Lords, it will be passed to the Commons

A Com Res poll published this weekend indicated that 68% of British people agree that Britain should use its international influence to ensure that these horrific events are classed as a genocide. Around two-thirds said that the killing is Britain’s concern, that Britain should recognise it as genocide, raise the issue at the UN and conduct a formal inquiry into the claims of genocide. Only 7% disagree.



Op-ed piece – Genocide: The Crime Above All Crimes:  David Alton and Caroline Cox


On Monday, a group of Peers will move an amendment which, after consideration of the evidence, will enable the High Court to declare a genocide and require the Government to fulfil its duties under the 1948 Genocide Convention. The amendment has been driven by events in Syria and Iraq and comes just days after Secretary of State Kerry declared that  “In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions — in what it says, what it believes, and what it does.

In the wake of the Second World War, and some of the worst atrocities in history, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It recognized that international cooperation was needed “to liberate mankind from this odious scourge. Countries that sign up to the Convention “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide and the United Kingdom added its signature in 1970. 


Under international law, genocide – the crime above all crimes – is a particularly heinous crime because it is committed with the intention of eradicating a specific people group from the face of the earth – a concerted effort to remove a particular thread from our diverse human tapestry.


All too easily minorities can find themselves in acute and vulnerable situations. Their voices are not always heard, and their very way of life can be threatened when they are viewed with hatred by the majority. By contrast, their existence and ability to thrive is the hallmark of a well-functioning democracy that is tolerant and respectful of difference.  


Historically, Iraq and Syria are both countries with a diverse spread of minority populations, defined by religion, ethnicity and sometimes both. Yazidis, Assyrians and Christians are all examples of groups who have remained in the minority for thousands of years, but add a rich cultural heritage to the lands that they inhabit. 


Even before the rise of ISIS, these minorities were seen as a ‘lesser’ class of citizen in their own countries: Saddam Hussien did not legally recognize Assyrians in Iraq – he forced them to register as either ‘Arab’ or ‘Kurd’ – and even since the fall of Hussein’s regime, one local government official has been quoted as saying, “you are a minority, how dare you ask for any rights, you should be ashamed of yourself.


With the rise of ISIS/Daesh in the region, this harsh treatment has turned from sentiment to violence. Reports from the region detail bombings, mass executions, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, torture, mutilation and the enlistment and forced recruitment of children.


Despite being under an obligation to “prevent and punish” acts of genocide, our Government has insisted that it is long-standing policy that any judgments on whether genocide has occurred are a matter for the “international judicial system rather than governments or other non-judicial bodies.


However, even before John Kerry’s declaration, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the US House of Representatives have all recently adopted statements recognising the atrocities as genocide.


For how much longer will Britain stand silent?


The minorities whose very existence is under direct and immediate threat deserve more than a promise that the “international judicial system” will investigate, without any action to engage the said system.

In April of last year, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court appeared to lament the absence of a referral of the situation from the UN Security Council.


Without that explicit grant of jurisdiction, she considered that her legal basis for investigating ISIS was not concrete enough. The United Kingdom punches well above its weight on the international stage and is an influential permanent member of the UN Security Council. It is time use that influence and show that we have learned the lessons of history.


Remembering Europe’s past should highlight the importance of decisive action, along with the recognition that nothing good can come from remaining silent.


Our amendment has cross-party support and seeks to establish a mechanism for the United Kingdom to determine whether acts of genocide are being perpetrated, and then affording those subject to those genocidal acts appropriate consideration when it comes to applications for asylum.


The amendment follows letters to the Prime Minister, signed by 75 Members of both Houses, including the former heads of our armed forces and intelligence agency, the former Lord Chancellor, and eminent judicial figures.


In responding to the victims of genocide the provision will not oblige the Government to take in any more refugees than the number to which it has already committed itself, it will prioritise those who have been the victims of this crime above all crimes.


In light of the situation unfolding in the Middle East, where minorities are being annihilated, before our very eyes. this is of vast importance.


Now is the time to must make good on the rhetoric and commitment to “never again”, heralded by our decision to sign the Genocide Convention. The House of Lords has the opportunity to trigger the judicial determination which the government seems so reluctant to make and would be a good first step.


(Lord Alton of Liverpool and Baroness Cox of Queensbury are Independent Crossbench Peers  and the co-sponsors of the genocide amendment are Baroness Kennedy QC (Lab), Baroness Nicholson (LD) and Lord Forsyth (Con).


Resolution of the International Association of Genocide Scholars concerning crimes of ISIS

The International Association of Genocide Scholars, the world’s largest organization of experts on genocide, call upon the United Nations and all its member states to declare that the crimes committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) also known as Da’esh, constitute genocide in violation of the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Genocide is the intentional destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such.  ISIS is committing genocide and crimes against humanity against groups that do not conform to ISIS’s definition of ‘true Islam’ and its vision for the ‘caliphate,’ including Ezidis, Christians, Shia Muslims, Sunni Kurds and other minority groups.

ISIS’s policy of mass rape is also genocidal.  The gendered pattern of persecution pursued by ISIS against groups it considers to be infidels conforms to historical patterns of genocide, particularly the mass killing of men and teenage boys accompanied by the rape and enslavement of women and teenage girls and the kidnapping of children.

ISIS “government” in areas it has occupied includes beheadings of captives and people considered apostates, destruction of religious centers such as churches and monasteries, and pillage of ancient cultural sites that do not conform to the regime’s religious orthodoxy—acts typical of genocidal regimes.

In addition to genocide we believe that ISIS has perpetrated crimes against humanity, including:
• murder;
• extermination;
• enslavement;
• deportation and forcible transfers of populations;
• imprisonment;
• torture;
• rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, and other forms of sexual ​​
violence of comparable gravity;
• persecution against identifiable groups on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or gender grounds;
• enforced disappearance of persons; and
• other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.

ISIS commits war crimes as part of a plan or policy on a large scale.  These prohibited acts include:
• murder;
• mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
• taking of hostages;
• intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population;
• intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historical monuments or hospitals;
• pillaging;
• rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy and other forms of sexual violence;
• conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities.

We call upon the United Nations Security Council to refer the ISIS situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution.




Government Oppose Genocide Amendment 121 March 21st  2016 : Column 2151

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool

121: After Clause 63, insert the following new Clause—

“Conditions for grant of asylum: cases of genocide

(1) A person seeking asylum in the United Kingdom who belongs to a national, ethnical, racial or religious group which is, in the place from which that person originates, subject to the conditions detailed in Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, shall be presumed to meet the conditions for asylum in the United Kingdom.

(2) The adjudication of whether the group to which the person seeking asylum belongs meets the description specified in subsection (1) shall be determined by a referral to the High Court after consideration of the available facts.

(3) Applicants for asylum in the United Kingdom from groups designated under this section may submit their applications and have them assessed at British missions overseas.”

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, serendipity, or the way the dice fall, means that the House is having to hear rather more from me than I—or, no doubt, the House—would wish at this time. I thank my noble friend Lady Cox, the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, for their support on this amendment, either today or when we discussed it in Committee on 3 February.

Before setting out the case for the amendment, I draw the attention of the House to one important change in the wording since Committee, following the helpful advice of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Judge and Lord Hope of Craighead. They suggested that the consideration of evidence of genocide and the declaration that genocide has been committed should be made by the High Court, rather than the Supreme Court. We have therefore incorporated that change into the text. I also thank the Minister for meeting me to discuss the amendment.

During the debate on 3 February, I cited the decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to declare the atrocities which had been committed by ISIS—Daesh—against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria to be a genocide. The very next week, the European Parliament decisively passed a similar resolution, recognising the killing of minorities in the region as genocide. Since our Committee debate, on 9 March Congress and the State Department received a 300-page report detailing more than 1,000 instances of ISIS deliberately massacring, killing, torturing, enslaving, kidnapping or raping Christians. It had similar evidence about the plight of Yazidis, along with the findings of the International Association of Genocide Scholars.

Last week, the American House of Representatives, by 393 votes to zero, declared that grotesque and targeted beheadings, enslavement, mass rape and other

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2151

atrocities against Christians and other minorities indeed constitute a genocide. I will not read the entire resolution of the House of Representatives but the last phrase says that,

“the atrocities committed against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities targeted specifically for religious reasons are, and are hereby declared to be, ‘crimes against humanity’, and ‘genocide’”.

Later in the week, on behalf of the White House, Secretary of State John Kerry, said:

“Naming these crimes is important”,

and that Daesh, in targeting these minorities with the purpose of their annihilation, is,

“genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions”—

in what it says, what it believes and, indeed, what it does. He called for criminal charges to be brought against those responsible.

On Friday last, in a leading article, the Daily Telegraph urged the British Government to recognise the reality of what is under way, saying that the West has a “moral duty” to name this genocide for what it is. It said:

“Sadly, the British government still refuses to do this, insisting that it is up to judges to define genocide. Next week a group of peers will table an amendment to the immigration Bill triggering just such a judicial decision. Government opposition to this amendment would seem odd following Mr Kerry’s intervention”.

For many months, much of the same evidence that Congress and the European Parliament have seen and acted upon has been available to the United Kingdom Government and this Parliament. It has been catalogued in Early Day Motions tabled in another place, during evidence-taking sessions here, and in letters to the Prime Minister from distinguished and eminent Members of both Houses, including the former Lord Chancellor. Anyone who has heard first-hand accounts from Yazidi women of enslavement and rape or read the reports of mass graves, abductions, crucifixions, killings and torture cannot fail to be moved, and I know we will hear more on that from the noble Baronesses, Lady Nicholson and Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, who have both met Yazidi women.

Last week, Antoine Audo, the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, said that two-thirds of Syrian Christians had either been killed or driven away from his country. Zainab Bangura, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, has authenticated reports of Christian and Yazidi females—girls aged one to seven—being sold, with the youngest carrying the highest price tag. Last May, one 80-year-old Christian woman who stayed in Nineveh was reportedly burned alive. In another Christian family, the mother and 12 year-old daughter were raped by ISIS militants, leading the father, who was forced to watch, to commit suicide. One refugee described how she witnessed ISIS crucify her husband on the door of their home.

Nearly two years ago, on 23 July 2014, I warned in an opinion piece in the Times:

“The last Christian has been expelled from Mosul … The light of religious freedom, along with the entire Christian presence, has been extinguished in the Bible’s ‘great city of Nineveh’ … This follows the uncompromising ultimatum by the jihadists of Isis to convert or die”.

I said that,

“the world must wake up urgently to the plight of the ancient churches throughout the region who are faced with the threat of mass murder and mass displacement”.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2152

But the world did not wake up and for those caught up in these barbaric events, the stakes are utterly existential.

Genocide is never a word to be used lightly and is not determined by the number of people killed but by specific genocidal intent. The position of the British Government has been to insist that declarations of genocide are not made by the Government but by the international judicial system, yet there has been no referral of any evidence by the Government to any court in Britain or elsewhere. This has become a circular argument which can be ended only by Parliament.

The Government’s position was reiterated in another place last week, when the Minister of State for International Development, Mr Desmond Swayne, was on the verge of misleading the House with a Parliamentary Answer that only states could commit genocide. He said:

“I believe that the decision as to what constitutes genocide is properly a judicial one. The International Criminal Court correspondent, Fatou Bensouda, has decided that, as Daesh is not a state party, this does not yet constitute genocide”.—[Official Report, Commons, 16/3/16; col. 937.]

I hope the Minister will correct this today, or say whether it really is the position of the Government that no non-state party is capable of committing genocide under the 1948 genocide convention.

My understanding of what Fatou Bensouda actually said is that the ICC does not have territorial jurisdiction under the Rome statute over crimes committed on Iraqi or Syrian soil. This means that, in order to investigate, the ICC would need a referral from the UN Security Council. In fact, the prosecutor’s statement in April last year appeared to lament the absence of a referral of the situation from the Security Council, and concluded with the assurance:

“I stand ready to play my part”.

Surely, as a permanent member of the Security Council, we can trigger that by proposing a resolution. We should be leading the process, yet on 16 December last, in answer to a Parliamentary Question I tabled, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, told me:

“We are not submitting any evidence of possible genocide against Yezidis and Christians to international courts, nor have we been asked to”.

As for referring the matter to the International Criminal Court, she told me in the Chamber on the same day:

“I understand that, as the matter stands, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, has determined not to take these matters forward”.—[Official Report, 16/12/15; col. 2146.]

In these circumstances, the genocide convention becomes nothing more than window dressing, which is an insult to the original drafters and ratifiers, as “never again” becomes a hollow slogan devoid of meaning.

This brings me to the heart of the amendment. The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, in the wake of some of the worst atrocities in history. It was the culmination of years of campaigning by the Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, and recognised that “international co-operation” was needed,

“to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge”.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2153

When we added our signature in 1970, it laid upon us the moral and legal duty to,

“undertake to prevent and to punish”,

genocide—surely the crime above all crimes.

The minorities in the Middle East, whose very existence is under direct and immediate threat, deserve more than a promise that the international judicial system will investigate without any action to enlarge the said system. If the amendment passes, a judge from the High Court will be able to examine the available evidence and determine whether ISIS’s actions should be recognised as genocide. That in turn would require the Government to take concrete steps to protect the victims of ISIS and seek to bring the perpetrators to justice. Our cross-party amendment seeks to establish a mechanism for the United Kingdom to determine whether acts of genocide are being perpetrated and would then afford those subject to genocidal acts appropriate consideration when it comes to application for asylum.

The provision would not oblige the Government to take in any more refugees than the number to which they have already committed themselves but, within that number, it would prioritise those who have been the victims of this crime above all crimes. It would enable declared victims of genocide to make their applications from overseas, and if the UNHCR is unable to facilitate this, we would expect British overseas missions to assist those affected. In light of the situation unfolding in the Middle East, where minorities are being annihilated before our very eyes, this is of vast importance.

I visited the genocide sites in Rwanda—a salutary and chilling experience. I am always struck that President Clinton and British Ministers of the day say that their failure to identify and take action to prevent that genocide, which led to the loss of 1 million Tutsi lives, was their worst foreign affairs mistake. In the past two years, two serving Foreign Secretaries have similarly lamented the failure of the international community to decry the genocides in both Rwanda and Bosnia quickly enough, despite the overwhelming and compelling evidence that existed. The noble Lord, Lord Hague, speaking as Foreign Secretary on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, said:

“The truth is that our ability to prevent conflict is still hampered by a gap between the commitments states have made and the reality of their actions”.

His successor, Mr Hammond, said last year that the horror of Srebrenica,

“demands that we all try to understand why those who placed their hope in the international community on the eve of genocide found that those hopes were dashed”.

The reality has been that once it is recognised that genocide is being committed, serious legal obligations follow, and states have proved reluctant to engage with their responsibilities. There are really only two options here. If there is no genocide, our obligations under the genocide convention have not been triggered, but if there is, how could we sleep at night having disregarded the chilling lessons of past genocides and endless equivocating? Instead of doing everything in our power to bring this unmitigated suffering to an end, are we content simply to let these matters pass?

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2154

By passing the amendment today, we have an opportunity to prevent history from repeating itself, to close the gap between the commitment we made in ratifying the 1948 genocide convention and the reality of our actions, not to once again dash the hopes of beleaguered and abandoned people exposed to the crime above all crimes. We also have the opportunity to make a step change by moving beyond aerial bombardment to a consideration of justice, to demand that, under our commitment to the rule of law, however long it takes, we will bring those responsible for abhorrent mass executions, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of gender-based violence, torture, mutilation and the enlistment and forced recruitment of children to justice. I beg to move.

8.45 pm

Baroness Cox (CB): My Lords, in Committee, I gave my reasons for supporting the amendment and why I have no doubt that what is under way in Syria and Iraq is, in the strict technical sense of that word, genocide.

As my noble friend Lord Alton has reminded us, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the House of Representatives and US Secretary of State John Kerry have all come to the same conclusions. British public opinion agrees. A ComRes poll published this weekend indicated that 68% of British people agreed that Britain should use its international influence to ensure that these horrific events are classed as genocide. About two-thirds said that the current widespread killing is Britain’s concern, that Britain should recognise it as genocide, raise it at the UN and conduct a formal inquiry into the claims of genocide. Only 7% disagree but, sadly, our British Government seem to side with this small minority.

That is why we have had to bring this all-party amendment to the House again today. It gives the Government an opportunity to be in accord with the majority of the British public, who have a long and respected record for standing up for victims of persecution. It would also prioritise help for those minorities who have been targeted for eradication by Daesh, which incessantly boasts of its determination to annihilate diversity.

As my noble friend said, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has said that she stood ready to begin a genocide inquiry, but could not do so legally without orders from the UN Security Council, as Iraq and Syria are not signatories to the ICC’s founding charter. I understand that the French Government are now considering tabling such a resolution. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether that is so and, if they do, whether we may support them. As a permanent member of the Security Council, Britain could have tabled such a resolution, but has not, claiming that it is unable to declare genocide without a decision of the courts. However, as my noble friend emphasised, the Government have not asked the courts to make such a decision. That is why our amendment creates a route for the evidence to be considered by the High Court, so that we never again get into such a circular argument, which, if the circumstances were not so horrific and the human suffering so appalling, could almost be farcical.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2155

Your Lordships may be aware that several of us, including a former head of our intelligence service and a former head of our Armed Forces, recently wrote to the Prime Minister. In his reply, David Cameron reiterated his belief that a declaration of genocide must be a matter for the judicial system, although the House of Representatives, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament appear to have been able to do so. He said:

“Not only are the courts best placed to judge criminal matters but their impartiality also ensures the protection of the UK Government from the politicisation and controversies that so often attach themselves to the question of genocide”.

He added:

“It is essential these decisions are based on credible judicial processes.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have recently reviewed this long-standing position and I agree with their conclusion that there is no need to reconsider it at this time”.

He also said that he could not,

“make specific promises about UK action through the Security Council or the International Criminal Court at this time”.

Having heard first hand detailed testimonies, as my noble friend Lord Alton has described in great detail, of mass executions, mass graves, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, torture, mutilation, forced recruitment of children, and confiscation of homes and land, I personally cannot understand the Prime Minister’s position, so fundamentally incompatible with that of our American and European allies, who are convinced by the compelling, widely available and well-documented evidence. Our Government’s position also leaves victimised Christians, Yazidis and those of other faiths bewildered by the UK’s perceived lack of concern and support. John Pontifex of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, who was in Syria last month, says:

“Christians feel that they have been abandoned by the West as a whole, why they have been left to face the worst that extremism can throw at them…. It is a disgrace that it has taken so long but we are very grateful to John Kerry for having the guts and the stature to name it for what it is”.

He argues that recognition of genocide,

“would throw a lifeline of hope and show that there are people who care about what has happened and are determined to bring these people to justice, sending a signal very clearly that the world will not tolerate this butchery”.

It must be a priority to make it clear to those responsible for these barbarities that they will be brought to justice. Also, in accordance with the genocide convention, our amendment seeks to give refugees escaping from genocidal atrocities the ability to make an asylum application to the United Kingdom from overseas missions, as well as the existing opportunity to do so via UNHCR. It is important to emphasise, as my noble friend already has, that of course the Government have the right and the power to impose a ceiling of total numbers. We are arguing that that, within that number, genocide victims should be prioritised in accordance with the Prime Minister’s commitment to accept 20,000 of the most vulnerable minority groups who have been singled out by Daesh because of their religion or race. We also know that those who have been targeted do not represent a security threat to the United Kingdom and that, unlike other categories

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2156

of asylum seekers, there are no countries in the region where they will be secure in the long term. They have nowhere to go.

A hearing, chaired by my noble friend and myself, poignantly held on Holocaust Memorial Day, was told by Major General Tim Cross:

“Crucially, the various minorities in the region are suffering terribly. There can be no doubt that genocide is being carried out on Yazidi and Christian communities—and the West/international community’s failure to recognise what is happening will be to our collective shame in years to come”.

How will our silence be perceived by subsequent generations? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Protestant theologian executed by the Nazis, said:

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act”.

I conclude by quoting a testimony given here at Westminster, one that could be multiplied many times over, the true story of a Christian pastor in Aleppo about a villager who was told to convert or he would die; he was forced to watch his 12 year-old son tortured before his eyes. Neither he nor his son renounced their faith, and both were executed. Perhaps, in this Holy Week, we who enjoy so many freedoms and privileges should use the liberties we cherish to demand justice and protection for those who are denied the same freedoms and who are being barbarically targeted for extinction. Not to do so, not to speak and not to act, would bring great shame upon us all. I hope, passionately, that this amendment will be accepted.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, I spoke in support of this amendment in Committee, although as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, it has been changed in the light of representations made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I invited my noble friend Lord Bates to throw away his brief, tear it up and go back to his department—and I see that he has thrown his brief to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen. Nothing that has happened since has done anything other than to underline the appalling atrocities that are occurring against Christians in Syria and Iraq.

As I came into the Chamber this evening, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, gave me this document, which is the report submitted to John Kerry by the Knights of Columbus. There are pages and pages of testimony of the most barbaric atrocities, of kidnappings, violations and extortions. Anyone who just glances at this document, which is incredibly harrowing, cannot but conclude that something must be done to stop this.

No doubt in reply my noble and learned friend may make some legal arguments about why the amendment may not be exactly right. I have followed the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, whom I admire immensely, as does everyone in all parts of the House, for her courage and perseverance in seeking out examples of injustice. Having listened to her speech, I say to my noble and learned friend that he would be wise also to abandon his brief and to go back to the Foreign Office and ask it how the European Parliament—not an organisation that I spend a lot of time praising—and Congress are able to take a firm view but this Government seem incapable of doing so and hide behind legalistic arguments which prevent us offering sanctuary to people who are

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2157

facing real persecution. They are fleeing not just war but also religious persecution, and they find themselves with nowhere to go.

The importance of recognising this for what it is—an appalling genocide—is that it enables us to stretch out a hand to these people, offer them sanctuary and get beyond the political correctness that says that we as a Christian country cannot offer sanctuary to Christians who are in real terror and despair. Many of these people use the language of Christ. If the parable of the Good Samaritan was about anything, it was about not passing by on the other side. I cannot share the expertise or the knowledge of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, or the noble Lord, Lord Alton, but I urge all Members of the House and those outside the House to look at this document and the evidence and ask ourselves how much longer we are prepared to stand by and not acknowledge what is going on, which is a systematic attempt to destroy Christianity throughout the Middle East by people using barbaric medieval methods. It is essential that we find a way in which we can offer sanctuary to people who are victims. This amendment suggests a way in which that could be done, not just in terms of offering sanctuary but in bringing to justice those who have been responsible for these barbarous crimes. I hope that the House will feel able to pass the amendment or that my noble and learned friend will offer us a way forward which enables the Government to act and to not pass by on the other side.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab): My Lords, none of us who is pressing this amendment invokes the word “genocide” too readily. For most of us, this term will be forever associated with the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps and the deliberate effort to exterminate the Jews during the Second World War. It is a word that carries incredible weight, and its importance cannot be diluted. We are taking about something of great seriousness when we talk about genocide.

“Genocide” has a specific legal meaning and the alarming truth is that, while genocidal violence has been perpetrated around the world since the Second Word War on a number of occasions, we find that very often there is resistance to using the terminology and a refusal to recognise genocide as genocide because it carries legal responsibilities with it. Noble Lords have heard a number of times that we have now heard the United States Secretary of State John Kerry, the United States Congress and the European Parliament all being of one voice about what is happening in the Middle East.

I remind the House that the 1948 genocide convention defines genocide as,

“acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

That is what is currently happening towards the Yazidi people, Christians and Shi’ites—anyone who refuses to convert. For the Yazidis it goes even further: because theirs is a pre-Abrahamic religious grouping, they are considered to be of lesser value, and in fact as less than human, in ISIL’s interpretation of Islam. The testimonies we have been hearing are absolutely barbaric. A week yesterday, I met for the second time the Yazidi Member

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2158

of Parliament Vian Dakhil. She has been trying to draw the world’s attention to the plight of her people. I heard her account of spending time with families that are now in refugee camps and of the descriptions of what they have seen. Hundreds of men and boys have been slaughtered. Women and girls have been kidnapped from their families, some of them really very young children, and raped and raped again, continuously over months, their vaginas torn, then passed on and sold between men. She finds it hard to find words for what is happening. She says that these are girls who will never be able to have a proper family life when they grow into adulthood.

9 pm

So we are talking about genocide. We are talking about the destruction of a people and their ability to procreate. That is at the heart of some of the things that are currently happening. Some of the girls, as I say, are as young as seven, eight or nine. A few who have escaped are suffering from the most severe trauma. Doctors are visiting the refugee camps to try to work with some of the girls, but they do not have the facilities so cannot help them with the terrible traumatic effects—not just physical but mental, as I am sure noble Lords can imagine. Some feel that they can never be intimate with anyone ever again in their lives. Mrs Vian describes the mass graves that she has visited, the beheadings of children and the crucifixions that we have heard referred to by other noble Lords, and she cannot understand why western Governments are not being more vociferous about these horrors and naming them as genocidal atrocities.

Genocide requires a very high evidential burden. All of us lawyers working in the field know that no one doubts that these acts have to reach a very high legal threshold. However, these acts do just that. The constitutive acts of killing, causing bodily or mental harm, raping, preventing birth, and the forced transferring of people from their land all meet the legal requirements of genocide, so we should not be in any doubt that we are dealing with genocide here. We have to break the cycle of inertia that we have heard described.

It is for that reason that those of us who have put our names to this amendment are coming before this House to say, “Something has to be done”. There are two purposes in the amendment. The first is to have a legal authority hear the evidence and make a declaration that what is happening against minorities in Syria and Iraq is genocide. The second is to establish under our immigration processes a scheme that would particularly prioritise those who face genocide. We are suggesting not that this should be a collecting together of every Yazidi person who exists in the world, but that within the cap that has already been set by the Government, who have spoken about giving places to 20,000 people, priority should be given to those who are as vulnerable as these victims are.

The Government have spoken about wanting to protect the most vulnerable. Who could be more vulnerable than the women, girls and children and the families we are hearing about, who have suffered in this way?

This is therefore a simple and humane amendment, which gives the UK a solid legal basis to push for the recognition of genocide at an international level so

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2159

that we can then go to the Security Council and say that we have the judicial authority from our judicial system, and press the Security Council to put into action the investigations that are needed. You need to take testimonies from these young women and girls now. That work has to be done, and as we have heard, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has indicated her willingness to do this once she is given the authority. However, that also means that we can give the kind of help that is needed by providing places, under a recognised scheme, to those who are most in need of the kind of medical help that these girls need. If noble Lords were to listen to the account given by this Yazidi Member of the Iraqi Parliament—the only one—no one in this House could feel anything other than a sense of shame, horror and moral repugnance. We have to say, “It’s not good enough—we have to act now”.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (LD):My Lords, I speak this evening in the name of those who would undoubtedly qualify under this extremely modest amendment, were your Lordships’ House see fit to pass it.

I have in front of me some evidence in Reports, Resolutions, and Documents in Favor of a Declaration of Genocide by So-Called Isis, Isil, or Da’esh. It is a fairly hefty chunk of material, and I have to ask myself why we the British people—and we in the House of Lords, who in some ways represent the British population—who have harboured so many victims of genocide over the centuries, are the last to come forward.

Here we have five major reports, from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide and the Knights of Columbus. These are remarkable, full, dense dossiers, which offer evidence. In consequence, we have seven resolutions, which are magnificent in their breadth and human understanding, from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the United States Senate, House of Representatives and Department of State, the European Parliament, the Republic of Lithuania and the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. I am sure that the Minister will notice that those resolutions reflect two great blocs of democracy, although they miss out India; I have nothing from there, as it has its own problems with regard to this. We have the USA and the entirety of Europe—not just the European Parliament or the European Union but the 47-state Council of Europe. That is no mean set of resolutions, and we have 30 appendices with major support.

I offer this dossier to the Minister. It is carefully researched, utterly accurate—and where is the United Kingdom? It is nowhere. Those 30 appendices are all statements to the United Kingdom, to Her Majesty’s Government—they are all requests. One of mine is in there, way back in October 2014. I urged the Ministers in Her Majesty’s Government to look at different ways, given the difficulties of classifying genocide and of using it, which we all know so well. There are many different ways around this that creative lawyers can

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2160

work out. This modest amendment tonight is yet another effort to try to achieve that same goal, to define genocide against at least one of the religious minorities of Iraq, the Yazidis, and, if at all possible, some of the others. I speak as a Christian, a communicant member of the Church of England.

My request in October 2014 was rather late, because this genocide started much earlier than that. It started in 2003 and went on in 2004 and 2006; it rose to a height in 2007. The minorities in Mosul were forced to leave their homes, and Yazidis were also attacked around the Sinjar area. They were pushed to the Nineveh plain. We knew; we had our military there. We knew absolutely everything, but we did not even talk about it then. By October 2014—some seven, eight, nine and 10 years later—the caliphate’s design to wipe out the Yazidis and attack the other religious minorities was in full swing. It was characterised in just the way that the genocide convention instructs us to look out for and act upon, anywhere and everywhere that we find it. Even if there is only one case for genocide—one individual—we are tasked to act by the convention that we assisted in drafting.

What do I mean by that? Mass kidnap, mass assault, mass design for extinction of a named race, which is distinguished by its race, faith, dress, culture and rituals from others of the same nationality—all of those things make qualifications of genocide. Under all those headings, the Yazidis in particular qualify. They are a distinctive, separate people within the universe of modern Iraq. For example, they have just one religious day a week, Wednesday. They have only one temple; they do not, like the Abrahamic faiths, have many opportunities to worship at different places. They have different dress: yes, the Mandaeans also wear white, but on a Saturday rather than a Wednesday, for example. They have a different social structure entirely from the remainder of their fellow national Iraqis. There are a number of different ways, in their prayer life and their religious rituals, which differ them uniquely; there is no way of denying that.

The mass kidnap and religious persecution that the Yazidis have endured is falsely justified by some peculiar, perverted distortion of Islam, which is shown by the letter from their leader, Mr al-Baghdadi himself, when he quotes verses, pulls them out and distorts or repositions them, so that Islam is said to justify mass rape and mass extinction. There are mass executions, to destroy the bloodline. For a society that is not allowed to marry out or marry in, it is very easy indeed to wipe them out: if you kill the males, the females have no one left to work with. There is also forced marriage and the destroying of infants. I hope that the Minister has never seen or tried to touch an infant of 18 months that has been repeatedly raped; it is a devastating experience. That is what is happening. They are destroying infants, impregnating young girls and forcing conversion. If you destroy the religion, the bloodline and the family structure, you actually extinguish the race. If that is not genocide, nothing qualifies at all.

Because nobody was listening, my colleagues and I brought three young ladies here to talk about it, in June 2015. One of them, Noor, aged 22, said, “They took the men away in cars. In the distance we could see them being killed. The windows in the room we were

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2161

held in were painted black. Sixty-three Daesh fighters came in and picked girls and started to rape them. I said to the man who picked me, ‘Why are you doing this?’. He said we were kafirs and he would kill us Yazidis as long as he lived. He would rape our women and kill our children”. That is genocide. On her first escape attempt, this poor girl of 22 was caught, brought back and locked in a room with 12 guards, who raped her continuously for 12 hours.

9.15 pm

I speak in a personal capacity this evening. However, this evidence is on the web. The evidence to the Select Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict, which I have had the honour to chair, is on the internet. Our report is in the final stages of completion and I cannot comment at all on the committee’s findings.

Munira is 15 years old. She was taken by a 60 year-old Daesh. He said to her that their religion instructs them to rape Yazidi girls. Bushira, who is 20, was raped five times a day. Because she struggled, she was tied up permanently by her hands and feet. “Whenever I close my eyes”, she said, “I see children, old men and women killed in front of me on the street”.

Nihad Alawsi, who came through the week before, is 16. She said, “They killed the men and the older women. They kidnapped us girls, raped us and took our babies”. She asked, “What more needs to happen before the world does something about it?”. Her Majesty’s Government cannot claim ignorance. In the last 10 days, Nihad’s testimony has gone all over the globe and, again, is on the web.

I support my Government and do not like saying this, but I am deeply concerned as to where the British values are that we cherish and highlight. Where is the British action? Do we need to turn again to our US allies and friends, since we have failed so vastly? We have kept these youngsters waiting.

During that waiting time, other terrible things have happened. Trafficking has arisen. In August 2014, when I first met some of these young ladies in Iraq, the price of gaining the release of one of your family members was between $200 and $450. Now, because of the waiting time, it is between $7,500 and $35,000 per person. That is what has happened during that waiting time—not just the destruction of individuals. The level of trafficking has risen, the price has gone up and the impossibility of retrieving family members by any normal means, save by traffickers, has receded out of sight.

I chair the AMAR Foundation, although, again, I speak in a personal capacity. We have about a quarter of a million patients who are Yazidis, Christians, Mandaeans, and Shia and Sunni Muslims, members of whom are all being killed. We provide help, safety and support for them. One hundred and fifty thousand Yazidis are in the care of the AMAR Foundation, and about another 150 of them are employed. I am not just relying on the stories of four sad young girls who came here; I have the knowledge that has been given to me since August 2014—I was late in visiting and I am ashamed of that. This information pours in every single moment.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2162

In October 2014, I made a very strong request to Her Majesty’s Government to actively pursue all possibilities of prosecution, setting up political and judicial processes. I gave many opportunities in the short statement that I made. If Her Majesty’s Government still find difficulties with the definition of genocide, I refer them to the International Association of Genocide Scholars, who said recently:

“ISIS’s mass murders of Chaldean, Assyrian, Melkite Greek, and Coptic Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Sunni Kurds”—

they left out other Sunnis who are also being slaughtered—

“meet even the strictest definition of genocide”.

Again, since Her Majesty’s Government seem somehow unwilling to act, I draw the attention of the House to the first words of a statement made at the beginning of this month by two superb professors at Princeton University, where I will be next week, Cornel West and Robert P George. The first few words of their statement on genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria says:

“In the name of decency, humanity and truth”.

I support the amendment.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I have two concerns in relation to this issue, to which I will speak briefly. First, in our prayers in this House and in homes across the country, we cry out to God that this terrible violence will cease and we look for any small contribution we can make to hasten its end. Secondly, we are determined that those inflicting such terrible suffering will be brought to justice before the International Criminal Court, where such atrocities are properly dealt with. There is, as we have heard, a growing consensus that the systematic violence of people operating in the name of Daesh is rightly described as genocidal. This is what people outside this House call it, whether they know or understand the legal definitions or not, and we need to be very mindful of what would be heard were we not to pass this amendment.

Legally, the matter turns on whether we are confronted by,

“acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

I understand the caution of the Government and other experts about applying the word “genocide”. There are risks. Some worry that the strength and clarity of the legal definition of genocide could be somehow devalued if it is applied to such a complex set of conflicts as prevails in the countries involved. Some worry that the genocide label could encourage false understanding of the situation as conflict between different ethnic or religious groups. There is also the risk of removing Christians and members of other minorities from the area to a point where those minorities, with a long history and characteristic identity in that place, could become unviable. I smile at that—if not I would weep—because this is, of course, precisely what is happening at the moment. However, it is obviously something that we wish to avoid. Only last week, the right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Coventry, Southwark and Leeds visited these places and this was their primary concern.

However, we can live with those risks while trying to mitigate them. Our urgent prayer is for Christians, Yazidis and a variety of other identifiable groups against which the hatred of Daesh is directed, and,

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2163

supremely, for each individual—each of them precious to God. Therefore, can the category of “genocidal acts” help to stop the killing and help to bring the perpetrators sooner to account for their crimes? Yes, I believe it can.

The role of the Supreme Court is a matter for those with expertise in legal and constitutional matters. However, I note the support of a number of distinguished jurists for applying the label of genocide. The ability of people in this category to submit asylum applications at British missions overseas offers a reasonable additional route, alongside the work of the UNHCR, in identifying and bringing for resettlement those at greatest risk.

The General Synod of the Church of England has declared that it wants the Government to work with the UNHCR to ensure that vulnerability to religiously motivated persecution is taken into account when determining who is received into Britain. It calls on the Government to work with international partners to help establish safe and legal routes for people to come to this country who are so at risk.

The force of this amendment, whatever the issues of detail, is simply that the word genocidal is not too strong for what is happening. The seriousness of the national and international response needs to take that into account.

Perhaps I may briefly quote a passage from scripture—not an obvious one on this occasion for this situation. I have always been very moved by what Jesus said after the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. After they had all been fed, he said to the disciples: “Gather up the fragments. Let nothing be lost”. I believe that this amendment can help in a small way to address this situation, so that those who are most in danger of being lost could—maybe a few of them—be found.

Lord Pannick (CB): My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and other noble Lords who have spoken have made an overwhelming case that acts of genocide are being carried out by Daesh, and they have made an overwhelming case that it is shameful that Her Majesty’s Government are not prepared to say so. I cannot understand the basis on which Her Majesty’s Government assert that a judicial determination is required before they are able to say that genocide is occurring. I would be particularly grateful if the Minister, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, were to explain why a judicial determination is required. Any such approach seems quite inconsistent with Article 8 of the 1948 genocide convention, which states:

“Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide”.

It is implicit in that that any contracting state is going to form a view that acts of genocide are taking place and in the light of that to make a request. I can see no basis whatever for the Government’s policy.

I have much more difficulty with the substance of this amendment because it proceeds on what seems to be the incorrect premise that a judicial determination is required in relation to genocide. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others that a judicial determination is not required before Her Majesty’s Government can state what their position is.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2164

In any event, I am concerned that the substance of the amendment confuses the law relating to genocide with the different subject of refugee status. The genocide convention is concerned with the bringing to justice of the perpetrators of genocide in criminal courts, either the local court or the International Criminal Court. It is not concerned with refugee status; it makes no mention of the subject. This is not a technicality. What the substance of the amendment seeks to do is impose some obligations—we heard that they may not be very extensive—on the diplomatic mission of the United Kingdom abroad to accept applications for refugee status. It is a fundamental principle of refugee law, for sensible and practical reasons, that an asylum claim cannot be made at a consulate or an embassy of the United Kingdom in another country.

So I am not myself keen on the substance of this amendment, but I repeat that I share the concerns about the position being adopted by Her Majesty’s Government and their refusal to state publicly and importantly that acts of genocide are being carried out. If the noble Lord, Lord Alton, decides to divide the House, he will have my support precisely because I oppose the Government’s general policy in this area.

9.30 pm

Viscount Hailsham: My Lords, I find myself in great sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has just said. If this were a general debate about genocide, I would find myself in total agreement with what has been said by all noble Lords who have contributed; there have been some very remarkable speeches. But it is not. We are actually talking about legislation and we have to ask ourselves the serious question: is what this House is contemplating by way of legislation make legal sense? It is there that I part from those who are advocating this amendment.

I want to concentrate briefly on subsection (1) of the proposed new clause because there are three points that I would like to make about it. First, we are not in the business of talking about groups, although the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, did talk about groups. The question is whether an individual belongs to a group, and that involves adjudication, a decision. It is made in the context where there is an enormous amount of scope, and motive too, for misrepresentation. It is sometimes very difficult to tell the difference between a Tajik and an Uzbek or, for that matter, between an Alawite, a Sunni and a Shia. They may all have reason for misrepresenting their status. To put the test in the way that it is expressed in subsection (1) will open up an enormous amount of judicial argument.

The second point is slightly different. In the second line of the subsection is the phrase “in the place”—not in the country, but in the place. The truth is that in a country like Iraq, a Shia may be unsafe in a particular area but can move to another area where he or she is safe. Simply to have the test of whether the conditions exist in the place where a person for a moment in time happens to be resident is, I think, to distort what one really seeks to do.

The last point I want to make is that subsection (1) creates presumptions of entitlement. I believe that presumption should depend on individual adjudication,

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2165

not on class presumption. This amendment would create a class presumption with which I am bound to say I am extremely uneasy. Therefore while I have enormous sympathy with the points that have been made, and I do not wish in any way to undermine the fervour with which people have spoken, we are in the business of asking ourselves whether particular pieces of legislation which we are being asked to authorise make sense.

Lord Carlile of Berriew (LD): My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to applaud the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for bringing this amendment back to your Lordships’ House in an improved form. I do not want this to turn into a lawyers’ fest or to give your Lordships too much pleasure in knowing that the lawyers may disagree about the matters that have just been referred to, but I would remind the House that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, told us earlier that the amendment followed interventions at an earlier stage in the passage of this Bill by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope of Craighead and Lord Judge. Both are former Supreme Court judges, one the former Lord Chief Justice and the other the former Deputy President of the Supreme Court.

I do not disagree in principle with what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and the noble Viscount. However, we must remember that the power to pass law rests upon Parliament. This is not a court where we act upon precedent. If Parliament wishes to include a judge’s decision in the determination of a matter of law, it is open to Parliament to do so. Let us not pretend that the Government—particularly this Government—do not send for the judges when they are in an awkward position in any event. We know that that is all too common and currently being done with the most controversial Bill before these Houses: the Investigatory Powers Bill.

I therefore suggest to your Lordships that while we of course listened with enormous respect to the two noble Lords who just spoke, nevertheless what they say does not negate the merits of the debate that we have been hearing. Indeed, we have heard some very eloquent speeches dealing with those merits: for example, the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, who had an excellent article in the Guardian this morning, setting out in principle what everybody on my side of the debate might say.

I do not want to give a catalogue of the events that give rise to this debate; we heard from my noble friend Lady Nicholson in some detail. I applaud, as I am sure we all do, the extraordinary work that she has done with the charity AMAR, of which she is the chairman and founder, which has helped so many, particularly young women, affected by genocide, especially in the Middle East. She deserves great praise for that. Indeed, she and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, are responsible for bringing these very important and painful issues to the attention not just of the House, but of the country much more widely than the political class represented here and in another place.

I simply say this to your Lordships: there is no more arrogant crime than the crime of genocide. Genocide defies all decent religious standards, albeit sometimes

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2166

in the heretical pretence of religion. Genocide offends all decent secular standards. I know of no secular state that would allow any of the horrendous practices described in the debate. Genocide rejects the proposition that there should be even any limits to the actions and cruelties committed in war. Genocide diminishes the dignity of the human race, quite simply. Surely Parliaments such as this should recognise the suffering of victims of genocide, and not merely by wringing our hands with rhetoric about those victims. Where else have they to turn to if not to Parliaments and to Governments in countries such as ours? Why are we not making the sorts of declarations that have been made, as I understand it, by the French Government and very clearly by the American Secretary of State?

The designation of crimes as “genocide” sends out a clear message, and it is not an unimportant one: it is a deterrent. Designation of genocide sends out the message that those who commit the act and are identified will one day be brought before international courts and punished for their crimes against the rest of the human race. Designation of genocide by Governments such as ours also sends out a warning to those who might be inclined to commit genocide that they will be pursued to the end of the days—to the end of their lives if necessary, when they are old and hiding from their responsibilities, as happened, for example, with the Nazi genocide.

I heard earlier in the evening—I hope that I am wrong—that Her Majesty’s Official Opposition’s position was to sit on its hands in this debate. I hope that that shameful proposition is not correct. I hope that we will not have a situation in which the party that introduced the Human Rights Act 1998 into our law will chicken out of an official vote on this amendment.

We carry out a great responsibility this evening. I hope that we will do so in a spirit that recognises the challenge that genocide presents to humankind.

Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, the issues that the tablers of this amendment have raised are so important and urgent that I am prompted to speak for the first time on the Bill. Everyone’s hearts this evening are on the same page in your Lordships’ House. Our hearts are weary of seeing the suffering on our news bulletins and we want solutions urgently. I hold the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, in the highest regard, not only for their lobbying on behalf of vulnerable people, but for often placing themselves in harm’s way as they do so. They are entirely right that certain groups of people that we should have been focused on more clearly have been lost from view. However, the mechanism proposed this evening will, sadly, not ensure that the most vulnerable people are helped and with huge regret I cannot support the amendment.

First, the amendment runs the risk of taking too long to help these people, as setting up a judicial process with rules of court, et cetera, will take months. Help for these people is needed now, help that can be provided, as I will outline, through the Syrian vulnerable people scheme. As I understand the amendment, this would not just be declaring acts of genocide; what the High Court would be declaring would be a policy of

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2167

genocide in a particular situation. Since the Second World War, only two situations have merited that declaration: Rwanda and the Srebrenica incident within the Balkans conflict. This is recognised as the crime above all crimes, to be kept special, to be kept unique and with a particular connotation.

Although we can prosecute genocide anywhere in the world, the case of Eichmann, which many noble Lords will remember, remains of its era and we have seen the development of international tribunals to try this particular crime. This amendment draws the declaration of a policy of genocide, which it took the Rwanda tribunal four years to come to, into a domestic court. That opens the way for other domestic courts to do the same and to disagree with us. It risks diluting this crime and we could end up with one domestic courts saying, “We think this is genocide”, and another saying, “This is not genocide”. The risk of politicising and putting into foreign affairs terms a policy such as genocide is grave.

I watched with care the full announcement by Secretary of State Kerry, most of which asserts the supremacy of the judicial process. I was disappointed that such a campaign in America has led, in fact, to so little. They have promised a bit more aid and that they will do some investigation of the evidence. I would like Her Majesty’s Government to deliver more than that.

Perhaps the most important reason for not supporting this amendment is that it will not only apply only to Iraq and Syria. It is, perhaps, most likely to apply, first and foremost, in Sudan, where al-Bashir stands ready to be tried at the International Criminal Court—if they could get him there—for crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of genocide. This amendment would apply to people in other countries; people might learn through social media that the UK has said that they are victims of genocide and can get asylum here and they might leave to come here. As I say, Sudan might be the first case and a determination of that nature by our courts could cause vast numbers of people to flee, not knowing whether they are number four of the 5,000 we have said we are taking or number 4,555. They will not know that; they will leave. This would be particularly dangerous today because their route is through Libya, through IS-controlled territory where they risk being killed and a much more perilous sea journey across the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.

I have sat before British diaspora who are desperate for their adult sons to remain in those countries and not to travel. Often, they listen to IS footage in Libya on the internet and see what could happen to their relatives if there was any incentive for them to move. Turkey is closing down as a route and the criminal gangs are looking for a different market, or several different markets.

The movers of the amendment are right in principle. I want to return to that. I hope that I can offer a way forward. Will my noble friend the Minister please look urgently to review the criteria of the Syrian vulnerable people scheme, as Iraqi people are the victims of probably the worst postcode lottery? A century ago, Britain was involved in setting the border between Iraq and Syria, which IS just wiped out. So if you can

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2168

satisfy the vulnerable persons criteria and are a refugee but happen to live on the wrong side of the border—if you are an Iraqi—you are not eligible for the scheme. If you live hundreds of miles away or hundreds of yards away but you happen to be Syrian, you can get safe passage to the UK. As a matter of utmost urgency will my noble friend the Minister look to expand the eligibility for the scheme so that we can offer protection virtually immediately to the Iraqis who so desperately need it? Will he also please ensure that the relevant numbers are raised to accommodate the extra people?

9.45 pm

Will Her Majesty’s Government look at the criteria of vulnerability within the scheme? The criteria for vulnerability include women and girls at risk, refugees with disabilities, children and adolescents at risk and persons at risk due to their sexual orientation or gender identity but do not include one’s religion or lack of religion. I want to be clear that I am not asking for discrimination on the ground of faith. That would be wrong and inconsistent with being a Christian country. However, in the 1970s, the UK took in Ugandan Asians and did not thereby discriminate on the ground of race. But Idi Amin persecuted on the ground of race and so created vulnerability. IS is most definitely persecuting on the ground of faith and creating vulnerability. The scheme should be urgently amended to recognise this.

Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood (CB): My Lords, I support this amendment but think it right to note that it would involve two radical changes in the existing legal framework. First, it would involve a High Court judge deciding—no doubt subject to appeal—whether a particular group is subject to genocide. Secondly, it would enable any member of such a group to claim asylum from abroad. I have no real objection to the first of those changes. I do not share the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge. In fact, it seems to me hardly necessary in the present case for a judge to be involved at all, but it might be in some future case. On all the evidence we have heard, it is pretty clear that Daesh is indeed committing genocide. If the UK Government will not say so and will not refer the matter to the United Nations, then by all means let us legislate to allow a judge to do so, if that would serve a valuable purpose. It is not necessary to go as far as establishing a case of genocide to establish a right to asylum under the 1951 refugee convention. But, of course, a ruling that an asylum seeker is indeed a member of a group subject to genocide would certainly qualify them in spades for refugee status.

I suggest that the real challenge in this proposal is the second change it would involve—namely, that under it for the very first time asylum would be able to be claimed from abroad rather than, as at present, only if the asylum seeker has somehow managed by hook or by crook to reach the shores of this country. Plainly, this change would substantially increase the numbers able to claim asylum here, and who we would then be obliged to take in. One fears and suspects that many thousands are subject to the risk of genocide. Assuming they could get to a British mission overseas—indeed, it is probably sufficient to get their application

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2169

for asylum lodged there—that would have to be assessed, and the critical question would presumably be whether they are members of the group at risk; that addresses the point of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. If the claim succeeds, they, as refugees, would still need to get to the United Kingdom to claim sanctuary. One wonders who would arrange and achieve that. The UNHCR has been suggested, but that might involve certain logistical difficulties.

Is the sheer increase in the number of prospective asylum seekers a fatal objection to the proposal? That is the crucial question here. I am puzzled about the suggestion that those who succeed under this provision would fall within the cap of 20,000 who we are already committed to relocate over this Parliament. I cannot see how, or why, that should be required. However, the proposal is confined to those who are genuinely subject to the risk of genocide. That is, of itself, a manifestly limiting factor. Accordingly, this objection should not be regarded as fatal: we should pass this amendment.

Lord Shinkwin (Con): My Lords, I support this amendment and the excellent speeches made by other noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lord Forsyth. As we have heard, the Christians in Daesh-held territory are suffering indescribable persecution and slaughter on account of their belief in Jesus Christ. They are sacrificing their lives and suffering genocide for Christ’s sake. Yet we are not being called to make any sacrifice at all on their behalf. All your Lordships’ House is being asked to do today is bear witness to the truth than genocide is happening and to keep faith with these victims of genocide by empowering a High Court judge to determine whether a genocide is under way, and by requiring the Government to accelerate the resettlement requests of those fleeing such a genocide.

It may be almost impossible for us, as we sit in the splendour of this beautiful Chamber, to conceive of the enormity of the genocidal crimes being perpetrated thousands of miles away. It is possible that the only thing that we have in common with their situation right now is the colour of the luxurious red Benches on which we sit. It is also the colour of their blood. The amendment would help to ensure that it is not spilt in vain, that the extent of the genocide they are suffering is recognised for what it is, that refuge is given on account of it, and that the perpetrators, as we have already heard, will be punished specifically for genocide.

For Christians around the world, yesterday marked the start of Holy Week, the worst and yet the best week of Jesus’s life. By the end of it, he would be dead, yet he went to his death in full knowledge of the excruciating pain involved, because he chose to bear witness to the truth. We debate this amendment in full knowledge of the truth that genocide is being suffered, as I speak, in his holy name. We cannot stop it, but like him we can choose to bear witness to the truth.

So I say with sincere respect to my noble friend the Minister that that is why I support this amendment. I hope that many noble Lords will do likewise, united in proud defence of the freedom of conscience that surely we all cherish. Surely that is the very least we can do in the face of genocide.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2170

Lord Green of Deddington: My Lords, the hour is very late. I shall be very brief. I find myself on this occasion in broad agreement with the interventions in this debate. The abuses in Iraq and Syria are repulsive and surely can only amount to genocide. I therefore welcome effective action in respect of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria.

I will just make two practical observations. The first refers to proposed new subsection (1), which is very widely drawn. We could at some future date find that literally millions of people qualified for the presumption that they met the qualifications for asylum in the UK. In the past five years alone, the office of the UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide has named five countries as being at risk: Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya and Ivory Coast. Any of these situations could descend into genocide in the coming years, so it follows that a blanket clause in our immigration law could prove to be a serious hostage to fortune. I am not sure how that can be dealt with. A limit of numbers is a possibility. That was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and might be a way forward on that point. But above all, it is surely essential to avoid a situation where a thoroughly well-intentioned statement sets off a wave of humanity that has reached the limits of its endurance. I leave it to the proposers to consider that point.

My other observation refers to proposed new subsection (3), which envisages British missions overseas assessing applications. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that that is a difficult road to go down; I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, had similar doubts. It is not hard to imagine a ghastly event in Sudan or somewhere leading to hundreds of claimants camping outside some of our missions. It might be possible to engage the UNHCR in the process. If it does not have that capacity, we might be able to consider, for example, sending a team of British officials deployed for this purpose in situ. They might be established somewhere appropriate, perhaps in a refugee camp near the border with the country concerned, but certainly not in a mission, which would very soon be swamped.

The practicalities clearly need some further thought and we should not overlook the point that to move away from the fundamental principle of claiming asylum in the UK is a major departure. That said, I think we must find a way to tackle this ghastly situation—to break, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, put it, the cycle of inertia.

Lord Farmer (Con): My Lords, I, too, will be brief. There can be no doubt that the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Forsyth, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Cox and Lady Kennedy, have brought an issue of the most profound gravity to our attention, and they have done so with characteristic eloquence and passion. It is essential that Parliament takes the time to consider the appalling treatment meted out to Yazidis and Christians, the threat of extinction that faces these ancient communities, and what our considered response should be to this genocide claim. What is being proposed today is that we amend primary legislation in far-reaching ways with minimal consideration and

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2171

debate. Surely a better way forward would be to establish a specific review that does justice to the enormity of the issue that is before us today, which would then be the subject of a sufficiently lengthy debate in both Houses.

10 pm

In Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, cited an Early Day Motion tabled in the other place at the end of January this year, which drew attention to the atrocities perpetrated by Daesh and stated that these fell within the definition of genocide. Like the vast majority of EDMs, it received no parliamentary time at all and attracted only one more signature than a Motion on the Royal Mail’s recognition of Scotland’s history—an important issue no doubt, but thankfully not a matter of life or death in the here and now. I know some MPs never sign EDMs because they do not consider them to be an effective way of achieving change. This tells me that although awareness of the severity of this issue might be very high in present company and there are many dedicated parliamentarians working tirelessly to raise that awareness in the media and more widely, it is perhaps not yet sufficiently on the radar of Members of this or another place. Most importantly, we are a long way from establishing the settled view of Parliament on this matter.

However, regardless of whether or not our Government declare these dreadful crimes to be genocide, decisive action is required sooner rather than later. In this regard I find my noble friend Lady Berridge’s arguments about the arbitrariness of the Iraqi-Syrian border compelling, especially now that it has been trampled down by Daesh. I agree that this could give the Government clear grounds to broaden the remit of the Syrian resettlement scheme to accommodate some of these persecuted minorities who originated in Iraq. I also agree with her that such a broadening should require us to revisit the current cap of 20,000 individuals. As we have been constantly reminded throughout this short debate, we cannot play a numbers game: this is about human lives.

Lord Elton (Con): My Lords, whether this amendment is carried or not, it must be clear to a Government who refer so often to our Judeo-Christian heritage that they cannot simply stay where they are thereafter. There must be an acknowledgement of what is going on. The truth must be recognised and must be brought to the attention of the world by this country and the many others that are already committed to it.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have a couple of sentences on behalf of these Benches. This may be the first time that my thought processes have followed exactly those of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, but I had concerns about the format, if you like, of this amendment. I would much prefer to be addressing the matter on an international basis through the UN, but then I, too, found Article 8 of the convention, which provides for contracting parties to call on the UN to take action. In the light of the growing call around the world for the recognition of what is going on as genocide, it seems to me that it is absolutely right that we should take this opportunity, whatever the technicalities of the amendment.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2172

Lord Rosser: My Lords, no one can fail to be concerned about and moved by the appalling position of those to whom this amendment relates. There is a need to see what more can be done to help those fleeing violence and persecution and to increase safe and legal routes for refugees. We all have sympathy with what lies behind this amendment, particularly with regard to the appalling actions of ISIS—Daesh—against Yazidi women. The amendment as it stands is in our view unworkable, but we would be willing to work with the Government and others in the House to develop a scheme to present at Third Reading for these women and others persecuted on grounds of religion.

Anyone coming under the conditions referred to in proposed new subsection (1) who is already in the United Kingdom should already be able to claim asylum under the existing law and definition of a refugee. However, the amendment appears problematic in a couple of areas. It places responsibility for declaring that a genocide is taking place—and, with it, a presumption that the conditions for asylum in the UK have been met—with the High Court rather than with an international body, which is a departure from existing practice. We are not convinced that this power should rest with domestic courts.

The amendment also allows people to apply for asylum outside the UK, which is again a significant departure from existing law and would allow unknown numbers to apply as, as the amendment sets out, there should be no discrimination in dealing with such applications based on,

“national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

As a lesser point, there also needs to be more clarity about how the process set out in the amendment would work in practice, how applications would be processed, by whom and where.

While we all want to do more for vulnerable people fleeing persecution and genocide—

Lord Carlile of Berriew: The noble Lord is telling us that the Labour Party agrees in principle with the feelings behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. Is it not a bit supine for the Labour Party to say that but not put forward an improved amendment of its own if it really seeks to say what we have just heard with full integrity?

Lord Rosser: I do not share the noble Lord’s view; I am setting out our view of the amendment and have referred to two specific issues, which do not seem to me unimportant. I can only note that he holds a different view.

While we all want to do more for vulnerable people fleeing persecution and genocide—such a debate needs to take place—we are unconvinced that the amendment as drafted represents the best way to do that. It entails a significant change in practice and procedure, and there needs to be much greater consideration than, inevitably, there has been of the practicalities and impact of what is being proposed. For these reasons, if the mover, having heard the Government’s response, decides to test the opinion of the House, we will not be able to lend our support.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2173

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con): My Lords, no one could but be moved by the strength of feeling and concern that has been expressed in this House with regard to events in the Middle East. Several of your Lordships have eloquently articulated the terrible threats that Daesh or ISIS poses to the populations of the Middle East. Who could gainsay the ghastly evidence of some of the events that have been reported?

All of us want to do everything that we can to support the victims of such terrible violence. All of us want to alleviate the suffering experienced in Syria and Iraq at present. But to do that, our primary priority must be to secure an end to the conflict in Syria and Iraq, in order that people can return to their communities and their lives. That is what this Government have been committed to achieving, and I shall not repeat the points made earlier about the steps taken in that regard.

I urge your Lordships to read the amendment to see what, on the face of it, it is intended to do. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, finished by saying that the intention was to bring those individuals responsible to justice. That, with respect, is not the objective of the amendment. Indirectly, it might achieve that, but let us remember to emphasise individuals. We cannot bring Daesh to justice; we must identify the individuals within ISIS and Daesh who have been responsible for these terrible crimes. That is not the objective of this amendment at all.

The amendment deals with three matters. Essentially, proposed new subsection (1) is a presumption that if a person is a member of a certain grouping they have been a victim of genocide. Secondly, there is an adjudication and, thirdly, there is an application process by which an individual who is a member of a group that has been subject to genocide can secure asylum in the United Kingdom but, more importantly, can secure that by means of an application form outside the United Kingdom—a unique and quite unprecedented step in the context of refugee law. Indeed, I would respectfully adopt the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, when he said that he had much more difficulty with the substance of the amendment. With respect, so have we, because if we look at the substance of the amendment, we have to consider the background to what is being addressed.

There are two entirely distinct conventions here. There is what is shortly termed the genocide convention, which is concerned with the identification and prosecution of those guilty of the terrible crime of genocide. Then there is the refugee convention, which is concerned with the circumstances in which a country such as the United Kingdom has an obligation to those who are defined—

Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords—

Lord Keen of Elie: I shall finish the sentence, if I may—to those who are defined as refugees. The two are entirely distinct. Under—

Lord Carlile of Berriew: The noble and learned Lord said that he was going to give way at the end of the sentence. I detected a full stop. With all his legal

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2174

experience, he surely knows that numerous applications relating to residence in the United Kingdom are made from outside the United Kingdom. For example, visas are applied for outside the United Kingdom. What is so unique about extending that process?

Lord Keen of Elie: I am obliged to the noble Lord. I was aware of that—and, of course, the distinction lies in international law. Our obligation towards asylum seekers arises under the refugee convention, and it is in accordance with that that we deal with these applications. I shall elaborate on why that poses such severe problems in the context of the amendment.

Under our own Immigration Rules we have provision for those who enjoy refugee status, which includes those who are the victims or potential victims of genocide. But of course it also extends beyond that category to those who are the victims or potential victims of persecution—for example, political persecution, which would not be covered by this provision. If we look at the provisions of the refugee convention, we find it explicitly stated at Article 3 that in dealing with applications for asylum there will be no discrimination on grounds such as nationality, ethnicity or religion. Indeed, that is reinforced by Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

While I understand the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, to see some help extended to the Christians in Syria, and the Yazidis as well, the reality is that if we had this provision in law we would have no right to discriminate between Christians and Yazidis. We know that in fact the activities of ISIS and Daesh in Syria and Iraq are directed not just at the Christian or Yazidi communities but at the Shia Muslim communities within these countries, at the Kurds and even at the Alawites. All those would also be in a position of complaining that they belonged to a group that was potentially the subject of genocidal acts, torture or violence.

10.15 pm

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: The Yazidi are in a different position, which is why I raised them particularly. They are perceived by ISIL as not being one of the Abrahamic religions. Their religion predates even Judaism. As a result, ISIL sees it as something totally inimical to being human and as something other. That is why it feels quite at liberty to diminish this people to nothing. That is why it thinks that that is permissible, and that is why it is genocide.

Lord Keen of Elie: I am obliged to the noble Baroness, but the reality is that under the refugee convention and the European convention we could not in legislation discriminate between particular communities, such as the Yazidis, the Christians or the Shia Muslims. It goes further than that because we know that at present there are something like 4.8 million Syrians displaced in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. It goes even further than that because, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, observed much earlier in the debate on this Bill, according to the United Nations there are something like 19.5 million refugees in the world at present, whether they be in Darfur, Burma, the Middle East or elsewhere. The figure I had was 20 million, but in the

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2175

context of such a catastrophe, perhaps 500,000 does not make an enormous difference. The reality is that this amendment would, on the face of it, open the United Kingdom to immigration by all 19.5 million people who could claim to be in that position. Noble Lords may scoff, but that is why it is so important that we examine the implications of the legislation proposed. Indeed, I have only to cite the example of Germany to point out the consequences of unintended action.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: Will the noble and learned Lord point out where in the amendment it specifies anything about Yazidis or Christians? The amendment says that if there is evidence of genocide, that evidence can be laid before a High Court justice for the justice to determine whether there is genocide. Will he also say what is non-discriminatory about the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme in which we single out a group of people and say that we will give them special protection and support, quite rightly in my view, but impose a cap, as we do, by saying there will be only 20,000? Is this not scaremongering of the worst order?

Lord Keen of Elie: With respect to the noble Lord, it is nothing of the sort. On the last point, the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme does not discriminate on the grounds of nationality, ethnicity or religion and therefore does not contravene either Article 3 of the refugee convention or Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That is where the distinction lies.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): I know the Minister is trying to make progress, but he said that the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme does not discriminate against nationalities, but it does. The key is in the name. They are Syrian. It does not apply to Iraqis.

Lord Keen of Elie: The noble Lord makes the point, and I accept that the scheme applies only to Syrians in the context of Syria being the area that is subject to the scheme, but it does not distinguish on the grounds of ethnicity or religion in that way.

I mentioned numbers a moment ago. No country in the world has an open-door immigration policy of the kind proposed by this amendment. More particularly, no country in the world has an open-door immigration policy that would involve persons who were not strictly refugees under the convention being able to apply in the place of their residence for asylum in the UK. It has always been the practice that an asylum seeker is a person who presents themselves in a safe country and seeks to establish refugee status. What is suggested in this amendment, as I read it, is that a person from within Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey or elsewhere would be entitled to approach a British consulate or embassy and make an application for asylum in the UK from that point. That would not be limited to the Middle East, either; it would apply across the world because, again, you could not distinguish between one set of refugees and another. That would not be possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, introduced the idea that somehow this amendment was subject to a cap. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, observed, though, that is simply not the case, and it is difficult to

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2176

conceive of how it could be. Still, let us suppose that it was going to be subject to a cap of, say, 5,000 applications. How would that be dealt with? Are we to send 5,000 visas to the consulate in Baghdad? Are we then to say that first come are first served—that those who arrive and apply can have one while those who arrive too late cannot? With great respect to your Lordships, that is not an immigration policy, it is a lottery, and that is not what we are about. We are trying to achieve an objective and fair result.

When we address this, we have to remember also that refugee status applies not only to those who may have been, or threatened with being, the victims of genocide but to those who have been the subject of, or threatened with, persecution. On what basis can we rationally and reasonably distinguish between those two groups when they all constitute refugees?

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My noble and learned friend is making quite heavy weather of the inadequacies of the amendment. Can he tell us—he has had quite a lot of time to think about this because a similar amendment was tabled in Committee—what exactly the Government are going to do for those Christians and other groups who are facing genocide?

Lord Keen of Elie: I believe that we are already doing all of that. This was addressed by my noble friend Lord Bates earlier when he spoke of the steps that we are taking regarding diplomatic efforts to try to secure peace in the Middle East. He spoke of the Government delivering a robust and comprehensive strategy to defeat Daesh in Syria and Iraq as a member of the global coalition of 66 countries. He spoke of the fact that there was effectively a cessation of hostilities on 27 February that we will build upon and hope to develop. He spoke of the fact that we have pledged over £2.3 billion, our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis, which is delivering vital assistance to refugees in neighbouring countries on the ground right now. We are also working through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees with three schemes—the Gateway Protection Programme, the Mandate Refugee Programme and the Syrian resettlement scheme—in order to reach out to the most vulnerable people at risk, such as women and children. All that is being done.

We have to be realistic about what we can and cannot achieve. What we cannot achieve is a policy whereby 4.8 million or more people are invited to make an application at a local level for a visa to bring them to the UK. We know that we could not cope with the consequences of such a policy, and we know the potential disaster that could follow from attempting to impose one. We know that at the end of the day we would be expressing hope that could not be delivered. We would be expressing hope that these people might be helped when in reality we knew that their prospects would actually be dashed to pieces on the rocks of reality. We could never cope with such an immigration policy. I say to your Lordships in conclusion—

Lord Elton: My Lords, before my noble and learned friend sits down, he has heard considerable argument in favour of the Government using the opportunity

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2177

pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, to bring before the Security Council a proposal that this be recognised as genocide. Can he tell us what he is proposing to do about that?

Lord Keen of Elie: I am obliged to the noble Lord. Respectfully, it appears to me that the proper course of action in those circumstances, where we are putting to one side an amendment that even my noble friend Lord Forsyth would appear impliedly to accept is not workable, the appropriate way forward would be to consider a Motion of this House, directed to Her Majesty’s Government as to how they should address or not address the issues that pertain here with regard to whether there has been genocide. Noble Lords have heard already what the present government policy is. The Government believe that recognition of genocide should be a matter for international courts and that it should be a legal rather than a political determination. That remains the position.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): Is the Minister saying that such a—

Lord Keen of Elie: I have not given way.

In conclusion, this amendment does not even address the objective set out by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. Although I fully understand his concerns about what is going on, the amendment creates a mirage of false hope. It might salve our conscience, but it will not solve the problem. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw it.

Lord Lea of Crondall: Before the Minister sits down, if such a Motion was put forward, would it have the Government’s support?

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, ended on an interesting note, which the noble Lord just questioned him about: if a Motion were placed before your Lordships’ House, which presumably would have to be done by the Government, because such procedures are not open to—

Lord Keen of Elie: If I may, with respect, correct the noble Lord, the Motion would not be required to be from the Government but could be laid by any Member of this House.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: Would the noble and learned Lord like to remind me of the last time a Motion of that kind was tabled on the Order Paper and selected for debate in your Lordships’ House without the support of the usual channels and the Front Bench?

Lord Keen of Elie: I am not aware of the date when that was last done, but, as the noble Lord observed, it would be a matter of securing the support of the usual channels.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, it seems that we are back into the circular arguments that we have been having. The last time I put the question to the Government and asked whether they had any intention of submitting

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2178

evidence of genocide in Iraq and Syria to the Security Council and through it to the International Criminal Court, they said:

“We are not submitting any evidence of possible genocide against Yezidis and Christians to international courts, nor have we been asked to”.

This argument just goes on and on. That is why, in February, I and other noble Lords from across the House tabled the Motion in Committee. Normally when a Motion is tabled in Committee, the Government respond by saying, “We will discuss with the movers of the Motion ways in which we can take it forward”. Although I had a meeting with the noble Lord, Lord Bates, it was interesting that the first comment of one of the officials who was present was, “We have never done this before”, as though that was an argument for never doing it in the future. I am disappointed that this evening neither the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, nor the Front Bench opposite have offered an opportunity to discuss how an amendment might be framed that could find favour with the Government. It seemed to me from what the noble and learned Lord said that under no circumstances would any such move be countenanced.

I was shocked when the noble and learned Lord started to express numbers that were in the realms of fantasy—the idea that 19 million people in the world might take the opportunity. It would be impossible to do that. First, a genocide would have to have been declared by the High Court. It would then have to go before the Government, who would have to decide how they wanted to treat it, and they could then impose exactly the kind of cap that they have imposed in the case of the numbers of people being admitted to this country under the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme. Therefore there is no question that this amendment would open those kinds of floodgates. As the Minister said, that was not the intention of the movers and it would not be the effect of the Motion. Surely, therefore, we now have an opportunity to do something about this. If the Government had said, “We will take this away and look at it between now and Third Reading”, I certainly would have responded positively to that; or we can pass this amendment, and between now and Third Reading the Government can either amend it or send it to those in another place and let them decide how they want to deal with the issue.

Under the 1948 genocide convention, we have three duties. We have a duty to prevent, a duty to punish and a duty to protect. There are two strands in the amendment. The first is to bring about the punishment of the offenders, and the second is to help some of those people. We cannot help everyone; I recognise that. But no one is more vulnerable than someone who is the subject of genocide. We have heard the speeches of the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy, Lady Nicholson and Lady Cox, and we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and many other noble Lords who have set forward the case that genocide is indeed under way and we should therefore do something about it.

I do not claim that the amendment is perfect. I do claim that we cannot keep on going round and round in these circles. Although I recognise that I may well be in a minority this evening, it is better to be in a minority, say what one believes to be right and seek

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2179

the opinion of the House. I will do that in a moment, because I agreed with the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chelmsford, when he said that it is our duty to gather up the fragments. I agreed with my noble friend Lady Cox when she said that we should not be silent in the face of evil; with the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, when she said that we should break the cycle of inertia; and with the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, when she asked why we are last in coming forward. We have the opportunity to break the cycle of inertia this evening, and I would like to test the opinion of the House.

10.31 pm

Division on Amendment 121

Contents 111; Not-Contents 148.

Amendment 121 disagreed.

Division No.  2


Alderdice, L.

Allan of Hallam, L.

Alton of Liverpool, L.

Anderson of Swansea, L.

Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.

Beith, L.

Benjamin, B.

Berkeley of Knighton, L.

Best, L.

Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.

Bowles of Berkhamsted, B.

Brennan, L.

Brinton, B.

Brookman, L.

Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, L.

Bruce of Bennachie, L.

Burnett, L.

Carlile of Berriew, L.

Chelmsford, Bp.

Chester, Bp.

Cotter, L.

Cox, B. [Teller]

Elton, L.

Falkner of Margravine, B.

Fearn, L.

Featherstone, B.

Forsyth of Drumlean, L.

Foster of Bath, L.

Garden of Frognal, B.

German, L.

Glasgow, E.

Gordon of Strathblane, L.

Greaves, L.

Green of Deddington, L.

Greengross, B.

Grender, B.

Hamwee, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Humphreys, B.

Hussein-Ece, B.

Hylton, L. [Teller]

Jolly, B.

Jones, L.

Jowell, B.

Kennedy of The Shaws, B.

Kerslake, L.

Kidron, B.

Kilclooney, L.

Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.

Kramer, B.

Lawson of Blaby, L.

Lea of Crondall, L.

Lister of Burtersett, B.

Listowel, E.

Ludford, B.

McFall of Alcluith, L.

Maddock, B.

Manzoor, B.

Marlesford, L.

Masham of Ilton, B.

Mawson, L.

Moore of Lower Marsh, L.

Morris of Handsworth, L.

Murphy of Torfaen, L.

Newby, L.

Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.

Northover, B.

Norwich, Bp.

Paddick, L.

Palmer of Childs Hill, L.

Pannick, L.

Parminter, B.

Patel, L.

Pinnock, B.

Purvis of Tweed, L.

Ramsbotham, L.

Randerson, B.

Razzall, L.

Rees of Ludlow, L.

Rennard, L.

Roberts of Llandudno, L.

Sandwich, E.

Scott of Needham Market, B.

Scriven, L.

Sharkey, L.

Sharp of Guildford, B.

Sheehan, B.

Shinkwin, L.

Shipley, L.

Shutt of Greetland, L.

Smith of Newnham, B.

Somerset, D.

Steel of Aikwood, L.

Stephen, L.

Stoneham of Droxford, L.

Strasburger, L.

Stunell, L.

Suttie, B.

Taverne, L.

Taylor of Goss Moor, L.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2180

Taylor of Warwick, L.

Teverson, L.

Thomas of Gresford, L.

Tonge, B.

Tope, L.

Tyler, L.

Wallace of Saltaire, L.

Wallace of Tankerness, L.

Walmsley, B.

Whitaker, B.

Willis of Knaresborough, L.


Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.

Altmann, B.

Anelay of St Johns, B.

Arbuthnot of Edrom, L.

Ashton of Hyde, L.

Astor of Hever, L.

Barker of Battle, L.

Bates, L.

Berridge, B.

Blencathra, L.

Borwick, L.

Bottomley of Nettlestone, B.

Bourne of Aberystwyth, L.

Brabazon of Tara, L.

Brady, B.

Bridgeman, V.

Bridges of Headley, L.

Brougham and Vaux, L.

Byford, B.

Caithness, E.

Callanan, L.

Carrington of Fulham, L.

Cathcart, E.

Cavendish of Furness, L.

Chadlington, L.

Chisholm of Owlpen, B.

Colwyn, L.

Cope of Berkeley, L.

Courtown, E.

Crathorne, L.

De Mauley, L.

Deben, L.

Deighton, L.

Denham, L.

Dixon-Smith, L.

Dobbs, L.

Eaton, B.

Eccles, V.

Eccles of Moulton, B.

Evans of Bowes Park, B.

Fairfax of Cameron, L.

Farmer, L.

Faulks, L.

Feldman of Elstree, L.

Fellowes of West Stafford, L.

Fink, L.

Finkelstein, L.

Finn, B.

Flight, L.

Fookes, B.

Fowler, L.

Freud, L.

Gardiner of Kimble, L. [Teller]

Gardner of Parkes, B.

Geddes, L.

Gilbert of Panteg, L.

Goodlad, L.

Hague of Richmond, L.

Hailsham, V.

Hamilton of Epsom, L.

Harding of Winscombe, B.

Harris of Peckham, L.

Hayward, L.

Helic, B.

Higgins, L.

Hodgson of Abinger, B.

Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.

Holmes of Richmond, L.

Home, E.

Horam, L.

Howard of Lympne, L.

Howard of Rising, L.

Howe, E.

Hunt of Wirral, L.

Inglewood, L.

Jenkin of Kennington, B.

Jopling, L.

Keen of Elie, L.

King of Bridgwater, L.

Kirkham, L.

Lamont of Lerwick, L.

Lang of Monkton, L.

Lansley, L.

Leigh of Hurley, L.

Lingfield, L.

Liverpool, E.

Lupton, L.

Lyell, L.

MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.

McIntosh of Pickering, B.

Mancroft, L.

Mobarik, B.

Montrose, D.

Morris of Bolton, B.

Moynihan, L.

Nash, L.

Neville-Jones, B.

Neville-Rolfe, B.

Newlove, B.

Noakes, B.

Norton of Louth, L.

O’Neill of Gatley, L.

Oppenheim-Barnes, B.

O’Shaughnessy, L.

Perry of Southwark, B.

Pidding, B.

Polak, L.

Popat, L.

Porter of Spalding, L.

Prior of Brampton, L.

Ribeiro, L.

Risby, L.

Robathan, L.

Rock, B.

Rotherwick, L.

Scott of Bybrook, B.

Seccombe, B.

Selborne, E.

Selkirk of Douglas, L.

Selsdon, L.

Shackleton of Belgravia, B.

Sheikh, L.

Shephard of Northwold, B.

Sherbourne of Didsbury, L.

Shields, B.

Shrewsbury, E.

Skelmersdale, L.

Smith of Hindhead, L.

Stedman-Scott, B.

Sterling of Plaistow, L.

Stowell of Beeston, B.

Suri, L.

Taylor of Holbeach, L. [Teller]

Trefgarne, L.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2181

Trenchard, V.

True, L.

Tugendhat, L.

Ullswater, V.

Verma, B.

Wakeham, L.

Warsi, B.

Wasserman, L.

Wei, L.

Wilcox, B.

Willetts, L.

Williams of Trafford, B.

Young of Cookham, L.

Younger of Leckie, V.

10.43 pm


House of Lords debate Immigration Bill  -victims of genocide. -Press Association report

Later, the Government came under cross-party pressure to recognise so-called
Islamic State (IS) was committing genocide against Christians and others, while
offering victims possible sanctuary in Britain.

The move came after US Secretary of State John Kerry determined that IS was
committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

Lord Alton said massacres, torture, kidnappings and rape targeted deliberately
for religious reasons must be recognised as genocide.

Under his amendment, a High Court judge would examine the evidence and
determine whether IS’s actions amounted to genocide and require the Government

to take “concrete steps” to protect victims and bring the perpetrators to

He said it would establish a mechanism to determine whether acts of genocide
were being perpetrated and afford victims with appropriate consideration when it
came to asylum applications.

It wouldn’t oblige the Government to take in any more refugees than it had
already committed to but would “prioritise” victims of genocide.

Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Forsyth of Drumlean said something must be
done to tackle the “appalling atrocities” being inflicted on Christians in

Pointing to these “harrowing tales,” he asked how it was that the European
Parliament and US Congress could take a “firm view” while the UK Government
was “hiding behind legalistic arguments preventing us offering sanctuary to
people who are facing real persecution”.

He said recognising the situation as an “appalling genocide” would enable
Britain to “stretch out a hand to these people and offer them sanctuary”.

Lord Forsyth added: “How much longer are we prepared to stand by and not
acknowledge what is going on, which is a systematic attempt to destroy

Christianity throughout the Middle East by people using medieval methods of

In an emotional speech, Liberal Democrat Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne
cited cases of rape and kidnap against Yazidi girls and said their testimony had
gone all over the globe.

She asked what had happened to “British values” and demanded “British
action” to tackle those perpetrating such crimes.

Leading QC and independent crossbencher Lord Pannick said there was
overwhelming evidence that acts of genocide were being carried out by Daesh
(another term for IS) and it was “shameful” the Government wasn’t prepared to
say so.

For the Opposition, Lord Rosser said he had sympathy with the views of those
calling for action, but the amendment was “unworkable”.

He said Labour was willing to work with others in developing a scheme to help
victims of violence and persecution for consideration at the Bill’s later third
reading stage.

Advocate General for Scotland Lord Keen of Elie, opposing the amendment, said
it proposed a “lottery” when ministers were trying to achieve a “fair and
objective” result.

Lord Keen said no other country in the world had an “open door immigration
policy” of the kind being suggested, which could bring millions to the UK.

The Government believed that recognition of genocide should be a matter for
international courts and legal rather than political determination.

“This amendment creates a mirage of false hope,” he said. “It might salve
our conscience but won’t solve the problem.”

Lord Alton’s amendment was rejected by 148 votes to 111, Government majority 37


Following the vote Lord Alton said that the cross party group – supported in the House of Lords vote by former Conservative Cabinet Ministers Nigel Lawson and Michael Forsyth as well as former Law Lords, bishops and senior figures from the law and politics  – would continue their efforts to have the campaign of violence against Christians and Yazidis recognized as a genocide.


He said that “it was disappointing that both the Government and Opposition declined to respond to the powerful calls made from around the Chamber. When historians come to consider the lamentable failure of both Parliament and Government to speak and act they will surely conclude that we failed to recognize the crime above all crimes. This should not have been a day for party whips and scaremongering arguments – such as being flooded with genocide victims – none of which brings Parliament credit. This was a day when Britain neither salved its conscience or offered practical help but simply chose to look the other way. “

March 11th 2016: Peter Kerridge and Premier Radio launch genocide campaign:


March 10th 2016:





Robert Flello

Sir David Amess

Stephen Gethins

John Mc Nally

Martyn Day

Sir Alan Meale


Fiona Mactaggart          Jim Shannon    Natalie McGarry

That this House welcomes the recent resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the recent motion of the European Parliament each of which identifies the slaughter by Daesh of Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq as the genocide that it is; notes the recent statements by Hillary Clinton, by leading Republican contenders for the US Presidency, and by His Holiness Pope Francis that the targeting of those communities is genocide; observes that an amendment was recently proposed to the Immigration Bill in the House of Lords to place upon the Government a duty to act to protect vulnerable individuals from genocide, and looks forward to that amendment being moved again at a future stage of the Bill; reminds the Prime Minister of the UK’s duties under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to act both directly and with others to bring this killing to an end and to bring its perpetrators to trial and punishment; expresses its frustration at the reluctance of Ministers to present evidence and to work to create a consensus at the UN that the killing is genocide; and observes that such inaction risks bringing shame on our nation and the reputation of the Government into international disrepute.

February 22nd


Follow this link to all posts on genocide against Christians and Yazidi- including the Resolutions of the  Council of Europe and the European parliament:   


February 18th Letter from Leading UK Lawyers and Human Rights Campaigners – including the former Lord Chancellor – to the Prime Minister calling for the British Government to declare the atrocities committed against Christians and Yazidis as a genocide.

Letter to PM_Genocide 18 Feb 2016

House of Lords Crest

Rt Hon David Cameron MP
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA

18 February 2016

Dear Prime Minister,

Genocide perpetrated by Daesh/ISIS against minorities

We write further to the letter of 21 December 2015 in which 75 members of both Houses wrote to you regarding the atrocities unfolding in the Middle East.

On 9 February 2016, replying to the oral question as to whether the Government would condemn the actions of Daesh/ISIS in the Middle East as genocide, the Earl of Courtown confirmed that Her Majesty’s Government would not take a view on whether genocide was occurring in the Middle East, as such a decision was a matter for the “international judicial system” and not governments or other non-judicial bodies. Furthermore, the request to take the matter to the UN Security Council was left unanswered (HL Deb 9 Feb 2016, Cols 2119-2120).

Prime Minister, we urge you to revisit this position for the sake of tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities who are currently subject to acts of genocide in the Middle East.

As a signatory to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the United Kingdom has an obligation under international law to “prevent and punish” acts of genocide. In order to take decisive action to prevent genocide, the very first step must be recognition that genocide is in fact taking place. In the light of horrific and overwhelming evidence emanating from the region, refusing to recognize the current acts as genocide begs the question, for what reason is the United Kingdom a party to the Genocide Convention?

Moreover, Her Majesty’s Government proposes that such decisions be made by the “international judicial system.” Yet what is the mechanism for engaging this system?

As Syria and Iraq are not parties to the Rome Statute, the only way in which the International Criminal Court can investigate and prosecute acts of genocide is with a referral from Syria or Iraq, which at this moment appears unlikely, or with a referral from the UN Security Council, of which the United Kingdom is a prominent and permanent member. This was made clear in a Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, on 8 April 2015.

Therefore, even if it is accepted that a recognition of genocide should only be made by the “international judicial system” – a position not shared by many of our European neighbours – the starting point for such action must come from the members of the UN Security Council, including the United Kingdom. Moreover, regardless of any authoritative judicial decision, there is nothing to prevent Her Majesty’s Government forming and acting upon its own view.

We therefore ask Her Majesty’s Government to reconsider its position and to clarify why it operates a policy of refusing to recognize acts of genocide, when so many other nations do not?

We further ask what action Her Majesty’s Government plans to take through its preferred means, the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court?

Lastly, we respectfully ask you to consider the concluding words of Fatou Bensouda’s statement of 8 April 2015:
“As Prosecutor of the ICC, I stand ready to play my part, in an independent and impartial manner, in accordance with the legal framework of the Rome statute.”

In order for the international judicial system to play its part, Her Majesty’s Government must first act.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours ever,

Lord Alton of Liverpool
Vice Chair
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or belief

And the following signatories:

Lord Brennan QC

Baroness Butler-Sloss GBE

Baroness Kennedy QC

Lord Carlile of Berriew QC CBE

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

Baroness Cox

Lord Pannick QC


Follow this link to all posts on genocide against Christians and Yazidi- including the Resolutions of the  Council of Europe and the European parliament:   


February 21st:


The Nazi destruction of stolen art was an act of gratuitous violence against Europe’s cultural heritage, undertaken in service to a demented ideology—the corollary, in the field of culture, of the far more wicked Nazi slaughter of Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, the mentally ill, and all those who fell under the category of lebensunwertes Leben: “life unworthy of life.” Similarly gratuitous destruction of ancient cultural centers and artifacts is now underway wherever the black flag of the Islamic State, ISIS, is raised in Iraq and Syria. And so is another genocide, this time of Christians. http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/02/isis-genocide-and-us George Weigel Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies Ethics and Public Policy Center



Nadia Murad’s mother and six brothers were murdered

Jack Hill/ The Times

  • Nadia Murad’s mother and six brothers were murdered Jack Hill/ The TimesPublished at 12:01AM, February 22 2016
  • Elhanan Miller

Nearly 3,500 Yazidi women and children are being held in northern Iraq and Syria by Islamic State according to a woman who was captured by the group and traded as a sex slave.

Nadia Murad, 22, has become the face of Yazidi suffering, touring cities to lobby for international protection for her people, who she says are experiencing a genocide at the hands of Isis. Her captors told her that their goal was to “destroy Yazidi identity”, she said. She addressed the UN security council in December and has met President Sisi of Egypt in Cairo.

Isis leaders have given manuals to their fighters encouraging the enslavement of the unmarried women. The militant group considers the ancient religion heretical. In pre-war Iraq there were about 600,000 Kurdish-speaking Yazidis, less than 2 per cent of the country’s population.

In August 2014 Ms Murad was rounded up along with other unmarried Yazidi women when Isis fighters entered her village of Koju in northeast Iraq. They gathered 170 villagers in a school, separating men from women. The men were loaded on to trucks and driven to the edge of town.

“We heard gunfire and approached the windows to see,” she said. The men were assembled in groups and shot. “I walked away, I just couldn’t watch it happening.”

By the end of that day Ms Murad’s mother and six brothers had been executed. She was taken by bus to Mosul with the other unmarried women and put on display in a room for Isis fighters to claim. “Hundreds of men entered the room and started picking girls,” she said. “Women were screaming, losing consciousness. They grabbed the girls and took them away.

“When we asked them why they were doing this, they told us we were sabaya [prisoners of war]. I had learnt about this in history class but couldn’t believe it still existed.”

An obese fighter chose Ms Murad but fearing his violence she fled to a smaller man, grabbed his trousers and begged him to have her instead. “He agreed and told the fat one, ‘I’ve chosen this girl yesterday, I’m taking her’,” she said.

Ms Murad was taken to a religious court where she was taught prayers and forcibly converted to Islam. Raped and traded from one man to another over the course of weeks, she finally gave her captors the slip and sought refuge with a local family in Mosul. The father gave her his wife’s identity card and dressed her in a burqa before driving her through Isis checkpoints to Kirkuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan. “My photo, taken at the Islamic court, was displayed at the checkpoints,” she said. “Had they checked me I would have been discovered.”

She spent months in a refugee camp before receiving asylum in Germany last September as part of a government scheme to take in 1,000 Yazidi refugees.

Today 11 of Ms Murad’s relatives are still being held by the Islamist group. Her 12-year-old nephew Malik, captured by Isis with his mother in Koju, was taken to Syria and is now undergoing military training in Raqqa.

Malik’s captors allow him to send voice messages to his family informing them that he is all right. “They’ve brainwashed him,” she said. “We’re afraid to tell him to run away.”

House of Lords to Debate All-Party Genocide Amendment on Monday: Daily Telegraph editorial

House of Lords to Debate Genocide Amendment on Monday

“Government opposition to this amendment would seem odd following Mr Kerry’s intervention”. – Daily Telergraph







Insert the following new Clause—

“Conditions for grant of asylum: cases of genocide

(1)     A person seeking asylum in the United Kingdom who belongs to a
national, ethnical, racial or religious group which is, in the place from
which that person originates, subject to the conditions detailed in Article II
of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
Genocide, shall be presumed to meet the conditions for asylum in the
United Kingdom.

(2)     The adjudication of whether the group to which the person seeking asylum
belongs meets the description specified in subsection (1) shall be
determined by a referral to the High Court after consideration of the
available facts.

(3)     Applicants for asylum in the United Kingdom from groups designated
under this section may submit their applications and have them assessed at
British missions overseas.”




Syrian refugee children walk in the Bab al-Salam refugee camp in Syria’s northern city of Azaz

Picture: AFP/GETTY

By Telegraph View
6:30AM GMT 18 Mar 2016

America has finally acknowledged that Christians and other religious minorities are being butchered in the Middle East. Why does the UK government not do the same?

Why has it taken so long for the United States to acknowledge that there is a genocide happening in the Middle East? Yesterday John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, said that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is ethnically cleansing “Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims”. The White House has hitherto avoided sectarian language for fear of pouring fuel on the fire – but the fire is already out of control. Antoine Audo, Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, said this week that two thirds of Syrian Christians had either been killed or driven away from his country.

Barack Obama’s refusal to call a genocide a genocide is representative of a halting, often contradictory approach to the crisis in the Arab world. In Libya, the mess of an earlier intervention is still being cleaned up. After five years of anarchy, an internationally-led effort to establish a stable government is finally being implemented; there is talk of British military advisers stepping in to the fray. The ambition is to help Libyans help themselves and, by so doing, halt both Isil and the flood of refugees across the Mediterranean.

The West needs a proper plan in Libya, and labelling Isil as a genocidal movement reflects greater realism about the task ahead. It must involve recognising what the fanatics’ goals are, including ethnic cleansing. Sadly, the British government still refuses to do this, insisting that it is up to judges to define genocide. Next week a group of peers will table an amendment to the immigration Bill triggering just such a judicial decision. Government opposition to this amendment would seem odd following Mr Kerry’s intervention. Religious minorities are being persecuted: the West has a moral duty to speak up for them.


For background and previous posts see:







Government defeated on unaccompanied child refugees – with reference to Eleanor Rathbone – and the chance for asylum seekers to work after 6 months – ending benefit dependency. Also links to posts on the Refugee Crisis











March 21st 2016: Government Defeated on Allowing 3,000 Unaccompanied Child Refugees to come to the UK:

The amendment states the Government must allow the children to come to Britain

as soon as possible after the Bill becomes law.

Lord Dubs, who was one of thousands of child refugees Britain rescued from Nazi

persecution under the Kindertransport operation in the late 1930s, insisted the

country needed to show the same compassion now.

“I would like other children who are in a desperate situation to be offered

safety in this country and be given the same opportunities that I had,Lord

Dubs said.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, said: “This is a small,

but beautiful thing that we can do.”

Lord Alton of Liverpool said if Britain turned its back on such children it

would be a “lasting stain” on its reputation.

The crossbencher said that the Government had done little since Europol

estimated last year that at least 10,000 children had disappeared in Europe and

were vulnerable to exploration and abuse.

“If thousands of child migrants have simply vanished in Europe while we have

argued about how many angels can sit on the top of a pin that will be a lasting

stain on our reputation,” Lord Alton said.

Crossbencher Baroness Neuberger said: “We could do it in 1930s, why can’t we

do it now?”

Baroness Butler-Sloss warned the children were vulnerable and in danger.

“We must do something to stop them becoming slaves,” the crossbench peer


Tory former cabinet minister Lord Lawson of Blaby said children above the age

of 12 should be excluded from the scheme.

Lib Dem Baroness Hamwee said with thousands of children going missing, abuse

was a real risk.

The peer dismissed claims such a move could act as a “pull factor” for


“There are so many push factors that we do not need to think about the pull

factor,” Lady Hamwee said.

Home Office Minister Lord Bates said the Government had pledged to take 20,000

Syrian refugees by 2020, and 51% of the 1,000 people who have arrived so far

have been children.

Lord Bates said the Government was concentrating its efforts on helping Syrian

refugees before they reach Europe.

The minister said the amendment was not targeting the people most in need of


“We have a principled objection. That the people most at risk are in the


“I question whether it identifies, or provides help, for the right people. We

believe we should not be doing anything that encourages one child to make that

perilous journey.

“We are doing an incredible amount. Other countries are not doing a fraction

of what we are doing,” Lord Bates said.

The minister also questioned the practicalities of the move as he said their

was currently a need for 8,000 more foster parents.




Match 21st 2016 :  Unaccompanied Child Refugees: Carried 306 to 204


 Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, like the right reverend Prelate I am a signatory to this amendment. I am delighted to be able to offer my support to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who made a compelling and eloquent case in support of Amendment 116A.

In opposing this, the Government have used various arguments. One is that you cannot distinguish between groups that suffer, but all of us who think about that for very long know that it is at best a disingenuous argument and at worst an unworthy one. The noble Lord referred to the other argument that the Government use about so-called pull factors. In the case of children, surely that cannot outweigh all the points that the noble Lord has just advanced.

Then there is the question of numbers. I was looking today at the total number of refugees who have come to the United Kingdom and the total number who have come out of Syria. Some 4.8 million refugees have come out of Syria over the past five years. Turkey is currently hosting some 3 million refugees, and we will no doubt hear more about this later in the Statement that will be given to the House. Before anybody else suggests that this country is being swamped, just look at the numbers: 5,845 Syrians plus 1,337 under the vulnerable persons scheme is 0.15% of the total. So to ask just for 3,000 unaccompanied minors to come into this country is far from being unreasonable.

In Committee on 3 February, I asked the Minister about a report which had appeared in the Daily Telegraph and Observer newspapers which reported the comments of Brian Donald, Europol’s chief of staff. He said:

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2096

“It’s not unreasonable to say that we’re looking at 10,000-plus children, who are unaccompanied and who have disappeared in Europe … Not all of them will be criminally exploited; some might have been passed on to family members. We just don’t know where they are, what they’re doing or whom they are with”.

He said that 10,000 was likely to be “a conservative estimate”.

Arising from those shocking and disturbing figures, I hope that the Minister will tell us when he comes to reply what discussions the Home Office has had since 3 February with Europol about the children who have disappeared and what percentage Europol believes to have been unaccompanied. If thousands of child migrants have simply vanished in Europe while we have argued about how many angels you can fit on the top of a pin, it will be a lasting stain on our collective reputations.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, also referred to foster parents. I hope that when he replies the Minister will tell us what discussions he has had with local authorities about promoting fostering arrangements for these children. For obvious reasons, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, also referred to the Kindertransport. The reputation of politicians and diplomats from that era is redeemed by the extraordinary bravery and determination of men such as Sir Nicholas Winton, the diplomat Raoul Wallenberg and Eleanor Rathbone, “the refugees’ MP”, as she was known. This year is the 70th anniversary of her death.

In 1938, after Kristallnacht, she established the Parliamentary Committee on Refugees. Two years later, on 10 July 1940 in a six-hour debate, she intervened on no fewer than 20 occasions to insist that Britain had a duty of care to the refugees being hunted down by the Nazis. She said that a nation had an obligation to give succour to those fleeing persecution—in her words,

“not only in the interests of humanity and of the refugees, but in the interests of security itself”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 10/7/40; col. 1212.]

In words that have an echo in the debates we have been having during the course of this Bill, she wrote that discussions about asylum seekers and refugees,

“always … begin with an acknowledgement of the terrible nature of the problem and expressions of sympathy with the victims. Then comes a tribute to the work of the voluntary organisations. Then some account of the small, leisurely steps taken by the Government. Next, a recital of the obstacles—fear of anti-Semitism, or the jealousy of the unemployed, or of encouraging other nations to offload their Jews on to us”.

It is hard not to see the parallels. The debates about the Kindertransport continued in Parliament until literally hours before war broke out. In 2016 we should do no less than those who preceded us.

The amendment would require the Secretary of States to relocate 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children in European Union countries to the United Kingdom. These vulnerable young people have already had traumatic experience of the chaos and violence of war, the abandonment of hearth and home, horrendous journeys and separation from families, with some placed into the hands of smugglers and people traffickers and some facing exploitation of every kind. They are entitled to international protection and to respect for their rights as refugees—even more so than adults. Surely the lifeboat rule must apply.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2097

Nelson Mandela once said:

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”.

Many of us will be dead when these children come to maturity, but they will never forget, as the noble Lord who moved this amendment has never forgotten, the values that made their futures possible. I am very happy to support an amendment that says the very best about the values of this country.



March 2016:

Subject: Government suffers two defeats in Lords on Immigration Bill – BBC News




Amendment 57

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool

57: After Clause 36, insert the following new Clause—

“Asylum seekers: permission to work after six months

(1) The Immigration Act 1971 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 3(9) (general provisions for regulation and control) insert—

“(10) In making rules under subsection (2), the Secretary of State must provide for persons seeking asylum, within the meaning of the rules, to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to take up employment, including self-employment and voluntary work.

(11) Permission to work for persons seeking asylum must be granted if—

(a) a decision has not been taken on the applicant’s asylum application within six months of the date on which it was recorded, or

(b) an individual makes further submissions which raise asylum grounds and a decision on that new claim or to refuse to treat such further submissions as a new claim has not been taken within six months of the date on which the submissions were recorded.

(12) Permission for a person seeking asylum to take up employment shall be on terms no less favourable than those upon which permission is granted to a person recognised as a refugee to take up employment.””

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, in his reply to the previous group of amendments the Minister gave a trailer for Amendment 57. In this argument we are returning to an issue that some of us raised and spoke to in Committee. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee,

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1321

and others for supporting this amendment then, and again today. The amendment does precisely what it says on the package: it gives asylum seekers permission to work after six months. It was in Committee that the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, said—and I agree—that the other side of this coin is that an amendment of this kind would impose a duty to work, rather than simply leaving asylum seekers to eke out a pitiful existence on a monetary subvention by the state.

In his admirable book, The Home We Build Together, my noble friend Lord Sacks describes three groups of people who arrive as migrants in a foreign land. The first group are greeted by the local mayor and told that they will be given free accommodation, every possible benefit and that nothing will be required of them. They are told that they will be left to get on with it and that the community will have nothing to do with them and do not want to be troubled by them. The second group arrived and, this time, the mayor explained that there was no welcoming committee, no accommodation available and no financial support. However, if the strangers in their land had money, there was a brand new hotel in which they could stay for as long as they could pay. A third group arrived, and they were told that there was no accommodation, no benefits and nowhere to hire. But the mayor and the community provided bricks and mortar and a site where the strangers could make a home and earn a living. The mayor promised that the whole community would assist them and that they would build a home together. All of us know that the third response—a combination of generosity and self-help—is the approach that would work best. It is the approach that lies at the heart of this amendment. Amendment 57 would allow asylum seekers to be able to work if their claim is not determined by the Home Office in a timeframe of six months. Why would any Government oppose something that is based so clearly on common sense and on the principle of self-help and the removal of reliance on the state?

During our Committee debates, the Government said that they opposed the amendment because it would lead to an increase in unfounded applications. The noble Lord, Lord Ashton, who is in his place, responding for the Government, echoed what has become something of a mantra, saying:

“Earlier access to employment risks making asylum more attractive for those who are otherwise not eligible to work in the UK”.—[Official Report, 20/1/16; col. 851.]

But where is the empirical evidence for this assertion? The Government’s position is based on speculation. They previously conceded that,

“it may be broadly true”,


“there is little hard evidence that the change you propose (to allow asylum seekers to work after six months) would result in more asylum applications”.

So I agree with the Government’s earlier assertion and I wonder why they have changed their mind.

5 pm

All the available evidence suggests that permission to work does not act as a pull factor for asylum seekers or economic migrants. That is reflected in the Home Office’s own research and was confirmed by a review

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1322

of the 19 main recipient countries for asylum applications in the OECD in 2011, which concluded that policies which relate to the welfare of asylum seekers—for example, permission to work, support levels and access to healthcare—did not have any significant impact on the number of applications made in destination countries. Furthermore, 12 other European Union countries already allow asylum seekers access to the labour market after six months or less of waiting for a decision on their claims. These countries are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. The vast majority of those countries have had such policies in place for many years, and none of them has had to change the policy because of any abuse of the asylum route by economic migrants.

In Committee, the Government noted that Germany has the largest number of asylum applications in the EU and a significant number of applications from countries in the Balkans which generally do not merit refugee status, and they sought to indicate that this was connected to its policy on permission to work. However, as the NGO, Still Human Still Here, has pointed out, “The reason Germany has the most asylum applications in the EU is because of its Government’s publicly stated willingness to keep its borders open and to provide protection to those refugees fleeing conflict and persecution”. Furthermore, the significant number of asylum applications from Balkan countries long predates Germany’s decision to reduce to three months the time that asylum seekers have to wait before being able to access the job market.

In reality, those motivated to come to the United Kingdom for economic reasons are unlikely to make an asylum application and bring themselves to the attention of the authorities on the basis that they might be able to apply for permission to work after six months. Even if this were the case, they would never have an opportunity to do so, as the Home Office decides all straightforward claims within six months—a point made repeatedly by the Government in Committee. In summary, the Government accept that there is no evidence that the policy change proposed by this amendment would lead to an increase in unfounded applications. It is also stated that all straightforward cases, which would clearly include unfounded asylum applications, would be dealt with within six months and that the individuals concerned would therefore not have an opportunity to apply for permission to work.

The Government have developed a second line of argument against the idea contained in this amendment. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Ashton, told us:

“The Government believe that the current policy strikes the right balance. If a claim remains undecided after 12 months, for reasons outside their control, the person can apply for permission to work. That is a fair and reasonable policy and is consistent with our obligations under EU law. It also assists genuine refugees”.—[Official Report, 20/1/16; col. 851.]

What the House has to ask is whether, as the Government claim, the current policy is fair and proportionate, and strikes the right balance. Once again, the evidence suggests that it does not. Twenty-four other European Union countries allow asylum seekers to access their labour markets if an initial decision has not been

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1323

taken on their claim after nine months, and half of those countries allow asylum seekers to work after six months or sooner. In contrast, the United Kingdom Government effectively prohibit asylum seekers from ever working, because, even after 12 months, they can apply only for jobs on the shortage occupation list, which is for skilled jobs where there is an identified national shortage. Even if an asylum seeker had the requisite skills for such a job, it is unlikely that they would be able to secure it, as they would have to have had their existing qualifications recognised and may well have become deskilled in the year or more that they had been unemployed.

Once again, this is not the policy in many other European countries. For example, Belgium, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden all allow asylum seekers to work in any job, including being self-employed, once they are granted permission to work. Nor does the current policy assist genuine refugees. More than half of all asylum applications are currently provided with protection in the United Kingdom either after the initial decision or on appeal. The process of integration for these people begins when they arrive in the UK, not when the Government recognise them as refugees and give them permission to stay. An extended period of exclusion from the labour market can have only a long-term impact on refugees’ ability to find employment. The policy does nothing to encourage the principle of our duty to build a common home together.

Conversely, earlier access to employment increases the chance of smooth economic and social integration by allowing refugees to improve their English, acquire new skills and make new friends and social contacts in the wider community—all of which helps to promote community cohesion, which we should use every opportunity to nurture. I do not know how many asylum seekers Ministers have spoken to but, overwhelmingly, the vast majority of asylum seekers whom I have met want to work and contribute to society and they are frustrated at being forced to remain idle and dependent on benefits.

Finally, I return to the point I made in Committee when I referred to the experience of asylum seekers at Asylum Link on Merseyside, where I am a patron. I asked noble Lords to consider how on earth any of us would manage to subsist on just over £5 a day, which has to pay for food, clothing, toiletries, transport and any other essential living needs while an asylum application is being considered—housing and utility bills are paid for separately for those who need them. These support levels are set at rates that force asylum seekers to live way below the poverty line. In their shoes, I would probably try to find some form of income, inevitably driving some desperate people into the black economy and to act illegally—you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Where is the justice, fairness or decency in that?

Where, too, is the principle of self-help that should be cherished in every free society? What effect does this enforced destitution have on those who experience it? There is absolutely no doubt that asylum seekers who have to survive solely on this level of support for extended periods of time will generally suffer a negative impact on their mental and physical health. At the end

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1324

of 2015, more than 3,500 asylum seekers had still been waiting for more than six months for an initial decision on their claims despite the assurance of the noble Lord, Lord Ashton, in Committee that,

“the delays that have happened before have been brought under control”.—[

Official Report

, 20/1/16; col. 852.]

Indeed, the Refugee Council in a note sent to me says:

“According to the latest immigration statistics, over 3,600 applications had been without an initial decision for longer than six months. When the dependents of applicants are taken into account, that’s nearly 5,000 people living on little over £5 per day who are unable to work”.

The Home Affairs Committee stated in its most recent report into the work of the Immigration Directorates:

“We are concerned that the department may not be able to maintain the service levels it has set itself on initial decisions for new asylum claims within 6 months. To do so may require further funding and resources”.


In these circumstances, the current policy cannot be described as fair and reasonable. Nor is it sustainable. Those supporting this amendment include the General Synod of the Church of England, the Greater London Assembly, and many city councils including Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Swansea, Coventry and Oxford, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Still Human Still Here and the Refugee Council. Those of us who have pursued this argument from across the political divide and tabled this amendment passionately believe that Parliament should provide asylum seekers with a route out of poverty and an opportunity to restore their dignity by providing for themselves if their claims have not been decided within six months. It is underpinned by the belief that it is in the interests of both the individual and the community to build our house together. It asserts the principle of self-help, non-reliance on benefits, the duty to work, a removal of a burden on taxpayers and a repudiation of enforced workhouse destitution. In moving the amendment today, I hope that it will find favour with your Lordships and the Government. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who was to speak next, is indicating that he would like me to follow. I am extremely happy to support the noble Lord, Lord Alton, as we all do on these Benches. My colleagues in the Commons tabled an amendment to similar effect, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, will be aware that this is a long-standing Liberal Democrat policy. Not so long ago my noble friend Lord Roberts of Llandudno had a Private Member’s Bill to this effect and has made countless other attempts to change the policy, even on one occasion when I asked him not to because I did not see any prospect of our winning it at that time, and thought that perhaps we might not take the time of the House. But given the support of the Labour Front Bench for the amendment on this occasion, I am extremely optimistic.

I have been trying to work out what among the various briefings we have received has not been covered by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and of course most of it has. I do not want to weary noble Lords with too much repetition, but it is worth emphasising that if the decision-making process of the Home Office was as efficient and quick as we are often told it is or is about to become, this would not be an issue at all. I tabled a

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1325

stand-alone amendment at the previous stage about the requirement for asylum seekers who currently can seek permission to work after 12 months being limited to the shortage occupation list. When I looked at the list, I was really concerned that it amounted to no sort of right at all, given that asylum seekers’ existing qualifications would not be recognised in those occupations.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned community cohesion, but I will use the word “integration” instead. Either as a society we say to people coming here, “We are putting up barriers against you”, or when we look at their claims for asylum—the word “asylum” is important in this context—we recognise that there are moral obligations regarding integration into our community. Seeking asylum is a two-way process—a contract, if you like. It is both an obligation on the part of the host country to provide asylum when properly sought and an obligation on the part of those who come here wanting sanctuary to become, in their particular way, a part of our society. Integration is therefore a hugely important aspect.

If people have the opportunity to work and if their English is not good, they will be able to practise their language skills. After all, language teaching is not easily available at the moment. However, it is remarkable how many of those seeking asylum are amazingly good at English. We should gather them up and get them working as quickly as possible using their skills both with language and in various sectors. In this way people can acquire new skills and social contacts. Looking around the House, every noble Lord taking part in this debate will be aware of how our opportunity to work after retirement age supports our own physical and mental health. I would apply that to asylum seekers as well.

I end by referring to the route out of poverty and the opportunity to regain dignity that this amendment offers, and I am delighted that these Benches will be supporting the noble Lord.

5.15 pm

Lord Rosser: I will be relatively brief, since the case for the amendment has already been made. My name is attached to the amendment, which we will vote for if the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, having heard the Government’s response, decides to test the opinion of the House. Its effect, as has been said, is to give all asylum seekers who have been waiting for more than six months for a decision on their asylum application the right to work on the same basis as a person recognised as a refugee.

According to the latest immigration statistics, I think for the period from September to December last year, some 3,500 applications had been without an initial decision for longer than six months. Currently, only asylum seekers who have been awaiting a decision for more than 12 months can apply to the Home Office for permission to work in national shortage occupations.

I would add only that the Government said in Committee that they had met their commitment to decide straightforward asylum claims lodged before April 2014 by 31 March 2015, and that they would decide all straightforward claims lodged from 1 April 2014 within six months. They went on to say that about

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1326

85% of cases were straightforward and that that meant that the vast majority of asylum claims were decided quickly. They also said that delays that had happened before had been brought under control.

Since the Government have said that the situation has changed for the better to a quite considerable degree in the time taken to deal with asylum claims and that previous delays have been brought under control, I hope that the Minister will be able to give a helpful response when he comes to reply. However, if the amendment is put to a vote and has the backing of the House, it will also provide the other place with the opportunity to reconsider this issue in the light of the changed situation in dealing with claims, under which the vast majority of asylum claims are now being decided quickly.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lady Hamwee. I see this whole issue as one with far wider implications than just allowing asylum seekers to work. Sometimes I get quite depressed thinking about the legacy we will hand over to our children and grandchildren. Is it a legacy where every hope has been withdrawn, or one in which there is hope even though there are difficulties?

I see this as an opportunity to extend some hope to people who are here often in desperate circumstances. It has already been mentioned that trying to exist on £36 a week is not easy. People who want to work, to contribute to the taxation of the UK, and to support their families, or who have skills that they would love to develop and extend, are people we should encourage. When the time comes—I hope we will test the feeling of the House—I ask the House to say, “Yes, we’re going to provide a beacon of hope. We’re not going to lift another drawbridge or make it more difficult”. We know that it is difficult, but I think, and I am not often a pessimist, that, in the years to come, the problems of the present day—migration, destitution, poverty and everything else—will be increased. This is our chance as a House to say that we are trying to help people and somehow provide a legacy that has at least some hope attached to it. It gives me terrific pleasure to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton.

Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood: My Lords, once again there is a balance to be struck here. On one side is the disadvantage of permitting asylum seekers to work after six months. Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, suggested, it seems inevitable that some aspiring immigrants, at least, would be encouraged by such a provision to apply for asylum and, perhaps, to prolong the process by making what they then assert to be a fresh claim. On the other side are the benefits of enabling self-support, not to mention self-respect, by allowing this work after six months—indeed, all the various benefits so eloquently outlined already in this short debate by the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee.

Here, contrary to the view I expressed on the previous issue, the balance seems to fall in favour of the amendment. Furthermore, if, as I hope, one consequence of passing the amendment were the further speeding up of the

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1327

decision-making process, that would be a most welcome additional benefit. Accordingly, in this instance I respectfully support the amendment.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I support Amendment 57. I will not repeat all the arguments I made in Committee in support of this most basic of civil rights—the right to be able to undertake paid work. I simply want to respond to a couple of the arguments that the noble Lord, Lord Ashton of Hyde, made in response in Committee.

As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, noted in so ably moving the amendment, the main argument seemed to be our old friend, the pull factor, which dominates policy-making in this area. Since that debate, my attention has been drawn to the only piece of research I am aware of that has explored with individual asylum seekers and refugees the factors that informed their decision to seek asylum in the UK. The reportChance or Choice? by Heaven Crawley was published a few years ago by the Refugee Council. I will quote from it in the interests of evidence-based policy-making. Her broad finding was that, contrary to the assumptions on which policy is premised,

“the choices asylum seekers make are rarely the outcome of a rational decision making process in which individuals have full knowledge of all the alternatives and weigh them in some conscious process designed to maximise returns”.

Professor Crawley found no evidence from this or other research that work acts as a pull factor. Instead, she concludes that,

“the policy change introduced nearly a decade ago to prevent asylum seekers from working whilst their claim is determined has had no measurable impact on the level of applications received”.

The report said of asylum seekers,

“the inability to work was the biggest difficulty they faced in rebuilding their lives. Lack of access to work has psychological and social as well as economic consequences”.

It quoted a woman from Zimbabwe who said:

“Sometimes I just cry. It’s like I am worthless, like I am just this piece of junk”.

Another said:

“My mind has gone rusty. I am not able to look at a meaningful life anymore. I look at it and I think, oh what a wasted life”.

It is terrible that people are having to feel this.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, cited a range of cross-national evidence that does not support the argument that enabling people to work acts as a pull factor. No doubt the Minister will respond with the other argument given twice in Committee:

“It is important that we protect the resident labour market for those lawfully present in the UK”.—[Official Report, 20/1/16; col. 850.]

But asylum seekers are lawfully present until they are deemed otherwise. To suggest they are not plays into the popular tendency to conflate asylum seekers with undocumented economic migrants.

This leads to my final point. A number of noble Lords and organisations outside have expressed the fear that by denying asylum seekers access to legitimate paid work, sheer need and desperation will push them into the shadow economy where they are prey to exploitation. I raised earlier my concerns that they could now also be caught by Clause 32, which will criminalise them.

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1328

To conclude, like the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I do not believe that the Government have made their case that current policy is, to quote the noble Lord, Lord Ashton of Hyde, “fair and proportionate”. On the contrary, it is unfair and disproportionate when compared with the position in most other EU countries, and in its short-term and long-term impact on asylum seekers and refugees whose subsequent integration into British society is impeded by it, as we have already heard. As Ian Birrell, former speech writer for the Prime Minister wrote earlier this week:

“The key is to let refugees work legitimately, so they can build a fresh start—wherever they are. After all, what human being wants life trapped in limbo … Refugees may have escaped hell, but that does not mean we force them into purgatory”.

It feels as if, too often, we do just that. This amendment would help asylum seekers out of the purgatory of enforced idleness and impoverishment.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab): My Lords, I, too, support this amendment. I frequently find myself addressing immigration issues at public meetings because these issues are in the public’s mind and attract a lot of attention, particularly in relation to law. As soon as you draw the distinction between economic migrants and those seeking asylum, the public always recognise the importance of the ability to work, and support it. There is a misconception among politicians’ and public commentators’ understanding of the public mood on this issue. The public generally think it is right that those seeking asylum should have the opportunity to make a life, to work and to have that dignity which everyone has spoken about. They do not see this as just a compassionate issue but as one of good sense in relation to this country and its needs. I urge the Minister to look at this issue carefully, especially given the speed with which these applications are now being dealt with, as the Labour Front Bench mentioned, and which we commend. This is one of the ways in which we can show that we are capable of making a distinction between economic migrants and others; that we will not going allow this confusion to arise in the public’s mind; and that we recognise the public’s desire to ensure that those seeking asylum, to whom we are giving a home, should have the opportunity to live among us, work, and thereby make a contribution to their own lives.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, I support the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and by other noble Lords and reinforce the points that have just been made with regard to the attitude of the general public towards genuine refugees. They would much prefer that these refugees are enabled to make a contribution to the economy and to the social life of the community into which they move. This was reinforced in my mind the other night—as it possibly was for other noble Lords —when a refugee who was a pharmacist was shown on a television programme. One thinks of the contribution that he could make with those skills, which we need. We are silly not to maximise those opportunities. For those reasons, I support the amendment.

Baroness Neuberger (LD): My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. I declare an interest as senior rabbi of the West London Synagogue, where we run in a drop-in

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1329

service for destitute asylum seekers, as many synagogues and churches do around the country. Many of these asylum seekers have waited longer than six months. The way they survive—because you cannot survive on £5 a day—is by going from institution to institution—church to synagogue—getting handouts: that is, charity. They hate it. We do our best to make them feel welcome, but it is not what they want to do. They want to work and make a contribution. They do not want to set their children an example of effectively begging. One of the things that we give them, in addition to a decent meal and friendship—I hope—are second-hand clothes. On the rare occasions that we have enough shoes to put out, they go as if a plague of locusts has entered the room. Asylum seekers who are living on £5 or less a day cannot afford to get their shoes repaired, let alone get new ones. They walk absolutely everywhere and they go through shoes at the rate of a pair a week.

People need to understand what it is like to be in that circumstance and to realise that these people do not wish to live like that and it is not their fault that they have waited for longer than six months. I support the amendment very strongly.

5.30 pm

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I support the amendment and endorse everything that has been said already, and reinforce the point that the General Synod had a major debate on this and overwhelmingly supported such a move.

Some of the saddest conversations I have ever had have been with asylum seekers who came to this country and thought they would be welcomed, but have felt unwelcome; who want to be able to uphold their human dignity and feel that the best way of doing that is to become contributors to this society. I would like to draw attention to proposed new subsection (2) and the phrase “voluntary work”. There should be paid work, absolutely, but I have talked to many asylum seekers who say, “I’m not even allowed to go and voluntarily help somebody else”. This is appalling. This amendment needs to be accepted.

Lord Clinton-Davis (Lab): To deny those who came here at the turn of the century was abhorrent. Later on, before the Second World War, people came here as refugees and they were accepted. Of course, there was a minority of people who denied their status but they were not heard. The compelling voice of the majority prevailed and they were accepted. More than that, most of them have provided a huge benefit to this country and I hope the Government will recognise that.

What the Government are proposing is wrong-headed. The noble Lord, Lord Bates, is a decent man and I hope he will realise that there is a need here for second thoughts. As has been said already, the denial of hope, which this amounts to, is wrong. Hope must be compelling, and authoritative. We must permit some hope, as has already been said, to certain asylum seekers within the provisions of the amendment. The onus of disputing this must fall heavily upon the Government. I hope that ultimately, they will see sense because that is exactly what the majority of this House recognises—hope.

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1330

Lord Green of Deddington: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, made the best case that could possibly have been made for his amendment. He was very effectively supported by many others: the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Neuberger. Clearly, there is, if you like, a human case to be heard and I am glad that it has been heard. But again, if I may say so, there are some wider aspects that also need to be taken into account. First, not all people who seek asylum are in fact genuine. The record is that 50% turn out not to be, so we have to have that in mind when we consider the people who are making applications.

Secondly, the most recent EU directive requires that there should be access to the labour market after nine months, and it is now proposed that we should go to six months and be on the more generous side among EU nations. It is perfectly fair to make that point, but mention was made of Sweden, which has had a very large number of applicants—much larger than most countries in Europe. Until recently, Sweden allowed all asylum seekers to work from the time that they arrived. Without question, that was a major reason why there was such a large inflow to Sweden, and it is why the Swedes were obliged recently effectively to try to close their borders.

One problem with going to six months is that it could become almost an incentive to asylum seekers to spin out their cases. If they could make enough appeals to slow up the process, then they would be able to go out to work. So there is some risk there.

However, my main point is that this is really almost an extraordinary time to propose this change. I mentioned earlier the thousands who are queuing up in Calais; these are not desperate people but people who are already in a safe country—that is the fact of the matter —and it would be entirely open to them to claim asylum in France, which is what both Governments are now trying to encourage. Really, we should not do this now. It should be our objective to reduce the pull factors—and pull factors do exist, even if one does not like the term—not to increase them.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, powerful arguments have been made in favour of the amendment, led by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who made an excellent speech. He was kind enough to quote what I said in Committee, and I want to return the compliment. In Committee, he said that,

“alleviating destitution amongst asylum seekers is a prerequisite if we believe in the upholding of a person’s human dignity. The right to work is fundamental to this”.—[

Official Report

, 20/1/16; col. 843.]

So, extremely importantly, this is not just about self-reliance and retaining skills for the benefit of the person and society—bearing in mind that a high proportion of these people will go on to live for many years, or possibly for the rest of their lives, in this country, so what is not to like about them retaining their skills?—it is also about human dignity.

It seems to me that much of what we are discussing in this Bill is a kind of displacement activity for what should be the core function, which is to apply immigration law efficiently and effectively. If asylum claims were determined as swiftly as possible, while allowing for

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1331

people’s rights to be respected, many of these problems would not arise. Illegal renting or driving and all this outsourcing of immigration control would be unnecessary. We keep having to come back to the main issue: whether the UK Border Agency, or whatever it is now called in the Home Office—sorry, I forget, but my past is not in domestic immigration law—is efficiently assessing asylum claims.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Green, that I do not think that anyone is proposing, and the amendment is certainly not proposing, that people should be able to work from the day they arrive; it would be after six months. So, with respect, the Swedish experience is not really relevant to this debate.

I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Ashton of Hyde, said in Committee that UK policy is,

“fair and reasonable … and is consistent with our obligations under EU law”.—[

Official Report

, 20/1/16; col. 851.]

Unless he knows otherwise, I understand that we do not have any obligations under EU law in this area because we are not opted into the so-called reception conditions directive, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Green, said, obliges other EU countries—and would oblige us if we were opted in—to allow work after nine months. We are not bound by that directive or, as I understand it, any other provision of EU law because we have opted into only some EU asylum directives, and not that particular one. We are entirely free, so please, for once, can we not blame Brussels for what we are doing in this area? As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, 12 countries allow working after six months, but all those other EU countries which are bound by the reception conditions directive, and do not have the choice the UK has, are of course obliged to allow working after nine months. We should not pray in aid EU law in this particular area.

All rational arguments are in favour of allowing the right to work—those based on human dignity and self-reliance, as well as the economic points and the fact that public opinion understands that people are trying to support themselves and not scrounge off the taxpayer, if £5 a day can be called scrounging off the taxpayer. The only argument attempted against it is that it would be a pull factor—our “old friend” the pull factor, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, said. I cannot understand how it can be argued that someone who is working illegally would deliberately make themselves known to the authorities by claiming asylum. I understand that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, suggested that sometimes people claim asylum after they are discovered working illegally, but that is quite different from deliberately claiming asylum when you are working illegally undetected. Why would you then claim asylum and bring yourself to the attention of the authorities in order to get the right to work?

Lord Green of Deddington: The point is that 50% of those who claim asylum were working when they were discovered.

Baroness Ludford: The answer to that, as I said at the beginning, is to apply the law more efficiently. There is every benefit in making things above the law

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1332

and in regularising people’s right to work. The more we can bring people into the light of day—what they are doing, whether they are legally in the country and whether they have a right to work—the better for enforcement. What is so pernicious for public confidence in the asylum system is the idea that so much of what is done is not being properly regulated, enforced or managed. That is where the concentration and the focus has to be. Like my noble friend, I fully support this amendment.

Lord Cashman (Lab): My Lords, I will be brief and make a couple of very quick points. There have been references to bogus asylum applications. If there are such applications, we should not punish those who are sincere and make valid ones. Equally, this amendment addresses a human rights obligation. Every civilised society is judged by how it treats those most in need. In this respect, the Government are sadly wanting and I urge them to accept this amendment.

Lord Bates: My Lords, I begin by paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for the way that he moved his amendment. Nobody could be unmoved by the way in which he presented the arguments, or by his clarity and compassion. They were very persuasive. Before I put some remarks on the record, I will just say—very carefully and respectfully—that as I was sitting here listening to the debate, I was wondering whether perhaps your Lordships did not quite understand what is happening or being proposed here. It is not being proposed in the Immigration Bill before us today that somehow we change the law so that asylum seekers who were hitherto able to work and earn a living are no longer going to be able to do so. That is not what is being proposed in the Bill.

In fact, up until 2002, it was an established policy that people could stay and work after six months. Forgive me for using party tags here, but I hope that the House will bear with me; I am not trying to make undue party-political points, but I want to set out the complexity of the issue. Then, in 2005, the previous Labour Government, as a result of opting into the 2003 EU receptions conditions directive, which sets out the minimum benefits and entitlements afforded to asylum seekers while they await a decision on a claim, changed the Immigration Rules, allowing asylum seekers to apply for permission to work in the UK if they had been waiting for more than 12 months for an initial decision on their case. That was the choreography: we are not talking about a proposed change now—this was changed back in 2005 under the previous Labour Government.

5.45 pm

I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, is itching to come in, but I ask her to bear with me, because I am about to come to the coalition. Then, in 2010, during the coalition, a case went before the Supreme Court on the issue, and the coalition Government subsequently changed the Immigration Rules from those set out by the Labour Government to reflect the Supreme Court judgment, as would be expected. At that time, they introduced the provision restricting asylum seekers’ jobs to the shortage occupation list.

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1333

I set that out because it is important, when we hear persuasive and passionate speeches—I accept that they are persuasive and passionate—about the very vulnerable group of people who come to this country seeking international humanitarian protection because of a well-founded fear of persecution, that we bear in mind that we do not propose to change the rules. The amendment would change the rules back to the situation that existed not under the coalition, but pre-2005, under the then Labour Government.

Baroness Ludford: The Minister kindly gave me an opening. I do not want to be an EU bore—although I guess I am—but whatever the Labour Government did, which I do not agree with, EU law in the previous reception conditions directive said that you had to allow asylum seekers to work at least after 12 months. There was nothing whatever to stop a Government allowing asylum seekers to work after six months. The Government have not opted into the new receptions conditions directive 2013; they did not follow the habit of previous Governments. That is the one that says that you have to allow asylum seekers to work after nine months—but you can let them work after three months if you want.

Lord Bates: That is absolutely right; I am not dissenting from that; that is the one that we decided not to opt in to under the coalition Government. My point was that when the Labour Government introduced the provision, it was fully compliant with the EU directive 2003 and met the terms and conditions. Of course, it can be relaxed. As the noble Lord, Lord Green, said, we could go to the extent of Sweden’s position as it operated it, where people could enter the labour market immediately on claiming asylum. Of course, we all know that Sweden has some of the highest numbers of asylum claimants, so we should not somehow be vilified for claiming that that might be a pull factor when the evidence seems to suggest that the terms and conditions might act in that way.

Having set out for the benefit of the House the fact that we do not propose to change a position that obtained under the coalition and was introduced by the previous Labour Government, I want to set out the argument for noble Lords to consider.

First, while awaiting a decision, asylum seekers receive free accommodation and a cash allowance; they have all their living needs met, in terms of utility bills, and have access to education and skills and our health services. Also, to answer the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, they can also undertake volunteering activities while their claim is outstanding, and we are exploring ways in which to support that. This approach also assists genuine refugees. It is common knowledge that some people make unfounded claims. The figure of 61% is the figure that we have of initial claims that are refused. It is reasonable to assume that some do so because of the benefits, real or perceived, that they think they will gain here. Earlier access to employment risks undermining the asylum system by encouraging unfounded claims from those seeking to use the asylum system as a cover for economic migration.

The amendment would create further incentives for asylum seekers to choose to try to come here.

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1334

In Europe we have seen the effect that those policies can have in driving migrant behaviour. The numbers choosing to live in squalid conditions in Calais, hoping to enter the UK illegally, rather than seeking protection in France, is testament to that fact. Allowing access to work after six months would be more generous than many other member states. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred to some—but it would certainly be more generous than some and more generous than is required under the current 2013 directive on reception conditions to which the noble Baroness referred. We should not do anything at this stage to encourage more people to risk their lives to undertake dangerous journeys to come across Europe instead of claiming asylum in the first safe country that they reach.

In the great majority of cases, asylum seekers receive a decision within six months, so we should think carefully about the particular asylum seekers whom the amendment would benefit. That would include those who were themselves responsible for delaying the consideration of their asylum claim. It could be argued that it could provide a perverse incentive for people to institute delays. It would also include those complex cases where there are good reasons, often related to serious crimes, established or alleged to have been committed by the claimant, why a decision on an asylum claim cannot be reached within six months. Those are the asylum seekers to whom the amendment would accord preferential treatment at the expense of UK residents, including refugees seeking employment here.

Again, I accept that the arguments in favour of the amendment are well made—not emotive, but clearly touching an emotion. The vast majority of asylum seekers come here to seek our protection and we expedite their assessment. When they come to this country, they come under our obligations under the refugee convention and the 1951 Act, which says that we must offer protection and humanitarian assistance. The argument was that when people entered into the labour market they would need to be provided with national insurance numbers and tax reference numbers as well, potentially, as pay roll numbers, all of which might mean that if their claim is not upheld and well founded, it is more difficult for them to be removed from the country. The other argument is that there are also 1.5 million people who currently do not have employment in this country, and it might be argued that somebody could go for a job in a particular location and find that they do not get that job because it is offered to somebody who is here on an asylum basis. They may feel some upset that people to whom we are offering humanitarian support are somehow put ahead of them in the jobs queue, which would be unreasonable.

Those are the broad arguments that can be presented on this issue. The essential one that I would ask noble Lords to reflect on is that in this Bill we seek to provide a protection of the existing laws governing immigration in this country, recognising that there is a great migration crisis on, and many people are seeking to make their way through Europe on this journey. We are seeking control of migration flows into this country. Therefore, now is not the time to change rules that were introduced in 2005 by the Labour Government

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1335

and which were then refined under the coalition Government. Now is not the time to make this change—and I urge the noble Lord to consider withdrawing the amendment.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the Minister was good enough to say at the outset that he thought that I had put a persuasive case—but clearly not persuasive enough to change his mind. The argument that this is not the time is one that we are all familiar with. I have heard it in both Houses of Parliament over the last three or four decades, again and again. Now is never the time. I was surprised by the Minister’s argument that if we were to pass this amendment we would be more generous than we are required to be. Those were his words. We are talking about £5 a day to subsist, instead of giving people the opportunity to do a job. If they are here illegally, they will not be taking somebody else’s job, because they will be deported. If they are here illegally, they are not becoming part of what he described as a perverse incentive for criminality—they will be deported. Our rules are quite clear. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, said, they are not here illegally; they are asylum seekers. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, said, the public understand the difference between people who are here illegally and trying to cheat our system and people who are genuine asylum seekers and who should be considered on the merits of their applications.

We have heard some extraordinary speeches, and I remind the House that we have heard only one speech against these amendments during the course of the debate, from my noble friend Lord Green. My noble and learned friend Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood put the point that there was a balance of arguments. He, with his extraordinary legal experience, came to the conclusion that on balance it would be right to support this amendment and, in doing so, was echoing a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, from the Opposition Front Bench—that we will be incentivising the Home Office. We will be ratcheting up the process to deal with these applications to put them through within the six-month period because, if we do not, they would have the opportunity to go after a job and to do that job until the asylum application has been dealt with.

My noble friend Lord Wigley said that public opinion knows the difference between illegal migrants and asylum seekers, and that people who have skills will be deskilled—and he referred to a pharmacist—if they are not given the opportunity to work.

Many other noble Lords have contributed to the debate, and I know that the House is now keen to reach a conclusion. I end by reminding the House of the vivid description that my noble friend Lady Neuberger gave during her remarks, when she talked about how like a swarm of locusts people will swoop on second-hand shoes, because they are so bereft of basic income or resources or the basic things to keep life and limb together. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, said that this amendment is about hope for people of that kind. Hope was the one thing left in Pandora’s box—and here I do agree with the Minister. We are witnessing mass migration on a huge scale. This amendment,

9 Mar 2016 : Column 1336

sadly, is unable to deal with that; it is far beyond its scope. What it will do is to offer some hope or support for people who find themselves in a position where their human dignity has been utterly degraded. Therefore, I seek the opinion of the House.

5.58 pm

Division on Amendment 57

Contents 280; Not-Contents 195.

Amendment 57 agreed.



Chancellor’s welcome Budget response on mesothelioma research centre – Military Veterans Compensation Victory – New Bill Given Second Reading – Full debate – Also: Why are servicemen and women excluded from help? – call in the House of Lords for an annual Impact statement to monitor the number of fatalities and progress on research into causes and cures

Chancellor’s welcome Budget response on mesothelioma research centre:    £5 million has been put into the Budget announced  on March 16th for a National Mesothelioma Centre (see below), in response to the proposal we put forward from Imperial College: “The Chancellor’s very welcome announcement on mesothelioma research will allow a serious kick start to the creation of a global centre dedicated to finding causes and cures of a disease which is predicted to claim a further 30,000 British lives- and many thousands more throughout the world”.         Hansard: Lord Alton of Liverpool: I refer particularly to the comments of Commodore Rhod Palmer, who is a third-generation Royal Navy sailor diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2015. Incidentally, he is one of those who would have been excluded from the new compensation scheme—the anomaly within the anomaly. He said: “No amount of money will ever compensate sufferers and their families for a preventable death. However, it is a real breakthrough that the Government will treat all current and future sufferers of mesothelioma exposed to asbestos during their Service under comparable terms as civilians. This payment allows patients with mesothelioma to make arrangements to maximise their quality of life during this terminal illness and to support the family that they leave behind”. He went on to say: “Looking to the future, I strongly encourage further funding of research into advancing the treatment of this devastating condition”. The noble Earl will recall that when he was at the Department of Health I moved an amendment to the Mesothelioma Act to provide financial support from the levy on the insurance industry, which was defeated by a handful of votes. At the time four insurance companies were voluntarily supporting research and the noble Earl believed that many of the other 120 insurance companies covered by the levy would voluntarily join the other four in supporting research into this killer disease. Sadly, I have to inform the noble Earl and the Committee that the opposite has happened, with only two companies now voluntarily supporting research. In supporting this amendment and welcoming this week’s announcement, I ask the noble Earl to study correspondence that I have sent him today, which includes a letter sent on 18 February to Mr George Osborne, the Chancellor, by Professor Sir Anthony Newman Taylor CBE of Imperial College, urging him to release LIBOR funds—referred to by the noble Lord, Lord West—to help fund a national mesothelioma research centre, which Imperial wishes to create with the National Heart and Lung Institute, the Royal Brompton Hospital, the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital. Incidentally, in that letter Sir Anthony says that the current rate of death is around 3,000 a year. He says: “There is an urgent need to find curative treatment for this awful disease”. He says that modern genetics hold great promise but that, “sadly, to date, mesothelioma has not been the focus to achieve this at any research centre in the UK, or, as far as I am aware, at any centre worldwide”. The Committee will recall the decision of the Chancellor to transfer some £35 million from the fines levied on the banks for attempting to manipulate the LIBOR interest rate. That money was transferred to the MoD for use in supporting the Armed Forces community. The proposal from Imperial College would be an imaginative use of some of those funds to help to find cures for a disease which has claimed too many lives among members of our Armed Forces. Following our debate today, therefore, I would be grateful if the noble Earl would write to me with a considered response to Sir Anthony’s initiative.    Military Veterans Compensation Victory: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/asbestos-cancer-mesothelioma-millitary-veterans-compensation-a6903946.html Mesothelioma (Amendment) Bill [HL] Mesothelioma (Amendment) Bill [HL] Second Reading 10.06 am Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool That the Bill be now read a second time. Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I first thank all noble Lords who will speak today, others who have been in touch to indicate their support for a measure which enjoys all-party support and, in particular, the noble Lords, Lord Giddens and Lord Wills, who have given a great deal of their time in recent months as we have endeavoured to promote interest in research into a disease which, according to the Government, will claim a further 60,000 British lives over the next three decades. This represents the highest rate of mesothelioma anywhere in the world. I also thank Penny Woods and her team at the British Lung Foundation for their support for the Bill and the Minister the noble Lord, Lord Prior, and his officials for meeting with the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, and myself yesterday. My noble friend Lord Patel is among a number of noble Lords who cannot be here today but who wish to record their support for the Bill. When your Lordships debated the causes and absence of cures for mesothelioma during the passage of the Mesothelioma Act 2014, my proposal to provide a statutory levy on the insurance industry to fund research was defeated by a slender margin of seven votes—199 to 192. When the same amendment was moved in the Commons, it was defeated by 266 to 226. Several noble Lords and Members of another place agreed entirely with the principle of insurance industry funding for mesothelioma research but expressed a preference for contributions to be secured on a voluntary basis. In both Houses, Ministers gave assurances that 20 Nov 2015 : Column 384 a new voluntary research regime would be established. At that time, just four out of 150 insurance companies were voluntary contributors. Far from stepping up to the plate, that number has been reduced to just two. It is to that issue that I return this morning. Let me begin by saying something about the disease itself. Mesothelioma is an occupationally-related disease. It is an invasive type of lung cancer, primarily caused by prior exposure to asbestos. There is currently no cure. Patients often experience complex, debilitating symptoms and most die within 12 months of diagnosis. Simply put, men and women went to work and were negligently exposed to asbestos when it was known that asbestos caused great harm. As long ago as 1965, the Newhouse and Thompson report provided shocking evidence that a brief exposure to asbestos could result in mesothelioma 50 years after exposure yet scandalously, and with utter contempt for life and health, men and women continued to be exposed to asbestos with little or no protection for decades after that report was made public. Nearly 40,000 British people have died from mesothelioma from past exposures to asbestos and some 60,000 will die from it in the years to come. The UK has the highest incidence of mesothelioma worldwide. Society owes a great debt to those who went to work, often in hard and heavy industries, and built the economy of this country only to suffer terrible consequences. Our partial and overdue response was the very welcome legislation promoted by the Government in 2014, and we must all continue to insist on proper and commensurate support for those families blighted by the curse of this disease. But surely our most important objective must be to find safe ways of eliminating the danger and to find cures for mesothelioma. Sometimes—and wrongly—it is dismissed as a legacy disease which will simply run its course, claiming about 2,500 lives every year. Despite that, the legacy will be with us in this country for at least 30 years. Neither here nor in other countries is this just a legacy disease. It is quite possible that comparable diseases will emerge from other environmental sources. I repeat that we have the highest rate of the disease in the world. Mortality rates are increasing and have more than quadrupled in the past 30 years. Last year, the Independentnewspaper reported that fresh figures from the Health and Safety Executive showed a 10% increase in mesothelioma cases and that the number will continue to rise until at least 2020. There is another mistaken belief that mesothelioma is a disease confined to the tunnellers, masons and manual workers whose cases I first came in contact with 30 years ago as a young Member of Parliament in Liverpool. This occupational disease affects people from diverse and, as we will learn in the course of this debate, unpredictable backgrounds. Members of your Lordships’ House have loved ones who have died of mesothelioma. One noble Lord described the death of his wife, a Minister described the death of his father and another noble Lord described how his sister died after washing the dungarees of her husband. The former First Sea Lord, the noble Lord, Lord West, who is involved in graduation ceremonies at his university in Southampton today but who supports the Bill, described how many of his cohort at Dartmouth had 20 Nov 2015 : Column 385 played snowballs with asbestos and how some had died of mesothelioma in later years. According to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, more than 2,500 Royal Navy veterans will die from mesothelioma in the next three decades. In parenthesis, let me say that the failure of the 2014 Act to include provision for compensation for our servicemen who die of mesothelioma is a glaring anomaly. The British Legion, the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity, the Royal Navy Royal Marines Widows’ Association, the Royal Naval Association and others all support calls for change. A 63 year-old civilian could expect to receive around £180,000 in compensation under the 2014 Act, yet one year’s worth of war pension paid the maximum rate for a non-married naval veteran amounts to just £31,000. Veterans should be offered compensation at least equal to that which the courts and the Government have decided that civilians deserve. The unequal treatment of our service men and women amounts to a serious breach of the Armed Forces covenant, which is supposed to ensure that veterans are not disadvantaged because of their service. I hope that the Government will use the Bill to rectify that anomaly, that injustice. When the Prime Minister was recently questioned about our obligations to our servicemen, he promised to look at the issue again. When the Minister replies, will he tell us whether that promise now stands? He knows, because I told him yesterday, that I raised it directly with the noble Earl, Lord Howe, who is now the Minister responsible in the Ministry of Defence. I have not as yet had a reply, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give information on that issue. That this is not simply a disease of the past is a point underlined by the National Union of Teachers, which states that asbestos remains present in about 86% of schools, leading to an estimated 200 to 300 adult deaths a year. Expert advice given to the House of Commons Select Committee on Education estimates that up to 300 former pupils a year die of the disease following contact with asbestos in schools. Jenny Darby, who is aged 71 and who was a science teacher, has contracted mesothelioma. She says that when the ceiling tiles came off in the classrooms, “the asbestos would come down. I used to stick them back up almost every day”. Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, says: “There is still no recognition that asbestos is a serious problem for schools. Shamefully, the Government’s most recent survey of school buildings deliberately excluded asbestos”. Will the Minister tell us what progress the asbestos in schools steering group has made in identifying the dangers in our schools? What research are we carrying out to identify the dangers in other public buildings such as hospitals—and, indeed, in buildings such as the one where we are meeting today? What advice based on science do we give about disturbing or removing asbestos? As well as better understanding the causes of mesothelioma, we must do much more to find cures. Apart from preventing great suffering and illness, a breakthrough would remove the need for compensation schemes. It is surely therefore in everyone’s interest to do that. Throughout the debates on the 2014 legislation, 20 Nov 2015 : Column 386 I was highly critical of the paltry sums of money which have gone into mesothelioma research. Relatively little is spent on that research in the UK, measured against other cancers of comparable mortality. For example, in 2014 the National Cancer Research Institute figures showed that just £820,000 was invested in mesothelioma research by its partners. That is significantly lower than the £9.9 million and £5.3 million spent respectively on skin cancer—melanoma and myeloma, two cancers with similar mortality. Per death, £3,700 is invested for melanoma, whereas for mesothelioma it is only £480. Data released by the Department of Health and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in response to Parliamentary Questions also suggests that statutory investment in mesothelioma research is very low. However, speaking for the Government, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said: “It is absolutely not the case that there is insufficient funding for research. As I have said more than once, the case is that, at the moment, there is not a suitable number of applications for research. The funding is very much there”. I cannot agree with that, but I can agree with the remark that: “There needs to be a certainty that the money is there but the top-level researchers also need to be aware of it so that the money and the level of the research capability are brought together”.—[Official Report, 9/12/14; col. 1711-2.] There is neither adequate money nor certainty. The noble Lord, Lord Freud, was right when he said: “My feedback from the Department of Health and Sally Davies”— Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer— “is that they are aware that it is odd that so little is spent on this disease”.—[ Official Report , 5/6/13; GC 252.] I pursued this inconsistency with the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, and he wrote to me to say: “In the last five financial years, the MRC and NICR have received just over twenty applications for grants or fellowships that relate to research on mesothelioma. Of these eight applications were successful resulting in an average success rate of 40%”. Are the Government really saying that the other 60% of those applications had no merit, and how does this square with the assertion that there have been insufficient applications? My amendment to the Mesothelioma Act would have secured sustainable and fair funding by charging a small levy on insurance firms. During our debate in 2013, my noble friend Lord Kakkar, from whom we will hear later, said that there had been no strategic approach towards tackling mesothelioma. He told the House about the role of MesobanK and its global significance. He referred to the possible breakthroughs that genetic research would produce, but said that such research would need to be kick-started with adequate funding. Arising from our debate, the Government held talks with the Association of British Insurers to see whether a voluntary funding arrangement could be reached. As I said, there are about 150 insurance companies active in the employers’ liability insurance market, and a small contribution from each could transform mesothelioma research. In January of this year, it was announced that just two of those 20 Nov 2015 : Column 387 companies—Aviva and Zurich—would donate a combined £1 million over two years to the BLF’s mesothelioma research programme. This was two fewer companies than had been involved previously. Although I commend Aviva and Zurich, £500,000 a year for just two years does not come close to addressing the multi-million pound funding deficit experienced by mesothelioma research. It does not deliver sustainable funding; it relies on the good will of two companies, which themselves complain that the load is not being fairly shared, and nor does it deliver the promise made to the House when we voted on a statutory provision. It is unfair and unrealistic to ask two firms to be responsible for 100% of the insurance industry’s contribution to mesothelioma research. Any long-term funding solution needs to see this responsibility shared more widely, which is what this Bill ensures. During the passage of the 2014 Bill, Ministers said that the compensation levy on the insurance industry would be set at 3% of the gross written premium. In fact, what Mr. Penning, the Minister in another place said was: “Three per cent. is 3% and we have no intention of moving away from it”.—[Official Report, Commons, Mesothelioma Public Bill Committee, 12/12/13; col. 117.] This time last year I asked—and I ask it again today—why it has been set at 2.2% when that original 3% undertaking was given by the Government? The effect is to short-change mesothelioma sufferers. What is the shortfall from the insurance industry worth? That was a question that I raised yesterday with the Minister. It certainly will not be a small sum of money. Lastly, what of the research possibilities themselves? The noble Lords, Lord, Giddens and Lord Wills, have met with some of the most outstanding researchers in the field, and I am sure that they will describe in greater detail the possibilities that are opening up and the exciting chance to create a global hub-and-spoke national mesothelioma research institute. That was something that we flagged up with the Minister yesterday. The British Lung Foundation has been able to instigate research projects which have opened up extraordinary possibilities. By working with researchers in other areas of therapy, it has gained new expertise and insights. MesobanK, Europe’s first mesothelioma tissue bank, has been created to collect and store biological tissue for use in research, and work is being funded to identify the genetic architecture of the disease. Dr Peter Campbell, who is conducting research, identifying which genes are the most important targets for mutations in mesothelioma, says: “Only by understanding its basic biology will we be able to develop a new generation of drugs targeted at the specific abnormalities of mesothelioma cells. This requires sustained investment at all levels of mesothelioma research, from basic genetics and cell biology through drug development to clinical trials”. He is sequencing the DNA for all 20,000 genes in the human genome from 75 mesothelioma samples and comparing this sequence to normal blood samples from the same patients. Meanwhile, Dr Elizabeth Sage has done some promising work, too. I met her with the noble Lords, Lord Giddens, Lord Wills, and Lord Saatchi. She told us that she is the only person working anywhere in the world on an innovatory treatment called TRAIL—a drug linked to stem cells, which can lead to the killing 20 Nov 2015 : Column 388 off of all mesothelioma cancer cells, which may have application in humans with adult stem cells. She told us that it would take £2.5 million to move from the animal stage, with the mice that she has been working on, to clinical trials. That does not seem an outrageous sum of money when measured against the potential outcomes and saving of some of those 60,000 lives to which I referred. To take all of this work forward requires sustained funding, and it is simply not true to suggest that there are not first-class researchers and research projects waiting to be funded. We do not have to accept that another 60,000 British people will die of this disease; we do not have to accept the suffering, human misery and hopelessness which accompanies diagnosis. Mesothelioma research funding is currently so low that the temptation is to undertake work on other diseases where funding is secure and sustained. But we can do something about that. It simply is not good enough to rely on ad hoc contributions from insurers, charitable donations and modest government funding. This unreliable approach jeopardises the possibilities of life-saving breakthroughs. The stark numbers of people that this dreadful disease kills and the wholly inadequate funding that has gone to address and ameliorate it speak for themselves. That is why this Bill is needed. I beg to move. 10.24 am Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on this matter. I had planned to speak briefly, but in support of this Bill, which, as the noble Lord says, has cross-party support. I pay tribute to him for the assiduous way in which he has pursued the issue, and the very comprehensive introduction that he has just given us to his Bill. He did that through the various stages of the Mesothelioma Act 2014, and since, and clearly has a powerful coalition of Peers to support him. That Act is an important milestone in helping sufferers of mesothelioma and their dependants. We should continue to give credit to the Government—then the coalition Government—driven very much by the noble Lord, Lord Freud, who had ministerial responsibility. Now is perhaps not the occasion to review how the Act is working in its detail, as it is still in its transitional phase; it is understood that payments under the scheme are being undertaken at 100% of the scheduled amounts for claimants, although the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has raised an important challenge on the current levy amount. At the time of the debate on the Bill, it was clear that 3% was the amount to be contributed, and 3% was somehow magically the level at which it would not have to be included in an uplift on charges by the insurance industry. The Act recognised that, although it is not possible to identify in all circumstances each current insurer that would have written employer liability insurance for the various employers over the years, there was a collective responsibility to contribute to providing compensation when there was a nexus with work—and, along the way, there were the various attempts to improve the tracing of policies. There was also a recognition that insurers should contribute to the medical research to address this terrible condition, either to mitigate their risk or to recognise that the 20 Nov 2015 : Column 389 link to asbestos was known for some time and not all insurance companies have a proud record of preserving employer liability insurance records. The fact is, as we have heard, insurance companies have contributed to resources over the years, and it is on record during the passage of the Mesothelioma Act that the ABI made it clear to us when we were in opposition that it was prepared to match-fund with government research. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, made the important point that ad hoc, one-off contributions are not spreading the burden where it should be, across the industry. We have heard from the noble Lord about how many die from mesothelioma each year. We know that it is caused by exposure to asbestos, that it is a long latency disease and invariably fatal. We should recognise that, notwithstanding this, it is not just a matter of the past; asbestos still abounds, not least, as we have heard, in our schools. The HSE has campaigned vigorously to alert people to the risk, in the Silent Killer campaign, and there are strong regulations in place. But we know that some will still want to cut corners. The cause of mesothelioma has not gone away. When the issue was debated on Report on the Mesothelioma Bill, the argument was advanced on behalf of the Government that it was not a question of money, that what was holding back progress on research into mesothelioma was a lack of high-quality research applications, and that there is a long-standing and widely accepted principle that the use of medical research funds should be determined not just by the importance of the topic but by the quality of the research and its value for money. There are those contributing today who understand these issues far better than I do, but it seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is not arguing to support mesothelioma research whatever the quality; his Bill does not seek some override of the established principles, but is about getting extra sources of funding. On Report on 17 July 2013, the then Health Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, set down four steps, which we have heard about today, designed to encourage the bringing forward of high-quality research applications. These were: “First, the National Institute for Health Research will ask the James Lind Alliance to establish one of its priority-setting partnerships. This will bring together patients, carers and clinicians to identify and prioritise unanswered questions about treatment for mesothelioma and related diseases. It will help target future research, and, incidentally, will be another good example of where patients, the public and professionals are brought into the decision-making process on health. Secondly, the National Institute for Health Research will issue what is called a highlight notice to the research community, indicating its interest in encouraging applications for research funding into mesothelioma and related diseases. This would do exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, wants, and what the noble Lord, Lord Empey, suggested. It would make mesothelioma a priority area. Thirdly, the highlight notice would be accompanied by an offer to potential applicants to make use of the NIHR’s research design service, which helps prospective applicants to develop competitive research proposals … Finally, the NIHR is currently in discussion with the MRC and Cancer Research UK about convening a meeting to bring together researchers to develop new research proposals in this area”.—[Official Report, 17/7/2013; col. 786.] 20 Nov 2015 : Column 390 Will the Minister give the House an update on those four areas? What progress has been made? To what extent has this in practice stimulated high-quality applications? Today, I received in the post a communication from the Asbestos Victims’ Support Group Forum outlining the challenges asbestos victims still face which we should clearly help them address. Supporting this Bill sponsored by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, will help to ensure that the future may hold some hope for those afflicted by this terrible disease. 10.31 am Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, I, too, begin by congratulating my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on his masterly presentation of the case for the Bill, and on the assiduity with which he has pursued compensation for mesothelioma sufferers over a great many years with determination and thoroughness. I know how many hours he has spent on this and how many more hours he is likely to spend on it in future, but if we get this Bill through, it will be a major advance in securing compensation for sufferers of this horrible disease. I started work on mesothelioma 40 years ago with the late Nancy Tait, whose husband died an agonising death from mesothelioma. She formed the Society for the Prevention of Asbestosis and Industrial Diseases, which lobbied hard for tighter controls on asbestos, and she fought for the rights of victims to adequate compensation. We published a pamphlet entitled Asbestos Kills, but the use of the material continued here in the UK long after it was banned in other countries of the developed world. That explains why the UK was the country with the highest age-adjusted death rate from 1994 to 2008, with 17.8 deaths per million. The Health and Safety Executive expects the death rate to peak in 2018, after which it will slowly decline, but because there can be a delay of several decades between exposure to asbestos and the onset of mesothelioma, the disease may well be claiming hundreds of lives a year in the decade 2050-60. To put it another way, over the next 30 years, 30,000 deaths are expected from this horrible disease unless new and effective treatments are developed. At the moment, there is no cure for mesothelioma, and funding for research is woefully inadequate and uncertain. There are said to be government grants of £1.2 million a year, and last January the insurance companies Aviva and Zurich announced one-off funding of another £1 million, but there is no continuity, no assurance that in the years to come there will be even the same level of funding as there is in 2015, with the obvious result that cancer researchers starting out on a career will look for projects in other areas. That may explain the paucity of really high-quality applications coming forward. Cancer Research UK says it is looking to invest more in rarer cancers, and it would be useful if the Minister could say what has emerged so far from the strategy published in May last year. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, reminded us, in 2014 a mere £860,000 was spent on mesothelioma research—a miserable amount compared, say, with the £9.9 million 20 Nov 2015 : Column 391 spent on skin cancer or the £5.5 million spent on melanoma, which are cancers with similar mortality. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has been tireless in his attempts to put this right over the years, and I warmly support his latest efforts in this Bill. In addition to the amounts active insurers are required to pay to fund the diffuse mesothelioma compensation scheme, he proposes, as he did in the summer of 2013, that the levy be increased by an amount not exceeding 1% of the compensation payments to fund mesothelioma research. This is supported by the British Lung Foundation, which points out that by improving outcomes and thereby reducing compensation payouts, insurers would stand to benefit from the research. The BLF tells me that the insurance industry is expecting to pay out more than £12 billion under the existing scheme over the years. A fraction of this enormous amount invested in high-quality research could revolutionise our understanding of mesothelioma and lead to significant improvements in the treatment and management of the condition. Your Lordships may recall that when we last debated this matter in 2013 there was widespread support for the basic principle of insurer-funded research, and of course we are extremely grateful to the two companies that contributed voluntarily to start the process. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, reminded us, there are another 148 insurers active in the employers’ liability market that would contribute if this Bill were passed. Zurich announced a few weeks ago that it was walking away from its £5.6 billion bid for UK insurer RSA. The amounts active insurers would be asked to pay under this Bill are insignificant in comparison with their assets, but they could transform the outlook for mesothelioma patients and their families. 10.37 am Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB): My Lords, like others, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Alton on his tireless work in this area and on his perseverance in trying to improve the outlook for the future. I shall concentrate on mesothelioma not as an epidemic of today but as one that is looming because of the problem in our schools. The need for research is ever more pressing as time goes on. It has been estimated that more than three-quarters of our schools—my noble friend Lord Alton referred to 87% of schools—have asbestos in place. We know that deaths from workplace exposure are more common among healthcare workers, teachers, telephone engineers, shop workers, finance workers and so on. It is estimated that about 20 deaths a year occur among teachers. In healthcare, we are not sure of the exact number of deaths. When I was a junior doctor the lagging was hanging off the pipes in the basement of Westminster Hospital, just across the road from here, and in other hospitals in London in which I worked. To go to cardiac arrests, we would literally run through the dust and sometimes hit our heads on bits of lagging that were hanging down. Everyone was oblivious to the dangers. The problem is that we have asbestos in our schools and that means children are being exposed. Other countries have decided to have a phased removal—for example, Australia has already implemented that—and 20 Nov 2015 : Column 392 the European Parliament has called for the removal of asbestos from all public buildings by 2028. The Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment reported that, “it is not possible to say whether children are intrinsically more susceptible to asbestos-related injury. However, it is well recognised … that, due to the increased life expectancy of children compared to adults, there is an increased lifetime risk of mesothelioma as a result of the long latency period of the disease … for a given dose of asbestos the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is predicted to be about 3.5 times greater for a child first exposed at age 5 compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about 5 times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30 … we conclude that exposure of children to asbestos is likely to render them more vulnerable to developing mesothelioma than exposure of adults to an equivalent asbestos dose”. The current advice with regard to asbestos is that it should remain undisturbed, and indeed that seems sensible. However, there does not seem to have been a comprehensive assessment of what happens in our schools when children’s chairs and desks scrape along the walls and a little shower of asbestos dust comes into the classroom; or when windows or doors are slammed, not because of children behaving badly but simply because the school is a building with lots of boisterous children in it. Assessments have been done when buildings have been empty. There is an urgent need for research into why some people develop mesothelioma and others do not, and for long-term epidemiological studies, which take money and investment, to understand what is going on in the long term so that we can plan for it if the numbers are going to go up hugely. In my own field, I have made a plea for us to undertake some research into why mesothelioma causes so much pain, and why it appears to be relatively difficult to manage with straightforward analgesics. In my own hospital, the Velindre Cancer Centre, Dr Jason Lester is doing some innovative research on tumour-associated antigens and their expression on the surface of tumour cells, but that research is not cheap—it cannot be done on a shoestring—and needs dedicated cell lines. The Asbestos in Schools Steering Group was set up by the Department for Education in 2012. What is its position with regard to academies and free schools in relation to their responsibilities for managing asbestos, and where are the levers that the Department for Education has for managing it? I understand that the Health and Safety Executive produces guidelines for how asbestos should be managed, but the responsibility seems to lie with those who are running the schools themselves. For us in Wales, this has revealed what you could call the “devolution crack” because no one seems to be taking clear responsibility for schools in Wales. In the Senedd on 28 January this year, the First Minister said: “The responsibility lies with the Health and Safety Executive; that is quite clear”. He went on to say that, “in terms of ensuring that the responsibilities are progressed, that is also a responsibility of the environmental health officers”. However, that appears to be at odds with Answers that have been given in this House. When the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Wales Office, she answered a Written 20 Nov 2015 : Column 393 Question last year from my noble friend Lord Wigley about responsibility in Wales by saying: “The Health and Safety Executive has responsibility for regulations and guidance as it applies to the management and control of asbestos in all workplaces in Great Britain, including schools. However, within this framework, the development of policies for the management and control of asbestos in schools is a matter for the Welsh Government”.—[Official Report, 14/1/14, col. WA 11.] Your Lordships might think that that would be the end of it and it should all sit with Wales, but I suggest that in the long term the devolution crack that has been demonstrated will affect NHS England just as much as NHS Wales. Wales is a net exporter of young people, particularly into the professions, and a net importer of older people. We have a lot of older people coming to spend their last years in nursing homes, particularly in north Wales and along the coastal strips. So Wales may have a problem today but unless there is joint working between those responsible, and unless Wales is invited to join in and share expertise on these committees, we are not going to solve the problem in the long term for the next generation. I also suggest that the confusion over this has been evident in the complaint that was taken to the Parliamentary Ombudsman by Annette Brooke on behalf of the Asbestos in Schools group regarding the conduct of the Health and Safety Executive following the closure of Cwmcarn High School in 2012, the outcome of which is awaited. This Bill is very important for the future, not only for the health of the whole of our nation—England and Wales joined together—but because it is important to plan expenditure and demand, and to plan how we are going to manage what may be a looming epidemic among our schoolchildren that we have not even begun to take notice of yet. 10.45 am Lord Winston (Lab): My Lords, it is a pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on introducing the Bill. I agree completely that this is a terrible condition that causes massive injury to a number of people. I want to take a slightly different tack during this debate; I would like to put the disease into some focus. I was first aware of mesothelioma in the 1960s as a medical student. I worked with a very great physician, the late Donald Hunter, who was probably the first person really to identify industrial diseases as a major issue in medicine. He was very prominent in the field of lung disease—pneumoconiosis in miners, for example. He also had further interests in a whole range of things; he even changed the way that diamond drills were used in South Africa to reduce the dust that would cause lung disease in miners. Some noble Lords might remember that around 1998 I made a television programme about an Irish individual called Herbie, whom we filmed dying. It was a unique film that was part of “The Human Body”. It was massively criticised before it was shown because it was the first time that anyone had filmed a death on television. We filmed Herbie over the best part of two years. It was an amazing experience for me. He was dying of mesothelioma. Interestingly, 20 Nov 2015 : Column 394 while of course I bow completely to what the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, points out about the pain, the pain from his abdominal mesothelioma was quite well controlled by pretty heavy amounts of morphine-like drugs. Extraordinarily, the fact that we filmed him for so long probably extended his life. Amazingly, he lived for at least a year or two longer than was expected by his physicians. We all went to the funeral and filmed that as well, and it was a very moving moment. The value of that was partly to show someone dying from a disease of this sort but also to recognise that there is not necessarily a need to have such fear about death, a very important issue on which I think the noble Baroness will understand where we were coming from. Once the film had been shown, it did not receive any more aggressive comments in the press; it was recognised as being quite important. Mesothelioma is an extraordinary disease. I shall try to make it understandable. Our lungs, or rather the pleural cavity in which our lungs are contained, are lined by a lining that covers the heart and the contents of the abdomen, including the bowel. The tumours arise from this lining. Unfortunately, unlike epithelial cancers—most cancers are on epithelial tissues—cancers that arise from these embryological tissues have always been much more resistant to treatment. They include tissues that grow from the bone, such as sarcoma, although I think that that is now changing a bit in its impact. None the less, there is no doubt that these conditions are recognised as being astonishingly hard to deal with. There is no doubt that mesothelioma is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, almost invariably in the lung and probably in the abdomen as well. It is true that about one-fifth of patients claim never to have been in contact with asbestos but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, eloquently points out, it is obvious why that might not be so. It is also interesting that the epidemic, as it has been called, that we have at the moment may be on the decrease as asbestos—particularly blue and brown asbestos, the most dangerous forms—is controlled and regulated. Sadly, however, we have not done nearly enough, so the pleas for much better understanding of what we must do in public and private places go without question. I will declare two interests. First, I am still a research academic at Imperial College, and my most recent project grant has a cancer edge to it, although it is not on one of these cancers. It has not yet been awarded—I may not get the money—but I hope that it will be funded in due course. The other reason for declaring an interest is that many years ago I was a trustee of Cancer Research UK and before that the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. I emphasise to your Lordships that Cancer Research UK raises between £300 million and £400 million a year for cancer research. It also has a number of notable scientists; for example, there are at least two Nobel prize-winners I can think of immediately: one is Paul Nurse, and the other of course is the recent Nobel prize-winner, Tom Lindahl. They both look at cells—cell development, cell cycle, cell division, and what interrupts them. I make it very clear that that kind of research these Nobel prize-winners have done, which is typical of many people in cell biology, has a profound effect on our understanding 20 Nov 2015 : Column 395 of all cancers. Their research is not focused on mesothelioma, but it does not mean to say that it is any less relevant. It is very important to understand that an understanding of how cells work is as important as any specific, targeted approach to a particular condition. There is always a slight risk of targeting one or two particular diseases at the expense of other diseases. We have to be aware of this, particularly when perhaps smaller charities are involved in targeting a particular disease because of an interest group. Cancer Research UK says very clearly that it is very happy to help smaller charities and help fund research where it is properly peer-reviewed, to improve and increase their impact. However, it is also very clear that Cancer Research UK, which is our main cancer research organisation in this country, has not ignored mesothelioma. On the contrary, if you look at its website, you will see very clearly that it is involved with a number of research projects. I will delineate some of the areas, because it is very relevant to this debate. First, Cancer Research UK has been very clearly interested in the past in seeing whether there might be causes other than asbestos; for example, a viral cause. There is probably not a genetic cause either, but there may be a genetic predisposition to how you react to the tumour once it is being treated. One of the problems with mesothelioma is that it is very difficult to diagnose and often appears late. That patient, Herbie, for example, was diagnosed very late, and when I was active in surgery years ago I opened the abdomen of someone in pain to find that they had a mesothelioma, although there had been no suggestion beforehand that there would be a mesothelioma in that particular patient. Therefore one of the approaches that Cancer Research UK is trying to achieve is slightly earlier diagnosis. In particular, there are two promising compounds: one is osteopontin and the other is the serum mesothelin-related protein, both of which are secreted by these tumours. Unfortunately, one of the problems is that both these markers are secreted by other tumours as well, including, for example, ovarian cancer. Getting a specific marker is a difficulty, but research will continue. There is no question that in the field of treatment there is a great deal of research. I have a list here, which I have written down, of the number of chemotherapeutic agents which have been looked at. In recent years I can count at least 10 or 11: raltitrexed, gemcitabine, mitomycin, vinorelbine, irinotecan, vinflunine, and there are various combinations of those therapies with other well-known mitotoxic agents. These have included trials; I do not quite understand the figures for funding which have been put round the Chamber, because of course clinical trials, which are often multi-centred, are extremely expensive to carry out, and whether those are included in the figures which are being bandied about is very questionable. The noble Lord, Lord Prior, may have something to say about that issue. We would like to see more trials, and they are expensive, but I do not know whether they are included in the total cost of the research into mesothelioma that is being quoted. Other treatments have been researched: of course there is surgery, pleurodesis, and there are now attempts to try to reduce the tumour inside the lung membranes. 20 Nov 2015 : Column 396 However, some of the more promising therapies which are being actively looked at by Cancer Research UK are biological therapy and immunotherapy. So far, none of these drugs works particularly well. At least 12 have been looked at; there is some promise, and there is no question but that used in combination they may improve. However, these remain, like so many other of these tumours of similar embryological origin that are not mesotheliomas, quite resistant to treatment, just as they become resistant to therapy. Incidentally, photodynamic therapy has been tried. I do not want to go on at great length about research, but I will talk about three trials that Cancer Research UK is doing at the moment to emphasise the wide range of stuff that is going on. One is some work with HSV1716, which is a virus that acts against dividing cancer cells. It comes from the herpes virus, if I remember correctly. Therefore that is a very good example of where we might make a breakthrough in treatment. Then there is a different strand of research with ADI-PEG 20, which in combination with other drugs such as cisplatin affects a particular amino acid in the chain of cell division. The amino acid that is of particular importance here is arginine. If that can be inhibited, the cancer cells do not multiply. That has been specifically targeted for the treatment of mesothelioma. A compound, GSK3052230, developed by GSK, is I think about to enter phase 3 trials very shortly. That attacks the FGFR1 gene, and therefore stops cancer cells growing. It is therefore important to emphasise that we are doing research in this country. Whether we are doing enough remains for other people to decide. However, it is important to recognise that these cancers are very resistant to all sorts of treatment, which is one of the reasons why they are so emotionally as well as physically painful. I also suggest that we have heard so many times before about how it has been decided by Governments to put massive funding towards a particular biological project. I think President Nixon said, “We’ll put funds into conquering cancer”, and that was a total failure. We need to understand that of course there need to be targeted funds, but there also needs to be an understanding of the basic mechanisms. That is definitely going on with a wide range of cancers, some of which will affect mesothelial cancer research as well as lung cancer, bowel cancer and testicular cancer research. It is very important to understand that it is not just about simply focusing on one disease which is of terrible significance, not least because it is almost invariably fatal. 10.58 am Lord Kakkar (CB): My Lords, I, too, join noble Lords in thanking and congratulating my noble friend Lord Alton of Liverpool on introducing the Second Reading of his important Private Member’s Bill, and in so doing I declare my own interest as professor of surgery at University College London, an institution with a very active research interest and base in many different cancers. There is no doubt, as we have heard in this debate, that mesothelioma represents an important burden of disease for our country—there were some 2,500 deaths from mesothelioma in 2013—but also, going forward, 20 Nov 2015 : Column 397 it represents a substantial burden of disease in the years to come, with a predicted 56,000 deaths in the period 2014-2044. We have also heard that mesothelioma represents a particularly nasty form of disease with a very peculiar natural history, potentially seen to develop over many decades in an unpredictable fashion, where there is no therapeutic intervention today that can offer a chance of a cure, where diagnosis is often late, and where palliative care, although advancing, still does not provide patients with any meaningful hope of long-term survival. Under these circumstances, it was quite right for my noble friend to have put forward amendments in Committee and on Report, when the Mesothelioma Act 2014 was passing through your Lordships’ House. I was interested in my noble friend’s proposition on that occasion because there is evidence that the research base on mesothelioma is limited. With a disease that we understand so little about, it seemed intuitive that, using the opportunity of mechanisms made available by the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme, an additional levy might provide a base for enhanced research funding in this area. This is important because, without such funding, it is impossible for many researchers to make the long-term commitment to create a group and study a disease over many years or decades, to ensure that advances in understanding are made available. The noble Lord, Lord Winston, made important points in this area. This is not only a question of research into the specific disease of mesothelioma, but of ensuring that understanding generated in other areas of cancer research, and cell biology more broadly, can be applied to it. There is now an increasing emphasis on understanding that, if we are going to improve outcomes for patients with a variety of different cancers, and other chronic long-term conditions, we need to move away from a generalised approach to managing disease towards personalised, precision medicine: understanding, at a molecular and cellular level, the mutations driving a particular cancer, such as mesothelioma, then developing biological therapies to target them. The problem at the moment is there is an insufficient molecular characterisation of mesothelioma, to ensure that this disease can avail itself of all the other advances taking place in research generally. On 17 July 2013, when the Mesothelioma Act was debated on Report, as recorded in col. 786 of vol. 747 of the Official Report, the then Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, answered a number of points. As we have already heard, it was argued then that the correct approach was not to ensure more funding for mesothelioma research but that other mechanisms be used to stimulate more research proposals, which would then be funded if they were of sufficient quality. That seemed a reasonable argument. We have heard the four principal mechanisms that were suggested: first, that the National Institute of Health Research convene a workshop of the principal funding charities, such as Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and others—I understand that that took place in May 2014; secondly, that a highlight notice be published by the National Institute for Health Research, identifying this as a priority area for research—this happened in 20 Nov 2015 : Column 398 September 2014; thirdly, that a priority-setting partnership be convened—the James Lind Alliance did this with a variety of stakeholder groups in December 2014. Fourthly, it was suggested that the National Institute for Health Research make its research design service available to help researchers come forward with research studies which were properly designed from a methodological point of view and so would enjoy a greater chance of research funding. What progress has been made in each of those areas; what were the outcomes of those four specific initiatives? In that same debate, in 2013, we heard that MRC funding for mesothelioma had increased from £0.8 million in the financial year 2009-10 to some £2.4 million in 2011-12. Has the increase in Medical Research Council support for mesothelioma research continued on that upward trajectory, or has funding fallen back? How many more applications have been received by the funding councils, by the National Institute for Health Research or the research charities, as a result of the four specific initiatives that were offered to your Lordship’s House at the time of that debate? It would be very reassuring if there were evidence that there have been more high-quality applications; that more groups are coming together to study mesothelioma; and that there is greater collaboration between those dedicated groups and other groups working on more fundamental areas of cancer biology, or other tumours that share a similar characteristic and biology to mesothelioma, such as some of the sarcomas. If that has not happened, the assumption that by facilitating this type of conversation we would see more research is not going to deliver the kick-start in activity that we require. It may therefore be important to revisit the question of a specific levy, providing more funding and greater incentive and reassurance for researchers to come together and focus on this area. Ultimately, research is about helping patients, and large numbers of our fellow citizens will suffer from mesothelioma in the years to come. If we can provide greater hope that they might have a better quality of life or, indeed, be cured of this disease, through an enhanced research effort, then we should proceed along those lines. 11.06 am Lord Ribeiro (Con): My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for introducing the Bill, and my erudite medical colleagues for their lectures and exposition on the research which supports work on mesothelioma. I confess to being a bit of a cowboy movie fan. One of my idols was Steve McQueen, whom noble Lords may remember in “Bullitt”, “The Great Escape” and “The Magnificent Seven”. The noble Lord mentioned Navy workers and the involvement of the noble Lord, Lord West, and others in this. Steve McQueen enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1947. In those days, warships coming out of the war were covered in asbestos. It was in every single compartment: the roofs, eating messes, everywhere. He was also required to strip out asbestos from the old ships. He died, at the height of his acting career, at the age of 50 of abdominal mesothelioma. We do not know exactly when he contracted the disease—it could have been at any time, but it was presumably between 20 Nov 2015 : Column 399 1947 and 1950 when he was in the Navy. He was also very interested in racing cars and in those days they had asbestos masks in case of fire. It is most likely that it took 30 years before the disease was diagnosed in December 1979. He died less than a year later, in 1980, aged 50. He had malignant mesothelioma of the perineum, to which the noble Lord, Lord Winston, referred earlier. He tried desperately to find a cure, going to Mexico and other countries to do so, but sadly he died. His death was a huge shock to those of us who admired his acting skills, and it raised the profile of the disease of mesothelioma. It is a shame that you need such icons to bring people to understand how deadly such a condition is. As a surgeon, I had very little experience of mesothelioma. I did a cardiothoracic job in which most of the time would be spent draining fluid from around the lungs, because this condition would compress the lungs as it spread around the pleural cavity and cause all sorts of problems. Unlike peritoneal problems due to tuberculosis, where we would strip off the pleura and try to stop any further fluid collecting, with mesothelioma, whatever you did made very little difference. All we could do was effectively to palliate. So my experience of the disease was very limited. Curiously enough, we still see advertisements featuring Steve McQueen, with him advertising watches or driving a Ford Mustang. His image is still there. But the condition that he died from is not as well known as it should be. I would hate people to think that, just because this was something that happened before restrictions came into being, we will not see more of this condition. A projected figure of 60,000 deaths has been given but, as the years go by, although there may be a slight fall, I predict that there will be many more. It is also important to remember that it is not just in this country that the deaths will occur. Many countries do not have the regulations or restrictions on the use of asbestos that we have. It is important that we take a lead in trying to discover the causes of mesothelioma and getting to the bottom of how to treat it in order to benefit not only us but many people overseas. I do not know how many noble Lords have accepted the offer of a tour of the basement of the House. If they have not, I suggest that they do, as they will find evidence of asbestos in this building that they will not believe. We are all likely to be exposed to it. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, mentioned her time as a medical student. When I was a medical student, I worked in a hospital where we would walk through underground tunnels with asbestos pipes along the sides. The hospital porters would push the patients on trolleys down those tunnels, bang into the asbestos and bits would fly off. As medical students, we often had a game of rugby as we went flying through the tunnels and, again, chunks of asbestos would come off. To my knowledge, one medical student who never worked in the industry subsequently died of mesothelioma. I can only assume that that was associated with exposure to the asbestos. We have it right beneath us in this building and we should all be very aware of it. Noble Lords will remember the valiant attempt by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, to introduce his amendment the last time round. On that occasion, the Government suggested that a more voluntary approach was the 20 Nov 2015 : Column 400 way forward, with contributions being made on a voluntary basis, but the noble Lord demonstrated clearly that that has not come about. At that time, four insurance companies were bearing the burden of providing payments to sufferers of the disease. That number is now down to two—Aviva and Zurich, which have both contributed £1 million towards research, but only for two years. There are 150 other insurance firms actively involved in employers’ liability which have yet to step forward. It should not be the responsibility of two insurance companies to shoulder the burden of this condition, and it is extremely important that we find a way through this. I know that charities are able to raise huge amounts of money towards the treatment of cancer. We are all well aware of breast cancer—it is visible and we all know of people who have been affected by it. Hundreds of millions of pounds are spent on research into breast cancer and other cancers. Mesothelioma is an insidious condition that has a sinister outcome, yet very little research has been done into it. Perhaps it is not a very sexy area for researchers to go into. I am afraid that most people do medical research because they wish to explore a particular area for which they have a passion. If we are to generate the necessary funding for this disease, it is important that we stimulate more people to take an interest in it. There are questions to be asked. Why does a wife who launders the clothing of her husband, who works in an area with asbestos, contract and die of asbestosis whereas her husband does not? Why can some people survive for up to 20 years? The current longest survivor is a man who contracted the disease 18 years ago and is still going strong. Why is that? Clearly the answer lies in the genes, and we need to do genetic research. Testa et al in Nature Genetics reported in 2012 research suggesting that people with a germline mutation on their BAP1 gene are at a high risk of developing mesothelioma. We need to follow through such areas of research to try to get the answers. My erudite medical colleagues have explained to the House some of the stages that need to be gone through. I wish to mention the British Lung Foundation, which I worked very closely with when I took through my Private Member’s Bill on banning smoking in cars with children present. It has done a huge amount in supporting the battle against mesothelioma, and it needs to be recognised, acknowledged and supported. As was mentioned, one of its researchers, Dr Peter Campbell, receives a grant for work on identifying the important genes to target for mutations in mesothelioma. Notwithstanding what the noble Lord, Lord Winston, said about the need not just to target one area but to recognise that high-level research may benefit many other conditions and not just mesothelioma, this area needs far more support than we have seen hitherto. On the previous occasion when this matter was debated, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, missed taking through the proposed levy by just seven votes. It was a very narrow vote and he had a lot of support in the House but, unfortunately, it did not go through on that occasion. At that time, the Government assured us that it would be possible to achieve the ends we wanted through a more voluntary approach. To date, 20 Nov 2015 : Column 401 those 150 insurance companies have not stepped up to the plate and we need to do slightly more than rely on that approach. A levy is the missing piece of the puzzle. It is key to essential research into this killer disease, which, as we all know, affects tens of thousands of people. It is important to discover its exact causes and how we can benefit patients in the future. Why does the UK have the unenviable record of the highest mesothelioma mortality rates in the world, and what are we doing wrong that we could do better? I believe that only research can answer these questions. As I said, it cannot be left to charitable organisations to raise the money for such research, and it is important that we find a way of achieving the necessary funding. Winston Churchill once said, “Action today”. I think we have reached the point where we need to move towards “action today”, and I hope the Minister, having listened to the debate and the comments that have been made, will be more inclined to take a harder line on this and to consider finding a way of introducing a levy on the insurance companies. 11.19 am Lord Wills (Lab): My Lords, I, too, rise to support this Bill. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on his persistence in pursuing this issue and on the compelling case that he has made this morning for this Bill. It is a privilege to follow the noble Lord who has just spoken and to have heard all the knowledge and experience that he brings to this debate. Indeed, it is a privilege to have heard all the previous speakers. As your Lordships’ House has heard many times before, and as we have heard again this morning, mesothelioma is a terrible disease. It is remorseless, and it usually kills within 12 to 18 months by gradually strangulating the lungs and heart, bringing severe, constant pain and progressive and dreadful shortness of breath. The strongest painkillers and multiple operations to drain fluid from the chest bring their own side-effects and, unfortunately, as we have already heard this morning, do little to mitigate terrible suffering. This is among the most cruel of all fatal illnesses. As we have heard again this morning, it is all too often inflicted on those who have contracted it through their occupation and all too often through public service. Factory workers, such as those in the railway works in my former constituency, have been disproportionately affected by it. But so too have members of the armed services and teachers. Despite this, for decades, those suffering from mesothelioma, and their families, have been appallingly badly treated by the insurance companies that should have been looking after them and neglected by successive Governments. It has taken decades to force insurance companies to discharge their obligations to pay compensation. In the end, it took legislation, beginning with that introduced by the last Labour Government and then by the coalition Government, to force them to discharge those obligations. I take this opportunity, if I may, once again to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Freud, for all he did to bring the Mesothelioma Act to the statute book. It really was a very considerable step forward. Yet after all the debates, stretching back years, and after all the calls for Governments to act, 20 Nov 2015 : Column 402 there is still no significant progress being made on the adequate resourcing of research into effective treatments for this dreadful illness. The facts are well known, and we have heard them again this morning. So how can it be justifiable that, based on figures from Cancer Research and the National Cancer Research Institute, more than twice as much per sufferer is spent on, for example, breast cancer research than on mesothelioma? There is no good reason for government inaction on this. Given that the groups this illness strikes hardest so often work in the public sector, the Government have surely an ethical obligation to ensure adequately funded research is carried out. It may be felt that because asbestos is no longer used in the UK, the actuarial peak of the incidence of this disease is being reached in this country; that this is a legacy disease and, therefore, significant investment in research is not justified. I have heard this suggested, but waiting for sufferers to die off in excruciating pain is an unacceptable basis for any healthcare system. Moreover, the numbers are significant; we have heard them again this morning. Although these are projections—and given the long gestation period for this illness they could well be underestimates—more than 50,000 people are projected to die in this country alone and many more times that number in the rest of the world. Mesothelioma is a global problem. It affects almost everywhere in the world, including some of the poorest countries in Asia and Africa, countries which are ill-equipped to provide and develop such research on their own. As we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, future generations of children in this country are particularly at risk. The figures vary, but at least 75% of schools in this country are estimated to contain asbestos, and the Health and Safety Executive has conceded that a minority of those schools are not doing all they possibly could to manage it. Teachers, caretakers and other school staff are already dying in their hundreds from mesothelioma, and at an escalating rate. We are likely to see that rate escalate still further given the long gestation period for this illness. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has already given these figures, but they are so important that they bear repeating: it is estimated that a child of five is more than five times more likely to develop mesothelioma by the age of 80 than their teacher aged 30. It is also thought—although again there is some argument about exactly how this works—that they are at greater risk because their bodies are still developing, which may make their lungs more vulnerable. Hundreds of thousands of sufferers all over the world will go on suffering from this illness for many decades to come, which is why the research that this Bill promotes is so necessary. I, and many other noble Lords, have heard Ministers justify this lack of investment in research on the grounds that no good research proposals come forward. But if that really is the case, and there is some dispute about it, the Government need to do whatever is necessary to create structures and an environment in which such proposals will come forward. That would not compromise the Haldane principle—it is simply what the Government should 20 Nov 2015 : Column 403 be doing. The most important single action that they could take in that respect is to increase the sums of money available for research. The absence of adequate, secure, long-term funding must clearly be a deterrent to talented researchers committing their careers to research in this area. By turning their back on investing adequately in mesothelioma research, the Government are missing an opportunity to build on our leading position in biomedical research and in an area of such global importance. The Government are also missing an opportunity to save taxpayers money. I am sorry to bring money into this debate, but it is a matter that must be of concern to the Government, particularly at the moment. Of course, there is no guarantee that any research will produce results, but the experience of research into other cancers suggests that a combination of money and time, and the extraordinary and rapid progress in interpreting the human genome—the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, just mentioned the importance of genetics in this field—and huge progress in the size and power of computers, will produce significant advances in treatment. We have already heard this morning from the distinguished medical Peers who spoke about many of the exciting possibilities opening up. This would help save taxpayers some of the huge sums that are involved in treating mesothelioma sufferers. These are broad-brush estimates, but taking into account the costs of diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, stays in hospital with multiple operations to drain fluid, community care costs, the loss of earnings and so the loss of tax revenue for the one-third of sufferers who will still be of working age at diagnosis, the costs are likely to be upwards of £75,000 per patient. As some 2,500 patients are currently diagnosed in the UK every year, annual costs are likely to exceed at least £185 million. With perhaps up to 70,000 new cases between now and 2050, the total could well rise above £5 billion. There is a clear ethical imperative for the Government to act now on research into this terrible illness. There is a clear humanitarian imperative. There is a clear financial imperative. There is simply no reason for the Government not to act. The Government and their funding agencies could easily find the funds themselves, even in these difficult times: £3 million a year would more than treble the amount currently spent and help fund a national centre to co-ordinate and develop research. This Bill offers an alternative route to funding, through a levy on insurers. It will raise money from all those insurance companies that evaded their obligations for so many years, and it will share the existing burden more equitably between those very few companies that have, so commendably, honoured their obligations and the rest of the insurers. Quite apart from the continuing moral responsibility of that industry as a whole to atone for its historic mistreatment of sufferers of this dreadful disease, the sum of money to significantly improve the research effort on a sustainable basis is a tiny fraction of the overall amounts that those insurers saved for decades, and an even tinier fraction of the sums that they will probably have to continue to pay out for decades to come. Does anyone seriously think 20 Nov 2015 : Column 404 that £3 million a year would trouble an insurance industry that pays out £187 million a day to its customers, which is more than £68 billion a year? Despite all these arguments for action, as we have heard, the Government appear to have done nothing since the noble Lord, Lord Alton, raised this issue in your Lordships House two years ago. Their lack of interest is, I am afraid, demonstrated by the Whitehall reaction to the work that I and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lord Giddens have done on exploring the possibility of setting up a national mesothelioma institute, which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred to in his opening remarks. This would be done on a hub-and-spoke model, involving worldwide collaborations to drive forward research into tackling this terrible disease on a global basis. We made considerable progress with medical researchers and non-governmental organisations and the possibility of significant funding from charitable sources, but the time is now right to involve government. The sums are relatively small, but it needs some limited participation from government. The Department of Health has been supportive; in particular, I pay tribute to the Chief Medical Officer and her officials, who have been extraordinarily helpful and demonstrated great empathy with the need to do something to improve outcomes for those suffering from mesothelioma. But the global dimensions of the problem and the nature of the spending review mean that other Whitehall departments need to take an interest as well. The two other key departments, DfID and the Treasury, have refused to meet us. It is one thing to refuse to do something; it is quite something else to refuse even to meet to discuss doing something to alleviate terrible suffering. It might have been thought that anyone going into public service, in whatever capacity, for whatever reason, might have wanted to spend a few minutes exploring the possibility of helping those suffering so terribly from this illness, but obviously not. To be fair to the DfID officials, I should say that they emailed to say that we could look at their website—next year—to try to identify funding opportunities. In the short time that he has been in your Lordships’ House, the Minister who will reply to this debate has won respect from all sides of the House for his knowledge, for his experience and for his willingness to engage in dialogue, but he has done so perhaps above all for his determination to seek continuing improvements in healthcare. Although he may not be able to commit to support this Bill in its entirety today, I hope that he will at least feel able to recognise that it seeks to put right a long-standing injustice, and that there must now be action to promote research that might bring relief to all those who have suffered from this illness and all those who will suffer in the future. I hope that he will say today that, if this is not exactly the way in which the Government prefer to address the problem, they will find some other way of addressing it and do so now without any further delay. 11.32 am Lord McNally (LD): My Lords, I think that all speakers have paid tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton; I will take a slightly different tack. I know 20 Nov 2015 : Column 405 exactly when I first met the noble Lord: it was as we queued to take the oath in the other place for the start of the 1979 Parliament. Instead of heaping more praise on him, let me give a Gypsy’s warning to the Minister: the noble Lord may look like a superannuated choirboy, but he has the tenacity of a seasoned political streetfighter. My noble friend Lord Avebury referred to Nancy Tait, who campaigned for more than 30 years on behalf of asbestos victims after the death of her husband, Bill. In her obituary in the Guardian, she was described as having “genteel bloody-mindedness”. I give the Minister fair warning that there could be no better description of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, when he adopts and champions a cause. If the Minister has a reply that offers sympathetic words but no action, I recommend a rapid rewrite. I mentioned Nancy Tait and her long fight for justice for victims of asbestos, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Wills, has just reminded us, the truth is that neither big business nor successive Governments have a good record in response to public, and particularly worker, exposure to toxic products and substances. The historic London match girls’ strike of 1888 was in part about the dangers of working with phosphorus, which caused severe health conditions such as “phossy jaw”. In the USA in 1917, there was the case of the “radium girls”, who took the United States Radium Corporation to court because their job had been to paint radium on to the watch dials of luminous watches. Fifty years later, Erin Brockovich campaigned against water contamination caused by Pacific Oil & Gas. In this country, we had the long battle of our coal miners for compensation, and an equally long battle to get the tobacco industry to accept culpability for the health damage done by its products. All those campaigns have one thing in common: we are dealing with everyday products—a match, a wristwatch, the water we drink, the coal we burn, the cigarette we smoke, the place where we work, our classroom or a government office. Each time, there is a denial of culpability by companies and slowness of action by government. It has often taken action by a small group or even an individual to change the law. Asbestos is slightly different, although I remember in my childhood thinking of it as having super qualities, not least for its fire resistance—I was probably playing with lead soldiers at the time. My interest in this matter, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, hinted, is that my sister Betty died of mesothelioma in her 70s. Betty was 14 years older than me and had none of the advantages that I had, either of being the baby of the family or of being a beneficiary of the Education Act 1944. She left school at 14 and went to work in the local ICI works, helping to spin asbestos into synthetic fabric for fireproofing. Thirty years later, after raising her family, she went to work at the Ministry of Pensions in Norcross near Blackpool as an office cleaner. She worked in the asbestos-riddled prefabs that were put up just after the war to house the department and was working there when they were demolished. She mentioned at the time that she thought it was rather strange that those who were doing the demolition were wearing protective clothing but that the office cleaners were not. 20 Nov 2015 : Column 406 At the time of Betty’s death, to gain compensation you had to prove where you had been contaminated, who had done it, et cetera, and of course there was no possibility of such proof. Quite frankly, with Betty gone, the family was not looking for compensation. It was a relief to see that kind of dilemma solved by the 2014 Act. Much progress has been made in recent years across the board, in this country and abroad, with countries and Governments accepting responsibility and providing compensation for industrial and workplace illness. However, as we have heard today, there are still in waiting more victims of mesothelioma and more need for compensation. This Bill is a suitable tailpiece that should probably have been in the original Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, quoted Churchill—I think that he slightly misquoted him; I think that Churchill said, “action this day”. I always treat the noble Lord with great respect, since he rescued me when I collapsed at that Dispatch Box about four years ago, and now refer to him as my personal physician. As has been mentioned, there are in waiting many thousands more victims. We have been given by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, a simple and effective way of funding. He has also done something that is equally important, which is to remind us that culpability and responsibility lie not just with the private sector but with government. There is both a moral and a legal responsibility on the part of government to address some of the problems that have been mentioned in relation to public servants. I am pleased to give my support to the Bill. 11.39 am Lord Freyberg (CB): My Lords, I support the Bill and I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on bringing this issue back to Parliament following its narrow defeat in this House in 2013. Like the noble Lord, Lord McNally, my interest in this subject is personal. Just over three years ago, in June 2012, my sister, Annabel Freyberg, a journalist, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Her diagnosis followed one month after the death of her nine year-old daughter, Blossom, from a particularly virulent cancer, neuroblastoma. The process of her diagnosis was long delayed as the symptoms of her severe lung problems were initially put down to pneumonia and stress. Over the next 18 months there followed a succession of treatments: a course of chemotherapy; attempts to join various drugs trials; and introductions to different specialists who might have been able to operate on the tumour, but, sadly, by then it had progressed too far for this to be possible. On 8 December 2013 she died, aged 52, leaving behind her husband, Andrew, and her 13 year-old son, Otto. Statistically, Annabel is an anomaly—one of only 415 women out of 2,538 people who died of the disease in 2013. Most people with mesothelioma are men in their late 70s who worked in areas such as the building industry and were exposed to asbestos. It is rare for a woman in her early 50s to have the disease. To this day we still have no idea where and when she came into contact with asbestos. However, for many women and their children, the link is all too clear and 20 Nov 2015 : Column 407 especially cruel. As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and others have said, they are the wives exposed to deadly asbestos fibres while washing their husband’s clothes, or children exposed to asbestos after greeting their fathers from work. One of the troubling aspects of Annabel’s illness, which was highlighted by successive visits to oncologists, was how little research there was into mesothelioma, as with most of the rarer cancers. It is surprising that although the UK has the highest rate of the disease in the world, relatively little is spent on research in the UK, measured against other cancers of comparable mortality. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others have already mentioned, the British Lung Foundation estimates that in 2014 only £860,000 was invested in mesothelioma research by its partners, compared with £9.9 million for skin cancer. The consequence of this was that many of the trials available to Annabel took place outside the UK. However, the story of consultant anaesthetist Andrew Lawson, who survived seven years with mesothelioma, shows that it does not have to be this way. Given a year to live, he investigated the evidence and took advice from colleagues from all round the world. There followed three operations and six different chemotherapy courses. He signed up for clinical trial gene therapy treatments in Philadelphia and dendritic cell vaccine treatment in Holland. At his own instigation, he was the first mesothelioma patient in the country to have regular treatment with intravenous bisphosphonate after promising results on mice in Western Australia. Of course, none of these is readily available on the NHS and, indeed, most patients are simply not told about such trials or know of such basic research. However, it demonstrates the need to rethink how we carry out our research. The present system of trials is far too slow, too expensive and unsuited for rarer cancers such as mesothelioma. The fastest way to save lives is to see if the drugs for common cancers work on the rarer ones as well, given the shared mechanism of disease across cancer. This is off-label research and until we fix the issue of liability, as advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, we will continue to send thousands, like my sister, to an early grave. One promising aspect of my sister’s treatment, however, was an early use of broad-panel molecular diagnostics. There was no facility in the UK at the time to do this and so her tumour sample was sent to America, where her DNA was genotyped. The results were very revealing but, in her case, proved too late for her to benefit. She had started a course of cisplatin, the standard cancer treatment for the disease, to which she had an adverse reaction. The test results, which we received five months later, suggested that that would happen as she was not suited to the drug and should not have been given it. I was pleased to read that in Cancer Research’s strategy paper for 2015-20, Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes, a key recommendation is the use of such diagnostics to improve cancer treatment. I hope this will be facilitated, for without it we will give many more patients like my sister expensive, toxic and ultimately futile therapies. More importantly, I hope that the data from such national molecular tests can be gathered into SACT, the national database in Oxford which 20 Nov 2015 : Column 408 tracks cancer outcomes. This will only improve survival rates and provide, if properly managed, a powerful resource for clinical research. I warmly support the Bill and hope that it will have an opportunity to be enacted. 11.46 am Lord Giddens (Lab): My Lords, this has been a terrific debate so far and I congratulate all noble Lords who have contributed to it. I do not usually like to write out my speeches but, for some reason, I made an exception in this case—although I did not write it out but dictated it to a computer and the computer typed it out, which is utterly amazing and relevant to what I am going to say. However, I have noted down so many contributions from other noble Lords that the whole strategy has been completely messed up. I pay tribute to the superannuated choirboy, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his extraordinary work. I am not sure whether or not that was a compliment, but it will stick with him. I join others in congratulating him on the extraordinary work that he has done to promote the cause of those suffering from this horrible disease. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Wills, for the work he has done alongside us and the British Lung Foundation for being an enormous source of support so far. As other noble Lords have said, it is difficult to calculate with any accuracy the true level of risk of mesothelioma to members of the population. The usual estimates suggest that 60,000 people will die of the disease in the UK by 2025 if appropriate treatments are not found. However, the real number could be considerably higher because, as other noble Lords have said, asbestos is coming to light in buildings and enterprises where its existence was previously unsuspected. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, spoke up as he did because we must accept that this is a global issue and that we must contribute to it on a global level. The number of people scheduled to die of the disease in the developing world if we do not find breakthroughs is 1 million, but that is a minimum estimate and it could be several times that. We should make a contribution to research not only in this country but should network with researchers across the rest of the world. As other noble Lords have said, mesothelioma is often seen essentially as a phenomenon of the past. After all, asbestos is no longer used in industry—at least in this country—or in construction. Hence many of the debates about it have concentrated on providing compensation for sufferers who, after all, developed the malady through absolutely no fault of their own. In my view, it is still right and proper to press the industries responsible, plus the insurance industry, to increase the existing levies that have been agreed, and other noble Lords have made this point. My noble friend Lord Wills effectively pointed out that it would save the country money rather than produce extra costs. However, I argue strongly that we should see mesothelioma as a disease that is relevant to our future, not just to the past, and not accept that it is a malady for which there is no possible cure or effective mode of treatment. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, 20 Nov 2015 : Column 409 and my noble friend Lord Winston, I am not a medical expert. However, I have spent the past few years working on the digital revolution and studying its likely impact on the outer edges of medicine. I have said this before in your Lordships’ House: the digital revolution is the greatest, fastest and most global technological revolution we have ever lived through. It is moving vastly faster than the original Industrial Revolution and has amazing potential applications to the frontiers of medicine. For that reason, I think that we are living through what could well be a period of quite unparalleled innovation in medicine and other frontier areas of science more generally. There are three reasons for this and they are all bound up with the digital revolution. The first is that the emergence of hugely powerful supercomputers gives us an opportunity to decode genetic chains in a way that would have been impossible even a few years ago. Secondly, these capacities overlap with major advances in fundamental areas of genetics as such. My noble friend Lord Winston made the point really effectively in the debate, as did the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar. Mesothelioma should no longer be treated as simply an isolated disease. Thirdly, because of the advance of digital technologies and global communications, scientists are able to share data sources in an immediate fashion across the world. Because of the advances in genetics, as I have just mentioned, we have come to see that mesothelioma is not a disease apart. As my noble friend Lord Winston stressed, research into mesothelioma can draw on work from outside the sphere of the illness itself and, crucially, it can contribute to our understanding of other forms of cancer. We have made significant advances in our understanding of the mutations that allow uncontrolled cellular multiplication and spread. Some such mutations are shared in common by a range of tumours, so our understanding of the genetic components in question can in principle be generalised. In the near future, cancers are likely to be identified by their particular mutations rather than by their site of origin—for example, lung cancer and breast cancer. Treatments developed on this basis are already so successful in some areas that they allow for normal life until a person dies of other causes. In the past, we know that at least some talented researchers tended to steer clear of mesothelioma precisely because it was seen as a residual disease. Given the innovations mentioned above, the situation could be very different in the future. Therefore systematic research into mesothelioma could have a crucial impact on medicine going forward. It could be relevant to other environmental diseases because it takes 30 or 40 years to come out. We live in a world in which we are ingesting any number of new substances, so we have to try to have a proactive, preventive strategy for that. Studying mesothelioma could illuminate these areas too. I therefore hope very much that the Minister will investigate the possibility of the Government providing funding to help to establish a national mesothelioma research centre, as other noble Lords have mentioned. I have reason to believe that we can get substantial funding from private sources, so if that could be matched we could get the whole enterprise off the ground. 20 Nov 2015 : Column 410 Everyone else has mentioned Winston Churchill, so I may as well end with a Winston Churchill story, given that I have not spoken for that long. I used to be the head of the London School of Economics, one of whose founders was George Bernard Shaw. He had an acerbic relationship with Winston Churchill. The story goes like this. George Bernard Shaw wrote to Winston Churchill saying, “Dear Winston, here are two tickets for the first night of my new play. Please bring a friend, always assuming you have a friend”. Winston Churchill wrote back saying, “Dear Bernard, I am sorry, I cannot make the first night. Please send me tickets for the second night, always assuming there is a second night”. 11.54 am Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, exactly what the relevance of that story is to the debate is unknown, but it is one that I have heard in the past and have much enjoyed hearing again. I will begin, as others have, by warmly congratulating the choirboy—not superannuated—because he has a wonderful and youthful enthusiasm, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said, and he is doughty campaigner. I am reminded when thinking of campaigners of Sir Walter Raleigh, who made the famous remark that it is not the beginning of a cause for which you should be praised, but for continuing with it to the end, until it is throughly, not thoroughly, finished. I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is going to give up his campaign until it is indeed throughly finished. The noble Lord outlined graphically the need for this modest measure to supplement the Act that is already on the statute book, and we have heard in the debate a number of moving testimonies, not least from the noble Lords, Lord Freyberg and Lord McNally, whose personal family lives have been tragically affected by this ghastly disease. We have also had something of a medical teach-in because the noble Lord, Lord Winston—I am sorry that he is not in his place; oh, he is in his place. I am so sorry. The trouble with the noble Lord is that he moves; he made his speech from the back and now he is sitting elsewhere. He gave us a treat of a lecture. Then the noble Lord, Lord Kakker, and my noble friend Lord Ribeiro gave us supplements to that lecture. It has been a privilege and is indeed an illustration of the value of your Lordships’ House that we have such expertise in all parts of the Chamber. That has been demonstrated today in a splendid way. I want to address most of my remarks to my noble friend the Minister. Quite rightly, complimentary things have been said about him. He made his mark before he came into the House when he was chairman of the Care Quality Commission. In a sense we are talking about quality care here, but we are not appealing to the Minister to come to the Dispatch Box and agree to large extra expenditure from public funds. What we are asking him to do is recognise that there is a very real problem that we cannot adequately quantify. In her splendid speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, talked about schools. How many five year-olds in this country today might already be stricken by this disease, which perhaps will not manifest itself for many years to come? We all know that in our youth—I am sure 20 Nov 2015 : Column 411 that I speak for most of your Lordships—asbestos was regarded as a good thing. It was a fire retardant material that brought great benefit. But now we know that it is one of the most lethal of killers. Of course the Minister knows that, but we are asking him to recognise that more must be done to combat this evil within our midst, the full and devastating results of which none of us knows. That there should be a levy on insurances is a very sensible suggestion, but I would say to the Minister that that should be just the starting point. There are many substances from which we all benefit in some ways—some we regularly imbibe and others we eschew—that damage the health of the nation. Why should there not be a specific levy for medical research on alcohol, tobacco, petrol or diesel? As my noble friend knows well, I have argued, as have many in your Lordships’ House in various debates on the health service, that we must have a plurality of funding if the National Health Service is going to be the service we need in the years ahead. We have to get away from the sticking-plaster approach that we have often referred to in this Chamber. Here is a wonderful opportunity to begin something by having a specific levy for a particular disease that could then be extended. I commend this to the Minister. When I talk to him about these funding issues, he always indicates the difficulty. Of course we all know there is a difficulty. We all know that there is a degree of cowardice in all political parties when we start talking about charges and compulsory insurance, for example. This is not one of those things the Minister has to fight shy of, because here, we are saying that those who have a degree of culpability should be made to acknowledge that by making a contribution. Of course, that may not have helped the sisters of the noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Freyberg, but there will be others in the future whom it might help. We might be able to avoid some of the tragedies about which they movingly spoke, if only we could grasp this particular nettle. I do not want from the Minister the soft answer that turneth away wrath. I want a determined commitment on the part of the Government to recognise the overriding importance of medical scientific research, and to recognise that this is one way properly to meet the needs that we all acknowledge. 12.02 pm Lord Howarth of Newport (Lab): My Lords, I admire the passionate commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and his tenacity, to use the word that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, used about him in his own moving speech. I will only say of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that he is a highly experienced and effective politician. I also applaud and thank the British Lung Foundation for the essential work that it continues to do and I thank noble Lords, particularly my noble friends Lord Giddens and Lord Wills, who have worked alongside the noble Lord, Lord Alton, to try to ensure that we get a better disposition of forces in the field of mesothelioma research. Like other noble Lords, I am scandalised by how little funding has been made available for research into mesothelioma. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, described 20 Nov 2015 : Column 412 it as a paltry amount. My noble friend Lord Winston suggested that it might have been rather more than some of us have hitherto understood. Whatever the case, there has been a lamentable failure to make the progress that we would all have wished to see towards better understanding of the essential nature of this disease—its prevention and diagnosis, its cure, ideally, but otherwise mitigation of the horrible suffering that it causes. As we have been told, the prospect on the best estimates is for not fewer than 60,000 deaths from mesothelioma in this country over the next 30 years and of very many more deaths globally in newly industrialising countries, where health and safety standards are not what they ought to be. I would have thought that this would be an interesting challenge for researchers and that they would have seen important opportunities in this field. But for whatever reasons, it appears that mesothelioma research remains a relatively unfashionable area of research for people to go into. On Report of the Mesothelioma Bill on 7 July 2013, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, the predecessor of the noble Lord, Lord Prior, responding to an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, to the same effect as his Bill today, pinpointed the issue as being the problem of encouraging sufficient high-quality research applications. I made the same case in that debate and I continue to believe that that is at the heart of the problem. The noble Earl outlined four initiatives that have been rehearsed for us by my noble friend Lord McKenzie of Luton, to whom we owe so much—without his preliminary work, we might not have had the Mesothelioma Act 2014—and the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar. Those were the priority-setting partnership, the highlight notice, the availability of the Research Design Service and the convening by the National Institute for Health Research, the Medical Research Council, and Cancer Research UK of researchers to gather new ideas about how to go forward in this field. As the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, said, it will be extremely interesting if, when the Minister replies to this debate, he is able to tell us about any progress there may have been in consequence of the initiatives promised by his predecessor and how effective they look like being. I continue to think that the problem is not essentially one of lack of publicly provided funding for research. Admittedly, Professor Dame Sally Davies acknowledged to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research, in a rather confessional moment quite recently, that following the decision by your Lordships’ House to advise the elected Chamber to think again about the appropriateness of cuts to tax credits, she was having nightmares that the Chancellor might turn and rend the budget for medical research. If he were to do so, that would be a grotesque non sequitur, and I do not expect it to happen. I understand why the noble Lord, Lord Alton, charges the Government with inadequate commitment in this area and why he has tabled his Bill, which would impose a supplementary levy on industry. But we should think very carefully before rushing to legislation. It is still relatively early days. The 2014 Act has been on the statute book for only 18 months and we should proceed in this area with caution. The typical structures 20 Nov 2015 : Column 413 that we have for mobilising funding for research in this country are broadly the right ones—the arm’s-length principle, peer review, and quality of proposed research being the criterion for funding. It is true that they do not guarantee perpetuity of funding, but they do produce high-quality research. I continue to think that the issue is how to attract the right applications for funding for research into mesothelioma That brings us to the role of the employers’ liability insurers. I have no hesitation in saying that they have a very strong moral duty in this area. It is one of the great business scandals of the past 50 years that the contracts that should have secured compensation for people who were exposed to asbestos and developed mesothelioma in consequence—contracts written by the employers’ liability insurers—in so many cases somehow evaporated. The documentation could not be found when it became time for people to make their claims. The insurers did not want to face their long-tail obligations, so it was right that the levy was introduced. I would like to see the employers’ liability insurers take upon themselves the responsibility of funding the process, which noble Lords have talked about, of attracting high-quality researchers into this area to develop the strategy initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Howe. They should not make their contribution conditional on the Government matching what they have to put in. They should willingly provide funding to supplement what the publicly funded research councils and the national institute find themselves able to provide for research in this field. They should supplement and, indeed, be willing to surpass what publicly provided funding is made available, just as the medical charities do. Charitable money has been lacking in this area. My noble friend Lord Winston pointed out that some of the major cancer research charities are funding generic, high-level research that will have a very important relevance to mesothelioma. Where more specific disease-related funding is concerned, it has been notably lacking. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, gave us the comparative statistics. Why this should be one can only speculate, but I suspect that it has to do with class. Mesothelioma is perceived as a blue-collar, working-class disease. Its incidence is mostly found in the old industrial areas. Regrettably, it is apparently very much harder to raise charitable money for research in this kind of area. It is one more instance of what has been called the hideous injuries of class. Of course, the National Health Service and publicly funded research exist to overcome these kinds of imbalances and disparities. I want to see the employers’ liability insurers voluntarily create a charitable endowment, but we appear to be very far from a situation in which that is imminently to happen. We have been told that out of 150 employers’ liability insurers, the number willing to make a voluntary contribution has declined from four to two. We are now left with only Aviva and Zurich taking that responsibility. We should certainly congratulate and thank them, and recognise what they are doing. I hope that it will not be futile to appeal to the better nature of others in the industry in this area of the insurance business. They ought to be good citizens 20 Nov 2015 : Column 414 and decent human beings. They ought also to be mindful of their own business interest. If they fail to make a decent contribution to research, they will have to pick up the cost of compensation—unless, somehow, the contracts go missing again in the future; we should be vigilant to make sure that that does not happen. They ought to be concerned about their reputation. They have an opportunity to rehabilitate their reputation and they can certainly afford to do so. I hope that they will be willing to make a major contribution to the cost of establishing the national mesothelioma research centre that other noble Lords have spoken about and which they are trying to establish. We therefore need the whole sector to rise to the moral responsibility that they have and continue to do so. The situation as it is is profoundly unacceptable. There will also need to be continuing determination on the part of the department. There is an imperative for more research and the department must do all it can strategically to encourage the channelling of funds towards research applications and research proposals of the quality needed. However, whether there should be legislation seems to me, as I have said, doubtful. It is relatively early days, but if the insurance sector now fails to rise to this responsibility I put it to the Minister that he and his ministerial colleagues in government really must respond to the challenge that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has set. I would regret the necessity of it because it would be anomalous. It could be argued that it is invidious for government to accept that Parliament should legislate to provide funding for one particular disease. There are so many terrible diseases and areas where research is urgently needed. It would be inconsistent with the way research is, I believe rightly, funded in this country. The challenge is there for the insurers. It is still not too late for them to act voluntarily to provide funding to stimulate the passion among researchers—of which the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, spoke—to encourage them to work in this field and to maintain that support, challenge, stimulus and effort over the years to come. Early action is needed. I hope that the industry will respond. If not, I will add my support to the measure proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. 12.15 pm Baroness Murphy (CB): My Lords, I am the last person to speak before the winding-up speeches and the fifth doctor in this debate. Noble Lords will all be highly relieved to know that I will not say anything medical. Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in the debates on the Mesothelioma Bill last year, so I very much wanted to come along and add my personal support for the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. Everyone has said that he has been tireless; he is not only tireless but energetic and focused in a way that has brought great rewards for people with mesothelioma. I also wanted to add my personal thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Freud, for the work that he did, and we must not forget the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, before him, who also made great strides during his time in office. The noble Lord, Lord Prior, the Minister today, will not be surprised to know that we want to see the same from him. 20 Nov 2015 : Column 415 Why am I here today? Like the noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Freyberg, I have a personal story. My father died of mesothelioma. I was a young doctor in the 1970s when I first realised that my father had this appalling constricted breathlessness. He had worked as a powerhouse engineer during the war. He supervised the powerhouses for Boots Pure Drug Company, which was a massive manufacturing plant during the war, making not only the pharmaceuticals needed, from antidotes to chloramine to aspirin, but gasmasks on military contracts. As noble Lords know, military gasmasks had the worst sort of asbestos in them during the war. There is no doubt that it was the powerhouse lagging and that factory work that produced the illness that killed my father 35 years later. My mother well remembers him coming home with his overalls drenched in white and grey powder, which she washed, of course. She was darned lucky not to get it. As a result of this illness and because of his early death from this terrible disease, she was widowed for 37 years. It is a terrible thing, as a young doctor, to watch somebody dying of this appalling constriction. As the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, said, at the time all they could do was keep taking the fluid off. That was the only way to help him through this terrible time. The mean survival rate has gone up by no more than 2.8 months over the last 30 years. That gives some indication of the desperate need to research. Normally, rather like the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, I would not have supported the Bill, but we are now at the point where we are seeing a resistance from the insurers. They are not coming to the table. They are not stepping up to the mark and supporting it. I want to bring home to the Minister what has happened with regard to dementia research because of all the arguments we have heard about why people are not coming forward with good proposals—for example, this is not a fashionable area of research or there are issues about funding. We heard all these arguments in relation to dementia but what made the difference is the point that the noble Lord, Lord Wills, made—namely, there was political focus. Somebody in the Department of Health took an interest in dementia and said that for all kinds of economic and other reasons, and given the seriousness of the disorder, we must focus our efforts on tackling it. Only the Department of Health can get people round a table and ask them, “What are you doing? How can we make this work?”. It does not take a great deal of a Minister’s time to do this. I challenge the Minister to provide a political focus on this issue. He will no doubt tell us how we can tackle the research deficit, but I believe that Ministers need to take an interest in this issue and provide the political focus to make the research happen. Money is important, but providing political support to make the research happen is what is really required. 12.21 pm Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, I wish to speak briefly in the gap. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, I have personal experience of this issue. My father at the age of 19 turned down the opportunity to study marine engineering at Royal Holloway College 20 Nov 2015 : Column 416 to join the Merchant Navy. He joined in 1939 and, by 1943, according to the South Wales press, he was the youngest chief engineer on merchantmen crossing the Atlantic, carrying oil, primarily, I understand, from Galveston to various parts of the world, including ports in the United Kingdom. He died in 1989, having being diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1984. He spent five years being treated, I think in the Brompton Hospital. He had repeated operations on his pleura to try to alleviate all the pain and the difficulty he was experiencing. He left many letters and diaries, in which he explained why he had insisted on working on lagging in the boiler rooms of the SS “Penhale” and the SS “Duke of Sparta”, the two tankers on which he spent much of the war. He explained that he insisted on doing the lagging work himself—of course, he paid the price for it—because he was always uneasy about the use of asbestos but could not quite define it. In the correspondence that he left behind, he expressed his shock over the lack of research that was being conducted in the whole area of cancer treatment. I have read the letters that he wrote to various authorities requesting that additional resources be allocated to that area, not particularly for himself—I will come to that in a minute—but for others. He also complained extensively about the lack of support that was given to those people—in his case it was not so much of a problem—who found it very hard to establish who was commercially liable for compensation given that they were suffering from this disease. His concerns about the research were in part motivated by his regard for the many Chinese crew members on the ships who worked under him when he was chief engineer. It is clear that he worried that they would never receive treatment and, in many cases, would never know what they were suffering from. This was not necessarily the case on the ships on which he served, as he was doing the lagging work, but he was not to know what would happen to the Chinese crew members on other ships in the Merchant Navy, where they were doing a lot of this work. He worried about what was happening to those people. There must have been tens of thousands of Chinese crewmen who served in the Merchant Navy who never knew to the day they died what they had suffered from. They were probably said to have died from something coming under a general cancer heading. I say to those who have gone, and to their relatives, wherever they are in the world, that at least we in the United Kingdom are now treating these matters very seriously. Indeed, the speech of my noble friend Lord Winston was absolutely fascinating. It contained information that many of us had never heard before. I am sure that my father would have been fascinated to hear this debate today. As I say, I hope that additional resources can be found, if only in memory of those who have died in the service of their country. 12.26 pm Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, this has been a very moving debate. We are indebted to all noble Lords who have shared their personal experiences and brought home the distressing nature of this condition to those of us who perhaps were not so aware of that as we should have been. As some noble Lords have 20 Nov 2015 : Column 417 said, this is not just a legacy disease. We can see stretching ahead over the next 30 and 40 years many thousands of people being affected by this distressing condition. That is why we are so indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his campaign in this area and for bringing this Bill to your Lordships’ House. I also echo the tribute to my noble friend Lord McKenzie for his work in this area over the years. Clearly, the aim of the Bill and our debate concerns research. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Prior, will be able to update us on exactly what is the state of research in the United Kingdom. We have heard, if not conflicting views, a slight divergence of view about how much research is being conducted. My noble friend Lord Winston is a little more optimistic about where we stand than many noble Lords and the briefings we have received. If the noble Lord could update us, that would be very helpful. It would also be helpful if the noble Lord could tell us about the outcome of the work by the NIHR, following previous debates in Parliament, in its efforts to stimulate more research. If he can say that the NIHR is now confident that it can see a pipeline of research coming forward in the next year or two, that would be hugely important to our debate. But if his view is that so far there is less optimism about the number and quality of research projects being undertaken, clearly we need to think very carefully about how to stimulate some more. I agreed with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, on dementia research. That is an excellent example of the pharmaceutical industry finding it difficult to see a way to fund research projects given the failure of many research projects in the past, and where the Government took the initiative in that area. The result is that we have something that seems to work very successfully. We know that the Chief Medical Officer is a very persuasive, strong champion of research. If she were to make it clear, with the authority of Ministers, that the department wants to stimulate research in this area, and the resources are available, I think one could then expect to see a very strong pipeline of research applications coming through. On funding, the department has consistently said that there is enough money available for the research projects coming forward. But has the Minister picked up the point, which my noble friend Lord Winston raised, that once you put in the clinical trial costs we are talking about potentially many millions of pounds? So while the decision of Aviva and Zurich is to be commended, the kind of money we are talking about here—a combined £1 million over two years, together with whatever the Medical Research Council and other medical charities can come up with—does not really seem sufficient to generate the kind of long-term research projects that we clearly wish to see. The overall performance of the insurance industry has clearly been lamentable and indefensible. At every point, it has had to be cajoled and kicked into doing anything at all, so if the noble Lord, Lord Prior, is still relying on voluntary discussions and agreements with the industry, he will have to show that he is pretty confident of success over the next few months for the noble Lord, Lord Alton, not to pursue his Bill. 20 Nov 2015 : Column 418 The insurance industry has form. The Minister will know from our collective disappointment in relation to the care sector that the industry is very good at warm words, but I am afraid that it sometimes does not follow up with decisive action. I understand the caution from my noble friend Lord Howarth about whether legislation is the right way to go down, but I wonder whether the example of the pharmaceutical industry and the agreement on drugs might be one way to go forward. The negotiations with the Department of Health on the amount of money that the health service gives to pharmaceutical industries, known as the PPRS, is a voluntary agreement. But it is backed up by statute because, if agreement is not reached, in the end the department can impose a settlement. I suspect that this was in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. If we have a statutory provision, that is a kind of backstop. It would not stop the Government saying, “If you don’t want a statutory levy, then you have to come up with a proper voluntary scheme”. I say to my noble friend that sometimes there is a case for legislation. I hope that the Minister will respond to three or four other points that have come up in debate. On veteran issues, there was a very interesting debate in the Commons yesterday to which his honourable friend Mr Mark Lancaster responded, where the argument came that, “the Ministry of Defence should offer veterans with mesothelioma the option of a lump sum in compensation … broadly comparable to that awarded” to individuals who have no existing employer to sue. The Minister there said last night that the MoD has, “commissioned advice from the Independent Medical Expert Group”. Although, as the Minister said, it is a complex position, it will require, “consideration, and close consultation and engagement with colleagues across Whitehall”. He said that he hopes, “to be in a position to make an announcement as soon as possible”, and, “to update the charities at the forthcoming central advisory committee meeting next month”.—[ Official Report , Commons, 19/11/15; col. 935-36.] Perhaps the Minister might update Members of your Lordships’ House who have taken part in this debate, because the point raised about the veterans is very important. The second point is about schools. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, suggested that the general advice where asbestos is in buildings is essentially to leave it at rest. Does that advice seriously hold when it comes to schools? The problem she raised is that the research which led to that advice may not have been undertaken in schools. I hope that, at the very least, the Minister would be prepared to discuss this with his colleagues in the Department of Health. The third point is about Wales. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, also raised the interrelationship between the HSE, as a UK body, and the Welsh Government’s responsibilities. My noble friend Lord McKenzie and I have wrestled with this issue over the years but, 20 Nov 2015 : Column 419 again, it would be good to know whether the Minister could discuss this with Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government to see whether there is a gap that needs to be addressed. In conclusion, this has been an extraordinary and very powerful debate and I want to echo a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. Essentially, it is a plea for the Minister to tear up his lines to take. The department will have its answers, but I think that the House is looking for something more. At the very least, it is looking for a sense that the Minister recognises that here we need leadership from Ministers to make something happen. We very much hope that the noble Lord will be able to give it. 12.35 pm The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, it is always very dangerous when you are told to tear up your lines to take, however tempting that might be. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, whom I have only met once before, which was quite briefly yesterday, told me that he was a street-fighter so I come here forewarned that he is not as he appears. I suspect that as I stand here, he is sharpening his knife and polishing his knuckledusters to set about me in a few minutes’ time. I thank him, though, for bringing this issue to the House. It has been a fascinating debate. I am by no means an expert in mesothelioma but I feel much better educated about this issue now than I did two hours ago. The debate has been trebly compelling because it has brought together people with authentic and tragic personal experience: the noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Freyberg, and the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy—and, right at the end, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. That personal connection with this terrible disease is very powerful. The debate has brought that together with the clinical and medical academic knowledge of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the noble Lords, Lord Winston, Lord Kakkar and Lord Ribeiro, which is a very powerful combination. When you add to that the broad knowledge of other noble Lords who have contributed, whose interest in the subject goes back many, many years, it produces a very powerful cocktail. Clearly, mesothelioma is a terrible and devastating condition. There is no cure and, as the noble Lord, Lord Winston, reminded us, it is a very difficult illness to tackle. Uncertainties remain about the best available approaches to diagnosis, treatment and care. It affects thousands of people. In my mind before this debate, I thought of it very much as a legacy disease—one that would gradually wither away. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, commented that many children will be suffering from this disease in 20, 30, 40 or 50 years’ time. As the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, mentioned, this is not just an English disease, although we have a particularly high incidence in this country; it is an international, global illness. The noble Lord mentioned it affecting literally millions of people. It is therefore absolutely right that mesothelioma research has been discussed many times both in this House and in the House of Commons. I suspect that whatever the outcome of today’s debate and when we discuss the matter again in Committee, knowing the 20 Nov 2015 : Column 420 reputation of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, he will never let this sleep. I imagine that we will be hearing from him on many future occasions. I want to talk about two aspects at the beginning. The first is funding. Funding is needed for research—that goes without saying. The four largest insurance companies have previously made a donation of £3 million between them and more recently, as has been pointed out, Zurich and Norwich Union have donated a further £1 million. That has helped to support valuable research into the disease, but a much higher level of funding has come from the Government through the Medical Research Council and the NIHR. Together, those funders spent more than £3 million in 2014-15. The MRC is supporting ongoing research relating to mesothelioma at its toxicology unit. It is also funding one current fellowship. The NIHR is funding three projects through its research programmes, and its clinical research network is recruiting patients to a total of 11 studies. In view of the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Winston, I can highlight that the NIHR is co-funding experimental cancer medicine centres with Cancer Research UK. These centres are supporting studies in mesothelioma. Money is also available through European Union research funding programmes. I am delighted that the University of Leicester is a partner in a successful bid for nearly €6 million for research on immunotherapy to treat malignant mesothelioma. Lord Wills: I thank the Minister for giving way so early in his speech, but these figures are very important. Is he aware that the British Lung Foundation has done its own study on how much money is specifically directed to research into mesothelioma? A lot of the work that he just described may well have implications for mesothelioma, but it is generic. The British Lung Foundation figure specifically for mesothelioma research is £820,000, not the millions he has been talking about. Does he accept those figures in the context of what I have just said? Lord Prior of Brampton: It is hard to know what the right figures are. After this debate, we need to sort out exactly what the figures are. Lord Winston: I hate to disagree with my noble friend, but one problem with mesothelioma research is that Cancer Research UK, for example, puts such funding partly in the box of lung cancer funding—it is a different form of lung cancer. There is a risk that we may be underestimating the amount of money being spent. That always happens when these figures are bandied about. I am not suggesting that we should not be spending more—or less—but it is very difficult to be precise about the figures sometimes cited. Lord Prior of Brampton: We probably cannot today sort out the figures in the way we would like. It will be very difficult to allocate some of the more generic research expenditure. Let us move on from funding, if we can. Lord Giddens: Will the Minister get to work on this and send something back about what the precise figures seem to be in the light of the questions raised? This is a serious issue, so it would be good to get a response from the Government. 20 Nov 2015 : Column 421 Lord Prior of Brampton: Perhaps I can take that away and come back to the House. I think it will be difficult to come up with precise figures, to be honest, because of the difficulty in allocating some of the more generic research to particular areas. I think that we can encapsulate some of the comments made by the noble Lords, Lord Winston and Lord Wills, and come back to the House with a more thought through, considered figure. Lord Alton of Liverpool: I can see that the Minister wants to move on from the issue of funding, but before he does I should point out that the House has been given figures. It is important to record that in our debate, because they are figures that his predecessor, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, gave the House in reply to a Parliamentary Question tabled by my noble friend Lord Wigley, and referred to by my noble friend Lady Finlay earlier. The figures in the reply to Parliamentary Question HL5852 show that funding from the NIHR on, “research centres and units, and research training awards on mesothelioma research”, as the Minister said, in 2006-7 was £0.0 million; in 2007-8 was £0.0 million; in 2008-9 was £0.0 million; in 2009-10 was £0.0 million; in 2010-11 was £0.0 million; in 2011-12 was £0.0 million; in 2012-13 was £0.2 million; and, in 2014, was £0.4 million. Those are the Government’s own figures, which have already been given to Parliament. Lord Prior of Brampton: I think that we are into some definitional issues here, to be honest, from what the noble Lord, Lord Winston, said, and from the figures that I gave earlier, which I am not making up—they are figures that have been given to me. We should come back with some greater clarification and perhaps some closer definition of what the funding figures are. My impression, although it may be wrong, is that the essential problem is not a lack of funding but a lack of sufficient research applications. Of course, I accept that there is a connection between the two, which I shall perhaps come back to in a minute. The MRC received no mesothelioma applications in 2014-15, and only one in the current year. I want to clarify and stress that the work being funded is of high quality, consequent to high-quality applications. In response to questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, and others, the Government have taken measures to stimulate an increase in the level of research activity. Patients, carers, clinicians, academics and funders have worked in partnership with the James Lind Alliance to identify what the priorities in research should be. I imagine that some noble Lords will have read the report by the James Lind Alliance, but for those who have not I can say that, following a survey and a workshop, the top 10 mesothelioma research priorities were announced in December 2014, and the NIHR published a final report from the priority-setting partnership in July. In advance of the identification of research questions by this partnership, the NIHR highlighted to the research community that it wanted to encourage research applications in mesothelioma. The NIHR subsequently invited researchers to apply for research funding, in particular to address the research 20 Nov 2015 : Column 422 questions identified by the partnership. Eight NIHR programmes participated in this themed call. Fifteen individual applications have been received, of which two have been approved for funding to date, two are under review, and 11 have been rejected. Some noble Lords may think that that is a very high level of rejection, but it is broadly consistent with the overall funding rate for applications to NIHR programmes, which is roughly about one in five. In addition, the NIHR Research Design Service continues to be able to help prospective applicants to develop competitive research proposals. This service is well-established and has 10 regional bases across England. It supports researchers to develop and design high-quality proposals for submission to NIHR itself and to other national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research. The Government are not predisposed to support the Bill, but there is something that we ought to consider—perhaps outside the Chamber. We believe that the existing process for accessing research grants works well; we do not believe that money is the real shortage. It is interesting to note that the Government’s spend on research for medicine is a little over £1 billion—a very significant sum—but the Government are not keen on hypothecated grants for research. However, I have been thinking about this very carefully over the last couple of days, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, touched on it slightly obliquely at the beginning, but it is an important point. When the 2014 Bill went through Parliament, it was felt by the Department for Work and Pensions that the highest levy that could be taken from the insurers without forcing them to pass it on through higher premiums into industry was 3%. I understand that there is a shortfall between that 3% and the actual level of claims being made. I wonder whether the 1% that is being asked for in this Bill could be funded through the shortfall within the existing levy. That might be an avenue worth exploring. I say that because at the moment the fact that we are relying on two insurance companies is not equitable. Why should Zurich and Norwich Union cough up £1 million when other employers’ liability insurers are not contributing? This needs further discussion, but I wonder whether there is a way through this and whether we could not use the shortfall in the existing levy. Lord Wills: What the Minister has just said is so profoundly important that I want to ask him to clarify it a little further. I moved an amendment to the then Mesothelioma Bill precisely to that effect: if there was this gap between the 3% that the insurers were prepared to pay and the 2.25% that the government actuaries thought would be needed, that would be devoted not to the insurance industry’s profits but to the relief to this terrible illness. At the time, the Minister in this House was quite resistant, but when it was debated in the other place the Minister there was quite clear. We heard the quote from the noble Lord, Lord Alton. Some months ago, when I asked a Parliamentary Question for Written Answer about this point, I recall that the Government said that they were not yet in a position to say whether there was a shortfall. I think I heard the Minister say that he believes there may be 20 Nov 2015 : Column 423 such a shortfall. If he said that, this is profoundly important as a way forward, as he suggests, so I would be grateful if he would clarify that. Lord Prior of Brampton: If there is a shortfall—and there may be a shortfall—given that that levy is raised from the industry on an equitable basis rather than relying upon two or three insurers to do it on a voluntary basis, that strikes me as a better approach. The point has been made that compensation payments are somehow different from funding research, but it strikes me that the two are very closely related. I am just putting it out there for further discussion, and I would like to pursue that discussion with my noble friend Lord Freud, who is probably the expert on our side of the House on this matter and was intimately involved with the Bill which came through the House in 2014. I would like to have that discussion with him and perhaps with the noble Lord, Lord Alton. I have not dealt with the veterans issue or the schools issue. I shall deal with them by letter, if that is all right. They are both extremely important. The situation with the veterans and the MoD is under active consideration by my noble friend Lord Howe. I will write to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, if she happy with that, setting out the situation on schools in Wales. The instinct of the Government is not to support the Bill, for the reasons I have given, but there may be a way through this which we are able to explore over the next month or two. Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: When he writes to me, will the Minister include in the correspondence the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, who has done a lot of work on schools in Wales? He might want to meet him. Will the Minister clarify who has responsibility for free schools and academies? They are in a different position from maintained schools, yet they often occupy buildings which contain asbestos. Lord Prior of Brampton: I think the answer to that question is that the Health and Safety Executive would have prime responsibility for them. I think the point that the noble Baroness is making is that the local authority no longer has the responsibility it would have over local authority schools. I will look into that issue and write to the noble Baroness. Lord Winston: Before the Minister sits down, and I apologise for prolonging this debate for longer than necessary, does he agree that medical advances in every field are often very serendipitous? The classic example would be the completely unfunded discovery of penicillin when it was first produced, and it was subsequently only mediocrely funded until we had a wartime crisis. In about an hour’s time the Minister will be answering a Question about doctors’ overtime. One of the critical issues that has not been discussed in that debate has been raised by Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, who points out that one of the real issues is the problem with young doctors being able to do research in a very generic way, which has all sorts of benefits, including clinical mesothelioma research. That is a fundamental problem. We in this country are very good at medical research and on the whole we 20 Nov 2015 : Column 424 fund it quite well, although obviously we would like to have more funding, but providing the environment for continuing research is essential for what we are discussing in this Second Reading debate. Lord Prior of Brampton: I thank the noble Lord for that comment. We in this country are often highly self-critical but actually we have a remarkable record on research. We have three of the top medical academic institutions in the world in this country: Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial. We have UCLH, King’s and Manchester. We have some extraordinary research organisations in this country. There is, I guess, an issue over quality and quality control. There are an awful lot of clinicians who do research that may not be to the— Lord Giddens: I am sorry to give the Minister such a torrid time, but I hope he recognises that he should look internationally. There are important models in other countries, such as the Pacific Lung Health Centre, which is integrated with the wider lung foundation and has produced significant research. We should not just think nationally; we should look at other models and see how they could be adopted here to deal with the issues that the noble Lord, Lord Winston, rightly raises. As I tried to stress, mesothelioma shares things in common with other cancers and, now that we have got to a deep enough genetic level to be able to understand why some of these processes happen, I think it would be worth while to get some information on what exists elsewhere to see how far it could be applied here. Lord Prior of Brampton: I agree. 12.57 pm Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, this has been at times a deeply moving debate, with some very stirring personal stories being told to your Lordships’ House. It has also been thoughtful, amazingly well informed and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, said earlier, powerful at times in the way that we have addressed this deeply troubling issue. Some of the contributions, such as that of the noble Lord, Lord Winston, have been slightly above my pay grade, but I shall read them afterwards with great interest, as I know will many people, particularly in the asbestos victim support groups, the British Lung Foundation and others who campaign up and down the country on these issues. I assure the Minister, who has given us what could be a small opening of the door on this question—I will come back to that later—that I brought no knuckle-dusters and I have no knives. Despite the curtain-raiser that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, gave us earlier, the reality is that when he was Minister at the Ministry of Justice he was incredibly helpful on this question when the LASPO legislation was before us. I still bear some of the scars from that period. Yes, I will persist in presenting this, though not just by myself; there are many people, as the noble Lord knows, not the least of whom was the late Member of Parliament, Paul Goggins, who took up this cause so strongly in the other place. As a curtain-raiser to assure the Minister that the issue is not going to go away, I can tell the House that 20 Nov 2015 : Column 425 Paul Goggins’s successor in the other place, Mike Kane MP, will be introducing a comparable Bill in the House of Commons in January. This issue will not go away, and Members of both Houses want progress to be made. It may be that the formula in this particular Bill or the way we have expressed it is not exactly what needs to be done and there may be other ways of doing it, but it is important that something is done about it. That formidable alliance brought a defeat for the Government during the proceedings of LASPO. It was ping-ponged up and down the corridors, and was a very good example of how by concentrating on an issue which had not even been debated at earlier stages in the Commons, your Lordships were able to bring about change. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, said that perhaps the missing tail-piece in the legislation was a commitment to funding. Perhaps, therefore, we are right to keep returning to that issue until something is done about it. The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, was very much the godfather of the compensation arrangements that were introduced in the Mesothelioma Act. He reminded us that we are not seeking research whatever the quality, and that we need to make this a priority area. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has been raising this issue for more than 40 years. I always like to think of him as the inspiration for some of the things I try to do in politics. Being just a chip off his block is sufficient. He reminded us that there has been woefully inadequate funding, no continuity, and only a fraction of the necessary resources. My noble friend Lady Finlay, one of five medics of a very distinguished nature who have contributed to our debate today, said that this is an epidemic that is looming—not a historic disease—and, as many noble Lords have said, it has worldwide implications. She reminded us of the risks to our children, a point returned to by the Minister in his reply to the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Winston, told us the story of Herbie, whom he had filmed during his death from mesothelioma, which drew to the public’s attention more about this often unknown and unfamiliar disease. Even the name is difficult for people to get around their tongue, let alone to understand its nature. To shine a light on these things, as we have done in your Lordships’ House today or through the media, is always an important thing to do. The noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, said that this is a particularly nasty disease which we understand so little about. He reminded us of the crossover between this and so many other diseases and of the importance of personalised, precision medicine. He also reminded us of what happened during the debate on the Mesothelioma Act on the issue of precedent. I want to say a word about precedent and levies, because the Minister himself touched on this. I refer to the HGV Road User Levy Act, the Gambling Act levy, the fossil fuel levy, the Gas Levy Act 1981, and the levy on the pig industry to eradicate Aujeszky’s disease. Under Section 24 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act the levy board has a power to place a charge on all bookmakers involved in horserace betting, and Parliament requires a levy to be spent for the purpose of improving 20 Nov 2015 : Column 426 the breed of horses. If levies are good enough for dealing with horse breeding or pig disease or indeed in this legislation itself—it is hypothecated legislation and that is the whole point: there is a levy, which the noble Lord referred to, which is to raise money to deal with compensation—we can refer to plenty of precedents if we want to follow this path. The noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, reminded us of the story of Steve McQueen, which helped to give this whole issue some public profile, but he also said that it should not just fall to two insurance companies to have to deal with this—a point which has been reiterated throughout the debate. He said that the levy could be the missing piece of the puzzle and that only research can answer the questions in that puzzle. The noble Lord, Lord Wills, described this as a terrible and remorseless disease and reminded us of the moral duty of the insurance industry, a point returned to by the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, in his contribution. The noble Lord, Lord Wills, said that there is a clear ethical, humanitarian and financial imperative, and talked about the contrast between the £3 million for research and the £68 billion a year paid out by the industry. The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and other noble Lords, have referred to their own personal stories, which I found deeply moving. They were a reminder to us all that this disease is not just confined to those who worked in heavy industries in the past. I felt challenged by what he had to say, particularly about the “toxic and ultimately futile” therapies which are currently available. Surely we can do better than that. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, told us to raise our game and raise our sights. I am always excited when I talk to the noble Lord about the huge possibilities from supercomputers, from the collection of data and the worldwide networking that we can be involved in. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said that I had shown “youthful enthusiasm” in bringing forward this measure. Lord McNally: Only in the Lords— Lord Alton of Liverpool: It is only in the House of Lords that you could possibly be accused of youthful enthusiasm. I think it was Robert Kennedy who said that youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination. Your Lordships all have plenty of that, to a very high degree, although the noble Lord, Lord McNally, reminded me that we first met in 1979 as we took the oath. We were both a lot younger then. We have sung in the same choir on many occasions over the years and I was very pleased that we were doing so again. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said that we have a moral duty to future generations. This point was reiterated by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, who referred to what happened to his father and the implications for those who continue to work on our ships, in the Merchant Navy or Royal Navy, today. My noble friend Lady Murphy told us about the 2.8 month survival rate and how nothing had improved from the time that her late father died, leaving a widow of 37 years. I will take that story away and remember it. The contrast with dementia research, to which she and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred, is incredibly important. 20 Nov 2015 : Column 427 The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, talked about the case for legislation as a backstop, and I agree that one does not want to resort to it as the first thing. This was the missing tail-piece when we had the chance to legislate, but the only way that parliamentarians can keep issues of this kind before the public, and the Government, is by issuing Bills of this sort. He said that the House is looking for something more. The Minister said that there may be a shortfall within the existing levy and, if so, it might be something we could use towards the research that is so desperately needed. I would be very happy to participate in talks with the noble Lord, and the noble Lord, Lord Freud, and I am sure other noble Lords who have been following this would want to be invited too. There was argument about the figures. I quote from the British Lung Foundation: “Contrary to some claims made previously in the House, the quality of research applications has been very high—indeed the number of applications funded by the British Lung Foundation would have been a third higher, had more funding been available. Although previous BLF and insurer research has made some progress and is a cause for celebration, it is frustrating to think how much further along we’d be towards new, effective treatments had mesothelioma research funding been on a par with funding for other cancers. It is sobering to consider how many lives that might already have cost”. I also asked about the possibility of overestimates, a point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Winston. On the contribution being made at the moment by the MRC, the BLF says: “We believe this is a significant overestimate. Figures provided to us by the National Cancer Research Institute … this year state that spending by all NCRI partners—which includes both the NIHR and MRC, as well as other major funders of cancer research—totalled just £820,000 over the same period”. There is dispute but these figures have been given by the British Lung Foundation, which is at the very centre of these arguments and follows the issues day by day. I hope the Minister will clarify those questions as we proceed. He has also promised to return to the issues of veterans, which was raised today, and schools. My noble friend Lady Finlay raised the issue of Wales and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, pressed the Minister further for information about that. We look forward to the correspondence which will precede the debate in another place in January. I know that our colleagues there will read the speeches that have been made today with a great deal of interest. I am deeply indebted to all those who have participated and I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading. Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.



Also see:


Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2015

Motion to Consider

5.27 pm Wednesday February 25th 2015

Moved by

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

That the Grand Committee do consider the Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2015.

Relevant document: 20th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con):

My Lords, I beg to move that the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the draft Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) (Payment of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, and the Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2015. I am required to confirm to the Committee that these provisions are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and I am happy to do so.

These two regulations will increase by 1.2% the lump sum amounts payable under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’…

View original post 2,634 more words

March 9th – International Women’s Day and North Korea. Westminster conference on the plight of North Korean women and girls.Parliamentary debate on the security and human rights challenges on the Korean Peninsula following North Korea’s recent nuclear test. Motion tabled by Fiona Bruce MP in the House of Commons.


Also see:



March 9th – International Women’s Day and North Korea:

Speech by Fiona Bruce MP:



As we mark International Women’s Day, I am minded to reflect upon the recent conference in the House of Commons hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, of which I am Co-Chair. Titled Addressing Violence against Women and Girls in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the conference looked to a forgotten corner of Asia and a forgotten group of people: North Korea’s women and girls.


Notorious for its diplomatic belligerence, its disregard for international law and its nuclear programme, the DPRK (or North Korea) successfully concealed its widespread human rights violations from the world for decades. An era of silence ended in 2014 when a United Nations Commission of Inquiry reported, “The gravity, scale and nature of [North Korea’s human rights] violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”. 


The severity of this UN statement is worth repeating: North Korea’s human rights situation has no parallel in the contemporary world.


As the international community slowly awakened from its slumber, it was no longer farfetched to recognise North Korea as the largest concentration camp the world had ever known or to rank the horrors of Yodok, Hoeryong, and Pukch’ang alongside Auschwitz, Belsen, and Dachau. It became a fact that North Korean women have and continue to experience sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault and harassment in public and private spheres of life; human trafficking; forced abortions; slavery; sexual exploitation; psychological violence; religious and gender discrimination; and institutional and economic violence.


This violence in North Korea is neither occasional nor confined to certain quarters — it is endemic; it is state sanctioned; and it is perpetrated against women precisely because they are women. In every sense of the term, North Korea’s abuses are ‘gendered’.


Why has the international community been silent on this issue? We can look to many factors, but first and foremost is the discourse that surrounds North Korea. Dominated by talk of nuclear weapons, regional security, engagement, unification, and humanitarian aid, there has been little room for North Korean women. And, if truth be told, advocates have simply not been loud enough on this issue.


This year’s International Women’s Day marks an important phase for women’s rights. Just months after the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women, and fifteen years since the pioneering UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, this is the year that the world is developing the Agenda for Sustainable Development looking to 2030. The Sustainable Development Goals include a stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality and empowerment for women and girls. 


North Korea’s female population should not be forgotten on March 8th. Gendered violence and discrimination are destroying lives and ruining families in North Korea. Women are enduring unimaginable suffering and the UK must use what engagement it has with the DPRK to push for real change. The APPG’s conference on VAWG in North Korea brought together North Korean victims, exiled DPRK Government officials and experts on gender and the rights of women and girls. Women’s and girls’ human rights is an area in which the UK exhibits international leadership. Let us draw from our knowledge and set out to challenge gendered violence in the DPRK just as we do in so many other countries in the world.


Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton, is Co-Chair of the APPG on North Korea jointly with Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP and Lord Alton of Liverpool.




February 2016 – the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea hosted a one day conference at Westminster about the plight of women and girls in North Korea


2016 - North Korea All Party group meeting on the plight of women and children (3)


2016 - North Korea All Party group meeting on the plight of women and children (2)


2016 - North Korea All Party group meeting on the plight of women and children

2016 - North Korea All Party group meeting on the plight of women and children (4)




Concluding remarks rounding off the conference:


Excellencies, Ambassadors, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentleman, MPs and Peers, we come to a close on today’s conference on Violence against Women and Girls in the DPRK.

As we reflect on the day’s proceedings, we think back to the presentations delivered by our experts on women’s and girls’ rights, gender-based violence, human trafficking, North Korean governance, development reconstruction, international justice mechanisms and foreign policy.

But perhaps most importantly, we remember the words of those North Korean women who we have been fortunate to hear from today. Veteran North Korea watchers will have visited many conferences on the DPRK’s nuclear weapons, Asia’s regional security concerns and even North Korean human rights. But rarely do those of us who attend these conferences hear from as many female voices — let alone North Korean female voices — as we have done today. I hope that this conference marks the start of a journey that begins to rectify our field’s oversight of female and indigenous voices.

In the morning sessions, following the opening comments of the co-chair of the All Party group, Fiona Bruce MP -we covered two important areas: 1). Gendered violations and discrimination, 2). and the human trafficking of North Korean women and girls.

In our first session, the largely unknown and overlooked institutional and psychological structures of abuse were looked at in detail by Shirley Lee. This is an area that many of those who wish to learn of North Korean governance must address.

We then heard of the direct and horrifying impact of violence against upon women from Choi Min Kyeong, a North Korean exile. We thank Ms. Choi for her bravery and for coming from South Korea to be here today.

The session concluded with an enlightening overview from Jane Gordon on how governments may address violence against women and girls through their foreign policies. Jane has great experience in this field and served as gender advisor and sexual and gender based violence investigator with the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic — to which there are parallels to be drawn with North Korea. I understand that there are representatives of Governments here today, so I am sure that this session will have given them plenty to ponder.

In our second session, James Burt – who has been the driving force behind both the conference and as Secretariat to the APPG -he provided an overview of the pulls and pushes of the human trafficking of North Korean women and girls.

We then learnt of the repercussions of human trafficking for North Korean women and the harsh lives of women and girls hiding in China through the testimony of Kang Mi Jin. Ms. Kang arrived in South Korea just six years ago and now works as a reporter for the Daily NK. Once again, we applaud her for her bravery.

Finally, Aidan McQuade spoke of the international tools that may aid the tens of thousands of North Korean victims of human trafficking who remain hidden and vulnerable in China. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea hears countless testimonies of North Koreans who have for years languished in China without legal recourse or international assistance. Aidan’s presentation gives us some hope that something can be done to help those in need.

After lunch, session three honed in on the international legal mechanisms that may be able to improve the rights of North Korea’s women and girls.

David Hawk, who has long worked in this field and produced extremely important research on North Korea’s prison camp network, assessed Pyongyang’s responses to the international community’s actions in international fora, to which the UN Commission of Inquiry has been an integral and motivating force.

Shin Heisoo then described the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and emerging human rights mechanisms that are, it seems, much needed to protect women and girls in North Korea. I hope that the important messages of Ms. Shin are looked at in the South Korean National Assembly and by those who implement that country’s North Korean Human Rights Act.

Finally, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC talked us through the possibilities and challenges connected to a referral of those suspected of crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court. A key recommendation of Justice Michael Kirby and the UN Commission of Inquiry, an ICC referral, or the possibility of some form of ad-hoc tribunal for those accused of crimes against humanity, is an issue that has preoccupied a good deal of the APPG’s work — so we thank Geoffrey for his thoughts.

In the following session, which was titled ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us’, the thoughts of two North Korean women, Park Jihyun and Kim Kyung Hee, were heard. Both now live in the United Kingdom and their thoughts on where they have come from, where they see their futures and the future of their country were extremely important to hear.

In the final session of the day, we heard of different paths that the international community can take to improve the rights of women and girls in a future North Korea. I would like to thank , Christine Chinkin, K.C. Kim, Jo Baker, Kim Young Hwan, In-Sook Chappell,  and Jang Jin Sung for their varied and stimulating presentations. These should all be thoughts for today, not for tomorrow.

Finally, I wish to thank our sponsors:

  • The Embassy of the Republic of Korea;
  • Human Atlas;
  • The International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea;
  • And the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea.

To close, let today’s conference be a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Violence against women and girls in North Korea is the most serious violation of human rights, a crime against humanity, and entirely unacceptable. Governments, the United Nations and all of us involved in human rights and North Korea must take this issue with the seriousness that it deserves and work together for a better future for North Korea’s women and girls.



We should enter negotiations which guarantee human rights, such as free exchange of people and religious liberties ... By linking the present crisis with the human rights violations, a crisis can be turned into an opportunity. To do nothing about North Korea would be the most dangerous option of all.”north korea map 2

Visit the All Party Group on North Korea Web Site for Details of forthcoming 2016 events:


North Korea: Nuclear Test

Question for Short Debate

2.08 pm: January 21st 2016

Asked by

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the security and human rights challenges on the Korean Peninsula following North Korea’s recent nuclear test.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):

My Lords, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean peninsula. That division was the prelude to the 1950-53 war, which led to the deaths of about 3 million people, including 1,000 British servicemen.

Throughout the intervening seven decades, the danger of a repetition of that carnage has hung like a pall over the region. For more than 10 years, during which I have chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, that group has tried to shine a light on security threats and the day-to-day egregious violations of human rights. These are themes of the Question before your Lordships today. I am particularly indebted to all noble Lords who will participate.

North Korea’s failure to make constructive moves on these questions was thrown into sharp relief by the unverifiable claim in North Korean state media on 6 January that it had conducted its first hydrogen bomb—thermonuclear weapon—test. Ban Ki-moon described these actions—this fourth nuclear test—as “a grave contravention”.

When the Minister replies, I hope that she will give us her own assessment of the test which has taken place, and perhaps say how long she thinks it will be before we know whether this was fusion rather than fission and whether hydrogen isotopes were used in the nuclear chain reaction. Also, how far away do we think North Korea is from miniaturising a nuclear weapon and from utilising its submarines to launch nuclear attacks? These have obvious security implications for the United States of America and Europe, as well, of course, for North Korea’s regional neighbours.

What we do know is that Chinese citizens living in the neighbouring Jilin province, which I visited, felt the buildings shake and residents feared an earthquake. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty Organization reported seismic signatures with a magnitude of 4.85, consistent with previous North Korean nuclear tests. Whether a hydrogen bomb or not, this action is yet another road block in securing a lasting peace and it represents a serious international security threat and destabilises the region. In addition, it is in flagrant violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087 and 2094. I should be interested to know from the noble Baroness what more the Security Council will be saying about this.

I hope that she will tell us what response the Foreign and Commonwealth office received from the North Korean ambassador when he was summoned to the Foreign Office on 7 January, and what the Foreign Secretary had in mind when he told the House of Commons that North Korea will,

“face increasing isolation and further action by the international community”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/1/16; col. 22WS.]

I wonder whether the Foreign Office sees this test as an act of defiance by Kim Jong-un and an attempt to bolster his authority. What does it make of the continuing systematic executions, including members of his family? In 2013 his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was seen as reform-minded and close to China, was executed. Jang had questioned an ideology which has paralysed economic development and incarcerated hundreds of thousands of citizens, which has conferred pariah status on the country. He was close to China and admiring of its reform programme. His death was followed by the execution of around 70 officials in the last year. North Korea’s Defence Minister, Hyon Yong-chol, was shot with an anti-aircraft gun from close range in April. It was then reported that North Korea’s vice-premier Choe Yong-gon was executed by firing squad this year, after showing discontent with Kim Jong-un’s policies.

Kim Jong-un knew these men well, but this did not save their lives. In this reign of terror, killing those who are not part of your circle is even less of an issue. The purges, the reign of terror, the falsifying of history, the show trials, the network of gulags—where an estimated 200,000 people are incarcerated—the 400,000 said to have died in the prison camps in the last 30 years, and the attempts to obliterate religious belief and all political dissent bear all the hallmarks of a regime that has carefully studied, admires and imitates the visceral brutality of Joseph Stalin. The authoritarian dynastic regime in North Korea ruthlessly crushes dissent, and through its policy of guilt by association, collective punishment and the execution of men like Jang is trying to ensure that there is no Kim Dae-jung, Lech Walesa or Dow Aung San Suu Kyi able to become a focal point for opposition.

We can see these killings either as a display of strength or the actions of a weak regime, paranoically trying to cling to power at all costs. Of course, the creation of mass fear is a time-honoured technique of dictators from Nero and Caligula to Ceausescu and Stalin. But China’s role in all this is surely crucial. I wonder how the Minister evaluates the extent of China’s influence on the regime. It previously described North Korea’s actions as “brazen”, but notwithstanding the presence of a senior Chinese emissary at last year’s Workers’ Party anniversary celebrations, what do we make of China’s relationship with North Korea today? Will China’s irritation be reflected in energy assistance to North Korea, or will she be dissuaded through fear of regime collapse and the flow of refugees across its 800-mile border with North Korea?

If North Korea is in total contempt of its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and by its refusal to permit full access by the International Atomic Energy Agency, its contempt for human rights puts it in a league of its own. The publication of the United Nation’s Commission of Inquiry report into human rights violations in North Korea, described by the commission as “without parallel”, was a defining moment. In that 400-page report, it said that North Korea’s crimes against humanity are sui generis. It stated:

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

It is in breach of pretty well all of the 30 articles in the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Hea Woo, a Christian who escaped from one of the camps, gave graphic and powerful evidence at one of our Westminster hearings. She described routine torture and beatings and how prisoners were so hungry that they were reduced to eating rats and snakes or even searching for grains in cow dung.

I ask the noble Baroness how we have taken forward the Commission of Inquiry report and its call for the prosecution of those responsible? Why, of the 2016-17 FCO fund for human rights and democracy, which has been doubled to £10.6 million, has just £4,261 been spent in Pyongyang in nearly two and a half years? Can she also say what we have done to raise the plight of the more than 50,000 North Korean workers sent overseas to around 20 nations, where they are treated as virtual slave labour but earning the regime $300 million annually? What action are we taking on companies, third-party banks and countries which are breaking sanctions and providing revenues to this regime? Crucial to transforming North Korea will be the breaking of the information blockade. I applaud the decision of the BBC to commence broadcasts to the peninsula and hope that we will be given an update on this important development.

Does the Minister accept that hand-outs can bolster this regime? Although food should never be used as a weapon of war, it is worth saying that North Korea’s food gap could be closed for something in the order of $8 million to $19 million. That is less than 0.2% of its national income, most of which is currently being used on military programmes.

Last year, following an influx of food aid, the regime sent groups of students around to destroy private agricultural plots. The regime’s opposition to reform has led to starvation and death. People suffer while the regime spent more than $1 billion on the launching of two rockets in 2012 and 2013, $200 million on Kim family celebrations, and $300 million on luxury facilities, including ski resorts and riding grounds.

North Korea is surrounded by three of the world’s largest economies, yet close to 70% of the population suffer from malnourishment. It persists with its vast and brutal network of concentration camps, and millions of women are subjected to unimaginable levels of sexual and other violence while children are indoctrinated and forced to endure manual labour.

Since 2000 we have had diplomatic relations with the DPRK and in that time the regime has conducted four nuclear tests, launched unprovoked military attacks on South Korean targets, has bolstered its standing army—one of the largest in the world—and has been condemned for the worst human rights record in the world. It is not unreasonable to ask how and in what ways we think we are making some kind of difference. I look forward to the debate that will follow and to the Minister’s reply.

2.18 pm

North Korea -Execution of Chang Song Thaeknorth korea executions

Jang Song-thaek taken to his execution. When they kill your uncle or your Chief of Defence Staff what chance has anybody else got?


Baroness Berridge (Con):

My Lords, thankfully North Korea is the only closed country and I think this should give us hope, as many who grew up in or in the era of Eastern Europe and the USSR thought that freedom would never come, but it did. Kim Jong-un’s leadership will end, and through the work of people like the noble Lord, Lord Alton, awareness of the plight of North Koreans has risen dramatically over the last decade.

These unparalleled systematic human rights abuses in North Korea are indeed well documented by the commission of inquiry of Michael Kirby, and in relation to religious freedom violations by the inquiry of the all-party parliamentary group, which was chaired by the noble Lord and published its report last year. The only detail that I can add to that report that moved me recently was to hear that teachers in schools in North Korea are asking pupils to tell them whether their mum and dad have a hidden little black book at home. Unwittingly these children come forward, and of course, what is hidden is a Bible and their parents are arrested and disappear. These reports have shown the need to break the information blockade. There is also a need to prepare the leadership of the future. There may be more that can be done to prepare, and I wish to focus this afternoon on practical solutions and things within our power here in the United Kingdom.

The decision, referenced by the noble Lord, of the BBC to begin a daily short-wave news service is a step forward in breaking this information blockade. It would be helpful to know the detail from my noble friend the Minister. When does the Foreign Secretary expect to be asked to agree to this service and what is the current Foreign and Commonwealth Office position on whether it can extend beyond news to other broadcasts?

There are many interesting studies on the growing cultural, linguistic and religious differences between North Korea and South Korea. In the 70 years since the division of the peninsula, North Koreans have been taught to worship their political leader like a god, but South Korean society is pluralistic and has recently seen a huge growth in the Christian faith in particular. In 1945, only 2% of South Koreans were Christian; now 30% are. Those growing differences mean that the 26,000 or so North Korean refugees in South Korea often find it hard to integrate, and feel like second-class citizens. According to a BBC report late last year, 14% of defectors from North Korea in South Korea who have died committed suicide. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could confirm whether Her Majesty’s Government had spoken to South Korea outlining our concerns around the integration of those refugees into its society. Until the South Koreans address this problem, the push factor forcing North Koreans to flee South Korea will mean that some will continue to arrive here in the United Kingdom, applying for asylum. Australia and Canada, among others, face a similar issue.

Even highly qualified doctors from the north struggle to make the transition to the south. Surely the international community can help with specific plans to skill up professionals for the future of North Korea, and not see those valuable skills go to waste. I can fully understand the comments in the Security Council last November that the international community had struggled to agree a plan of action in relation to the Kirby report. However, a plan to ensure that North Koreans can remain in the region and that those abroad are trained up, ready for reunification, is in the doable category, which is often sparsely populated with solutions to many of the tragic situations that we discuss in your Lordships’ House.

I turn briefly to the leadership of the future. Even if the South Koreans solved the integration problem tomorrow, there would still be approximately 1,000 North Koreans who have been granted refugee status here in the United Kingdom. If North Korea became free tomorrow many might travel there, hoping to be part of the future of the country. Then the Westminster Foundation for Democracy would ask MPs and Peers, via our political parties, to go out there to train up the future politicians. As North Korea is a unique case—we have no access to train people in North Korea—could the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the human rights and democracy fund merely ask the WFD specifically to see if half a dozen folk among our 1,000 refugees had the potential skills and competence to be future leaders and invest in them here? I am sure that many in your Lordships’ House would respond to the persuasive power of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and be happy to help. That would really cost very little—definitely cheaper than flying us out there, and so much better value for money for the UK taxpayer in the long term. If your Lordships were involved, we could make requests of the royal colleges, Bupa or AXA to train up one North Korean doctor; we would not be requesting them to do something that we had not started doing here ourselves. More things could be done to prepare for reunification than we at first think, and many of our allies—particularly Germany—may have other relevant experience to offer.

I hope that there is a plan for the future under the leadership of South Korea, as well as a plan to bring to justice those who have committed human rights abuses. When nations change, there is often a symbolic moment. In Iraq in 2003, that was the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein. In North Korea when that moment comes, many statues of Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un will be toppled. I believe that that will happen in my lifetime, and I hope that we are ready for that moment.

2.24 pm

Lord Rowe-Beddoe (CB):

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Alton for securing this short debate. The DPRK—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—is in itself a name that would not qualify under any trade descriptions Act. It is not democratic; it does not represent the people; neither is “Korea” correct, for that implies the whole peninsula. However, that is but a comprehensive illustration of the nightmare that this world has to confront and face.

Unlike my noble friends Lady Cox and Lord Alton, I have never had the opportunity to visit, although I have certainly viewed the 38th parallel closely on my many business trips to the south over the past 20 or so years. I speak therefore from second-hand knowledge, by study, by observation, by discussions with people from the south and—all-importantly—from encounters with refugees living in or visiting the United Kingdom.

I wish to use these few minutes to highlight one thing: the importance of breaking the blockade of information, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Alton. Why have we not seen a popular uprising against the regime, or perhaps acts of mass civil disobedience? It is due partly to the physical brutality of the regime but, significantly, also to the indoctrination of the North Korean people, whose Government wish to ensure complete psychological control over the entire population. It is therefore forbidden to access foreign media. All North Koreans are exposed to state-controlled media in their homes, work and public spaces. As well, all television and radio—state information—is broadcast through fixed-line speakers in every household. Those speakers are inspected frequently to ensure that they function and cannot be turned off. One refugee stated to a United Nations commission of inquiry:

“You are brainwashed from the time you know how to talk … North Korea is … a fenced world … They want the people to be blind, deaf to the outside world”.

The United Kingdom Government had been unconvinced that radio broadcasts would reach sufficient numbers of North Koreans due to a lack of radios. However, after persistent lobbying discussions—if I may use that word—by members of the all-party group, at last, in 2015, our noble friend Lord Hall, director-general of the BBC, declared that the World Service would reach out to North Koreans through a daily news programme on short wave. The BBC is of course aware of the consequences for those caught consuming foreign media, but should it not broadcast into North Korea for fear that citizens, if caught, are tried and perhaps executed for listening? I believe the answer to be emphatically no. Although the risks are high, there are even greater consequences of inaction. Pyongyang will of course attempt to answer, censor and jam the broadcasts. No doubt it will lodge formal protests to our embassy and open, yet again, the bag of threats. However, in an age of global interconnectivity, it is my belief that such actions will be diminished in their harm.

For a BBC service to become a reality today, the corporation has to put together a team to decide and deliver the content. I hope that this will include UK-based North Korean refugees. Once that is done and costed, I understand that the plan will be submitted to the Foreign Secretary, who will then be required to approve the service. Perhaps the Minister will comment on a timetable. It is my sincere hope that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sees such broadcasts as complementary to its own efforts to improve human rights within that country.

2.29 pm

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (LD):

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for giving us this opportunity to debate this important issue. I will concentrate my remarks on the security aspects following the nuclear test. In doing so, I declare my interest as co-president of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament.

It is both heartening and disheartening that, in these last few weeks, we have had the great example of success of talks in Iran and then the very disheartening example of the nuclear test in Korea. It shows what the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and associated treaties are up against. It goes to the heart of our obligations under the NPT—by “our”, I mean in particular the nuclear weapons possessing states, the P5 plus.

Noble Lords will remember that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty began life in 1970. In fact, North Korea acceded to it in the mid-1980s, but it never came into compliance and it withdrew from the treaty in 2003. The treaty has an unprecedented number of countries belonging to it—191, in fact—which could make it the most successful arms-limitation and disarmament treaty that there is. Only four UN member states have never joined the NPT: India, Israel, Pakistan and South Sudan. Today’s debate is not the time to discuss the implications of that, but it is something that we need to keep in mind.

The point I make is that the situation in North Korea has been decades in developing. In nuclear terms, we knew, once it withdrew from the treaty in 2003, that we had a real problem on our hands. The question for the Minister is: who does she believe is in the best position to start that dialogue with North Korea about nuclear issues now? I noticed the comments of Mr Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State for the US, that China should take the lead. He said that the United States believes that,

“China has a special role to play”.

If China is to be the one to take the lead, there has to be a real push from all of us other countries for China to do so.

The point I would really strongly like to make is that every country concerned with nuclear material has a special role and responsibility. Being part of the so-called nuclear club may, some believe, give you added status as a world power and the added security of owning a deterrent. Personally, I do not believe that either of those is inevitably correct. However, it is indisputable that, as a member of that nuclear power club, one has a special duty to ensure the safety of non-nuclear states and the rest of the world. In this context, China has a duty to do everything it can do to denuclearise North Korea. Because it is probably closer to North Korea than anyone else, China is in the best position to do so. I have no doubt that there are incredibly complex political considerations and insecurities that will influence this, but the overwhelming danger of proliferation of nuclear weapons means that that issue has to take priority.

For our part, we—the UK, USA and France—should see nuclear material as a potential continuum from energy to material for bombs. The purpose of the various treaties—the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, the CTBT and the NPT—is to contain it and make it as safe as possible. Of course, the USA undermined the NPT with its civil nuclear deal with India, which, as I mentioned, is not a member of the NPT, even though it had not joined the club. Israel is allowed to remain in the position where it does not declare its nuclear weapons. In that continuum, the UK also made a decision—there may have been behind-the-scenes talks about this, I do not know—to allow the Chinese to buy into Hinkley Point. That is tacitly saying that all is satisfactory with the Chinese attitude to nuclear material in general and the treaties governing it, but clearly that is not in the case as far as North Korea is concerned.

The logic by which the P5 plus decide who shall and shall not be a nuclear state has not been historically arrived at by the logic of those that are the most responsible countries. But it is by virtue of being in the P5 that we have to exercise our responsibilities in every possible sphere, including trade, and make it quite clear to those whom we trade with and those who can influence other people—in this case, China and North Korea—that there is a continuum in nuclear material and that we have to stay within the terms of the treaty.

2.35 pm

Baroness Cox (CB):

My Lords, I warmly congratulate my noble friend on his tireless work on North Korea, and on opening this debate with characteristic comprehensiveness. I have had the privilege of travelling to DPRK with my noble friend three times, and of meeting many refugees and escapees, whose heartbreaking accounts of horrific violations of human rights remain ingrained in my heart and conscience.

In addition to echoing the serious concerns highlighted by my noble friend and other noble Lords, I wish to highlight specific concerns regarding infringements of freedom of religion and belief, including the recent arrests of two foreign nationals. First, Hyeon Soo Lim, a South Korean-born Canadian Christian, is a 60 year-old pastor. He is a Canadian citizen, but he was sentenced last December to life imprisonment with hard labour, accused of using religion to overthrow the state and harming the dignity of the supreme leadership. He had previously made many visits to DPRK and engaged in humanitarian work supporting an orphanage, a nursery and a nursing home. A CNN report emphasised:

“It is this tremendous love for the people of the DPRK that motivated Mr. Lim to travel (there)”.

Unusually, he was recently able to give an interview to CNN, in which he described being forced to work for eight hours a day digging holes. He is believed to be in poor health, but all he asks for is a Bible and letters from his family. I understand that Canadian government officials have so far been denied access to him. Secondly, a Korean-American pastor, Kim Dong Chul, has been arrested on spying charges.

The arrest and detention of these two foreigners is deeply disturbing as they illustrate the Pyongyang regime’s attitude to human rights and religious freedom. I ask the Minister: what response is the United Kingdom making to these arrests, and, particularly given our diplomatic presence in Pyongyang, what support has the UK given to the efforts of Canada and the United States regarding these two cases? More generally, what more can the United Kingdom do to address the violations of freedom of religion or belief in the DPRK?

On the same topic, I highlight serious concerns about a recent statement by the World Council of Churches. On 28 October last year, the WCC’s Forum for Peace, Reunification and Development Cooperation on the Korean Peninsula issued a Pyongyang appeal following a visit to DPRK. I entirely support efforts to pursue constructive and critical engagement with the DPRK. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Alton and I have participated in such direct engagement during our visits, so I endorse some of the WCC’s recommendations, particularly for exchanges between North and South Korean citizens, cultural and academic exchange, and engagement.

However, I and many others are deeply concerned that the WCC’s statement and an accompanying report issued by the Asia secretary of the Church of Scotland’s World Mission Council ignore the horrific human rights violations and the severe persecution of Christians, documented by the UN commission of inquiry report. Instead, the WCC’s statement calls on,

“all churches, church-related organizations and people of good will around the world”,

to resist,

“the confrontational misuse of human rights”,


“the promotion of enemy images”,

and lift economic sanctions. The WCC describes North Korea as,

“a society that is visibly advancing, demonstrating great resilience and self-reliance despite the longstanding and recently strengthened international sanctions”.

In an article published on the Church of Scotland’s website, Sandy Sneddon describes visiting tourist and cultural sites in Pyongyang, including a Protestant church. My noble friend and I visited this Protestant church and three other churches in Pyongyang—another Protestant church, a Catholic church and a Russian Orthodox church. While we welcome their existence there, they are tightly controlled by the regime, and are widely believed to exist largely for the benefit of foreign visitors. In the rest of the country severe violations of freedom of religion or belief are well documented. The UN commission of inquiry concludes that,

“there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights to of freedom of opinion, expression, information and association”.

The regime, according to the UN inquiry,

“considers the spread of Christianity a particularly severe threat”,

and, as a result,

“Christians are prohibited from practising their religion and are persecuted”.

Severe punishments are inflicted on “people caught practising Christianity”.

The WCC report makes no reference to the UN inquiry. As my noble friend highlighted, it concluded that,

“the gravity, scale and nature”,

of the violations of human rights in North Korea,

“reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.

It claims the systematic and widespread violations, described as “unspeakable atrocities”, are continuing,

“because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place”.

They amount, according to the inquiry, to,

“crimes against humanity in international law”,

and these crimes,

“clearly merit a criminal investigation”.

In conclusion, I ask the Minister for reassurance that the brutal violations of the rights and freedoms of people of DPRK, including freedom of religion and belief, will be at the centre of any engagement with Pyongyang by Her Majesty’s Government, alongside the priority concerns about the security situation.

2.41 pm

Lord Williams of Baglan (CB):

My Lords, like others, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for obtaining this debate on a country rarely discussed in this Chamber, but one which uniquely suffers from perhaps the most oppressive regime in the world. It is no accident, perhaps, that its godfathers were Josef Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, who did so much to bring this state into existence in the 1950s.

More than 30 years ago, I worked as the head of the Asia department of Amnesty International and one of the most remarkable documents that we published then was the testimony of a Venezuelan communist, Ali Lameda, who had worked in Pyongyang as a translator and editor and found himself caught up in its Kafkaesque workings, and was arrested and tortured for many years.

Thankfully, in today’s world there are few countries where one can say the human rights position is little better now than it was decades ago. But if one reads the reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the US State Department and the Foreign Office itself, it is clear that this is still the case in North Korea. In no significant manner is the human rights situation any better today than it was 30 years ago. That this is the case is abundantly clear from the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, referred to by several other noble Lords, and written by the Australian judge, Michael Kirby and the distinguished Indonesian lawyer, Marzuki Darusman, and published in February 2014. It reports:

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

For decades, it argues, North Korea has committed,

“crimes that shock the conscience of humanity”,


“raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community”.

The international community must accept responsibility to protect the people of North Korea. This responsibility is a heavy one for the UK as we are one of only five countries that are permanent members of the Security Council. In that regard, can the Minister assure us that in our dialogue with China, enhanced by the state visit of President Xi Jinping last year, there are regular discussions about North Korea with Beijing? It must, and should, be part of our dialogue with China, the single most important country in terms of influence on North Korea. We also sit on the 47-member UN Human Rights Council, together with China. Can the Minister assure us that we will continue to use that forum to follow up the excellent work undertaken by Judge Kirby and Marzuki Darusman? As Michael Kirby himself stated:

“If the Human Rights Council is not the place to speak up about the atrocities … then where is the venue?”.

He went on to argue that the crimes against humanity were of such gravity that a case should in his judgment be taken to the International Criminal Court. Can the Minister tell us whether this has been considered with like-minded partners in the international community?

As the register of interests makes clear, I am a trustee of the BBC with a special interest in the World Service, where, indeed, I worked for seven years. In September 2015, the director-general, Tony Hall, declared that the BBC wished to reach out to ordinary Koreans through a new daily news programme via shortwave radio. The director-general wrote about this to the Chancellor on January 5 this year, outlining plans for a Korean service, among other World Service projects. There will also be an online presence. I am delighted that in a letter on 8 January, the Chancellor, George Osborne, agreed to provide £85 million of new funding for the World Service through a grant from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In due course, a proposal to establish a Korean service will be placed before the Foreign Secretary, whose approval is needed for the launch of any new language services. Such funding from the Government is imperative for the establishment and continuation of the new service. Some will inevitably question its impact on North Korea, although I am sure that it will gain attention in South Korea as well as the diaspora. However, there is growing evidence that North Koreans, especially those who have worked and lived in China—and hundreds of thousands have—have access to devices that would enable access.

The regime itself has recently allowed the French news agency, Agence France-Presse, as well as Associated Press, to open news bureaux in North Korea. In due course I look forward to a BBC Korean service making its contribution to the improvement of human rights and security on the Korean peninsula that we all wish to see.

2.47 pm

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab):

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating today’s debate and enabling us to focus on a country with probably the worst human rights situation in the world, with summary executions, arbitrary detentions, abductions and disappearances—a country where the tools of the state include forced labour, prison camps, torture and rape. Such flagrant human rights violations cannot go unchallenged.

Shortly after it detonated its fourth nuclear test, North Korean state media issued a lengthy statement justifying the explosion. Their primary grievances justifying it was the 2014 UN commission of inquiry report that accused the regime of grave, systematic human rights abuses against its own people. In the opinion of the North Korean leadership, the United Nations report was nothing more than a,

“conspiratorial human rights racket against the DPRK”—

the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The official North Korean rebuttal ran to 50,000 words and claimed that the,

“popular masses enjoy genuine human rights”,

and accused the West of pursuing a “false and reactionary” agenda designed to interfere with national sovereignty.

The DPRK has always been extremely sensitive about its human rights record. The fact that it focused on this issue, after such a significant military provocation, shows how central the issues have become to its battle against the world. It may be that, by bringing the diplomatic spotlight back on to itself, North Korea is hoping to prompt the international community, particularly the US, to negotiate. I have no doubt that it would like to see an end to the state of war and international sanctions, which, whether or not it admits it publicly, have led to huge deprivation and extreme poverty in the country.

The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, quickly issued a Statement strongly condemning the nuclear test as,

“a grave breach of UN Security Council resolutions”.

Of course, as we have heard, the UN Security Council’s swift condemnation following its emergency meeting on 6 January indicated that there should be a robust response, including immediate work on “further significant measures” in a new Security Council resolution. I ask the Minister: what does she believe those “significant measures” should be, and when does she expect the new resolution to be considered?

The Foreign Secretary has also called for concrete action by the DPRK to improve human rights. Last November, Fiona Bruce asked in a Written Question in the other place whether he would request information from the DPRK on the measures it has taken to meet the recommendations of the UN report. The Written Answer referred to a meeting last October in the United Nations and stated:

“We were informed the accepted recommendations were being discussed by the relevant domestic DPRK institutions”.

Has there been any further contact on the need for implementation plans to be shared with the world community?

Peter Wilson, the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, said in the Security Council in December:

“The United Kingdom fully supports the call for the Council to consider how it can best ensure accountability”,

of this regime, which of course is so important,

“including through considering a referral to the International Criminal Court”.

In answering a Written Question from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on this issue, the Minister said that the United Kingdom,

“worked with the EU and Japan to co-author a UN resolution on the human rights situation in the DPRK which calls for accountability”.

What further progress has been made on achieving strong support for this resolution?

With South Korea assuming the chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 1 January, there is a chance that this could seriously raise tensions on the peninsula. If South Korea leads a global coalition in referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court, I have no doubt that that would be interpreted by the regime as an act of provocation. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, reminded us, the two countries have been technically in a state of war since 1950 to 1953. The point of raising this is that whatever the tensions and provocations, they must not stop us raising the horrendous violations of human rights in North Korea.

2.53 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con):

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, for calling this important debate and raising these serious issues relating to the DPRK. I, along with fellow Ministers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DfID, appreciate the invaluable work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, of which he is a co-chair. There is a long-standing interest in North Korea, across a broad range of serious and challenging issues, which has informed today’s debate.

As noble Lords have pointed out, it is only a fortnight ago that we saw the regime’s flagrant disregard of multiple UN Security Council resolutions by conducting a fourth nuclear test. It would be inappropriate to go into the technical detail of our assessment of the capabilities of the DPRK’s military position with regard to its current and potential future development but clearly it is something we watch very carefully. Although the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others referred to the thermonuclear test, we ought to take into account the fact that North Korea also continues to develop its ballistic missile programme—also in contravention of UN sanctions. We know that it has launched missiles from submarines as recently as last year. That is something that we have to consider always.

With regard to the thermonuclear test, the UK responded swiftly and decisively to condemn this serious violation. The Foreign Secretary spoke to his counterparts in Washington, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing and called for a robust and united international response. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, who raised these matters—absolutely rightly—that we are working within the United Nations Security Council and the EU to deliver this response, which will include a resolution on further significant measures. He asked me for a timetable. I am afraid I am not able to say when that will be achieved but technical work is under way to look at what further sanctions may be imposed that will be significant and effective. We will consider the full range of options open to us during negotiations on those new sanctions measures.

The United Kingdom has also expressed our concern directly with the North Korean regime. I was asked about this by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. My right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, summoned the North Korean ambassador to the Foreign Office on 7 January. My right honourable friend further condemned the test and made it clear that North Korea had a choice: to reform its approach or risk facing further international isolation and sanctions. He added that amid reports of widespread hardship and human rights abuses, the priority must be the health and welfare of the North Korean people rather than the nuclear programme.

Of course, China remains vital to resolving issues related to North Korea and the Korean Peninsula. I was pleased to hear noble Lords concentrating on the importance of China’s role. The Foreign Secretary made it clear on his recent visit to China, as did the Prime Minister when he met President Xi on his recent state visit to the UK, that we share the same goals of security on the Korean Peninsula and respect for United Nations resolutions, and that we fully understand the role of China and the importance of its influence. China, like the UK, does not want a nuclear-armed North Korea. As a P5 member, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, pointed out, China has a vital role to play in the implementation of UN sanctions, and we continue to work closely with it on this. We consistently engage with China on DPRK issues, including nuclear and human rights, across the board. That involves specifically the enforcement of sanctions.

As set out in the strategic defence and security review last year, the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent remains essential to our security today and for as long as the global security situation demands. History shows us that threats can emerge without notice but the tools for defending ourselves cannot be built overnight, so the Government will not gamble with the security of future generations of British people. We judge that a minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent, based on continuous at-sea deterrence and assigned to the defence of NATO, remains vital to our national security to ensure that the UK is protected from extreme threats that cannot be countered in any other way.

Turning to the critical issue of human rights, we remain concerned by the continuing reports of widespread and systematic state-sanctioned human rights violations in North Korea. The regime’s actions, its lack of international engagement on human rights and its rejection of the United Nations commission of inquiry report remain of deep concern. As the Foreign Office Minister for human rights, I am indeed engaged in seeing what negotiations can take place with our like-minded partners. I was asked about this by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan. It is important that we use the range of expertise and influence at the Human Rights Council as well as at the United Nations to be able to exert influence on international views of the DPRK.

Comments by the UN special rapporteur on forced expatriate labour, if accurate, appear to provide further evidence of North Korea’s lack of respect for international norms. It is important that any country around the world that is hosting North Korean workers should respect the rights of those workers. We continue to press the regime to make tangible progress on its absolutely appalling human rights record, including in the meeting that Hugo Swire had in December with senior visiting North Korean diplomats.

It is only a few weeks ago that the UN Security Council met to discuss the human rights situation in North Korea. So while we consider security as part of this debate today, crucially, we must never ever lose sight of the fact that the regime’s appalling approach to human rights denies ordinary North Koreans the rights that we, and many others across the globe, demand for ourselves. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, outlined a critical issue: it is vital that people should have the right for freedom of religion or belief. Indeed, the constitution of North Korea makes provision for it. It is about time that it took note of its own constitution.

What action are the British Government taking? We work hard in international fora to press for action that addresses North Korea’s serious human rights violations. We play a vital role through our policy of critical engagement. The British embassy in Pyongyang works to ensure that the regime is not oblivious to the condemnation of its approach to security and human rights. Our ambassador and embassy staff consistently raise human rights with the North Korean authorities, including freedom of religion or belief, and encourage their Government to implement all the recommendations of the UN’s universal periodic review. This work is valued by many of our allies, who may of course not have based an embassy within Pyongyang or North Korea and, as I told the current British ambassador before he assumed his duties recently, it is important that this engagement continues. The embassy also runs a series of projects where we engage with ordinary North Koreans. For many, this is their first encounter with a non-Korean and it is an opportunity to showcase our own values.

I was particularly asked about spending. On Monday, I launched the new Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, in which we have doubled the FCO’s democracy fund money for this year to more than £10 million. That funding is available for bids from NGOs and others who work within North Korea but there is a much broader range of spending from government than just that fund. We have a programme spend which has covered humanitarian projects aimed at improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in North Korea, including helping to improve food and nutrition for people in rural areas, the funding of equipment for disabled people and support for children affected by the recent floods in Rajin. Many of our projects are about encouraging change.

My noble friend Lady Berridge asked about the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. In fact, I happened to meet its board yesterday as part of our regular engagement. I will make sure that it takes note of our debate today but it is not for me to tell it what to do. That is not the role of government, but I will invite it to take note of what Parliament wishes it to do. Although DfID does not have a bilateral aid programme with North Korea, its programmes are based on the fact that we can give contributions to multilateral agencies that are working in-country.

The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, asked about two consular cases. We are indeed aware of the media reports regarding US and Canadian nationals. The British embassy in Pyongyang has been in close contact with the Swedish embassy and we remain in that contact because Sweden has consular responsibility. That does not mean to say that we do not take an interest—we do.

With regard to engaging North Korean refugees, which was another question from my noble friend Lady Berridge, the British embassy in Seoul also works towards improving the future prospects of the North Korean refugee community in the Republic of Korea through its English for the Future programme. We also engage with the North Korean refugee community in the UK to share information and listen to their views on our policy towards North Korea, so that we may better address the very issues that my noble friend outlined about the needs of refugees.

I was asked particularly about the BBC World Service, which remains the world’s largest international broadcaster. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has discussed proposals for a range of new World Service programming, including for the DPRK, and he will make a decision on whether to support additional services on the basis of any formal request from the BBC Trust. I am not in a position to give a date about when that may happen but when a formal request comes forward, he will make that decision.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised the most important issue—there should be no impunity for crimes such as serious human rights violations. It is not only Governments who have responsibility for this. NGOs take on that responsibility, too, and I pay tribute to the human rights defenders around the world, including those in North Korea, who carry out their work in very dangerous conditions. It is a long battle ahead for us all to achieve conditions of humanity in North Korea. We will not give up, and I know that the British public and this Parliament will not give up.


Link to the video recording of the debate: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/cd229335-c0cc-4bfc-af80-94422a5275ee?in=14:08:40&out=15:06:00

Also see:



North Korea's GulagsThe unprecedented publication of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report calling for the prosecution of North Korea’s leaders for crimes against humanity.


Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of North Korea‘s rocket launch; what steps they intend to take as part of their robust response; what discussions they have had with the government of China about the possibility of tightening sanctions against North Korea; and what discussions they are having with the government of South Korea about deploying a missile defence system.

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

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right Hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), strongly condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s satellite launch of 7 February, which used ballistic missile technology in clear violation of a number of UN Security Council Resolutions. On 8 February theMinister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire), summoned the DPRK’s Ambassador to make clear the UK’s strong condemnation of the launch. The DPRK’s actions are a further threat to regional security and the stability of the Korean peninsula. It is clear that the DPRK continues to prioritise its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes over the welfare of its people.

We continue to work closely with other members of the UN Security Council to ensure significant and substantive measures are agreed in response to the DPRK’s provocations. On 8 February the Prime Minister, my right Hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), and the Foreign Secretary raised this with the Chinese Ambassador and reiterated the need for progress on a newUN Resolution.

We are not part of discussions with the Republic of Korea on a missile defence system, but we respect and support our allies’ need to defend themselves.



Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord O’Neill of Gatley on 26 January (HL4928), whether any assets linked to NorthKorean individuals or organisations that are not associated with theDemocratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear programmes are held in the UK; and what steps they are taking to freeze assets held by individuals or organisations that are not associated with the DPRK nuclear programme that they suspect to be linked to weapons proliferation, smuggling, money laundering, or human rights abuses in North Korea.

Lord O’Neill of Gatley The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury

Existing UN and EU sanctions against North Korea, which include measures such as asset freezes, are based upon UN Security Council Resolutionsprohibiting the further development of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. Therefore, the current requirement to freeze funds or economic resources only occurs in circumstances where the funds and economic resources are controlled by the persons and entities designated by the Sanctions committee, the Security Council or the EU council as being engaged in North Korea’s nuclear-related, ballistic missile related, or other weapons of mass destruction-related programmes.

The UK is currently discussing a response to the nuclear test of 6 January with key allies and partners. We want the response to be robust and sendNorth Korea a clear signal that it must change its approach to international peace and security, We are also using our position as a member of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to discuss ways in which the international community can increase the pressure on North Korea to improve its appalling human rights record. North Korea will be discussed during the forthcoming March session of the HRC.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will increase funding for human rights projects in North Korea, and what was the total UK funding for such work between 30 September 2013 and 8 October 2015.

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

We will be assessing future human rights projects for the next year under the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, considering carefully the practicalities of delivering human rights projects in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the need to calibrate our approach in light of the recent nuclear test.

We use our bilateral programme to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in DPRK society with a wide range of humanitarian projects. This includes improving food and nutrition for people in rural areas, funding equipment for the disabled, and support for children affected by the recent floods in Rason. The total value of spending under our bilateral programme budget between 30 September 2013 and 8 October 2015 was £510,029.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they and the EU will place targeted human rights sanctions on individuals suspected of crimes against humanity in North Korea.

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

We remain deeply concerned by the appalling human rights situation in theDemocratic People‘s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Without security and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the denuclearisation of the DPRK we are unlikely to see genuine improvements in the human rights situation within that country. This is why the British Government’s priorities of an improved human rights situation and denuclearised DPRK are pursued in parallel. Following the nuclear test of 6 January, we are working closely with other members of the UN Security Council on a robust, and united, international response to the DPRK’s latest violation of existing UN Security Council Resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087 and 2094. These negotiations are on-going and we expect any new resolution to contain further measures that send a clear signal that DPRK’s actions will no longer be tolerated. We will continue to consider a range of available options, whenever we discuss DPRK with international partners.

We will continue to deliver the same strong messages on human rights directly to the regime through our Embassy in Pyongyang and in the UKwhere, most recently, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire), told the DPRK Ambassador on 7 January, that DPRK resources would be better directed toward improving the lives of its citizens rather than recklessly pursuing its development of nuclear weapons. We also work multilaterally on human rights, through the EU and the UN, where we support the annual UN Third Committee resolution on DPRK Human Rights.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether any North Korean assets are held in the UK; and what steps they are taking to freeze assets they suspect to be linked to weapons proliferation, smuggling, money laundering, or human rights abuses in North Korea.

Lord O’Neill of Gatley The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury

HM Treasury has, since 2007 implemented European Union sanctions against individuals and entities identified as linked to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear programmes.

The result of these sanctions is that financial institutions are required to freeze funds and economic resources of persons, entities and bodies engaged in or providing support for North Korea’s nuclear-related, other weapons of mass destruction-related or ballistic missile-related programmes. Any assets in the UK which are owned, held or controlled by any of the 70 listed individuals and entities identified as linked to North Korea’s nuclear programmes are frozen. HM Government works to ensure that these measures are robustly implemented, including by looking to uncover assets which may be hidden behind complex company structures.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the call by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea for the Kim regime in North Korea to be referred to the International Criminal Court, and whether they intend to discuss that recommendation with each of the other members of the UN Security Council.

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

We remain concerned by the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We have recently worked with the EU and Japan to co-author a UN resolution on the human rights situation in the DPRK which calls for accountability. We are now working to achieve strong support for this resolution.

We hold regular meetings with other UN Security Council member states to identify ways in which we can improve the DPRK’s human rights record. Our most recent meeting was at the UN in New York during October. We will continue to engage with key partners and allies to ensure the need for accountability remains at the heart of the international community’s work to improve the human rights situation in the DPRK.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to raise the case of any of the public executions in North Korea between 2010 and 2014 detailed in the latest report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in that country.

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

We remain strongly opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.

The UK, working with the EU and Japan, has ensured that annual UNresolutions consistently call on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea(DPRK) to end its use of the death penalty. We also use our diplomatic relations to raise concerns directly with North Korean officials.

British diplomats raised specific concerns with the Ministry of Foreign Affairsin Pyongyang following the execution of Jang Song Thaek in December 2013.

In October, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire), met the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid, to discuss a coordinated approach to addressing human rights concerns across the globe, including the DPRK.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by 38 North that North Korea has the capacity to make anthrax; and what assessment they have made of claims by Im Cheon-Yong that anthrax and other biological agents have been tested on North Korean citizens, including disabled people.

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

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a State Party to theBiological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Under the Convention it is prohibited from developing, producing and stockpiling biological and toxin weapons, which include anthrax. As a confidence building measure, States should submit annual returns to report implementation of the Convention, but the DPRK has only ever submitted one such return (in 1990). This makes it extremely difficult for the international community to have confidence that they are meeting their obligations under the Convention.

We are aware of claims by Im Cheon-Yong, a former DPRK Special Forces officer who defected in the mid-1990s. The UN Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in the DPRK considered this issue in their 2014 report but received no first-hand accounts. The Commission concluded it was not in a position to confirm these allegations, but noted them as subjects for further investigation.


House of Commons Motion tabled January 27th 2016

1012    UN AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA                                                        26:1:16


Fiona Bruce


That this House notes the statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on 22 January 2016; welcomes his call for the international community to further all efforts to improve the human rights situation in the country; concurs with his recommendation that, in addition to continuing political pressure to exhort the DPRK to improve human rights, it is also now imperative to pursue criminal responsibility of the DPRK leadership; further notes with regret his observation that not much has changed in the country almost two years after the report of the Commission of Inquiry; recalls that the second anniversary of the publication of the UN Commission of Inquiry will be on 22 February 2016; notes the resolution passed by the European Parliament on 21 January 2016 and the debate held in the House of Lords the same day; and urges the Government to pursue all avenues for addressing and improving the human rights situation in the DPRK and holding the perpetrators of crimes against humanity accountable.