Recent Parliamentary Interventions: Refugee Children; Travellers and Roma; Polygamous Marriages and protection of Muslim women; Shelter’s campaign on housing standards; Debate on Mesothelioma: 40,000 British people have died of this fatal disease – and continue to do so. Pressure Continues for a National Mesothelioma Research Centre

  • November 17th 2016: Shelter’s Campaign on Housing Standards

    My Lords, the noble Lord rightly said that the 39 attributes of Shelter’s Living Home Standard are a useful benchmark against which to measure perceptions about the housing stock in Britain. However, will he give the House—if not today then in writing subsequently—details of the number of homes in Britain that are formally sub-standard, the number that are still not properly insulated and the number that still have no inside sanitation in the way of running hot water or bathrooms?

    My Lords, the noble Lord is right to concentrate on what is important in relation to the standard of homes. I can tell him that in 2014 20% of homes were regarded as below standard by the English Housing Survey, which is the recognised gold standard. That is a considerable improvement on the position in 2006, when, using the same measure, the figure was 35%.

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  • November 16th 2016 Question on Unaccompanied Minors
    • Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)My Lords, Section 67(3) says that this will,“be in addition to … children under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme”.
    • Will the Minister tell us how many children have been received under that provision thus far? In additional, will she say something about the criteria she mentioned? She said that children at risk of sexual exploitation will be included, but why does that not extend to children who might be trafficked, or involved in labour exploitation or other provisions of the modern slavery legislation?
    •  
    • Baroness Williams of Trafford
    • My Lords, to answer the noble Lord’s last question first, any child at risk of sexual exploitation—that might include trafficking—will be a top priority, no matter what country they are from; ditto any child aged 12 or under. On the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, there have thus far been more than 3,000 people transferred, and half of those are children.
  • ———————————————————————–
  • Travellers and Roma – November 16th 2016

My Lords, I add my support to the powerful arguments that have been put before the Committee today by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, in her excellent speech. Her amendment would include Gypsy and Irish Travellers in the ethnic monitoring systems used in youth justice. The argument for ethnic inclusion was put best by the then Commission for Racial Equality, which likened having an equality policy without ethnic monitoring to,

“aiming for good financial management without keeping financial records”.

Evidence has long suggested that Gypsies and Travellers suffer worse health outcomes, and are at more risk of suicide, than other ethnic groups. Research suggests that they are three times more likely to suffer from anxiety and over twice as likely to be depressed. This is consistent with findings by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, which has found similarly high levels of mental health issues experienced by Travellers and Gypsies in prison, with them also being twice as likely to experience mental health problems compared to other prisoners. As is common with most ethnic minorities, Gypsies and Travellers find it difficult to open up to people outside their community and are therefore far less likely to report issues to prison staff. These findings underline why ethnic monitoring is urgently needed in the youth justice system, as the noble Baroness has explained.

The Gypsy and Traveller groups that have developed in adult prisons as a consequence of ethnic monitoring have made an enormous difference to Gypsies’ and Travellers’ experiences inside those prisons. These act as a safe space where they can talk about how they are coping in prison and, more importantly, receive support from their own community. A Traveller forum in HM Prison Chelmsford, supported by the Brentwood Ursulines, is testament to this. The forum meetings are now attended by around 40 Gypsies and Travellers and acts a platform for Gypsies and Travellers to speak openly about the challenges that they face.

The forum has also helped to improve the literacy of Gypsies and Travellers. In order to secure a prison job, you are required to pass level 2 literacy, a threshold that many Gypsies and Travellers in prison are, sadly, unable to meet. As is often the case with people who struggle with reading and writing, they fear stigmatisation and ridicule if they admit they cannot read and write. This prevents many Gypsies and Travellers from engaging in education programmes. It is the ultimate Catch-22, a finding that is confirmed by the Irish Chaplaincy’s Traveller Equality Project.

Happily, however, I can report that as a consequence of the forum’s work many of those Gypsies and Travellers have started to take part in the Shannon Trust’s Turning Pages project, which assists prisoners who wish to learn how to read. This has had some significant outcomes, including the possibility of securing jobs. Equally importantly, the forum has also greatly improved the relations between the Gypsy and Traveller prisoners and the prison staff who attend the meetings, and address issues that have been raised. Without the introduction of ethnic monitoring, it is hard to imagine how some of those things would have been achieved.

8.15 pm

Such groups are even more important in the youth justice system, where the young people and children are more vulnerable and at greater risk. I know that the right honourable Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, is considering a sign-off of the 18+1 annual data requirements, requiring police forces to include the categories of “Gypsy or Irish Traveller” and indeed “Arab” in the collection of data. The current arrangements are discretionary and therefore haphazard and random, with some constabularies collecting data and others not.

The National Police Chiefs Council’s lead for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, Deputy Chief Constable Janette McCormick from Cheshire, where such data collection is done—I know the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, will be aware of this work—is strongly supportive of the change. In fact, Cheshire Constabulary has used the 18+1 ethnicity classification system since 2004. In support of the change, DCC McCormick has said:

“I believe that ethnic monitoring by all public services works best when it builds on the Census data, which remains the bedrock of all statistical information. Not recording Gypsy and Traveller ethnicity makes it difficult to ensure that agencies are providing needed services in a fair way and that they are fulfilling their obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty”.

In addition, the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association, a support network for police personnel who are from such backgrounds, is fully supportive of the proposal from the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the College of Policing has recently established a Valuing Difference and Inclusion programme. Adopting 18+1 would be in tune with that strategy and would set standards for forces about being inclusive to all points of difference both within and beyond the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, of which ethnicity is one. By recording ethnicity along with all the other data collected, the police could then use that information to see where and why inequalities were occurring. Even more importantly, forces could then use that knowledge to remove any unfairness or disadvantage.

When I looked at the constabularies that were collecting this information, I was surprised to find that the Metropolitan Police was not among them. I wrote to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, and subsequently had an excellent meeting with him. I was delighted to receive a letter back from him saying:

“I note your concerns regarding the MPS system of collecting ethnicity data, and your request that Romani Gypsies and Irish Travellers are included in the collection of data. I agree to the change in principle as I believe key community partners would welcome the change and it would be a positive signal from the Metropolitan Police to other forces. I have asked for an implementation plan to be devised looking into the practicalities of implementing this as soon as possible”.

We should welcome that. It is a very positive signal that here in the capital such data collection will be done in future. I hope that other police forces follow suit and that when the Minister comes to reply to this debate, she will give a fair wind to this excellent amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton.


 

Polygamous Marriages and the Protection of Muslim Women – November 16th 2016

My Lords, I welcome this amendment and congratulate my noble friend Lady Cox both on her persistence in raising these issues and on her courage. I have had the privilege of travelling with my noble friend to some out-of-the-way places such as North Korea; but—perhaps more importantly in the context of this debate—before my daughter went up to university, I told her that the person she should travel with, and get to know a little of, if ever she wanted to think about going into public or political life, was my noble friend Lady Cox. She therefore accompanied my noble friend to Nagorno-Karabakh—a war zone—and I hope that she will one day be a chip off my noble friend’s block.

The House might not be aware of it, but my noble friend has arrived back today from Nigeria, which is not such a bad place to start, because we know that my noble friend travels to dangerous places to see things for herself. In Nigeria, look how Boko Haram—words that mean “eradicate western education”—treats young women. Look at what happened in Chibok. Look at the seizure of those girls. Look at the denial of education for young girls, such as those who were seized in Chibok, and then ask yourself some serious questions, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, did in her remarks a few moments ago. Look at the nature of sharia law, and ask, “Is that something we would want to have operating as a parallel law system in the United Kingdom?” It is a system, after all, that says that a woman’s evidence in a court of law is worth only half that of a man. That is surely intolerable in our society and we should resist it with every means available to us.

I attended a meeting organised by my noble friend Lady Cox a few weeks ago and became interested in this issue as a result of that meeting, which was held here in your Lordships’ House and was addressed by some formidable Muslim women and others. They highlighted the risks of having parallel systems of law in the same jurisdiction, a situation that put at risk the equality of Muslim women and failed to protect them. The principle of equality before the law should always be a central pillar of our democracy, yet we know from countless testimonies—such as those I heard that evening and others alluded to today by my noble friend—that many Muslim women in Britain are not experiencing the legal rights by which they should be protected. We heard that in the context of things such as polygamy a few moments ago. They are not treated equally; they are not living freely, and they are inhibited from getting the help they really need.

Take, for example, the story of A’aisha—a pseudonym, of course—from the West Midlands. Upon the breakdown of her own Islamic marriage, she discovered that she was not entitled to the same rights afforded to other British divorcees. Like so many others, she had wrongly assumed that, because her religious wedding ceremony had taken place in the UK, it did not need to be accompanied by a civil marriage in order for it to be recognised under English law. As my noble friend Lady Cox has already said, this amendment seeks to protect women such as A’aisha, and to help those who might be duped into believing that they were married under the law of the land, only to find upon divorce that they have few rights in respect of finance or property. It is intolerable that women should be treated in this way.

I recognise, as my noble friend has said, that this is a probing amendment. It may well indeed need tweaking and improving, but I trust it will promote a positive response from the Front Bench. I hope that when the Minister replies, we might at least start to think about how we can bring forward more comprehensive measures to address effectively concerns such as those raised by my noble friend Lady Cox and the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, in your Lordships’ House this evening.

mesotheliomameso uk2meso 3meso uk BLF

 

Debate on Mesothelioma: October 27th 2016

https://davidalton.net/2016/03/01/mesothelioma-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-an/

Also see:

https://davidalton.net/2014/10/11/liverpool-conference-on-mesotheioma-and-the-law/

October 27th 2016

5.20 pm

My Lords, I am delighted to be able to support the noble Lord, Lord Wills. It gives me the chance to say how much I have appreciated working with him, the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, and other noble Lords in trying to push this issue up the list of political priorities. An indication that the message is bearing fruit was contained in the former Chancellor’s Budget announcement on 16 March that £5 million would be approved for a national mesothelioma centre, which I greatly welcome.

This is also a chance to say that after the Second Reading of my Private Member’s Bill on mesothelioma research the Minister has been unstinting in his efforts to draw together the medical and scientific community, the insurance industry and diverse political interests. It is good to be able to put on record my appreciation of his commitment and engagement. That Private Member’s Bill emerged from a narrowly defeated amendment in your Lordships’ House that would have required the more than 120 insurance companies to contribute to mesothelioma research. The former Minister told the House that he was confident that the four insurance companies that were then voluntarily supporting research would be joined by others. The sad reality, as we have heard, is that the four fell to two, Aviva and Zurich.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, just told us, insurance companies that represent employers whose employees were exposed to fatal asbestos must recognise their moral obligation, but it is also in their own self-interest to help find the causes of and cures for mesothelioma—a public health disaster that should never have happened. I recently heard from a patient support group that is concerned by media reports that Companies House proposes to destroy defunct company files after a period of five years. Perhaps the Minister will either say a word about this or agree to write to me.

The admirable British Lung Foundation says that we are now at a point in mesothelioma research where we can see real potential. For example, Dr Sarah Martin at Barts Cancer Institute has found that 50% of mesotheliomas lose the enzyme ASS1, which makes the amino acid arginine. As these mesotheliomas depend on a steady supply of arginine from the bloodstream and other cells to grow, Dr Martin is exploring the potential of using existing drugs to block the flow of arginine to these cells, in turn starving them.

Resourcing this and innovatory adult stem cell work, which the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, and I heard about more than two years ago and which we were told would require £2.5 million to bring to clinical trials, is imperative in a country that has the highest recorded incidence of mesothelioma in the world, with 40,000 recorded deaths already, and, as we have heard, a further 2,500 deaths annually. One in five work-related deaths are attributed to mesothelioma. What is the Government’s current estimate of the cumulative number of British people who will die of mesothelioma over the next 30 years? Perhaps we can also be told how many of the 3,000 cancer nurse specialists specialise in mesothelioma care.

With tens of thousands destined to succumb to this fatal disease, it greatly disturbs me that we have no national programme, plan or timetable for the removal of asbestos from our environment, although, by contrast, we have devised one for the Palace of Westminster. Significant quantities of asbestos remain in our homes, workplaces and public buildings, not least in the schools referred to by my noble friend Lady Finlay, and there is a growing incidence of mesothelioma among schoolteachers. As my noble friend said, we should carefully consider the effects on children.

When the Minister replies, I hope that he will refer to the need for a national strategy and to what he might be able to do to draw cross-departmental Ministers together to consider what it should consist of. I hope too that he will look at properly resourced research in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Wills, described, as well as at an examination within his own department of the significant variations in the levels of care, treatment and support, which have been referred to during this short debate.

5.25 pm

Full debate follows:

Mesothelioma – Hansard Online

Mesothelioma

 27 October 2016
Volume 776
 Question for Short Debate
 5.00 pm

Asked by

      • To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to support those who have contracted mesothelioma.

      • My Lords, I asked for this debate to highlight, again, the urgent need for progress in research into effective treatments for mesothelioma. This is not a new topic for your Lordships’ House, and the fact that we are returning to it again, and that so many of your Lordships signed up for this short debate, indicates its importance.

        As your Lordships’ House has heard many times before, mesothelioma is a terrible disease, among the most cruel of all fatal illnesses. It is inflicted too often on those who contracted it through their occupation which exposed them to the asbestos which causes it, and too often through public service, so members of the armed services and teachers as well as factory workers have been disproportionately affected by it. Yet those suffering from it, and their families, were appallingly treated for decades. It took years of struggle to force insurance companies to discharge their obligations to pay compensation, in the end taking legislation by the previous Labour Government—I am delighted to see my noble friend Lord McKenzie on the Front Bench today, as he was the Minister who did so much to make that happen—and the coalition Government to force them to do this.

        There have been inexcusable delays in providing adequate resourcing for research into effective treatments for this dreadful illness. More than twice as much is spent on breast cancer research per sufferer, for example, than on mesothelioma. This matters. Although these are projections and, given the long gestation periods for this illness, they could well be underestimates, more than 50,000 people are projected to die in this country alone. There will be 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 ill-equipped to develop such research on their own.

        However, for all these problems, in the past few months since the last time the House debated the issue, there has been significant progress. The most recent Budget allocated £5 million towards research and the setting up of a national mesothelioma centre. I take this opportunity to thank the Minister who did so much to make that possible and who has always been a stalwart supporter of efforts to improve the situation of those suffering from this disease. There is also now the possibility of matching funds from a charitable donor, thanks in large part to the efforts of my noble friends Lord Giddens and Lord Alton and the British Lung Foundation, and two insurance companies, Aviva and Zurich, have over the past two years, to their credit, donated a combined £1 million to the British Lung Foundation’s mesothelioma research programme. However, all this is only a start. It has been estimated that a national centre for mesothelioma research, on a hub-and-spoke model, will need set-up costs of £15 million to £20 million and projected running costs of £3 million to £5 million annually. So much could be done with this funding. Medical science has made extraordinary progress in the past decades. Once-dread diseases have become manageable through the efforts of brilliant and dedicated researchers, and the combination of developments in genomic science and the dazzling new power to process data digitally promises so much more.

        We have the infrastructure in the form of the MesobanK, a biobank unique in Europe and one of only two worldwide, which collects tissue, blood samples and clinical data from mesothelioma patients to help accelerate research across the UK and internationally. Sequencing technology is being used to observe gene mutations in mesothelioma which will support the development of future therapies. Advances are being made in immunotherapy and radiotherapy. Other developments in genetic research could produce advances in treatment if sufficient funding is found to run appropriate clinical trials. So where is the extra money going to come from to build on these developments and make further progress possible?

        The Government obviously have it in their power to provide it by increasing the sums of money available for research, and the arguments for doing so are compelling. I shall run through them briefly. Apart from the alleviation of terrible suffering in patients, it would save taxpayers money. 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 will produce significant advances in treatment, saving taxpayers some of the huge sums involved in treating mesothelioma sufferers, currently upwards of £75,000 per patient, with total annual costs exceeding £185 million. By 2050, the total is likely to rise above £5 billion. Investing in mesothelioma research can only help to build on our world lead in biomedical research.

        Even in these difficult times, £3 million a year would more than treble the amount currently spent and fund a national centre to co-ordinate and develop research. Perhaps a little of all those savings that leading figures in the Government promised us would result from leaving the EU could be made available for research into this terrible disease. I suspect that this will not be the last time the Minister hears that particular argument in the months ahead.

        If not from government, where else might funding come from? The insurance industry has historically been implicated in the way mesothelioma sufferers and their families have been failed over generations, but the Mesothelioma Act 2014 offers an opportunity to start a new chapter in that relationship, building on the good examples set by Aviva and Zurich. Surely, the time has come for others in the industry to stand beside them in providing the relatively small sums, in terms of their turnover and profits, to fund research. After all, the more effective treatments can be found, the less they will need to pay out in the long run.

        Perhaps the time has come also to look to another business sector that has been heavily involved in these issues over the years. Law firms have received huge sums in fee income from mesothelioma claims over the years. Of course, much of this has been justified, as they fought for justice for sufferers, and no one should ever want to see the victims of this disease denied appropriate legal representation. However, the Mesothelioma Act has streamlined the process for compensation, so perhaps the time has come to look at those fees, with a view either to fixing them, and thereby releasing more funds that could be made available for research, or for the legal industry to step up beside insurers to ensure that research is adequately funded.

        Progress is waiting to be made, and there are ways of making it quickly and relatively painlessly, but, if none of these things happen, this campaign will still continue. As we have seen over and over again over the past 10 years, neither your Lordships’ House nor the other place will accept the status quo. I hope that there is action that the Government can and will take, and I hope that the Minister will indicate today that they will at least be prepared to explore one or more of the ways that I have suggested to ensure that the funds so desperately needed for research into this cruel disease will be made available, and soon.

5.08 pm

      • My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Wills, for introducing this very important topic. Unfortunately, at the beginning of this year, someone I know extremely well was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She is a middle-aged woman who does not have any connection to the building industry and has not lived or worked in a building under renovation—and nor has any of her family. As noble Lords can imagine, therefore, it was an incredible shock. Over this year, I have become quite familiar with the disease and its treatments, so this afternoon I am speaking from the point of view of the patient.

        What has really struck me is the stark contrast in the drugs you receive if you treated under the NHS and those you can receive if you are being treated under private healthcare and are wealthy enough to be able to afford the best possible treatment available. Those treatments can extend life expectancy, which on diagnosis if you undergo all the chemotherapy, is on average about 18 months. The NHS provides the chemotherapy and does an absolutely wonderful job. An operation can be undertaken, although it is a very complex one, to remove the multiple tumours associated with mesothelioma. It can involve removing the diaphragm, the pleura around the lungs and the membrane around the heart. Skilled surgeons are required to undertake the operation and some healthcare companies provide cover for it, although the NHS will not. The cover that most healthcare providers offer does not necessarily meet the full costs of the surgeons, who have to be very highly skilled. Undertaking the operation means that you can double the life expectancy of an individual.

        At the end of chemotherapy, what are the options? You can continue with a drug called Avastin, which is licensed for breast cancer but not for mesothelioma. It can be taken in conjunction with the rest of the chemotherapy. It costs £5,000 a pop. Some health insurance companies and providers will cover it, but the NHS will not. You take it once every three weeks, so more than £86,000 a year is required to cover the cost. Some patients have been on it for more than two years without recurrence. Its success varies as people vary, but there have been some great successes.

        If—or unfortunately more like when—the mesothelioma returns, what are the options? You can try the chemo again, although sadly it is not always effective. The NHS will provide that chemo. What health insurance companies and the NHS do not cover is access to the latest drugs. The one that is most recommended costs a quarter of a million pounds—it is a one-off treatment and it has to be funded. Under the NHS you have access to UK trials, but because this disease is incredibly rare and has multiple sub-types, the trial you would be best suited to is not necessarily taking place in the UK, so if you want to get on a trial you have to fund your own transport and accommodation costs, possibly for several months while you undergo the trial. Life expectancy can and has been proven to be extended in people who have been fortunate enough to be able to afford this.

        As the noble Lord, Lord Wills, mentioned earlier, there are many civil suits as people are able to identify the source of asbestos that triggered their mesothelioma. However, a group of people are unable to identify the source and are totally reliant on the Government’s compensation scheme, which goes nowhere near covering the costs that will prolong their lives. I therefore ask the Government to please look at the compensation scheme to see whether the payments can be upped so that everybody, regardless of their own wealth, can have access to these drugs. It involves a relatively small number of people because only about 2,500 a year are diagnosed with mesothelioma, and only a percentage will not have a civil action. It therefore should not cost the Government that much. It seems only right and fair to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to prolong their life as far as possible.

5.12 pm

      • My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wills, for securing this important debate, and the noble Baroness, Lady Couttie, for outlining the clinical scenarios that people face, often when they are young, as they suddenly realise that they have this devastating disease. More than 2,500 cases are diagnosed each year.

        I will focus initially on the iceberg effect; we are seeing just the tip because of asbestos in schools and the worry about that. Some 94% of cases of mesothelioma are effectively preventable because they are associated with chronic exposure to asbestos in one way or another, and we know that three-quarters of our schools have asbestos in place. The number of teachers dying of mesothelioma has been going up from around three a year in the early 1980s to 22 in 2012 alone. That is a marker of developing mesothelioma following chronic exposure.

        The Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment has pointed out that we do not know whether children are intrinsically more susceptible to developing mesothelioma following asbestos exposure. However, it seems that the lifetime risk if they are exposed at the age of five is about five times that of someone aged 30 who is exposed to the same amount of asbestos. Therefore it seems that exposing children is storing up problems for the future.

        I would like to coin the term “pre-mesothelioma” for the number of people in the population who will probably go on to develop mesothelioma but have no idea about it at all. If we are undertaking research, we have to get to earlier diagnosis, so we have to find ways much earlier on of picking up the markers of transformation to malignancy in the areas where asbestos fibres are stored. At the moment we do not know of any actionable drivers of the disease in order to pick up and identify early markers. There are multicentre trials, as the noble Baroness has just outlined, but the problem is that they are very disparate. That is why there is a desperate need for a single centre in the UK to co-ordinate them. That reminds me of when I was a very junior doctor and the MRC co-ordinated trials into the leukaemias, and it was from those that some advances were made. There needs to be a driver with just about everybody being recruited into a trial if that is at all possible. Currently, patients have to find out about trials and they do not really know where to go. They want to contribute because they do not want the same thing to happen to other people. The other problem is that of course while the MesobanK is in place and the cell lines are coming along, they are not there yet. We need to identify how tumour surface antigens are expressed and detect better markers of early disease.

        I remind noble Lords that 60% of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma are dead within a year; in other words, they are palliative care patients. I am afraid that some clinical commissioning groups are not commissioning specialist palliative care services adequately, not at a level that allows them to be integrated with cancer and chest disease services. That is essential to provide psychosocial support as well as support for the rest of the family, and to deal with the devastating symptoms of the disease. Those groups of specialists also want to research some of the effects of the disease when it is not curable.

        Lastly, we need data. I declare an interest as chairman of the National Council for Palliative Care. I was very concerned to discover that Public Health England does not plan to carry on collecting a minimum dataset from specialist palliative care services. Without that data we will not know whether what we are doing is improving services for patients. It would cost only £200,000 to refresh the collection and data management process, which in the greater order of things is nothing. Without good data on the number of patients, the people who transform from what I would call pre-mesothelioma into mesothelioma, and the numbers that need palliative care services, we will have no idea whether we are improving.

5.16 pm

      • My Lords, I had always associated mesothelioma with the construction trade. It came as a complete shock that a dear friend—Sylvia, a retired maths teacher, an energetic walker and a very active grandmother—should be diagnosed with the disease. It may well have been contracted 50 years ago when she worked as a teacher in west Africa. It was even more of a shock to discover that it was a death sentence. Sylvia died a troubled and dreadful death five months later. As her husband Geoff said, “This cancer doesn’t allow for peace. There are more sorts of pain than those that can be, and were, dulled by opiates”.

        What shocked me almost as much was the struggle of medical researchers to raise money to find improved treatments for the disease. The British Lung Foundation —BLF—and Mesothelioma UK have campaigned tirelessly for more research but with only limited success. Do funders regard it as a marginal cancer? Perhaps they think it will be reduced over time because products containing asbestos were banned in the UK in 1999. How have we become so complacent? Some 2,500 people in the UK are predicted to die each year of mesothelioma. The incidence is increasing, as has been mentioned, for example among schoolteachers. How have we become so blind to the immense suffering of those who contract the disease and of the families who care for them? Although we can hope that the rate will eventually decrease, no such hope is available in developing countries where asbestos continues to be used and where committed people just like my friend Sylvia will continue to work, as will countless members of the local populations.

        Research is key yet the BLF’s figures show that funding is absolutely parlous compared with other cancers that kill a similar number, and even the published figures are thought to be an overestimate. I talked to the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at UCL—I declare an interest as a member of council at UCL. UCL, along with Leicester and Barts, is doing innovative and exciting work with a small amount of funding into genomic damage which might lead to targeted new treatments. Other centres are similarly innovative. How much more could be done if they were better funded?

        Companies such as Hugh James, Simpson Millar and Shield Environmental Services have donated. Insurers have helped in the past. Two which have already been mentioned, Aviva and Zurich, have increased their contribution to £1 million over two years, but the final grant is this year. The £5 million grant from the Government this year for a national centre for research is indeed welcome. I hope it will enable increased collaboration with other centres, but it will take £5 million each year to put mesothelioma on a par with other cancers, such as skin cancers, that have the same mortality levels.

        A more sustainable model is required. Where is the rest of the insurance industry? Insurers are likely to pay out £11 billion in compensation to people who were exposed to asbestos in the workplace. If only a tiny fraction of this were donated to research, it would be transformational. Saving lives by donating to research could potentially save insurers millions. Will the Minister commit to some strong arm-twisting to persuade the industry to make this a comprehensive and permanent commitment, if necessary on a statutory basis?

        I want to make a final point about the carers of those affected. My friend’s husband Geoff said, “Sylvia’s progress wasn’t predictable, no routine could be established, every day involved new challenges”. He was part-retired and had a pension. Supported by the GP and the district nurse, he was able to provide the care that enabled Sylvia to live and die at home as she wanted, where her dignity was preserved in a way she felt it could not have been even in the kindest institution. If he had been on a limited income and had to go out to work, how would that have been managed? Will the Minister tell us what the Government are doing to make that kind of caring an option for anyone suffering a terminal illness of this kind?

5.20 pm

      • My Lords, I am delighted to be able to support the noble Lord, Lord Wills. It gives me the chance to say how much I have appreciated working with him, the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, and other noble Lords in trying to push this issue up the list of political priorities. An indication that the message is bearing fruit was contained in the former Chancellor’s Budget announcement on 16 March that £5 million would be approved for a national mesothelioma centre, which I greatly welcome.

        This is also a chance to say that after the Second Reading of my Private Member’s Bill on mesothelioma research the Minister has been unstinting in his efforts to draw together the medical and scientific community, the insurance industry and diverse political interests. It is good to be able to put on record my appreciation of his commitment and engagement. That Private Member’s Bill emerged from a narrowly defeated amendment in your Lordships’ House that would have required the more than 120 insurance companies to contribute to mesothelioma research. The former Minister told the House that he was confident that the four insurance companies that were then voluntarily supporting research would be joined by others. The sad reality, as we have heard, is that the four fell to two, Aviva and Zurich.

        As the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, just told us, insurance companies that represent employers whose employees were exposed to fatal asbestos must recognise their moral obligation, but it is also in their own self-interest to help find the causes of and cures for mesothelioma—a public health disaster that should never have happened. I recently heard from a patient support group that is concerned by media reports that Companies House proposes to destroy defunct company files after a period of five years. Perhaps the Minister will either say a word about this or agree to write to me.

        The admirable British Lung Foundation says that we are now at a point in mesothelioma research where we can see real potential. For example, Dr Sarah Martin at Barts Cancer Institute has found that 50% of mesotheliomas lose the enzyme ASS1, which makes the amino acid arginine. As these mesotheliomas depend on a steady supply of arginine from the bloodstream and other cells to grow, Dr Martin is exploring the potential of using existing drugs to block the flow of arginine to these cells, in turn starving them.

        Resourcing this and innovatory adult stem cell work, which the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, and I heard about more than two years ago and which we were told would require £2.5 million to bring to clinical trials, is imperative in a country that has the highest recorded incidence of mesothelioma in the world, with 40,000 recorded deaths already, and, as we have heard, a further 2,500 deaths annually. One in five work-related deaths are attributed to mesothelioma. What is the Government’s current estimate of the cumulative number of British people who will die of mesothelioma over the next 30 years? Perhaps we can also be told how many of the 3,000 cancer nurse specialists specialise in mesothelioma care.

        With tens of thousands destined to succumb to this fatal disease, it greatly disturbs me that we have no national programme, plan or timetable for the removal of asbestos from our environment, although, by contrast, we have devised one for the Palace of Westminster. Significant quantities of asbestos remain in our homes, workplaces and public buildings, not least in the schools referred to by my noble friend Lady Finlay, and there is a growing incidence of mesothelioma among schoolteachers. As my noble friend said, we should carefully consider the effects on children.

        When the Minister replies, I hope that he will refer to the need for a national strategy and to what he might be able to do to draw cross-departmental Ministers together to consider what it should consist of. I hope too that he will look at properly resourced research in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Wills, described, as well as at an examination within his own department of the significant variations in the levels of care, treatment and support, which have been referred to during this short debate.

5.25 pm

      • My Lords, mesothelioma, if I may put it in this way, has a past and a future. The past has seen a long struggle to get the origins of the disease recognised and then to achieve adequate compensation for those suffering from it. That struggle is well documented in the book by Geoffrey Tweedale, Magic Mineral to Killer Dust. Asbestos was originally a magic mineral. He shows in detail just how much industry resistance there was to accepting the link between asbestos and mesothelioma.

        I wish to pay tribute to MPs and noble Lords. If your Lordships will forgive me, I should like to single out—it is like a little boys’ club—the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Wills, with whom I have worked closely, but many have been involved in pressing for proper recognition of the disease and for increased compensation for sufferers. That struggle, of course, continues. The British Lung Foundation has been mentioned, and a range of other, more local groups have had a significant impact. It is good news that former members of the armed services who have contracted mesothelioma will henceforth be entitled to significant compensation. However, on the issues of adequate compensation and giving the disease a higher profile in the public consciousness, plainly a lot more needs to be done. I am afraid that Action Mesothelioma Day, designated as Friday 1 July this year, received only scant coverage in the press.

        When I say that mesothelioma has a past but also a future, I mean that it is time to stop it being seen as simply a legacy disease—a hangover from a time when asbestos was widely used. I believe—and I hope that people who work more directly in medicine than me will agree—that we are entering a period of potential breakthroughs on the frontiers of medical research, especially as concerns the diverse forms of cancer. The awesome algorithmic power of supercomputers is making possible advances in genetics that could not have been achieved before. A good example—perhaps the most well known—is the supercomputer Watson, which won the amazing game of “Jeopardy!” on American television. It is an ordinary-language, everyday knowledge game. At one point, no one thought that it would possible for a computer to win it, as it depends on so much everyday knowledge. In terms of being applied to cancer research, as is now the case, Watson and other supercomputers have massive capacities compared with any human researcher. They may not have the same innovative capacities, but their algorithmic powers are extraordinary. Watson can sift through literally millions of scientific papers and use data-mining to suggest hypotheses to be subject to further tests. One should also mention the supercomputer Beagle at the University of Chicago, which is being used to radically accelerate genome analysis.

        For the first time ever—perhaps because of the digital revolution, which is one of the things we are talking about—there is a truly global community of scientists working at the cutting edge of medical issues once thought to be intractable. As a result of such ongoing research, we now know that mesothelioma shares certain components, on a genetic level, with other types of cancer. Cancers are in general now increasingly identified genetically rather than described on a more macro level. This means that research into the nature of mesothelioma is of broader significance than was once thought to be the case, and that advancing knowledge about other forms of cancer can in turn be brought to bear on mesothelioma. For these reasons, like other noble Lords, I very much welcome the £5 million towards establishing a research centre, which the noble Lord, Lord Prior, has played such an important part in. As the noble Lord knows, I would like us to raise further sums, which I believe one can do once this funding exists. I would like the centre to have a global orientation linked to, for example, the Pacific Mesothelioma Center in Los Angeles. We should drive research onwards to look not just for improved treatments but for something that is perhaps no longer completely impossible: some kind of cure.

5.30 pm

      • My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wills, for securing this debate and giving us an opportunity to discuss this subject once again.

        I shall focus my remarks today on how we might improve mesothelioma surgery in the NHS. It is a subject that rarely gets discussed, but one that deserves much more attention than it gets at present. I was delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Couttie, was able today to highlight some of the options available.

        When my sister Annabel was diagnosed with mesothelioma a couple of years ago, one of the treatments available to her was radical surgery. This meant removing her pleura, the lining surrounding each of her lungs. Finding a surgeon with the right experience was not a straightforward process and relied entirely upon a Rolodex network of surgeons that her oncologist had built up over many years, often scattered around the country. Eventually, she found someone to evaluate her, but it took a long time to arrange and the procedure proposed was very risky, which was due in part to the fact that her tumour had grown so rapidly since her original diagnosis. On top of that, the surgeon, although very experienced, had not performed the procedure very often and lacked the familiarity of approach that specialisation usually provides. Given its radical nature and the need for complete tumour removal, should not surgical resection be concentrated at one centre of excellence, where patients can receive immediate attention, new techniques can be researched and surgeons can benefit from training and others’ experience? I am sure that patients will be willing to travel as far as needed to be in the hands of super-specialists.

        Given the highly specialised procedure of removing pleura, what research is currently being carried out on resection methods? How does the NHS plan to optimise its approach to such surgery? Does it, for example, appear in the National Institutes of Health research plan? If not, why not? Again, there is huge scope for improvement here.

        With regard to new drugs, what research is currently taking place on the impact of preoperative non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, given their success in other forms of cancer surgery? This should be another research priority for the NIHR, especially given the chronic inflammation component of mesothelioma. The synergies are such that we ought to be applying the benefits of such cancer research wherever possible. This is a cheap intervention, given that the drugs are generic.

        All these issues point to the need for a specialist surgical registry and surgical outcome transparency in mesothelioma. Even transparency on the basics of annual volume and 30-day mortality by surgeon, centre and surgical approach would allow the supervising oncologists to find experienced surgeons in a timely manner. It will also allow for continuous surgical method improvement and best-practice dissemination. This holds true not only in mesothelioma but in less common and rare cancers requiring radical high-risk surgery. These cancer surgical registries should be a priority for the NIHR and NHS England. We need clarity about which body is responsible for their funding, given that they span both quality control and research. I hope that the Minister will encourage the bodies responsible to outline how they plan to drive and develop surgical registries and associated research in these cancers.

5.34 pm

      • My Lords, I, too, would like to focus on the patients—the 2,500 British people who are expected to die each year of mesothelioma, most of whom have contracted the disease as a result of exposure to asbestos. The use of asbestos in industry and construction, although now banned, was a practice that has had a detrimental effect on many lives, and it is our duty now to offer sufficient aid to those it has affected.

        Asbestos lurks in many strange places, including, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, this very building. My husband and I recently demolished an old cottage on our property, and we discovered that there was asbestos in the floor tiles with which my late mother-in-law had been living for 40 years. We had to have them removed by specialists. In the 1970s, when I lived in an old farmhouse, I used an asbestos product to fill the rather irregular holes that I used to drill in the walls to hang pictures and bookshelves, having no idea that there may be a problem with it. Concerns about the dangers of asbestos were first raised early in the 20th century, but its use was not outlawed until 1999. For the thousands of cases now arising 40 or 50 years after first exposure, it is our responsibility to ensure that they are given the compensation and support they require. Unfortunately, the median survival time for pleural mesothelioma, once it has taken hold, is 12 months from diagnosis, but this time, and beyond for the dependents of those affected, must be made as comfortable as possible for those who need help.

        Over the years, there have been many shortcomings in the handling of asbestos-related cases across the globe, one such case being the fire at the central ordnance depot in Donnington, Shropshire, in 1983. The blaze which released a huge cloud of asbestos into the air has had a huge repercussion which is still being felt today. Paula Ann Nunn, Ellen Paddock, Susan Maughan, Richard George and Marion Groves are just five local people who contracted mesothelioma and unfortunately passed away as a direct result. Mrs Maughan died only last October. Her daughter told the inquest that it took the local authority five days before they told the community so they were exposed to asbestos for all that time. The ash cloud which spread over an area of 15 square miles attracted many small children who played in it as if it were snow which fell in local gardens for days before people were told it was unsafe. We have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, how very harmful that could be to those children. My colleague and noble friend Lady Pinnock has told me about many cases in her area of Kirklees, resulting from working for a brake linings factory, long since closed down.

        Mesothelioma is generally resistant to conventional cancer treatment. Long-term survival and cures are extremely difficult, but that does not mean that the mistakes of government and industry alike over the past century should not be paid for by compensation to those affected. The current range of available benefits, both lump sums and long-term allowances, must get to the right people at the right time. The Mesothelioma Act 2014, for which we have to congratulate several noble Lords present today, went a long way to help those who had been unable to access compensation because of the passage of time or a lack of effective record-keeping identifying those responsible. Since 2014, a total of £62.2 million has been awarded. However, of those who were unhappy with the result and requested a review of what they were awarded, 25% had their compensation rate altered—I presume upwards. Given that this illness is still an issue affecting thousands of British people every year and that the nature of mesothelioma’s progress means that time is literally of the essence, it is essential that the correct support is awarded without delay in all cases. Given the significant number of cases reviewed since the launch of the scheme, how do the Government intend to learn from those cases and improve the process so that the right decision is made the first time in as many cases as possible?

        Can the Minister also outline the ways in which the Government are promoting the compensation scheme, so that those most in need are fully aware of the support available? Given the vital work done by the charitable organisation, Mesothelioma UK, and its invaluable lung nurse specialists, do the Government intend to follow its lead and introduce more specialist nurses into hospitals to support patients?

        Finally, to safeguard against mesothelioma cases slipping under radar given the disease’s lengthy latency, are the Government willing to begin actively seeking out those involved in previous incidents, such as the Donnington fire, so as to promote early identification of their disease and to get immediate support to them?

5.40 pm

      • My Lords, this has been a brief but exceptionally well-informed debate. We have heard from noble Lords whose understanding of mesothelioma has been driven by a family experience, a colleague’s experience or a friend’s experience. We have also heard from the medical fraternity and its expertise. I thank my noble friend Lord Wills for initiating this debate and acknowledge the work which he, together with the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Giddens, and others, have done since our last debate on this topic a year ago. We should remember, as have others, the tireless efforts of Lord Avebury, who campaigned persistently for the sufferers of mesothelioma.

        Obtaining justice for sufferers of mesothelioma has been a long and tortuous journey. I think that it is fair to say that, until recent times, efforts have been concentrated on seeking to ensure that sufferers and their families have received material support—money—to help them cope with the traumatic effects of this invariably fatal and excruciatingly painful condition. This journey has encompassed access to the industrial injuries disablement benefit; the 1979 compensation Act for work-related mesothelioma where the employer no longer exists or their liability policy cannot be traced; efforts to improve retracement policies; the 2008 diffuse mesothelioma scheme, where there is no nexus; and then the diffuse mesothelioma payment scheme, which is funded by insurance companies. Each of these in its own way has made access to support more secure, however inadequate. We have praised before the work of the noble Lord, Lord Freud, in delivering the 2014 payment scheme and condemned the historic reluctance of insurers to meet their moral obligations. We note that the payment scheme was able to raise payment levels to 100% of average civil claims in 2015. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that this has been maintained. It is understood that it is driven by the benefits of better tracing of employer liability insurance policies. Again, perhaps the Minister could confirm that.

        Last year, the Minister acknowledged that it was wrong to look at mesothelioma as a legacy issue. The projections are that it may have peaked, but it will be with us for a very long time. Moreover, the causes of mesothelioma—exposure to asbestos—are still too prevalent in our environment, especially, as we have heard today, in schools. We may be more aware about how it should be managed—the HSE gives advice on it—but we know that practice is not always followed and people will cut corners. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, spoke about the effects of this on children. Seeking a cure remains the imperative. When we discussed the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, there was some disagreement about precisely how much research had been undertaken previously—how much might be generic and how much was specifically focused. The Minister argued that the problem was not lack of funding but a lack of quality research proposals—I think that this was the position asserted by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in the previous debate on that Bill. Can the Minister now bring some clarity to this issue? What has been the outcome of the strategy to stimulate more research projects?

        The Government should be congratulated on their allocation of £5 million of LIBOR fines to establish a national mesothelioma centre. The announcement, of course, made specific reference to service veterans, but this centre is to be a collaboration, it is understood, between four leading institutions which will form a hub—I presume that it will be a virtual hub. It would be good to hear from the Minister, as a practical matter, how the funding of this is to be organised and how it is to go about undertaking and supporting research. It is to be welcomed, but this is still not on equal footing with the rest of cancer research. Nevertheless, “progress is waiting to be made” was the expression, but not without continuing pressure from a range of noble Lords and Members of the other place, those noble Lords who have participated in this debate and, of course, the continuing suffering of those who endure this terrible condition.

5.45 pm

      • My Lords, this has been another really excellent debate on this subject. I join others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Wills, for raising it again—it is really important to keep it in the public eye. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Giddens and Lord Alton, for collaring me on this subject many times over the last year. It is one of the privileges of being in this House that one is able to take an interest in these issues and try to do something about them—otherwise, what the point of being here? The point is to make a difference. What this has demonstrated is that if there is persistence—real, dogged persistence, often in the face of all kinds of tribulations—you can make progress. It has been a long and tortuous journey, as the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said, but there are signs of progress.

        I shall pick up a few points before I get into my speech. First, I cannot answer the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Couttie, in detail today, but the level of compensation is certainly something I shall look at in view of her comments about the cost of these new drugs. This is probably an issue more for NICE and NHS England than the compensation scheme. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked whether we are learning from the reviews of these cases, in view of the importance of time. I will certainly look at both those issues. They are, in a sense, related to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, about the huge benefits of specialisation. I have the guidance from NHS England on the treatment of mesothelioma here. I shall not read it out today, because there is not time, but the noble Lord’s point about having a centre of excellence and looking at the improved outcomes from people doing these things repetitively, many times, rather than spreading very complex surgery over many different sites, is absolutely true. Having proper data in registries which can be made transparent is also a hugely important driver of change.

        The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, raised the issue of data. Data are hugely important. In a way, if one looks at all the advances that are coming along in cell therapy, gene therapy and the like, in health analytics and big data, the artificial intelligence and machine learning that come from these offer huge potential for improving healthcare in this country. I should also mention that it is clear that many people here have been touched, directly or indirectly, by this devastating disease. That adds not just poignancy but urgency to our discussions. It is interesting how often a patient’s story can bring data to life—data on their own are not enough. It is when you hear about individuals who have suffered and whose lives have been changed or who, indeed, have died, that it is brought home to all of us just how important it is.

        We expect the rates of mesothelioma to increase in coming years, due to high exposure to asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, raised the issue of schools. It is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive, as she will know. The advice is often to leave it where it is and not disturb it—it is not dangerous to children if it is left dormant. If anyone has any evidence that the HSE is not doing the rounds or that there are local authorities in the country where schools are in need of repair, they should bring it to my attention and I will ensure that the HSE follows that up.

        Rates of mesothelioma have increased by nearly five times in Great Britain since the late 1970s. In 2014, there were 2,343 registrations of mesothelioma in England: 1,954 men and 389 women. The incidence is expected to peak in the 2020s but, as has been mentioned, it will remain a significant health problem into the 2050s. It is not a legacy disease. It is going to kill many people over the next 30 or 40 years. In 2014, 2,236 deaths were caused by mesothelioma in England, and the latest survival figures suggest that 46% of men survive for one year, compared with 51% for women. Five-year survival is much worse: only 5% for men and 11% for women. It is a death sentence—there is no getting away from that. Others have mentioned that this is a worldwide issue. One research group estimates that, on average, 14,200 cases are diagnosed worldwide every year, and that will be going up, not down.

        On the research aspect, there is some better news. On 16 March, the Chancellor announced an award of £5 million to establish a national centre for mesothelioma research. A number of noble Lords have said how important it is that this is co-ordinated—that various universities and research centres around the country do not all have a crack at it, but there should be a national centre for research. This announcement was in response to an application from Imperial College to urgently address the anticipated imminent high mortality rate among Royal Navy veterans and dockyard workers. The award is one of a series funded by the LIBOR fines that have been made since October 2012.

        It is envisaged that the national centre will be a collaboration between four leading institutions which have a major interest in the treatment of mesothelioma: the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College, the Royal Brompton Hospital, the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital. It is pretty impressive standing here naming four institutions that are absolutely world class. This is an extraordinary country when it comes to research. The Marsden, the Brompton and all these institutions are fantastic. They bring together expertise in the genetics of cancer susceptibility and in targets for treatment. Of course, the work being done in genomics will have a huge impact on this in years to come—not quite yet but soon, I hope.

        The Department of Health has been in discussion with the British Lung Foundation to work together to bring about the establishment of the research network. The plans are not yet finalised, but the aim, which the department supports, is to attract further donations, to be channelled by the British Lung Foundation so that it can continue its role as the body through which voluntary donations for mesothelioma research are being channelled competitively to the best science centres across the UK. As the organisation which currently administers mesothelioma research grants funded from insurance industry donations, the BLF is well placed to do this. I add my thanks to Aviva and Zurich, the only two insurance companies which have lived up, I think, to a very important moral obligation. We should not give up in our talks with the insurance industry to persuade it. It owes a moral duty but, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, it is not just a moral duty; there is also some enlightened self-interest in this. Maybe the lawyers would like to chip in as well; that would be good.

        We understand that on 1 November—next week—the BLF, alongside the Association of British Insurers, will be hosting a seminar in this House on the future of mesothelioma research. The seminar will focus on the previous research which the insurance industry has funded across the UK, how it can be built on, and how to ensure that mesothelioma projects across the country tie into the work of the new national centre. Together, the MRC and the NIHR spend more than £1 billion annually. In 2015-16, they spent more than £3 million on mesothelioma research. I will be sending a copy of this debate to Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, and Chris Whitty, the Chief Scientific Adviser, to ensure that they pick up all the important arguments that have been made today.

        Last month the Government announced £816 million over the next five years for the biomedical research centres across the UK. These centres host the development of ground-breaking new treatments, diagnostics, prevention, and care for patients in a wide range of diseases. Around £118 million of the funding will be for cancer research and we would expect some of that to support mesothelioma research. The fact that we have this £5 million ought to attract more money from the more conventional cancer research programmes.

        In March 2016 the National Cancer Research Institute co-ordinated a meeting with the British Lung Foundation, the MRC, Cancer Research UK and the Department of Health to discuss research opportunities in mesothelioma. This was followed up with a community workshop at the International Mesothelioma Interest Group meeting in Birmingham in May this year and has led to the formulation of a draft research priorities document. This will be further developed at a second workshop currently scheduled to take place in February 2017.

        There is room for hope that some progress is being made here. We have to keep the momentum going and the profile high. I think we all accept that some cancers seem to have caught the public imagination to a greater extent than this one, which in a sense puts a greater obligation on us to keep it in the public eye. I have been delighted to do what I can and will continue to do so. Again, I thank all noble Lords for continuing to raise this very important topic.

Committee adjourned at 5.56 pm.

meso1meso UK

Genocide calls for justice – November 17th article by David Alton, Dr.Pieter Outzigt, and Lars Adaktusson MEP. Parliamentary debate on Anti-Semitism; two posts by Ján Figeľ, EU Special Envoy on Religious Freedom; Letter to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court calling for the prosecution of ISIS for crimes recognised by the Rome Statute

Genocide calls for justice – November 17th 2016

Yazidi women flee ISIS terrorists in Iraq.

[Domenico/Flickr]

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Evidence of genocide committed by ISIS terrorists is mounting, including eye-witness accounts and the group’s own propaganda. The ICC must prosecute foreign fighters to stop them returning to Europe, write Lars Adaktusson, Lord Alton of Liverpool and Pieter Omtzigt.

Lars Adaktusson is a Swedish Christian Democrat MEP (EPP group) and a Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Lord Alton of Liverpool is a UK crossbench peer and the vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Pieter Omtzigt is a member of the Dutch House of Representatives and a member of the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

As allied forces are struggling to retake Mosul, the largest city in Iraq under the rule of the terrorist organisation ISIS, we begin thinking about the time when the region is finally liberated from the reign of horror. ISIS has tried to brutally purge Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities from the region. Their well-documented atrocities amount to genocide.

As more and more villages around Mosul are liberated, new horror-stories are coming to light. ADF International and many other non-governmental organisations are trying to record these testimonies. Future investigations into the crimes committed by militants of the so-called Islamic State will only be successful if the evidence provided is sound and withstands legal scrutiny.

The International Criminal Court was established precisely to investigate and prosecute these types of crimes. Its very existence is representative of the promise that the international community would never again stand idly by while innocents were exterminated by virtue of their ethnicity, colour or creed.

To date, however, little has been done. The Court has not opened an investigation into the crimes occurring in the region. In April 2015, the prosecutor of the Court stated that the jurisdictional basis was too narrow to open a preliminary examination into the foreign fighters active in the ranks of ISIS. She appeared to infer that a referral from the UN Security Council was in order before any action could be taken.

Since that initial statement, there have been two critical developments. Firstly, the UN Security Council will not make a referral anytime soon given the current fractious relationship existing between its permanent members. Secondly, there is new evidence indicating that the ICC has clear jurisdiction over the foreign fighters engaged in the atrocities, with many of them having high-ranking roles within ISIS. In fact, the terrorist organisation is extensively documenting and boasting about the atrocities it is committing, as well as profiling the members involved. There are more than 5,000 Europeans fighting with ISIS in the Middle East. As countries including Germany, France and the UK are signatories to the Rome Statue, which established the ICC, the Court has jurisdiction over foreign fighters coming from these countries.

In the past year, numerous institutions have recognised that the ongoing situation in Syria and Iraq amounts to genocide: the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the EU Parliament, the US House of Congress, the UK House of Commons, the Australian House of Representatives, and various United Nations Reports among them. There has never been an instance where genocide has been committed so openly, and yet so little has been done to prosecute the most heinous of crimes.

We have a situation where many fingers are being pointed, but very little action is being taken to ensure accountability. So with the jurisdiction for the Court to open a preliminary examination being abundantly clear, the only question is whether the Court will accept it.

And make no mistake, while the ISIS fighters are currently miles away from our homes and perhaps not at the forefront of our minds, there will come a day when they will try to return. As the terrorists continue to lose ground, a failure to identify and punish those responsible for committing atrocities may well lead to them coming to European Soil. The recent tragedies in Brussels, Paris and other locations are a testament to this threat.

The ICC is a court of last resort, which is intended to complement but not replace the national courts. It must be emphasised that national governments, therefore, have a vital role to play in prosecuting their own citizens who have knowingly and willing joined an organisation which proudly proclaims that it commits genocide. National governments must work in close cooperation with the ICC to ensure that the relevant evidence is preserved, catalogued and deployed in the appropriate proceedings.

It is imperative that we do all we can to begin holding some of the most sadistic criminals this world has seen to account. This is why we have urged the prosecutor of the ICC to revisit her initial decision of April 2015 in an open letter, joining the voice of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in a recent Resolution that was adopted unanimously. The Court simply cannot continue to sit on its hands – it must seek justice for the victims of the most barbaric atrocities imaginable. This is, after all, the very reason for its existence. We, therefore, call upon our governments and the International Criminal Court to start investigating and prosecuting these enemies of humanity.


 

Debate on Anti-Semitism October 27th 2016

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Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend Lady Deech for initiating today’s important short debate, I refer to my interests in higher education. For nearly 20 years, I held a chair in citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University, where I am an honorary fellow, and was director of the Roscoe Foundation for Citizenship. I have also been a visiting fellow at the University of St Andrews.

In September, I was in Jerusalem and Warsaw—two cities which have the toxic story of anti-Semitism written into their DNA.

As we have heard, universities have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to provide a safe and inclusive environment but, as the experience of a Jewish law student at York University illustrates, students have had to use their own resources to seek legal redress and apologies where anti-Semitism has occurred. That should have been done on their behalf by the university authorities. It is the job of an institution’s leaders, and it is a task that they must take very seriously and prioritise without fear or favour. My noble friend is right to remind student leaders of their duties, too, and to insist on monitoring and training.

On our campuses,  in political parties and institutions, contemporary anti-Semitism can often be the wolf concealed in sheep’s clothing. Jihadist attacks in Toulouse, Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen, the burning of kosher shops in the Jewish quarter of Sarcelles, and the sight of Jews fleeing their neighbourhoods and synagogues under siege by thugs brandishing placards threatening death to Jews have uncanny and terrifying echoes of Germany in 1934. We know how that began and to what it led.

I have been particularly disturbed by the growth of online bullying and hate, and by the targeting of opposition Jewish politicians. What is being done to engage the industry and online comment editors in tackling online hate? What response have we had from companies such as Twitter about taking stronger action against hate crimes on their platforms? With around 1,000 anti-Semitic hate crimes every year, it is clear that far more needs to be done, so what assessment have we made of the effectiveness of initiatives such as True Vision and the UK No Hate Speech Movement?

Through counter-narratives and the smart power of aid programmes, the BBC World Service, the British Council and the Commonwealth, we must use every possible outlet to combat internet postings and, among other things, Wahhabi-sponsored school textbooks, funded by Saudi Arabia and distributed worldwide.

The recent death of Sir Sigmund Sternberg brings me to my final point, which is about interfaith relationships, a point touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Beith.

My noble friend Lord Sacks has always led by example. His inspiring books about how we build our home together and learn to appreciate the dignity that comes through difference brilliantly show us what needs to be done. Those ideas need to be understood and implemented, especially at grass-roots level.

On this International Religious Freedom Day, when we celebrate Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which had its origins in the horrors of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen and the other camps, and which promotes the right to believe, not to believe, or to change your belief, we must insist that our Jewish citizens are an essential part of who we are as a nation, and anything which compromises their safety or devalues their place in British society devalues us all.

No one should live in fear because of their beliefs or because of who they are. Difference is to be prized and upheld, and the political imperative which flows from this assertion is that wherever it manifests itself we must counter anti-Semitism.

anti-semitism-co-exist
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See Link To Details of Red Wednesday

https://davidalton.net/2016/10/26/redwednesday-23rd-november-2016-circulate-details-to-others-so-that-red-wednesday-becomes-a-day-when-people-stand-together-for-the-persecuted-and-forgotten-silence-in-the-face-of-evil/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

Also see, by Ján Figeľ, EU Envoy on Religious Freedom:

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/eu.slams.britain.isis.is.committing.genocide.and.youre.doing.nothing/98593.

htmhttp://europeanpost.co/century-of-genocides-end-or-continuity/

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/for-eus-religious-freedom-envoy-middle-east-is-key-arena-56109/

Letter to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court signed by Dr.Pieter Outzigt, Lord (David) Alton,Lars Adaktusson MEP and Ewelina Ochab calling for the prosecution of ISIS for crimes recognised by the Rome Statute

letter-to-the-icc

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Presentation: October 19th 2016 on Why Freedom of Religion and Belief Is Relevant and Urgent and Address give at Nayrouz Service October 20th 2016, St.Margaret’s Church, Westminster, at the conclusion of the Conference.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Presentation: October 19th 2016

 article 18 an orphaned rightPakistan ChristiansIn appealing to hatred, many jihadists cite a seventh-century directive which requires Christians to convert to Islam and pay tribute to Muslim rulers or leave. It is being increasingly enforced by extreme Islamist groups. Those who don't pay up are forced to leave or are murdered.

Why Freedom of Religion and Belief Is  Relevant and Urgent

To View Accompanying Power Point presentation click on: https://davidalton.net/media/

 

The BBC’s courageous chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet, reminds us that

“If you don’t understand religion —including the abuse of religion —it’s becoming ever harder to understand our world”.

Understanding its relevance is a sine qua non – both in a domestic and international context, whether fashioning measures to counter extremism or promoting community cohesion or, or in trying to understand global conflict and consequences  like the 55 million people now living as refugees.

Two weeks ago standing on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount – and a few days later in Warsaw –  I reflected on both the Holocaust and, in our generation, the genocide of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities.

Like the canary in the mine, early indications of abuses of freedom or religion or belief are a harbinger of far worse that will come. Conversely, societies that make Article 18 a corner stone see their societies stabilise and prosper.

 

I will divide my remarks today into three parts:

1 The Obligations that Flow From Article 18.

  1. A Snapshot of The State of the World
  2. Some Things We Might Do

 

1 The Obligations that Flow From Article 18.

 

Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights –promulgated in the aftermath of the defining horrors of the Holocaust, and which has acquired a normative character within general international law, insists that:

 

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

 

The declaration’s stated objective was to realise,

“a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the formidable chairman of the drafting committee, argued that freedom of religion was one of the four essential freedoms of mankind an “ international Magna Carta for all mankind”.

She said

“Religious freedom…  must be freedom of all religious people”, and she rejoiced in having friends from all faiths and all races.

Article 18 emerged from the infamies of the 20th century—from the Armenian genocide to the depredations of Stalin’s gulags and Hitler’s concentration camps; from the pestilential nature of persecution, demonisation, scapegoating and hateful prejudice; and, notwithstanding violence associated with religion, it emerged from ideology, nation and race.

The four great murderers of the 20th century—Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot—were united by their hatred of religious faith. It was the bloodiest century in human history with the loss of 100 million lives.

When, in 1948, the 30 articles of the UDHR were adopted by the UN General Assembly, the eight abstentions included the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia.

Although Saudi would argue that there was a conflict with Sharia Law countries like Pakistan believed that there was compatibility and, in 1947,  Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s great founding statesman,  crafted a constitution which promised to uphold plurality and diversity:

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…. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste and creed”

Jinnah’s values were also the values of the United Nations Charter, promulgated in 1945, and which committed all States to “promote universal respect” for “fundamental freedoms” “without distinction to race, sex, language or religion” and for the principles enshrined in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The Polish Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin – who had lost 49 of his relatives in the Holocaust –developed the concept of genocide based on the experience of Armenian Christians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks and the massacre of Assyrian Christians at Simele, in Iraq, in 1933.

Lemkin argued that “international co-operation” was needed, “to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge”.

Genocide – the crime above all crimes – is defined in Article 2 of the 1948 Convention and the 147 signature countries have a moral and legal duty to, “undertake to prevent and to punish.

Too often, though, never again happens all over again – and it is happening now.

The House of Commons, the American Congress, the European Parliament and many other legislative bodies have all declared today’s crimes in Syria and Iraq, against Christians and Yazidis, to be genocide under the terms of the Convention.

The Times  said the destruction of Christians “now amounts to nothing less than genocide…while  Boris Johnson said “Isis are engaged in what can only be called genocide …..though for some baffling reason the Foreign Office still hesitates to use the term genocide.”

In Hillary Clinton’s view:

“What is happening is genocide,”

Words matter: and words like genocide, persecution, and discrimination all have legal definition, but deeds matter even more.

If there is no basis for enforcement rights become meaningless. Unless those whose rights are being infringed have access to a remedy.

However long it takes, we have a duty to bring to justice 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.

William Hague was right to described the “gap between the commitments states have made and the reality of their actions”.

So much for our obligations.

  1. Let me provide a snapshot of the state of the world: 

It is a moral outrage that whole swathes of humanity are being murdered, terrorised, victimised, intimidated, deprived of their belongings and driven from their homes, simply because of the way they worship God or practise their faith. Infringement of freedom of religion and belief morphs into persecution and, as we have seen, can morph into crimes against humanity and genocide.

The annual Pew study found that 74% of the world’s population live in the countries where there are violations of Article 18.

In every country where there are violations an estimated 250 million Christians are persecuted.

Jonathan Sacks says:  “The persecution of Christians throughout much of the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and elsewhere is one of the crimes against humanity of our time, and I am appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked. What is happening to Christians in these places is the religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing.””

But many others suffer too.

People like Alexander Aan, imprisoned in Indonesia for two years after saying he did not believe in God; or Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian atheist and blogger sentenced to 1,000 public lashes for publicly expressing his atheism.

Or Asia Bibi – condemned to death for so called blasphemy . Having spent five years in prison, her case was again adjourned last week.

One quarter of the world’s countries have blasphemy laws –more than one in 10 have laws penalizing apostasy: both used to falsely accuse, intimidate, and persecute.

Whether judged by Asia Bibi’s case, the Lahore massacre, or the assassination of the country’s Christian Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti – who questioned the blasphemy laws, Pakistan has wallowed in a culture of impunity.

Following a visit I made to a detention centre where escaping Pakistani Christians and Ahmadis are incarcerated, I collected evidence and launched a report cataloguing this systematic campaign.

One escapee recounted how his friend, Basil – a pastor’s son – was targeted by Pakistani Islamists. Having failed to convert him Basil, his wife and child were burnt alive.

The assailants then turned their attention to his friend.

Attacked and beaten, he reported this to the police. They informed the assailants, who threatened to kill him, his wife, and little girl. They fled the country.

UK policy insists that this as “discrimination” not persecution –words, like genocide, that have direct implications for asylum and aid policies.

Note that none of the £1 billion of British aid, given to Pakistan over the past two years, has been specifically used to promote Article 18.

Or think of Iran – with almost 1000 executions last year -including the execution of Baha’is;  or how Saeed Abedini, was imprisoned for 10 years for “undermining national security” by hosting Christian gatherings in his home

Violation of Article 18 has led to Chinese Catholics like Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang, who died last year aged 94, having to spend half his life in prison; to Chinese Protestants, since the beginning of 2016, seeing 49 of their churches defaced or destroyed, crosses removed and a pastor’s wife crushed to death in the rubble as she pleaded with the authorities to desist; and to the harvesting of organs of Falun Gong practitioners.

 

Think, too, of countries like Sudan and Nigeria.

 

In Sudan, Meriam Ibrahim, – a young mother of two was charged, and sentenced to death for apostasy and to 100 lashes for adultery. Refusing to renounce her faith, and before being freed, she was forced to give birth shackled in a prison cell.

Archaic and cruel laws lead to stonings and lashings and there are pastors currently languishing in Khartoum’s jails.

 

Meanwhile, Sudan’s leaders, indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, continue to carry out their bombing of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile – home to many who do not share the regime’s religious ideology.

 

In Nigeria think of the 200 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok by Boko Haram – whose jihadist ideology also seeks to stamp out difference and to eradicate diversity.

And who can ever forget the execution by ISIS of Egyptian Copts in Libya – after they refused to renounce their faith – or the burning or bombing of more than 50 of Egypt’s churches in Egypt’s Kristallnacht?

And then there is North Korea.

I co-chair the All Party Group and have been there four times. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry into North Korea concluded that around 200,000 people are incarcerated. Along with executions and torture “there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and that “Severe punishments are inflicted on people caught practising Christianity”.

One escapee, Hae Woo, a Christian woman gave graphic evidence in Parliament of her time inside a camp -where torture and beatings are routine, and where prisoners were so hungry they were reduced to eating rats, snakes, or even searching for grains in cow dung. She said that in such places “the dignity of human life counted for nothing.”

This Baedekers Guide of discrimination and persecution is by no means comprehensive. But it underlines the scale and the urgency of the task.

 

  1. Some Things We Might Do

Article 18 is a foundational human right—many would say the foundational right. While there should be no hierarchy of rights, and all rights are interdependent, without the freedom to choose, practise, share without coercion and change your beliefs, what freedom is there?

At every opportunity, we must promulgate freedom of religion or belief. When we in the UK say we don’t need a special envoy to promote this because “every ambassador will do so” we need some way of benchmarking the effectiveness of their efforts.

And when the Government say this is “one of the Government’s key human rights priorities”, we need to provide resources which are commensurate with the scale of the challenge – certainly more than one full time FCO desk officer. Compare the £34 billion spent on military operations since the Cold War with the paltry resources deployed in promoting Article 18.

We also need a consistent, coherent international strategy.

It is inconsistent to denounce some countries while appeasing others, complicit in jihaddism, through financial support or the sale of arms.

For example, since the present conflict began in Yemen, we have sold £3.3 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia. We are perceived as hypocrites when business interests determine how offended we are by egregious human rights violations.

And we can be much more proactive in galvanising an international strategy.

Nelson Mandela once said that the Commonwealth makes the world safe for diversity. We need to use it more.

Kofi Anan called the BBC World Service “Britain’s greatest gift to the world” and it now reaches some 265 million people. In deploying smart power what better vehicle is there?

And social media: ruthlessly and grotesquely used by ISIS.

The next generation are being reached via the internet and smartphones – but the religious and secular communities are failing to counter this with common perspectives, common ethical ideals of and underlining how we can learn to live together.

We urgently need a persuasive new narrative capable of forestalling the unceasing incitements to hatred which pour forth from the internet, capturing unformed minds, and manifesting themselves in hate crimes, discrimination, persecution and worse.

 

As General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army observed, the devil needn’t have all the good tunes. The Facebook for the Bible page has 4.5 million followers while the God Wants You To Know app has 2 million active users each month.

Note also that there are 44 countries word wide that censor the internet – and the five worst offenders when measured against the criterion of “an open and free” internet are Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, Yemen and Qatar – while North Korea completely bans the internet. Look at the direct correlation with the curtailment of freedom of religion or belief.

If we are to successfully combat this, Jews, Christians, Muslims and others must no longer see one another as an existential threat. The media and scholars must help with this task.

 

People of faith and of no faith must understand and enter in to one another’s stories.

Jonathan Sacks reminds us how the displacement narratives of Isaac and Ismael, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, can all be used to promote, mutual respect, coexistence and reconciliation.  As Lord Sacks says: “The great faiths provide meaning and purpose for their adherents. The question is: can they make space for those who are not its adherents, who sing a different song, hear a different music, tell a different story?”

Those societies that make space for those who sing a different song see many blessings.

We should better emphasise – as Dr.Brian Grin has done – the tangible benefits that accrue to a society that protects its minorities, encourages diversity and promotes freedom of religion or belief. In 1965, Dignitatis Humanae, the Second Vatican Council’s proclamation on religious freedom, correctly observed that a society which promotes religious freedom will be enlivened and enriched and one that does not will decay

Perhaps we also need a new Convention on Religious Freedom to sit alongside the Convention on Genocide – but if we promote such Conventions let’s dedicate ourselves to upholding and enforcing them too – and with universal application – making sure that words like genocide, persecution and discrimination are matched by deeds and are reflected in the way we do business with; sell arms to; or provide aid programmes to those who violate Article 18.

The urgency of the life and death task facing this conference was starkly underlined by the execution of the 84-year-old French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel and by the murder of the Glasgow shopkeeper, Asad Shah, who often reached out to Christian neighbours and customers. Tanveer Ahmed, allegedly drove up from Bradford to kill Mr. Shah because he said he was disrespectful of Islam. Mr. Shah was an Ahmadi who, in Pakistan, are denied citizenship unless they renounce their description of themselves as Muslims – but this murder took place in the UK. So never suggest that these issues are about far away places that are no concern of ours.

 

In examining the obligations that flow from Article 18; in providing a snapshot of the state of the world and in suggesting some things we might do, I have tried to answer the question posed to us this morning, why is freedom of religion and belief relevant?

It is because, as Lyce Ducet pithily remarked:  If you don’t understand religion —including the abuse of religion — you won’t understand what is happening in our world. 


 

Address give at Nayrouz Service October 20th  2016, St.Margaret’s Church, Westminster, at the conclusion of the Conference.

In the 1990s during my work with the Jubilee Campaign I was asked to write a report on the discrimination and persecution faced by the Coptic Church of Egypt.

I saw plenty of examples of discrimination and persecution but I also discovered the hidden treasures of the Coptic tradition and came away inspired by its extraordinary and remarkable history, its beautiful liturgies, and by its contemporary work – not least by women like Maggie Gobran – Mama Maggie – the Mother of Cairo – working indefatigably in the squalid shanty towns of Cairo.

Coptic, of course, simply means Egyptian in the pre Arabic language of the country.   This ancient church was founded two millennia ago by St.Mark one of the four Gospel writers  – although, Egypt had been home to Jesus Himself, after his refugee family fled the slaughter of the holy innocents and found a safe and secure home in Egypt:  surely a story with significance for these troubled times.     

In 1996 at St.Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo I met His Holiness, Pope Shenouda III. I recall remarking that we in the West had done too little to speak up for the ancient churches. He responded by saying that persecution could be endured – he  had, himself suffered at political hands having been banished for some time to  an ancient desert monastery – but what he did say was that when we Christians living in the affluent West undermine the Faith by our pronouncements and divisions that was a persecution far more difficult to bear.

This remark was a helpful reminder that we need an appropriate sense of humility and that we must listen far more carefully to communities like the Copts, the Chadleans, the Armenians and the Assyrians who have so much wisdom, shaped by experience, to offer us. 

We must listen but we must also speak and act in solidarity.

It is a moral outrage that vast swathes of humanity are being murdered, terrorized, victimized, intimidated, deprived of their homes or belongings – and in places like Mosul – where they had lived in diversity and common respect for 2000 years – see their confiscated homes marked for appropriation with the letter N for Nazarene – simply because of the way they worship God or practice their faith.

After the slaughter of 21 Coptic Christians on February 12th 2015, who died professing their faith, a service of remembrance was held here in the Palace of Westminster. During that service Bishop Angaelos reminded us that “one profound result and gift of this horrific act is that it brought people together.” He added “These men paid the ultimate price, but gave us a cause to advocate for all those who are persecuted. They also showed us that there was a level of evil that we must all stand in solidarity against – and a level of courage, faithfulness and defiance that we must all aspire to.”

Drawn from our different faiths and traditions that insistence that we will faithfully rededicate ourselves to work for universal freedom of religion or belief and be a voice for those who are too often without voices. That is surely the inspiration that we must take away from this Nayrouz Service and from our two day Conference. 

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

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

 

chesterton-eugenics-and-other-evilsabortion-law-mgn_

 

Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill [HL] –

 

24 February 2017

Report Stage

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

The noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, and the noble Lord, Lord Winston, have spoken as doctors. I am only the humble father of a doctor but I had the chance earlier this week to speak to two eminent doctors, one a former president of one of the royal colleges and the other a former president of the BMA, both of whom are opposed to the amendment. For one this is because of the danger of misdiagnosis. She gave me the specific example of a baby whose mother had been told it had a fatal foetal disability, but this did not turn out to be the case when it was born. The other said that it is far better to go ahead with the pregnancy and for the baby to be delivered in order to help the mother at that stage. I will come back to that point in a moment, because it is borne out by the guidance of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the submission it made on this subject in 2010.

We can disagree about these things, but let us at least accept that there are grounds for honest debate.

I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Winston, had been able to bring forward his amendment in Committee, when we would have been able to have a more robust argument and discussion about it. It is strange that this amendment should be laid before your Lordships’ House at 24 hours’ notice before Report. Since it has been, I have done my best to discuss it with others who know more about these things than I do.

In 1990, when a Member of another place, I moved my only amendment in 18 years in the Commons on which there was an equality of votes. Mr Speaker Weatherill—who became Lord Weatherill—had to use his casting vote for the status quo. He was one of my two sponsors when I became a Member of your Lordships’ House and I know through subsequent discussions with him how disturbed he was that he was not able to follow his conscience that day but had to follow precedent in upholding the status quo. My amendment sought to ensure that, in the 1990 amendment to the 1967 Abortion Act, the nature of the disability would be placed on the green form authorising the abortion. I was challenged by Harriet Harman who said that it was scaremongering for Professor John Finnis, one of the country’s preeminent authorities on jurisprudence, to suggest that the legislation as drafted could lead to abortion on the grounds of cleft palate. As noble Lords know from the figures that have been produced, there have been abortions post-24 weeks’ gestation on the grounds of cleft palate. Notwithstanding the examples the noble Lord gave a few moments ago, 90% of all babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome in this country are now routinely aborted.

I have never described the Department of Health as being responsible for eugenics and I would never do that, nor do I believe that doctors in this country are. The noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin, has said that society slides into eugenics when these things become normative. Therefore, I hope that when the noble Lord replies to the debate, he will tell us exactly what the list of disabilities is that cannot be diagnosed before 24 weeks’ gestation. Despite my own strongly held views about the law—indeed, 8 million abortions have taken place in this country since 1967, there are around 600 every working day and one in five pregnancies is now ended on those grounds—this Bill is not about that. This Bill is about equality legislation and discrimination, and whether a child with a disability should be treated differently from an able-bodied child.

I simply point out to your Lordships that there is a certain irony, as the very last words spoken by the Minister at the Dispatch Box in the previous debate was on a Bill about car parking and were about ensuring equality of opportunity for disabled people to be able to park in car parking spaces. All Members of your Lordships’ House have properly campaigned over the years on the rights of disabled people, and have a huge reputation in this country for asserting those rights. Is there not an inconsistency if we campaign for ramps to be attached to public buildings in this country but say that it would be better that someone with a disability had not been born in the first place? What sort of message does that send?

I do not think that people like me can put forward arguments such as this if we are just anti things. One of the things in which I got involved in my own city of Liverpool was the building of the first baby hospice in the country, Zoe’s Place, of which I continue to be a patron, and others have since been opened. It was built specifically to help mothers in this situation. You have to be positively for the unborn child but for the mother as well in these tragic and very difficult circumstances.

I admire medicine when it is at its best. The noble Lord, Lord Winston, and I sometimes disagree. Nevertheless, he knows that I hugely admire a lot of the work that he has done. When noble Lords such as the noble Lord, Lord Winston, are able to develop—as they are doing—surgery in utero to deal with things such as spina bifida, that is good science and good medicine marching hand in hand with good ethics. However, if I were to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, for instance, that I was in favour of abortion beyond 24 weeks for reasons such as gender, race or—if it could be diagnosed—orientation, what would your Lordships say to me? I hope that they would rebuke me. That is why I argue that we should treat disability in precisely the same way as those issues.

I said that I would return to what the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists had to say. There were two things, one of which shocked me, when I read the details of what happens in late abortion of this kind. This is the college’s description, not mine:

“Intracardiac potassium chloride … is the recommended method to ensure fetal asystole. After aspiration of fetal blood to confirm correct placement of the needle, 2-3 ml strong … is injected into a cardiac ventricle. A repeat injection may be required”.

It goes on to describe other ways of doing this. This is a late abortion. Babies have been born and lived from 23 weeks’ gestation, so this is beyond viability that we are talking about. The college also states:

“Most women will be unaware that, within the NHS, medical abortion induced by drugs is the procedure usually offered after 14 weeks of gestation. The prospect of labouring to deliver a dead fetus will be difficult for many and discussions about the procedure will require sensitive handling by experienced staff. Although the prospect of labour in these circumstances is especially daunting, some women gain some satisfaction from having given birth and have welcomed the chance to … hold their baby”.

The college goes on to talk about the options that need to be offered for pain relief,

“and whether the woman might want to see the baby and have mementoes such as photographs and hand and footprints … She will … be made aware of information from a postmortem … These discussions are likely to be distressing for the woman and her partner”.

So let us be very clear that this is a tragedy for everyone involved.

I turn to the noble Lord’s amendment. It states that,

“there is a high probability that the fetus will die”.

We are drafting legislation here. What does this mean? Is the probability 99.99990%, or 50%? How should a high probability be objectively defined in law? Why is that not specified in the wording of the amendment? I am very disturbed by the fact that the noble Lord’s amendment says that you may go on to carry out these procedures “shortly after delivery”, when the baby has been born alive. Is this a matter of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or, arguably, even years? It needs to be clearly defined in law, otherwise it will be interpreted far too widely. That is why the amendment should have been brought forward in Committee, when we could have had a proper discussion about it. However, I hope that the amendment will be resisted and that the Bill in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin, will be given a safe passage so that it will have a chance to go forward and there can be a proper debate about it in another place.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have expressed support for my Bill and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Winston, for his medical lecture on so-called serious foetal anomalies. I address the noble Lord, Lord Winston, with respect but I also address him and all other noble Lords as an equal. I should say at the outset that I totally reject the very premise of this amendment. Other noble Lords have already explained why the amendment is totally inappropriate and, indeed, crassly insensitive, from a Northern Ireland perspective in particular, when it is linked to Amendment 8. I offer a disabled person’s perspective on why it is unacceptable. I have been consistently clear that the purpose of my Bill—a disability rights Bill—is to bring the law as it applies to disability discrimination before birth into line with the laws that your Lordships’ House has already passed to counter disability discrimination after birth.

Noble Lords will know that I accepted an amendment in Committee for an impact review as a logical amendment to a logical Bill. However, in the context of a Bill which promotes disability equality where discrimination begins before birth, this cynical amendment is not remotely logical. Indeed, it runs counter to very essence of my Bill. The amendment reinforces discrimination because it singles out even more acutely a particular group for destruction on grounds of disability. It seeks to legitimise their destruction after 24 weeks with terminology that commands no clinical consensus and despite the fact that cell-free foetal DNA can first be detected in maternal blood as early as seven weeks’ gestation, which means that genetic or chromosomal abnormalities are being detected well in advance of 24 weeks. So what justification is there for abortion after 24 weeks on the grounds of so-called serious foetal anomaly?

Some noble Lords have seen that I recently asked the Department of Health about the number of fatal foetal abnormalities diagnosed in each of the past five years. The answer was that the information is not collected centrally. I followed up and asked about the number of fatal foetal abnormalities diagnosed after 24 weeks in each of the past five years. The answer was the same: the information is not collected centrally. I find that revealing, not because information is being concealed but because it reflects the reality—the truth of the situation.

Those noble Lords who were invited to attend a meeting on this issue, which I understand was held somewhere in the House on Wednesday, could be forgiven for thinking that there is some medical authority—some clear medical consensus—behind the definition of “fatal foetal abnormality”. There is not because there is not an agreed definition. Indeed, the consensus is that what is considered fatal or life-limiting involves a degree of subjective judgment which is influenced by understandings and by the availability of technology, both of which can change with time. The noble Lords who received the invitation to that meeting might also have got the impression, as was intended by the wording of the invitation, that those 230 disabled babies aborted after 24 weeks in 2015 had all been diagnosed with severe or fatal foetal abnormalities. They were not. Of the 659 babies aborted for the crime of having Down’s syndrome, for example, two were aborted at 25 weeks, one at 26 weeks, one at 28, one at 30, another at 31, three at 32 weeks, two at 33, two at 34—and one at 39 weeks.

2.45 pm

The question for me, apart from the obvious one of why the severely disabled Member of your Lordships’ House sponsoring the Bill was not even contacted about the meeting, is therefore twofold. First, how do the organisations behind the meeting—the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the Family Planning Association and the organisation for termination for abnormality, now named euphemistically as Antenatal Results and Choices—know that the 230 disabled babies aborted in 2015 after 24 weeks because of their disability had all been diagnosed with severe foetal abnormalities? The answer is that they do not know. The Department of Health has already said that the information is not held centrally, so none of these organisations knows this and neither does the noble Lord, Lord Winston. So secondly, why should they have insinuated and implicitly claimed this? The answer is in their overtly discriminatory agenda, which informs both this amendment and the noble Lord’s complete failure even to make contact with me.

This amendment is completely inappropriate and incompatible with the progress achieved on disability rights, which your Lordships’ House can be rightly proud of helping to secure. That is quite apart from the crass insensitivity to me, as a disabled and equal Member of your Lordships’ House, of the noble Lord’s hijacking of my disability equality Bill in order to advance a blatantly discriminatory eugenic agenda.

I understand why those who oppose my Bill are desperate to misrepresent it and to say that it is all about abortion, which it barely touches, and to ignore disability equality and disability rights before birth. Their message is stark and bleak. It is: “Let’s ignore the fact that these disabled babies are human beings, with an equal right to exist. Let’s reclassify them and call them foetal anomalies. Let’s go one better and call them serious foetal anomalies. What does it matter that the Department of Health collects no data centrally on so-called fatal foetal anomalies, as long as we can use the term to dehumanise?” Well this foetal anomaly, this proud Member of your Lordships’ House, is having none of it. I utterly reject this medical mindset that clings to the idea that a disabled baby is a medical failure to be eradicated through abortion. I begged no one for my equality. I know I have as much right as anyone to be alive.

However, should the noble Lord decide not to withdraw his amendment and instead to divide the House, I humbly ask that all noble Lords stand with me and people with congenital disabilities and affirm that we are all equal.

Consideration on Report adjourned.

House adjourned at 3 pm

Full debate at:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2017-02-24/debates/CC8223A5-13F6-4AAA-A9B7-3F287A90A456/Abortion(DisabilityEquality)Bill(HL)

The Report Stage of the Bill must now continue in the Lords when time is allocated by the Government.

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

==========================================================================

 

The Shinkwin Bill on equality, discrimination, disability and abortion law has been given a Second Reading

abortion-law-mgn_lord-shinkwin-1

Lord (Kevin) Shinkwin and a supporter of his Bill at Westminster.

To watch the debate go to:

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/3c04ea69-45e3-440e-93a6-07976ac9e1bd

Also, to see this speech(below) on You Tube:
https://youtu.be/At1ZHafjFpg

and Janet Fearns scorn-not-his-simplicity

abortion-and-disabilityabortion-and-disability4

 11.52 am October 21st 2016

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, I support the Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin, and congratulate him on bringing this timely piece of legislation to your Lordships’ House and on the eloquent way in which he introduced it. It is hard to overstate my admiration for his courage, his compassion and his integrity.

I hope noble Lords will forgive me for saying so, but I cannot help thinking that if the noble Lord’s Bill had set out to facilitate the assisted suicide of disabled people, it would have been on every national news bulletin. But because it seeks to end the taking of the life of a viable disabled baby, it is being treated very differently. That unwillingness to treat ethical issues with equal respect and impartiality is a disturbing sign of the times—but not as disturbing as the issues of equality, discrimination and the very right to life itself raised by the noble Lord’s important Bill

As the noble Lord observed, our legislation currently affords unborn disabled babies significantly less protection than that which is afforded those who are able bodied. Paradoxically, we will campaign and raise our voices for wheelchair ramps to be placed on public buildings but fail to uphold the innate right to life itself of the disabled person who uses that wheelchair.

Although the able bodied may be aborted up to 24 weeks, those who are disabled may be aborted up to birth. This inevitably implies that these unborn disabled babies are, as the noble Lord said, significantly less valuable than those who are able bodied. What message does this convey about the human dignity and the value—or, rather, the lack of value—of disability in society generally? As the law stands, it is a legal arrangement that invites and encourages discrimination—which is why, in 1990, I spoke and voted against it in another place when this provision was made.

At the time, I was given significant support by a woman called Ellen Wilkie, who had Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In her short 31 years, Ellen gained an honours degree in classics from Bristol University and was a published poet, worker, author, actress, radio and television presenter, journalist and musician. Her parents had been encouraged to abort her but had refused. I particularly commend her autobiography, A Pocketful of Dynamite, to anyone who contests her assertion that, “No one can say what a disabled person will be capable of”.

The arguments that Ellen Wilkie put at that time were set aside by Members of another place, and that legislation was incorporated into statute. It has had a very negative effect on the attitudes that people have. It is a throwback to a time when society had remarkably different attitudes to the inclusion and contribution of people with disabilities. We have moved on as a society and it is time that the law moved on, too. The Disability Rights Commission—now the Equality and Human Rights Commission—has, rightly, argued that this provision,

“is offensive to many people; it reinforces negative stereotypes of disability and … is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally”.

As the We’re All Equal campaign has pointed out, statute insists that we must not discriminate against people with disabilities, but the 1990 provision runs contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the law.

The net effect of the noble Lord’s Bill would be that the 24-week time limit would apply to all babies, regardless of disability—it has no effect on other grounds detailed in the 1967 Abortion Act. It is hardly a secret that I oppose not just the time limits in our current legislation but the provisions that have led to 8 million nascent lives being prematurely ended in the United Kingdom. But this Bill is not about that; it is solely about a eugenic law that flies in the face of our usual protestations and tips the balance in favour of equality and against discrimination.

That the noble Lord’s Bill is desperately needed may be graphically seen in the abortion statistics provided by the department, which the noble Lord referred to. He specifically referred to the situation of people with Down’s syndrome. We live in a country where around 90% of all Down’s syndrome babies are routinely aborted. I know that I am not alone in having been deeply affected by Sally Phillips’s recent documentary, “A World Without Downs Syndrome?”, and the subsequent debate which the programme inspired. Rosa Monckton, mother of Domenica, born with Down’s, remarked that,

“Sally is entirely right about the relentless pressure to persuade mothers to ‘give up and start again’. I hate to think of what our family would have missed if we had gone down that path”.

What does it say about us and our society when amniocentesis and other tests are used as part of search and destroy mission with barely a murmur of dissent? Sally Phillips brilliantly highlighted the appalling pressure put upon mothers who receive a pre-natal diagnosis to abort their babies, but it also revealed from her own experience that living with Down’s is not a death sentence or incompatible with life. Paradoxically, in seeking to eradicate these wonderful individuals from the human race, it suggests that it is we who have the problem, not them. What does it say to the survivors—those who have been inconsiderate enough to avoid the perfection test and have somehow managed to slip through the net?

The noble Lord’s Bill challenges these negative stereotypes, but it also challenges casual attitudes to the law and to the requirement to keep scrupulous records. In 2014, a Department of Health review found evidence that there is significant underreporting of the number of abortions for some foetal disabilities. I hope that when the noble Baroness comes to reply to the debate, she will say what is going to be done to rectify this. I also have another question, arising from the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin. Although we were warned about it in the debates in 1990, not least by Professor John Finnis, who was rubbished at the time and accused of scaremongering, very few people realised that the provision would lead to abortion on babies with, as the noble Lord said, rectifiable disabilities such as cleft palate and hare-lip. What does the Minister have to say about that?

The shocking discrimination that we are witnessing through both what our law says and what it facilitates has devastating practical implications. I will conclude my remarks by returning to the pressures exerted on parents. The United Kingdom’s initial report on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities said:

“Concerns were expressed around the approach to abortion in the UK, where disabled people have suggested a bias towards termination of pregnancies if a child is likely to be disabled”.

This view was backed up by evidence submitted to the 2013 independent parliamentary inquiry, which heard from a number of parents who said that, when it became apparent that their baby was disabled, their doctors expected them to abort. Among a number of contributions that I read, one parent said that her doctor became,

“short-tempered and abrupt with me because he clearly didn’t agree with my decision”.

Another said she felt pressured into an abortion and reported that her doctor,

“threatened that all medical help would be denied”.

The inquiry also heard from parents with disabled children. A representative of the British Academy of Childhood Disability said:

“Parents I have spoken to have said that Doctors treating their children with Down’s Syndrome for example (for heart and other conditions post natal) criticised them for not having abortions, saying their children will not have a good life”.

A parent, meanwhile, said:

“Parents who learn of their baby’s disability after birth are sometimes told that it’s too bad they didn’t find out earlier so they could have ‘taken care of it’”.

Another parent said:

“I have heard views expressed that suggest my child is seen as a drain on resources. A common view is that it was not fair on my other child to bring a disabled child into the world”.

When she comes to reply, I hope that the Minister will reflect for a little while on the department’s attitude to some of the alternatives to this that are available. I have read about and seen some of the extraordinary in utero operations that can take place now on disabilities such as spina bifida, and I have also read the work of Professor KJS Anand, one of the world’s leading experts on foetal pain, whose says that,

“it seems prudent to avoid pain during gestation”,

because of the danger that the unborn child will experience pain. Noble Lords should recall that babies have been born and lived from 23 weeks’ gestation, and this provision permits the ending of a life right up to and even during birth. What pain must it experience in this life-ending procedure?

All of this is very sad, so I am extraordinarily grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin, for bringing forward his important equalities Bill. It is specific in its intention and specifically targeted at the issue of discrimination and inequality. I urge your Lordships’ House to give it your support at Second Reading today.

 12.03 pm

abortion-and-disability3The unborn child at 18 weeks gestation. 600 babies are aborted daily in the UK - some, up to and even during birth, with the full force of British law. 7 million have been aborted since abortion was made legal and some have had up to 8 legal abortions.

The Bill Received A Second Reading.

————————————————————————–

Doctors Operate In The Womb To save A Life….

http://www.itv.com/news/2016-10-24/baby-born-twice-doing-well-after-miracle-surgery/

 

“It was an easy decision.  We wanted to give her life.”

 

A baby has been ‘born twice’ after doctors had to take her out of the womb to remove a tumour that was threatening her life.

Lynlee Boemer’s only chance of survival was a risky fetal surgery which involved cutting her out of her mother prematurely, and then putting her back in so that she could be carried full term.

LynLee’s mother Margaret said she was told at 16 weeks that her baby was suffering from a rare birth defect known as sacrococcygeal teratoma – a tumor that grows from a baby’s tailbone…..

When Mrs Boemer was 23 weeks and five days pregnant she was taken into the operating theatre.

Mrs Boemer told CNN: “LynLee didn’t have much of a chance. At 23 weeks, the tumour was shutting her heart down and causing her to go into cardiac failure, so it was a choice of allowing the tumour to take over her body or giving her a chance at life.

‘It was an easy decision for us. We wanted to give her life.”

 

 

Some Recent Parliamentary Replies On North Korea and details of three forthcoming meetings in Parliament about North Korea. Also, October Questions and Answers about Sudan.

north-korean-refugeesSome Recent Parliamentary Replies On North Korea

north-korea-imagesnorth korea executions

 

Also See

https://davidalton.net/2016/09/09/parliamentary-debate-on-freedom-of-religion-or-belief-september-8-full-text-and-link-to-tv-recording-syria-iraq-north-korea-sudan-iran-pakistan-saudi-arabia-china-india-burma/

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2542):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports about the reflagging of North Korean ships in Tanzania; and whether they have raised that issue at the UN Security Council. (HL2542)

Tabled on: 24 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The Government is aware of such reports and have raised concerns this year with the Tanzanian Government about their shipping register. We continue to have discussions with partner states, and the UN Panel of Experts on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), regarding the misuse of country flags by ships connected to the DPRK. We take such misuse seriously and urge all countries to abide by UN Security Council resolutions. UN Security Council Resolution 2270 calls upon Member States to de-register any vessel that is owned, operated or crewed by the DPRK, and not to register any such vessels that have been de-registered by another Member State.

Date and time of answer: 03 Nov 2016 at 15:33

Baroness Williams of Trafford, the Home Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2084):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that UK-owned companies do not facilitate the forced labour of North Korean nationals. (HL2084)

Tabled on: 10 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Williams of Trafford:

Current trade between the UK and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is minimal and covered by an overarching provision that any activities should satisfy existing UN and EU sanctions. These refer to restriction in the export of goods and financial assistance, which may contribute to the development of the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 introduced a landmark transparency in supply chains provision. This requires all commercial organisations operating in the UK with a turnover of £36m or more to set out what steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their business and supply chains each year. This mandatory reporting will allow consumers, investors, campaigners and others to scrutinise the activities of businesses and call businesses to account if they are not doing enough, including in relation to North Korean nationals.

Date and time of answer: 24 Oct 2016 at 14:29.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2192):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 8 June (HL359) and 16 June (HL388) on the subject of violence against women and girls, whether the British Embassy in Pyongyang or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have raised the issue of rape and sexual violence of women and girls by North Korean public officials with North Korea since June 2016. (HL2192)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We have not raised this specific issue since the previous answers (HL359 and HL388) in June 2016. However, we continue to raise our concerns on human rights directly with the regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Most recently, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office my Honourable Friend the member for Reading West (Mr Sharma), summoned the Ambassador for the DPRK to the Foreign Commonwealth Office, where Mr Sharma made clear our concerns that the regime was prioritising its nuclear and ballistic missile programme ahead of the welfare of its people. In addition, we are currently working with partners at the UN General Assembly Third Committee on a strong resolution to maintain international attention on the human rights situation in the DPRK.

Date and time of answer: 21 Oct 2016 at 14:54.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2193):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 16 June (HL392), whether the British Embassy in North Korea had presented a copy of the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to North Korean officials by 10 October. (HL2193)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

As stated in answer HL392, the British Embassy in Pyongyang presented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with a statement supporting the UN Commission of Inquiry’s (COI) findings from the former Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire). This statement was rejected by the MFA. The DPRK is fully aware of the COI report’s findings, but refuses to substantively engage on human rights issues and regularly denounces the UN COI report as a politically motivated fabrication.

Date and time of answer: 21 Oct 2016 at 14:54.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2194):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their reasons for not imposing human rights sanctions against designated North Korean persons suspected of mass human rights violations and crimes against humanity. (HL2194)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We continue to have discussions with international partners about ways to increase the pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to improve its appalling human rights record. We are currently discussing a response to the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme at the UN Security Council. We are also discussing a further resolution on DPRK human rights at the UN General Assembly Third Committee to maintain the focus of international attention on their appalling human rights record.

We will always consider the full range of measures at our disposal and carefully consider the impact and benefits of sanctions measures before they are imposed. These considerations include our ability to defend the legality of the sanctions should they be challenged under EU law and the likelihood of achieving our objective of a denuclearised DPRK which abides by international norms and respects the human rights of its citizens.

Date and time of answer: 20 Oct 2016 at 15:15.

 

 

 

Lord Young of Cookham, HM Treasury, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2086):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the government of North Korea, or any of its state-owned companies, has access to the London Stock Exchange or holds financial interests in the UK. (HL2086)

Tabled on: 10 October 2016

Answer:
Lord Young of Cookham:

As part of UN and EU sanctions, banks are required to close existing branches, subsidiaries or accounts in North Korea where it has been determined that they contribute to North Korea’s ballistic missile programmes. The sanctions also prohibit any commercial activity by the Government of North Korea (including legal persons, entities or bodies owned or controlled by them).

Assets owned or controlled in the EU by designated DPRK persons, entities or bodies, including government bodies, are subject to an asset freeze and cannot be traded on the London Stock Exchange. A list of designations which has been placed in the Library includes a number of DPRK government and state-owned bodies. HM Treasury implements these financial sanctions in the UK. Non-compliance with financial sanctions is a criminal offence and HM Treasury works closely with law enforcement to ensure sanctions breaches are dealt with appropriately. For reasons of confidentiality, the Treasury does not make public the details of individual reports of frozen assets.

Date and time of answer: 24 Oct 2016 at 14:49.

Lord Price, Department for International Trade, provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2087):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the number of companies owned by UK nationals or headquartered in the UK which conduct business with the government of North Korea or any of its state-owned companies. (HL2087)

Tabled on: 10 October 2016

Answer:
Lord Price:

The Government does not have data on the number of companies owned by UK nationals or headquartered in the UK which conduct business with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Data on the value of trade between the UK and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is published by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). In 2015 the total bilateral trade in goods between the UK and the DPRK was $814,700.

Date and time of answer: 24 Oct 2016 at 15:47.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2192):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 8 June (HL359) and 16 June (HL388) on the subject of violence against women and girls, whether the British Embassy in Pyongyang or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have raised the issue of rape and sexual violence of women and girls by North Korean public officials with North Korea since June 2016. (HL2192)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We have not raised this specific issue since the previous answers (HL359 and HL388) in June 2016. However, we continue to raise our concerns on human rights directly with the regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Most recently, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office my Honourable Friend the member for Reading West (Mr Sharma), summoned the Ambassador for the DPRK to the Foreign Commonwealth Office, where Mr Sharma made clear our concerns that the regime was prioritising its nuclear and ballistic missile programme ahead of the welfare of its people. In addition, we are currently working with partners at the UN General Assembly Third Committee on a strong resolution to maintain international attention on the human rights situation in the DPRK.

Date and time of answer: 21 Oct 2016 at 14:54.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2193):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 16 June (HL392), whether the British Embassy in North Korea had presented a copy of the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to North Korean officials by 10 October. (HL2193)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

As stated in answer HL392, the British Embassy in Pyongyang presented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with a statement supporting the UN Commission of Inquiry’s (COI) findings from the former Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire). This statement was rejected by the MFA. The DPRK is fully aware of the COI report’s findings, but refuses to substantively engage on human rights issues and regularly denounces the UN COI report as a politically motivated fabrication.

Date and time of answer: 21 Oct 2016 at 14:54.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2194):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their reasons for not imposing human rights sanctions against designated North Korean persons suspected of mass human rights violations and crimes against humanity. (HL2194)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We continue to have discussions with international partners about ways to increase the pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to improve its appalling human rights record. We are currently discussing a response to the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme at the UN Security Council. We are also discussing a further resolution on DPRK human rights at the UN General Assembly Third Committee to maintain the focus of international attention on their appalling human rights record.

We will always consider the full range of measures at our disposal and carefully consider the impact and benefits of sanctions measures before they are imposed. These considerations include our ability to defend the legality of the sanctions should they be challenged under EU law and the likelihood of achieving our objective of a denuclearised DPRK which abides by international norms and respects the human rights of its citizens.

Date and time of answer: 20 Oct 2016 at 15:15.

 

 

 

 

Department for International Trade

North Korea: Sanctions

Lords

HL2088

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the effect of the United States’ North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (H.R. 757) on UK-owned businesses and UK nationals which conduct business with the government of North Korea or its state-owned companies.

A

Answered by: Lord Price

Answered on: 20 October 2016

The Government has made no such assessment.

 

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 10 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Refugees

Lords

HL2085

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that the government of China has recently breached the United Nations Refugee Convention by refouling 30 North Koreans without giving them an opportunity to claim asylum nor to meet representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 19 October 2016

We are aware of reports of thirty North Koreans being sent back to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) after a period of detention in China.

Despite claims by the DPRK authorities that forcibly repatriated refugees are well treated and reintegrated into DPRK society, reports suggest that they are often mistreated by the authorities.

We will raise the issue of non -refoulement at the next UK-China Human rights Dialogue, scheduled to take place this month.

 

 

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 10 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Overseas Aid

Lords

HL2089

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they ensure that funds spent by the British Embassy in Pyongyang or funds dispersed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for North Korea activities are not diverted by the government of North Korea for use in its nuclear programme or human rights abuses.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 19 October 2016

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) projects in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are usually delivered through international Non-Governmental Organisations who operate in-country and are aimed at assisting some of the most vulnerable groups in North Korean society. Before selecting an implementing partner relevant due diligence checks are carried out which include, but are not limited to, obtaining assurances about: training provided to staff in relation to reporting bribery and corruption; how those concerns are shared with donors; and what policies, principles and procedures the organisation has in place to regulate its own conduct.

In line with standard FCO project requirements detailed budgets are required for all projects and these are carefully checked to ensure both in-country and other costs are reasonable. Project implementers are required to provide financial reports and originals or copies of all invoices and receipts, as well as a Project Completion Report containing a detailed breakdown of all expenditure during the project period. The final payment on any project is only released after submission of a satisfactory Project Completion Report.

 

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Refugees

Lords

HL2195

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to raise the issue of stateless North Koreans with the government of China; and what steps they plan to take to aid stateless North Koreans in need if the government of China is unwilling to assist them.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 19 October 2016

We are aware of reports of thirty North Koreans being sent back to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) after a period of detention in China.

Despite claims by the DPRK authorities that forcibly repatriated refugees are well treated and reintegrated into DPRK society, reports suggest that they are often mistreated by the authorities.

We will raise the issue of non-refoulement at the next UK-China Human rights Dialogue, scheduled to take place this month.

 

 

AWAITING REPLY

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Sexual Offences

Lords

HL2192

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 8 June (HL359) and 16 June (HL388) on the subject of violence against women and girls, whether the British Embassy in Pyongyang or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have raised the issue of rape and sexual violence of women and girls by North Korean public officials with North Korea since June 2016.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Human Rights

Lords

HL2193

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 16 June (HL392), whether the British Embassy in North Korea had presented a copy of the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to North Korean officials by 10 October.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Human Rights

Lords

HL2194

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their reasons for not imposing human rights sanctions against designated North Korean persons suspected of mass human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Embassies

Lords

HL2196

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the direct costs of the British Embassy in Pyongyang, broken down into (1) locally employed staff, (2) estate expenditure, (3) security, (4) vehicle costs, (5) travel, (6) subsistence and (7) allowances; and what is the cost of Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded activities broken down by individual projects in North Korea for 2016.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 10 October 2016

Home Office

Forced Labour: North Korea

Lords

HL2084

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that UK-owned companies do not facilitate the forced labour of North Korean nationals.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 10 October 2016

HM Treasury

Financial Services: North Korea

Lords

HL2086

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the government of North Korea, or any of its state-owned companies, has access to the London Stock Exchange or holds financial interests in the UK.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 10 October 2016

Department for International Trade

Overseas Trade: North Korea

Lords

HL2087

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the number of companies owned by UK nationals or headquartered in the UK which conduct business with the government of North Korea or any of its state-owned companies.

 

 

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Nuclear Weapons

Lords

HL1899

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by Siegfried Hecker, published on 12 September, concluding that North Korea will have enough material for about 20 nuclear bombs by the end of this year, that it has expanded uranium enrichment facilities, and that it has stockpiled plutonium.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 28 September 2016

We have made clear our deep concern at and condemnation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) nuclear programme. We take into account all sources of information when assessing it. As the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) made clear in his remarks to the UN Security Council on 23 September, that the United Kingdom condemns the recent nuclear test conducted by the DPRK, which is a direct violation of binding Security Council Resolutions. The DPRK must comply with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, including abandoning all nuclear weapons and nuclear programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.

Department for International Development

North Korea: Floods

Lords

HL1900

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what humanitarian aid they are providing to injured and displaced persons in North Korea following the recent flooding in that country.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 27 September 2016

The UK supports organisations such as the UN through core contributions. UN agencies are delivering humanitarian assistance to people affected.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 05 September 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Guided Weapons

Lords

HL1544

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, following North Korea’s launch of three ballistic missiles on 5 September, the UN Security Council will be convened to consider the implications of that launch and an international response.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 15 September 2016

The UN Security Council (UNSC) met on 6 September to discuss a response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) ballistic missiles launches on 5 September. The UNSC subsequently issued a statement condemning these launches as a flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolutions. The UK strongly supports this statement, as we have with previous UNSC statements condemning DPRK provocations in 2016. We will continue to discuss at the UNSC, and with close partners, further measures in response to the DPRK’s destabilising and provocative actions.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Guided Weapons

Lords

HL1543

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of North Korea’s launch of three ballistic missiles on 5 September.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 12 September 2016

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) ballistic missile launches of 5 September are a clear violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs). The DPRK’s repeated provocations in 2016 are a threat to regional stability and international security. The UN Security Council statement of 6 September, which the UK fully supports, clearly demonstrates that the international community is united and will not tolerate this destabilising behaviour. We urge the DPRK to abide by UNSCRs and return to credible and authentic discussions on its nuclear and ballistic missile programme.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Sanctions

Lords

HL1077

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the US Treasury decision to impose sanctions on North Korean senior officials in the light of reported human rights abuses; and whether they plan to impose similar sanctions.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 26 July 2016

The US decision to designate senior members of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) regime follows its decision to introduce the US North Korea Sanctions Policy Enhancement Act in February 2016. The British Government shares the objective of maintaining pressure on the DPRK to fulfil its international human rights obligations and is deeply concerned by the human rights situation in the DPRK. It regularly consults with partners such as the US, the EU and regional partners on the best way to achieve this.

 

Latest

  • Forthcoming Meetings On North Korea
  •  north-korea-human-rightsnorth korea executions
    • Fiona Bruce MP will chair a meeting on November 2nd at 17:00 in Committee Room 20, the Houses of Parliament: Jieun Baek, a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy at the University of Oxford, will address the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea on how North Korea’s information underground — the network of citizens who take extraordinary risks by circulating illicit content such as foreign films, television shows, soap operas, books, and encyclopedias — have fostered an awareness of life outside North Korea and affected the social and political consciousness of North Koreans.

     

    • Lord Alton of Liverpool will chair a meeting on November 8th at 17:00 in Committee Room 21, the Houses of Parliament — This event will contain two presentations:
    • First, College Student’s Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (also known as YoungNK — a South Korean-based not-for-profit organisation which seeks to engage young people on North Korean human rights), in partnership with the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea, will speak about their programmes that creatively engage South Koreans on North Korean human rights.
    • Second, Seung Hoon Chae, a Ph.D. candidate in Politics at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, will speak on the causes behind the activism of North Korean refugees, especially those based in the UK. Seung Hoon will present a case study of North Korean refugees in the UK and suggest that the voices of North Korean refugees are determined more by who a person is today than who that person was at the point of exiting North Korea.

     

    • Geoffrey Clifton-Brown will chair a meeting on  November 17th at 17:00 in Committee Room 17, the Houses of Parliament: A screening of the film ‘While They Watched’, a retrospectively-styled documentary that looks back at the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Government of North Korea. Reflecting on a famous assertion concerning the Nazi regime of ‘Never Again’, the film will draw on interviews with social scientists, North Korean exiles, NGOs and governmental bodies to ask the question: How have the atrocities of North Korea been allowed to happen?
  • Details from James Burt jamesburtappg@gmail.comWebsite: www.appgnk.orgTwitter: @APPGNorthKoreaFacebook: facebook.com/appg.nkVisit the All Party Group on North Korea Web Site for Details of forthcoming events:

    http://appgnk.org/gallery/

    and visit:

    https://davidalton.net/2016/02/27/parliamentary-debate-on-the-security-and-human-rights-challenges-on-the-korean-peninsula-following-north-koreas-recent-nuclear-test

north-korea-human-rights2north-korea-human-rights

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Sudan Questions And  Answers – October 2016

chemical-weapons-attacks

 

sudan stop the genocidedarfur

 

Question for Short Debate

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made in securing peace, progress, human rights and good governance in Sudan. (25 October)

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2613):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the percentage of the gross domestic product of Sudan which is used on (1) its army and security sector; and (2) developing basic infrastructure. (HL2613)

Tabled on: 25 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

It is not possible to estimate with a high degree of certainty the percentage of Sudan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on security and development as the Government of Sudan does not publish the national budget. From figures provided by the World Bank in 2014, we are aware that 5 per cent of Sudan’s GDP was spent on pro-poor expenditures, which includes spending on infrastructure.

Date and time of answer: 03 Nov 2016 at 15:44.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2616):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support the international Criminal Court and its work in Sudan. (HL2616)

Tabled on: 25 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The UK supports UN Security Council Resolution 1593, which urges all States to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its Prosecutor with regards to the situation in Darfur. The UK fully respects the ICC as an independent organisation; it is the responsibility of the Office of the Prosecutor of the Court to take forward the investigation.

Date and time of answer: 03 Nov 2016 at 15:44.

 

 

Baroness Williams of Trafford, the Home Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2617):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether it is their policy to repatriate non-Arab Darfuri asylum seekers from the UK to Khartoum; and what account is taken when making such decisions, of the needs of those who believe that their human rights, especially the right to freedom of religion or belief, will be violated. (HL2617)

Tabled on: 25 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Williams of Trafford:

All protection claims, including claims based on the right to freedom of religion or belief, are carefully considered on their individual facts and merits, in accordance with our obligations under the Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights. They are assessed against available country of origin information, which is obtained from a range of reliable sources, including reputable media outlets; local, national and international organisations, including human rights organisations; and information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Where people establish a genuine need for protection, we will grant it. If they are found not to need our protection, we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure. Enforced removals are carried out in the most sensitive way possible, treating those being removed with respect and courtesy.

Date and time of answer: 04 Nov 2016 at 09:33.

 

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2541):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that ammunition used by Boko Haram in Nigeria is manufactured in Sudan; that Boko Haram buys its weapons from Al-Geneina City, Darfur; and that Boko Haram uses Sudan as a transit country to link with Saudi Arabia. (HL2541)

Tabled on: 24 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are not aware of any specific reports that Boko Haram uses Sudanese-manufactured ammunition; that Boko Haram buys weapons from Al-Geneina City; or that Boko Haram uses Sudan as a transit country to link with Saudi Arabia.

We fully support the EU arms embargo on Sudan and the UN arms embargo on Darfur, and we are fully committed to supporting Nigeria and its neighbours in the fight against Boko Haram.

Date and time of answer: 02 Nov 2016 at 17:03.

 

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2625):

Question:
Baroness Cox to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the risk of the government of Sudan becoming a secondary or tertiary beneficiary of funding dedicated to the Better Migration Management Fund. (HL2625)

Tabled on: 25 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

All EU funds committed to the Better Migration Management project are managed by Member States’ Development Agencies or International Organisations. No funding will be channelled through the beneficiary countries’ government structures, directly or indirectly. The EU and the consortium of EU Member States will retain responsibility for the implementation of the project and activities will be carried out by experts from EU Member States, international organisations and non-governmental organisations.

Date and time of answer: 02 Nov 2016 at 17:11.

 

 

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2380):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the risks and potential human rights infringements arising from the repatriation of refugees from Sudan to Eritrea. (HL2380)

Tabled on: 18 October 2016

Answer:
Lord Bates:

Refugees and irregular migrants in the Horn of Africa are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation not only by people smugglers and traffickers but also by government authorities. The UK is using its position as current chair of The Khartoum Process to push for international agreement around improving the conditions of migrants in the Horn of Africa.

The Khartoum Process is a regional initiative bringing together the Governments of Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Libya and the EU, the UK, Italy, France, Germany and Malta to better manage migration in the region, including the protection of irregular migrants. The Khartoum Process has a strong emphasis on the protection of migrant rights and is at the centre of a plan of action agreed between African nations, the EU and EU member states.

The UK Government has voiced concern for the wellbeing of refugees returned to Eritrea from Sudan with both governments will continue to press them to treat refugees and asylum seekers according to international law.

 

 

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2379):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many (1) internally displaced persons, and (2) refugees from other countries, there are in Sudan. (HL2379)

Tabled on: 18 October 2016

Answer:
Lord Bates:

According to figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are a total of 3.2 million internally displaced people in Sudan, of which 2.6 million are long term displaced in Darfur alone (as stated in the attached).

OCHA also estimates that Sudan hosts a total of 386,283 refugees from neighbouring countries.

The following documents were submitted as part of the answer and are appended to this email:

  1. File name: PQHL2379 attachment.pdf
    Description: PQHL2379 attachment

Date and time of answer: 31 Oct 2016 at 16:56.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2612):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the role of Iran and North Korea in the building of factories for the production of munitions and weapons in Sudan. (HL2612)

Tabled on: 25 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are aware of claims that these countries may have previously cooperated with Sudan in the manufacture and trade of weapons. We continue to fully support the EU arms embargo on Sudan as well as the UN arms embargo specifically on Darfur.

Date and time of answer: 03 Nov 2016 at 15:45.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2381):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the indictment of Omar al Bashir for genocide and human rights abuses in Sudan, what is the current level of engagement with the Sudanese regime and whether that level of engagement has increased, or is planned to increase. (HL2381)

Tabled on: 18 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

In order to maximise our ability to persuade all parties to the conflicts in Sudan to end the fighting and allow the Sudanese people the security and development they deserve, we need to have a greater level of direct engagement with the government of Sudan. For that reason, we have started a Strategic Dialogue with the government of Sudan, which provides a necessary platform for us to raise issues of concern, including human rights, and at the same time explore possibilities for cooperation on a wide range of UK interests. The Strategic Dialogue process does not change our position of maintaining only‘essential contact’ with President Bashir, given his outstanding arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The UK remains a firm supporter of the ICC and encourages all States to act on its indictment.

Date and time of answer: 31 Oct 2016 at 13:46.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2382):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the priority given to the promotion of democracy and human rights within the UK–Sudanese strategic dialogue; and what assessment they have made of (1) the reliability of the Sudanese regime as a reliable partner with a shared agenda, and (2) the extent to which the strategic dialogue will embolden the regime in Sudan to continue with their current policies. (HL2382)

Tabled on: 18 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Improving human rights remains one of our policy priorities in Sudan, and therefore discussions of human rights issues are a key part of the UK-Sudan Strategic Dialogue. At the last round of talks on 10/11 October, a representative from the Sudan Advisory Council for Human Rights accompanied the Sudanese delegation.

In a number of areas we fundamentally disagree with the government of Sudan; however, in others our interests are much more closely aligned. We assess that direct engagement through the Strategic Dialogue process provides better opportunities to raise issues of bilateral concern, as well as to look at strategic questions such as the resolution of internal conflicts, regional security and migration. We keep this policy under regular review.

Date and time of answer: 31 Oct 2016 at 14:09.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2383):

Question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government why, in the last year, there has been a reduction in the number of UK and EU statements on human rights violations in Sudan. (HL2383)

Tabled on: 18 October 2016

Answer: Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Sudan remains a Human Rights Priority Country for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as outlined in the FCO’s last annual Human Rights and Democracy Report published in July 2016. We regularly raise our human rights concerns directly with the government of Sudan in London, Khartoum and New York as part of our ongoing dialogue. Most recently, human rights issues were a key theme of the Strategic Dialogue that took place in London in on 10/11 October.

We consider our response to all reports of human rights violations carefully, in consultation with our EU and troika partners and with human rights organisations on the ground, and respond in the way we judge to be the most effective in conveying our concerns to the government of Sudan. We also support the established UN mechanisms in their efforts to improve the situation in Sudan.

Date and time of answer: 31 Oct 2016 at 14:42.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2339):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what role armed militias play in enforcing Sudan’s commitments under the Khartoum Process; whether they are being used to enforce border controls and to capture migrants; and what action the regime took, under its commitments in the Doha Document for Peace, 2012, to disarm militias. (HL2339)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are concerned by the reported use of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to tackle migration in Sudan and have raised these concerns with the government of Sudan, most recently during the visit of the UK Special Representative to Sudan and South Sudan in September. We have also made clear that our cooperation on migration will necessarily be guided by our human rights principles. The EU has also raised the role of the RSF with the government of Sudan and has made absolutely clear that no funding aligned with the Khartoum Process will be provided to them.

The government of Sudan has undertaken some of its disarmament commitments under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), but together with our international partners we continue to urge them to do more. The UK is a member of the DDPD’s Implementation Follow-Up Commission (IFC), which we use to press for progress on disarmament and other areas of the DDPD’s implementation. The most recent meeting of the IFC was in May 2016.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 16:01.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2338):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what procedures have been put in place to ensure that EU funds committed to the Khartoum Process are not embezzled by corrupt officials; and whether they have investigated whether there has been collusion between Sudanese security officials and human traffickers. (HL2338)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

All EU funds committed to the Khartoum Process are managed by Member States’ Development Agencies or International Organisations. No funding will be channelled through the beneficiary countries’ government structures.

We are deeply concerned by the reports of collusion between Sudanese security officials and human traffickers, and have raised this issue directly with the government of Sudan as part of our wider engagement on migration. The UK is supporting the Sudanese judiciary to implement new anti-trafficking legislation by helping them improve their understanding of both this and the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 16:00.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2336):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that ammunition used by Boko Haram in Nigeria is manufactured in Sudan. (HL2336)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are not aware of any reports that Sudanese-manufactured ammunition has been used by Boko Haram. We fully support the EU arms embargo on Sudan as well as the UN arms embargo on Darfur.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 15:53.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2337):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to evaluate the use of €46 million earmarked for the Khartoum Process; what benchmarks and agreed criteria have been developed to guide the Process; and what procedures have been put in place to monitor, audit, and review the efficacy of the Process. (HL2337)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The Khartoum Process does not have a defined single fund, but draws from several different sources of EU funding; including the Better Migration Management Fund and the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

The UK, as the current Chair of the Khartoum Process, works closely with the Secretariat to maintain a map of current and proposed projects, and ensure effective coordination and monitoring. The European Commission has responsibility for assessing implementation against the Valetta benchmarks and outcomes, and conducting the full audit and review of the EU funding programmes.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 15:53.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2335):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Sudan Unit and the British Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan last engaged with opposition groups in Sudan, in particular those members of the Sudan Call alliance; and, following the signing of the Sudan Roadmap Agreement, whether a delegation from the Sudan Call alliance will be invited to London in order to deepen political engagement with that group. (HL2335)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Both the UK Special Representative to Sudan and South Sudan and Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Sudan engage with opposition groups regularly, most recently at a joint meeting with the Sudan Call alliance of opposition groups in Khartoum in September. The UK Special Representative also met with representatives of the National Umma Party, including Sadiq El Mahdi, in Addis Ababa on 23 September. We will continue to develop our relations with these groups both in Sudan and elsewhere.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 15:52.

 

 darfur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save The Congo:49 pro-democracy protesters killed and President Kabila tries to cling to power, ​crushing those who are calling on him to step down and retire honourably​. See the video; sign the petition. Government Minister’s Reply.

_40728478_9congo[1]

Speak Up For The Women Of The Congo

sAVE THE CONGO

See:

https://davidalton.net/2013/12/01/roscoe-lecture-save-the-congo-and-the-story-of-e-d-morel-vava-tampa-and-details-of-the-next-two-roscoe-lectures-in-liverpool-with-baronesstanni-grey-thomspon-dbe-and-diane-lees-director-gener/

October 2016: British Government Responds. See Minister’s Letter: scan0031

This week marks the killing, exactly one month ago, of 49 pro-democracy protesters in the streets of Kinshasa – and 2 months to the end of President Kabila’s second and last constitutional mandate. But he is attempting to cling to power and crushing those who are calling on him to step down and retire honourably

 

Vava Tampa and Save the Congo have launched a new campaign:#KabilaMustGo, to refocus the world’s attention on Congo -.

 

Please look at the campaign video and consider signing their petition calling on the AU,

EU and UNSC to help put an end to Mr Kabila’s ruthless efforts to cling to power and to push for, and support, strategies and policies that will ensure that Mr Kabila steps down from power by 19 December 2016 as constitutionally mandated and a transitional government is put in place until a new president can be elected.

 

Campaign video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY9lBZrbHNk

 

Petition: http://savethecongo.org.uk/#!/sign

 

Please share the video on social media using hashtag #KabilaMustGo and do sign and ask your friends and families to also sign their petition.

 

 

Parliament hears first hand accounts about the situation in Aleppo and in Pakistan. Wednesday November 23rd has been declared “Red Wednesday” – when Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral will be lit in red to commemorate the men, women and children who are dying because of their faith or beliefs.

On Monday October 17th, at a time of deepening crisis in SYRIA and PAKISTAN, AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED  held  a briefing with eye-witness testimonies from two of their project partners.

wp_20161017_17_00_30_pro 

 PAKISTAN: ARCHBISHOP SEBASTIAN SHAW of Lahore.

Head of the largest Catholic diocese in Pakistan, he led the

Church’s response to the Easter Day 2016 Lahore Massacre

and other atrocities affecting Christians and other minorities.

ARCHBISHOP SEBASTIAN SHAWSISTER ANNIE DEMERJIAN

SYRIA: SISTER ANNIE DEMERJIAN of Aleppo.

Providing emergency help in areas worst-affected

by violence and acute poverty, Sister Annie leads

a team of volunteers who go house-to-house, providing

food, shelter and medicine at great risk to their safety.

ALEPPO’S Sister Annie Demerjian described the “death, destruction and violence” engulfing the city at a Parliamentary meeting yesterday (Monday) organised to highlight the work of Christians ministering in places of suffering.

Giving first-hand witness at London’s Houses of Parliament organised by Aid to the Church in Need, Sister Annie described the day-to-day struggle for food, clean water, electricity and fuel in western Aleppo where she provides emergency help thanks to the international Catholic charity.

The meeting, chaired by human rights activist Lord Alton of Liverpool, also heard from Archbishop Shaw from Lahore, who highlighted the problem of constant discrimination and acts of persecution affecting Christians in Pakistan.

First to speak was Sister Annie, who said: “People in Aleppo are tired. [There is a] lack of basic essentials… water, medicine, food and fuel shortages.

“Aleppo is a broken city [with] death, destruction and violence”.

Describing the warring parties as “monsters… devouring one another”, Sister Annie went on to describe the pleas of thousands of Syrian children who have drawn pictures to express their desire for peace.

The Sister also highlighted the hardships suffered by civilians being “without basic resources”.

Describing the plight endured by “most families in Aleppo”, she praised ACN benefactors for working with her to provide “food, blankets, clothes, shoes and dignity” to thousands of children in Aleppo and Hassake, another city in northern Syria.

She described how “many people [were] without light”, as they could not afford electricity in Aleppo, because of the “exploitations by traders”.

Sister Annie said this shortage meant that “thousands of families are without fuel… facing [this] winter without heating”.

She stated how, on one of her visits to the most vulnerable in the city, she found an elderly couple in Aleppo sleeping on the floor.

It turned out that they had sold their bed for a few litres of oil to provide a few hours of heating.

Sister Annie stressed the “psychological damage… a pain greater than that of the physical pain”.

She described the need to “re-integrate back into society… a lost generation [of young people in Syria] where death is an everyday experience”.

Describing how, since the war began in March 2011, Christians in Aleppo have dwindled from more than 200,000 to less than 35,000 today, the Sister added that “everyone is afraid… we lost people we knew. The Church community has [now] become so small that we all know each other”.

She concluded: “Our world is a gift… we require a globalisation of solidarity… [not] indifference”.

Archbishop Shaw of Lahore, Pakistan thanked ACN for translating the Catechism of the Catholic Church into Urdu, enabling Catholics to learn more about their religion.

He described Catholics in Pakistan as: “vibrant, open and patriotic – [people] wanting a better society”.

The Archbishop outlined the prejudice against Christians and also other minority religions, whereby one Muslim is valued in status to that of two Christians.

The public school textbooks in the Pakistani public school curriculum reflect ‘hate’ material, he quoted one such example directly exposing this problem: “We are Muslim… others are infidels”.  

He added that by Muslims and Christians “listening and respecting [each other]… all religions can work together for peace” and forward inter-faith and ecumenical dialogue in Pakistan.

————————————————————————Wednesday November 23rd has been declared “Red Wednesday” – when Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral will be lit in red to commemorate the men, women and children who are dying because of their faith or beliefs. Organised by the charity, Aid to the Church In Need, people are encouraged to display red on their Facebook sites, to wear something red that day, and to encourage local churches and schools to light up too.