2017 General Election – Tim Farron’s Resignation

Tim Farron, leader of the Lib Dems  has resigned because he says “I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.

In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

That’s why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.”

The old Liberal Party – of which I was Chief Whip – was a Party of conscience and proud of its Christian foundations – a tradition which stretched back to Gladstone and included significant Christians from all denominations and traditions – from   G.K.Chesterton to Clement Davies, from the high church to the nonconformist Wesleyan chapels.

That tradition was subsequently ridiculed by many Liberal Democrats, implacable in their hostility to Faith schools and insistent on imposing policies, such as abortion, on their members. Inevitably, this has made it a hostile place for people of Faith.

It is ironic that a Party, which I joined as a teenager, because of its belief in conscience, human rights and free speech, has morphed into something so narrow and  intolerant that, in resigning, its leader says “we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society” and has been forced to choose between his Faith and his Party.

Doubtless his detractors will shed few tears at his departure  –  but in turning themselves into a secular version of the Exclusive Brethren they become a sect rather than a broad based political party. And they should reflect that millions of British people share his Christian beliefs.

This same narrow intolerance characteristic of the commentariat and the political elites has also fed into the creation of the less tolerant and unreasonable world in which we live.

Tim Farron should never have been forced to make this choice but has made the right call and should be admired for doing so.

 

 

 

 

GENERAL ELECTION BLUES

General Elections are never about “single issues” and what was particularly striking yesterday were the number of young people who voted this time – particularly in response to Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to abolish university fees and to end austerity. Among younger voters, he also benefitted from the Bernie Sanders tactic of being anti-establishment – even anti his own parliamentary party.

He was helped by Theresa May’s lacklustre campaign which failed to capture the popular imagination or to set out her belief in a fairer or more just society. She has been badly damaged and has inevitably suffered a severe blow to her authority.

Although this has been a significant personal miscalculation, she has won the majority of seats and votes.

If political historians are looking for precedents they should consider the General elections of 1923 and 1924. In 1923 the Prime Minister, Bonar Law, became ill and was replaced by Baldwin. Although he had inherited a parliamentary majority he called an unnecessary election. The outcome was the unexpected defeat of Baldwin. That led to a year of political chaos but the following year Baldwin came back with a majority of over 200.

Elections come and go and, if (big if) Theresa May survives this debacle, she could live to fight and win another day. The last thing Britain’s economy needs is a period of further political turbulence and instability but it could well be what we will now face.

Meanwhile, by seeing off the predictions of electoral Armageddon, Jeremy Corbyn’s Parliamentary Labour Party will now find it extremely difficult to replace him. That means the Left will be able to entrench their control of the Labour Party.

The Conservative and Labour gains in Scotland, at the expense of the Scottish National Party, are the other big story of the night. This is also a vote against a second referendum – in this case, on Scottish Independence. People are voting to return to representative parliamentary democracy and against endless and divisive referenda.

Despite Theresa May’s failure to secure an overall majority it would be a mistake to read this General Election as a demand for a second referendum on European membership. Both the Conservatives and Labour Party said they would support Brexit and this enabled Labour to win back working class votes from UKIP, whose vote collapsed. Only 7% of the country voted for the Liberal Democrats – who made a second referendum their key election issue.

The post-election arithmetic will mean that the “hard” Brexit Conservatives, supported by the Northern Irish Unionists, will be in the driving seat for the negotiations with Europe while in the House of Commons there will be a majority for a more moderate position. It the moderates are to gain traction, it will require a more subtle and nuanced approach by Brussels, inventively looking for a more imaginative relationship than the in-out binary positions currently on the table.

In the face of divisions over Europe, and in the aftermath of terror attacks, knitting the country back together again should be Parliament’s greatest priority. However they voted, the electorate will not thank our political leaders and parties if they now descend into internecine warfare, interminable bickering, and point scoring……………..

Blackbirds at Dawn – Play About Modern Day Slavery University of Cumbria Being Performed In Lancaster. 2017 Election and the Unborn Child. Where Do The Candidates Stand? And Where Do the People Stand? Great Bank Holiday Monday Walk of Witness.

 

 

September 15 and 16 2017: Blackbirds at Dawn, a play about modern day slavery

This play is by Donna Worthington, one of our Anti-Trafficking Network, and being staged at the  University of Cumbria, Bowerham Road, Lancaster LA1 3JD

Performances will be on Friday 15th September 2017 at 7.30 pm and Saturday 16th September at 2.00 pm and 7.30 pm followed by post production discussions.

Set in a Dystopian future “Blackbirds at Dawn” explores the urgent issue of modern slavery:  A door.  Closed.  Blackbirds singing.  An underground flat in the future…  An old woman is struggling to survive poverty, cold and haunting memories of her past, when suddenly the hidden world of human enslavement knocks on her door in the form of a young woman, about to give birth and desperate.  “Blackbirds at Dawn” is a play about modern slavery, survival, fear, hope, entrapment, the body and what it means to be human and and live a human life.

Donna is doing the box office and the mobile number on the poster (see http://www.olotv.org.uk/parish-groups/trafficking/work-olotv-parish-group ) is her number. If people leave a message on her phone, she will always get back to them.

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2017 Election and the Unborn Child. Where Do The Candidates Stand? And Where Do the People Stand?

Choice and the Unborn ChildThe 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.

Click here to find out:

Where Do They Stand    http://wheredotheystand.org.uk/

Where do they stand.jpg

2017 is the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the 1967 Abortion Act. It went through its Second Reading in the House of Commons with only 29 MPs voting against. Since then more than 8 million British babies have been aborted and millions of human embryos experimented upon – with laws even allowing the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos.  The next Parliament will almost certainly vote again on whether to permit euthanasia and today many more MPs now support the right to life.

And a new poll of pblic attitudes (see below), taken in May 2017, shows that many more people reject the idea that taking the life of an unborn child can be reduced to merely a question of “choice.” If the unborn chold could raise her voice she would doubtless say “it’s my body, not your choice.” 

Choice and the Unborn Child8 million too many.jpg

When voters come to use their votes on June 8th they will not only be voting for a new Government, they will be voting for individual Members of Parliament who will hold in their hands the gift of life or death. 

A voter who wants to affirm the right to life of an unborn child, stop destructive experiments on human embryos, and safeguard disabled people from the dangers of euthanasia, needs to establish where their individual candidates stand and weigh up the positions of the political parties.

Beyond all other questions, this one is about the right to life itself.

The key thing is to find out where individual candiates stand – but it is also helpful to know the attitude of political parties and their leaders – and whether parties allow issues like abortion to be entirely a “conscience” question or whether it has become a party policy.

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The pro life group, Where Do They Stand? has helpfully produced a guide to the attitudes of candiates in the forthcoming election. By simply typing in your post code you can find out where they stand:

Click here:

Where Do They Stand    http://wheredotheystand.org.uk/

And this is where they leaders and parties stand….

Where the Leaders Stand :

2017 Johnson Bill to further liberalise the Abortion laws

Theresa May – Abstained

Jeremy Corbyn –  For

Tim Farron – Abstained


2015 Bill to Ban Sex Selective Gender Abortions

Theresa May – For

Jeremy Corbyn –  Against

Tim Farron – Abstained


2015 Creation of 3-Parent Babies

Theresa May – Abstained

Jeremy Corbyn –  For

Tim Farron – For

2008 Information for Disability Diagnosis

Theresa May – For

Jeremy Corbyn –  Against

Tim Farron – Abstained

2008 Ban on Creating Animal Human Hybrid Embryos

Theresa May – For

Jeremy Corbyn –  Abstained

Tim Farron – For


2008 Vote to Reduce Abortion to 20 weeks

Theresa May – For

Jeremy Corbyn –  Against

Tim Farron – Abstained

2015 Vote on the Bill to legalise assisted suicide

Theresa May – Against

Jeremy Corbyn –  Abstained

Tim Farron – Abstained

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, for the SNP, has called for women from Northern Ireland to be given free abortions on the NHS but she has consistently opposed the legalising of assisted suicide.  The leader of the SNP at Westminster, Angus Robertson, abstained on the 2015 Assisted Suicide Bill, abstained on the 2017 Johnson Bill to further liberalise abortion, voted against the banning of sex selection abortions, and voted in favour of three parent babies and animal human hybrid embryos and voted against any reduction in the upper limit for abortions.

Caroline Lucas MP, of the Greens, was not in Parliament when some of the votes were taken but in 2015 voted for assisted suicide and voted for the 2017 Johnson Bill to further liberalise abortion, voted against the banning of sex selection abortions, and against independent abortion counselling.

A Question of Conscience

In both Houses Conservative Government Ministers have repeatedly insisted that beginning and end of life issues are a matter of conscience for individual Members and that there is not Party Policy.

The Labour Opposition says that MPs may follow their conscience but the Party has policy in favour of abortion and a commitment to work for the extension of abortion appears in the 2017 manifesto. They do not have a policy commitment to support euthanasia. Jeemy Corbyn voted three times for abortion up to birth on various grounds and voted in favour of the compulsory enrolment on a published register of doctors with a conscientious objection to abortion.

The Liberal Democrats have also allowed MPs a free vote but have made abortion a policy commitment , favouring an extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. Their spokesperson in the Lords recently said it is their policy to permit assisted suicide. During the 2017 election campaign the Liberal Democrats announced that Tim Farron had abandoned his previous commitment to uphold the right to life of the unborn child.

For the SNP, Carol Monaghan (MP, Glasgow North West) says “The party Constitution enshrines freedom of conscience and meant I could join the SNP without compromising my faith.”

 

The Green Party has party policy supporting abortion and “non animal experiments” which includes support for experiments on human embryos. It suppors assisted suicide.

These are some of the issues that arise from the current law:

 

 These are the issues, the candidates, the leaders and the parties….

Men and women gave their lives that we should have the freedom to live in a democracy rather than a dictatorship. When casting our votes we owe it to them to carefully consider where individual candidates and parties stand and to vote to protect the most vulnerable and defenceless among us.

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So what about the British public?

And Where Do British Women and Men Stand on The Issue?

 n May 21st 2017 it was reported that:

ComRes interviewed 2,008 British adults online between 12th and 14th May 2017. Data was weighted to be representative of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

  • Only 1% want the abortion time limit raised to birth
  • 70% of women would like the current time limit for abortion to be lowered.
  • 59% of women would like the abortion time limit lowered to 16 weeks or lower.
  • 65% oppose UK taxpayer money being spent on abortions overseas.
  • 93% of women want independent abortion counselling introduced.
  • 91% of women want a sex-selective abortion ban.
  • 79% of general population want a five-day consideration period before abortion.
  • 84% of women want improved pregnancy support for women in crisis.
  • 76% of population want introduction of doctors verifying women not coerced.
  • 70% of parents want introduction of parental consent for girls 15 and under to get abortions.

 

 

Walk of Witness – show your support for those without a voice.

The annual Right To Life Walk along the River Ribble took place on  Bank Holiday Monday, May 29th 2017 – and was well supported. 

 

 

 

Pentecost Golden Jubilee of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral; Funeral of Edge Hill’s former Vicar, Alan Godson; Arab Hope Maker Award to Cairo’s Mama Maggie; General Election June 8th 2017 – Election Notebook – recalling earlier contests.Parliamentary Questions raised by David Alton.

Pentecost and a Golden Jubilee

The eve of Pentecost was the perfect time to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Liverpool’s Cathedral of Christ the King.

The Cathedral choirs began the wonderful evening of celebration – beautifully organised by the Dean, Canon Anthony O’Brien – with choral vespers.

Guests then left the sanctuary and nave in what is affectionately known in Liverpool as “Paddy’s Wigwam” –designed by  Frederick Gibberd – to join a gala dinner below, in the Pontifical Hall of the Sir Edwin Lutyens crypt.

In 1969, as a newly arrived student in Liverpool – and two years after the cathedral had been completed – I first took in the breath-taking Trinity of light, that floods the interior of the cathedral, – yellow, blue and red stained glass,– and felt I was stepping through a coruscating kaleidoscope of iridescent colours.

Over the years that have followed I have been in the cathedral countless times but, most memorably, in 1982, on another Pentecost, 35 years ago, during the visit of Pope John Paul II. He arrived there, having processed along the city’s Hope Street, which links Liverpool’s two cathedrals. That historic visit sealed the Christian ecumenism that finally replaced bitter sectarianism.

In the cathedral he said:

“The Holy Spirit, who is the source of all unity, provides the Body of Christ with a “variety of gifts” (1 Cor. 12, 3), so that it may be built up and strengthened. As the Holy Spirit granted the Apostles the gift of tongues, so that all gathered in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost might hear and understand the one Gospel of Christ, should we not expect the same Holy Spirit to grant us the gifts we need in order to continue the work of salvation, and to be reunited as one body in Christ? In this we trust and for this we pray, confident in the power which the Spirit gave to the Church at Pentecost.”

He told us that:

 

“There is no sin which cannot be forgiven, if we approach the throne of mercy with humble and contrite hearts. No evil is more powerful than the infinite mercy of God.”

My late mother accompanied me to that amazing Service.

As a girl in the West of Ireland her impoverished family were among countless people who gave a penny each week towards the building of a cathedral in a faraway city – built on the site of a work house where thousands of Irish people, fleeing a famine which claimed one million lives, had died of hunger, cholera and typhoid.

My son Philip, now a doctor in Liverpool and father of two little girls, came with me to last night’s celebrations.

Perhaps he and they will be present when the cathedral celebrates its centenary? As John Henry Newman once said “we are links in a chain.” 

Philip and I looked at the baptistery where one of his brothers and a sister had been baptised; at the sea-eagle lectern, designed by Sean Rice, and placed there in 2007 to mark the death of Fr.Paul Thompson, a priest of the cathedral, who had been Philip’s godfather and one of my closest friends. We looked at the Pentecost mosaic made by Georg Mayer-Marton, a Hungarian Jewish artist who escaped the Nazis, and whose work was carefully reassembled in the cathedral’s Chapel of Unity when, in 1989, Netherton’s Church of the Holy Ghost was demolished; and we passed the tomb of Liverpool’s singular Archbishop, Derek Worlock, buried in the cathedral in 1996. All links in Newman’s chain.

Georg Mayer-Marton's Pentecost mosaic Liverpool cathedral

A highlight of the evening was a poem written in 1967 for the opening of the cathedral by Liverpool’s pre-eminent poet, Roger McGough. He has rewritten it and added some extra stanzas for the Golden Jubilee:

“O Lord, so far so good. No bombs, no conversion into bingo hall or shopping mall. No demolition to make way for Metropolitan Hotel or student high-rise. Unscathed and soldiering on….What are five decades but a drop in the font, a gentle lap around the rosary? Until Iron Men swim down the Mersey and the Liver Birds take wing May your light shine out from Hope Street as we rejoice in Christ the King.”  

A lovely thought, this Pentecost.

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May 20th 2017: The death was  announced of the Reverend Alan Godson, the former Vicar of St.Mary’s Edge Hill. The funeral took place on June 3rd at St.Mary’s Grassendale.

2017 Alan Godson Memorial Service

  He died peacefully, in his sleep. 

For more than three decades Alan was Vicar of St.Mary’s Edge Hill where, in 1972, after working in Manchester’s Catacombs, he took up the living of this inner city parish.  

I can be absolutely certain about the day, the time and the place where I first met Alan. 

It was May 3rd 1972.

 I was a 21-year-old student and fighting my first City Council election campaign in the inner city Low Hill Ward.

 It was the eve of poll and I was in Erskine Street, a street scheduled for demolition.

Someone – no guessing who – had the words “God Lives Here in the Slums” daubed on the gable end.

 Intrigued, and looking for a vote, I knocked on the door, and inevitably ended up being canvassed on behalf of God. 

 Half an hour later, and too late to knock on any more doors, I knew my time had been well spent and knew it wasn’t a coincidence but, rather, what Alan called a “Godincidence”.

  The following day, in May 1972, I was elected to the City Council and not long after, Alan, who had been working in Manchester’s Catacombs, took up the living at St.Mary’s, Edge Hill. At that time, Bishop Tom Williams was a curate in the local Catholic parish and the three of us became friends – and it is great to see him at the celebration of Alan’s life.

 I always thought that his renumbering of the St.Mary’s Vicarage as “JC4U” – while sometimes mystifying the postmen – was the essential clue in understanding Alan.

 It summed up what he most wanted for everyone that he encountered: JC4U.

Alan was an evangelist who never tired in his indefatigable zeal for souls – and I never saw him happier than during Mission England, in 1984, when the football stadium at Anfield was filled to capacity.

 But Alan didn’t need to wait for big events to evangelise you.

 He would pull up alongside a car in a traffic queue and ask the puzzled driver next to him what the letters JLY in his number plate stood for. As the driver scratched his head and Alan pulled away he would tell him “ JLY Jesus Loves You.”

His blue and red church posters told a similar tale. The acronyms of Liverpool’s two football clubs pointed to a much greater story: LFC – Liverpool For Christ; EFC – Everyone for Christ.  

 With one famous poster, he even made the national news. The Soviet Union’s atheistic Communist leader had made public declarations that there was no God.

 When Adropov died Alan ’s poster “Now Andropov Knows” led to complaints from the Soviet Ambassador. 

 Characteristically, Alan stood his ground, and used the opportunity to open people’s minds to the suffering of Christians at the hands of the Soviets.

 Among the many speakers Alan hosted at St.Mary’s was Richard Wurmbarnd, who had dared to say that Communism and Christianity were not compatible – and was imprisoned and tortured by the Romanian Communist regime for saying so.

 Wurmbrand said “Let us be on the side of those who sit in jails and are sentenced to death for their faith. Let us pray for them and help them”.  Alan never hesitated to do both of those things.

 Among Alan’s other great heroes was Corrie ten Boom – the Dutch watchmaker who helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust.

 Her Christian activism led to her imprisonment in a concentration camp.

 As an encouragement, Alan would often give her books to people and would ask her question: Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” and shared her belief that “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.” 

Alan saw the suffering and faith of men like Richard Wurmbrand and women like Corrie ten Boom as a rebuke to those of us whose faith is often so tepid, or lukewarm – Gethsemane Christians too often asleep at our posts.  

Alan had no fear of death – seeing it as a homecoming. He handed over what was unknown to a trusted and known God.  

In retirement he and his wife, Lesley, had been living in Aigburth, Liverpool – their home, appropriately, overlooking Liverpool Cricket Club. Having played rugby for his Cambridge College, in the 1970s Alan was one of the founders of Christians in Sport and came to represent, in his whole person, the phrase “muscular Christianity.”   For a birthday present his boys tracked down footage of the Varsity Rugby Match 1960- 1st Half Highlights – YouTube and Alan scoring a famous try for Cambridge: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=w5c42jbFuko

Related image
 

Alan Godson's famous posters at St.Mary's

Right up until the end – and with the aid of an oxygen machine and the loving ministrations of his wonderful wife, Lesley, and the support of his three boys, Andrew, Jonathan and Stephen, Alan was still asking visitors and those who telephoned him “are you reading your Bible?”.  From his new vantage point I daresay – and rather hope – he will continue to give a not so gentle nudge when he sees us falling asleep at our posts. He will be greatly missed.

May he rest in peace.

2017 St.Mary's Edge Hill flag at half mast for Alan Godson

St.Mary’s Edge Hill. Flag at half mast for the Revd.Alan Godson.

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The value of a human is incomparable to any other value…”  Mama Maggie – the Mother of Cairo – On Receiving the Arab Hope Makers Award

Mama Maggie

Great news that Mama Maggie – Maggie Gobran – has been chosen as one of the five Arab Hope Makers. Happy to have been one of her nominators. I have a chapter on the extraordinary work undertaken by “the Mother of Cairo” in my book, Signs of Contradiction. It was deeply inspiring to see  first-hand the phenomenal work of this Coptic woman among the poorest of the poor, especially abandoned children, in Cairo’s Garbage City.

Yesterday’s big celebration, in Dubai, was attended by more than 25000 who gathered in Dubai Studios city with the presence of Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum Vice President of United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, to choose and honour the winners of Hope Maker working in Arab countries from 65000 hope makers nominated. Sheihk Mohamed Bin Rashed surprised every one by awarding all 5 winners with the same prize of AED 1 million

Mama Maggie started her word by saying:” The value of a human is incomparable to any other value…”

This is the first initiative for recognition of its kind – for any positive action undertaken on a wide level within the Arab countries. Congratulations to Mother Mama – and to the UAE.

Maggie Gobran Signs of Contradiction 1

Maggie Gobran Signs of Contradiction 21

Maggie Gobran Signs of Contradiction 3

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2017 General Election Notebook. jpg

Elected at Liverpool Edge Hill in 1979

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Parliamentary Questions raised by David Alton over the last month on Overseas Aid, Targeting of Egyptian Copts, Syria, Primodos, North Korea, the Use of Chemical Weapons, IVF, Sudan, Religious Freedom, Burma, Morton Hall Inspection, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Asbestos in Schools, Scottish Devolution, Iraq and IS Genocide, Refugee Children, Assisted Dying.

Spending Aid Wisely and Effectively
April 26 2017

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the things that jeopardises sustainable development is a combination of conflict, where there is the need to bring conflict resolution, and corruption? In the light of the Government’s welcome announcement that they will sustain development programmes and funding for development overseas, will he tell us what priority a new Government are likely to give to combating conflict in situations such as South Sudan, where famine has come as a direct result of it, and dealing with corruption, where aid money can be embezzled and misused?
 
Lord Bates

The noble Lord is absolutely right. We have said that the 0.7% commitment stands, but we are also absolutely resolute that there needs to be reform of the international aid system to ensure that that hard-earned money, provided by British taxpayers and other taxpayers from around the world, gets to where it is most intended. That is why we are behind arguing for global goal 16 on peace and security—because, without peace and security, there can be no development or growth. That is also why we have committed the large sum of money—£100 million—to South Sudan and to the other areas which are touched by famine at present.

 To view the answers to the following Questions Click on the Heading: 

Written Answers — Home Office: Immigration: North Korea (24 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the number of North Korean nationals who have entered UK territories in the last five years, other than those accredited as diplomatic staff working for the DPRK Embassy in London.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Developing Countries: Diseases (20 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the response by Lord Bates on 3 April (HL Deb, cols 930–1) concerning neglected tropical diseases, what study the Department for International Development has made of the use of technologies to map neglected tropical diseases using remote sensing technologies and mobile smartphone technologies.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Africa: Snakes (20 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the response by Lord Bates on 3 April (HL Deb, cols 930–1) concerning neglected tropical diseases, how they are responding to Africa’s need for anti-venoms to treat snake bites, following the cessation of production by the major manufacturer.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Developing Countries: Sleeping Sickness (20 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the response by Lord Bates on 3 April (HL Deb, cols 930–1) concerning neglected tropical diseases, what further progress they expect to make in the elimination of sleeping sickness.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Egypt: Christianity (19 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they have offered the government of Egypt to protect Egypt’s Coptic population from ISIS, following reports of targeted attacks, killings, and forced conversions.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: North Korea: Human Rights (19 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of reports of human rights violations committed by the government of North Korea against its exiled citizens, and of some exiled North Koreans having become UK citizens, what is their response to the recommendation by the UNHCR group of independent experts on accountability in their report to the 34th session published on 24 February that UN…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Chongryon (19 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are aware of (1) members of Chongryon, formerly known as the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, entering or doing business in the United Kingdom, and (2) whether Chongryon members have had any interactions with diplomats from the DPRK Embassy in London, in the last five years.

Written Answers — Home Office: Asylum: Balkans (18 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the joint report from the International Rescue Committee and 11 other organisations, Out of Sight, Exploited and Alone, concerning unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) in the Balkans, and its principal concerns of (1) insufficient and unreliable data or information management on UASC within the region, (2) a lack of…

Written Answers — Home Office: Immigration: North Korea (18 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, what steps they are taking to ensure that North Korean nationals who enter UK territories are not involved in any unlawful activities.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Hong Kong: Politics and Government (13 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of the People’s Republic of China concerning political developments in Hong Kong; and whether they have called for undertakings in the Basic Law to be honoured.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: North Korea: British Nationals Abroad (13 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking, including through the British Embassy in Pyongyang, to ensure that the government of North Korea does not breach the Vienna Convention; and what advice they are offering to British nationals in, and travelling to, North Korea regarding their safety, in the light of the temporary ban imposed on Malaysian diplomats from leaving…

Written Answers — Department of Health: In Vitro Fertilisation (6 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, with reference to paragraph 2.8 of the minutes of 9 March 2017 of the Licence Committee of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) regarding babies born following pronuclear transfer between embryos, what procedures are in place to (1) identify whether a child born following pronuclear transfer is born with (a) a mitochondrial disease,…

Written Answers — Department of Health: Primodos (6 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord O’Shaughnessy on 28 March (HL6261), whether the Expert Working Group on Hormonal Pregnancy Tests will review the reasons why tests on Primodos, which remained on the market until 1978 despite the publication of a study in 1967 indicating a causal relationship between hormonal pregnancy tests and congenital…

Written Answers — Department of Health: In Vitro Fertilisation (6 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, with reference to paragraphs 2.8, 2.9 and 3.17 of the minutes of 9 March 2017 of the Licence Committee of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, regarding the follow-up of children born following pronuclear transfer between embryos, who is responsible for the follow-up programme in NHS England; what health, genetic and epigenetic parameters…

Written Answers — Department of Health: Primodos (6 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord O’Shaughnessy on 28 March (HL6261), whether they will meet with Marie Lyon and representatives of the Primodos victims support group.

Written Answers — Department of Health: Primodos (6 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord O’Shaughnessy on 28 March (HL6261), whether the Expert Working Group on Hormonal Pregnancy Tests will review (1) the terms of reference of (a) the Committee on the Safety of Medicines, and (b) the Metabolic Research Unit, when determining what lessons may be learnt for further improving existing regulatory…

Syria: Chemical Weapons – Private Notice Question (5 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, in welcoming the swift response of Her Majesty’s Government and the reply that the Minister has just given to the Question put by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, perhaps I might press the Government further on the use of chemical weapons. We have now seen chemical weapons used twice in Syria, but they have also been used, allegedly, in Darfur by the regime of President…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: North Korea: Terrorism (5 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 5 November 2015 (HL 2969) which stated that “the DPRK is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since 1987”, whether they classify as the sponsoring of terrorist acts (1) the plot by a North Korean defector to kill Park Sang-hak in 2012, (2) the plot by two North Korean military…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Iraq: Islamic State (5 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the discovery of a further mass grave in Khafsa, Iraq, what progress is being made in establishing international judicial mechanisms to bring to justice supporters of ISIS who are accused of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: North Korea: Electronic Warfare (5 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) North Korean cyber attacks, and (2) reports that the regime has been responsible for a $81 million bank cyber heist.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Religious Freedom (5 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what instructions have been given to FCO country desk officers to ensure that freedom of religion or belief is included in their work.

Written Answers — Department of Health: In Vitro Fertilisation (5 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the award by the Licence Committee of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority of a licence to Centre 0017 to carry out pronuclear transfer between embryos to prevent transmission of serious mitochondrial disease, what safeguards Centre 0017 has put in place to ensure that early pronuclear transfer will take place during treatment at…

Written Answers — Department of Health: In Vitro Fertilisation (5 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, with reference to paragraph 2.3 of the minutes of 9 March 2017 of the Licence Committee of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which non-CE marked reagents will be used by Centre 0017 for the purposes of treatment involving pronuclear transfer between embryos to prevent transmission of serious mitochondrial disease; which laboratories will…

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Religious Freedom (4 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government why no reference to (1) targeted and persecuted religious minorities, or (2) the fundamental human right of freedom of religion and belief, is made in the goals specified in the Department for International Development policy paper, Agenda 2030: Delivering the Global Goals.

Neglected Tropical Diseases – Question for Short Debate (3 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to support my noble friend Lady Hayman and salute her dogged persistence in raising the issue of rare and neglected tropical diseases. In doing so, I should mention that I am a vice-president of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and have been associated with the school in one way or another for the best part of 40 years. I particularly pay tribute to…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Burma: Human Rights (3 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the Interim Report and recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State; and what representations they will make to the government of Burma regarding the implementation of those recommendations.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Sudan: Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (3 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they supported the appointment of a representative of the government of Sudan as Vice Chairman of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons; and, in making this appointment, what account was taken of the allegations by Amnesty International that chemical weapons have been used against the civilian population of Sudan, and of the…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Sudan: Chemical Weapons (3 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have supported the call by Amnesty International to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons by the government of Sudan against the civilian population of that country; whether the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons is conducting an investigation, or plans to do so; and if not, what action they have taken in response.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: North Korea: Terrorism (3 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 3 November 2015 (HL2960), what assessment they have made of the terror threat to UK nationals, including those who are North Korean refugees and human rights workers in North Korea, from the government of North Korea and its diplomatic personnel.

Written Answers — Scotland Office: Sovereignty: Scotland (3 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have held with the Scottish Government concerning the inclusion of a third option, offering further devolution of powers to Scotland, in any future Scottish independence referendum; what assessment they have made of the benefits of including such an option; and whether they have ruled out its inclusion.

Written Answers — Home Office: Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre (3 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Report on an unannounced inspection of Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, published on 21 March.

Written Answers — Home Office: Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre (3 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the findings of the Report on an unannounced inspection of Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, published on 21 March, in particular that (1) too many detainees were held for prolonged periods, (2) the average length of detention was high, (3) children were detained for long periods of time due…

Written Answers — Home Office: Immigration: EU Nationals (30 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 23 March (HL6077), whether they will prepare and publish a draft bill with a view to its introduction as soon as agreement on the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK has been reached.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Sudan: Trade Promotion (29 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government why, in a video published by the British Embassy in Khartoum on 19 February, to promote UK business and investment in Sudan, the British Ambassador to Sudan did not refer to human rights and genocide charges brought against the regime.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Sudan: Trade Promotion (29 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have imposed a requirement for unhindered humanitarian access and the cessation of hostilities prior to increasing the number of UK trade deals with the Republic of Sudan.

Written Answers — Department of Health: Primodos (29 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Sky News documentary Primodos: The Secret Drugs Scandal; and whether they will consider establishing a public inquiry into the alleged failure of the regulator at that time to protect public safety.

Written Answers — Department of Health: Primodos (29 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what funding they are providing to researchers based in (1) Cambridge, and (2) Aberdeen, who are examining the composition of the drug Primodos and its likely effects on the child in the womb.

Written Answers — Department of Health: Congenital Abnormalities (28 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord O’Shaughnessy on 20 March (HL5811), why they do not maintain a list of foetal anomalies that cannot be identified before 24 weeks gestation.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Iraq: Islamic State (5 Apr 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the discovery of a further mass grave in Khafsa, Iraq, what progress is being made in establishing international judicial mechanisms to bring to justice supporters of ISIS who are accused of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Earl Howe on 26 October 2010 (HL2589, HL2591, HL2592, and HL2593) concerning the drug Primodos, and to the remarks by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health on 23 October 2014 (HC Deb 1139) concerning oral hormone pregnancy tests, and in the light of the Sky News documentary Primodos: The Secret Drugs…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: North Korea: Assassination (27 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that North Korea has issued orders to assassinate a British businessman who helped to facilitate the defection of North Korea’s then deputy ambassador to London.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: North Korea: Human Rights (27 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to introduce human rights sanctions against North Korea, in line with those imposed by the United States.

Written Answers — Department for Education: Schools: Asbestos (23 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the responses made by local authorities to freedom of information requests made by Lucie Stephens regarding reported incidents of asbestos exposure in schools; and what guidance they have given, or plan to give, to local authorities about the publication of such reports.

Written Answers — Home Office: Immigration: EU Nationals (23 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will introduce a bill guaranteeing the right of EU nationals who were legally resident in the UK at the time of the EU referendum to remain in the UK.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Iraq: Armed Conflict (21 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the reports of fighting last week in Sinjar, between Kurdish forces, Peshmarga and PKK, and of the reported displacement of Yazidi families from Sinjar; and what is known about their whereabouts and well-being.

Written Answers — Home Office: Asylum (21 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 9 February (HL Deb cols 1860–1861) about unaccompanied child refugees, what is their response to the report by the British Red Cross Can’t Stay, Can’t Go concerning refused asylum seekers who cannot be returned.

Written Answers — Home Office: Refugees: English Language (21 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 9 February (HL Deb cols 1860–1861) about unaccompanied child refugees, what is their response to the report by Refugee Action Locked out of learning: A snapshot of ESOL provision in England concerning the waiting times to access English language classes faced by refugees.

Written Answers — Home Office: Refugees: Families (21 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 9 February (HL Deb cols 1860–1861) about unaccompanied child refugees, what is their response to the briefing note by the Refugee Council, Oxfam UK, the British Red Cross and Amnesty International UK Together again: Reuniting refugee families in safety – what the UK can do.

Written Answers — Home Office: Refugees: Families (21 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 9 February (HL Deb cols 1860–1861) about unaccompanied child refugees, what is their response to UNICEF UK’s examination of the risks facing refugee and migrant children crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy in their report A deadly journey for children: The central…

Written Answers — Home Office: Refugees: Families (21 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 9 February (HL Deb cols 1860–1861) about unaccompanied child refugees, what is their response to the statement by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner published on 22 February, in particular with respect to his call to address the strain on the Dublin III system; and when they intend…

Digital Economy Bill – Report (2nd Day) (20 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I supports the amendment proposed by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Janke, but also the remarks of my noble friend Lady Howe. I want to ask the Minister, when he comes to reply, about an issue that I raised in your Lordships’ House previously, and that is the issue of suicide sites on the internet. It concerns me that young people can be encouraged to visit those…

Digital Economy Bill – Report (2nd Day) (20 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: I support Amendment 25YD in the name of my noble and learned friend, to which she spoke so well earlier on, and the comments of other noble Lords in the debate so far. The problem with coming to this point in legislation, which has proceeded all the way through the other place and is now on Report in your Lordships’ House, on a day when some 174 government amendments have been laid, is…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Religious Freedom (20 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 1 March (HL5421) stating that it is their policy to promote freedom of religious belief, why there was no mention of freedom of religion or belief in the UK’s opening statement at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Egypt: Christianity (20 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of Coptic Christian families in Egypt who have been forced to flee North Sinai province following a number of killings in recent weeks by suspected Islamist militants; and what representations they have made to the government of Egypt about those reports.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: North Korea: Diplomatic Relations (20 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the remarks by David Slinn, the former UK Ambassador to North Korea on 24 January, concerning the difficulties of negotiating with Kim Jong-un.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: North Korea: Human Rights (20 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have discussed with the European Union and individual EU member states (1) the use of North Korean labour, (2) the use of European bank accounts by North Korean nationals in the EU, and (3) a united response to the report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; and if so, when those…

Written Answers — Department of Health: Congenital Abnormalities (20 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what conditions for which there is a high probability that the foetus will die at, during, or shortly after delivery due to serious foetal anomaly are unable to be identified before 24 weeks gestation.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: North Korea: Human Rights (17 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 28 February (HL Deb, col 714), whether at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council they will support recommendations (1) to establish an ad hoc tribunal, or (2) to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court.

Written Answers — Department of Health: In Vitro Fertilisation (17 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord O’Shaughnessy on 28 February (HL5495), whether, and if so when, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) directly requested any evidence from Dr Valery Zukin or members of his team since publishing its report on 30 November 2016; what assessment it has made of that evidence; whether it has…

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I shall be brief. I enthusiastically support the remarks that the noble Lord, Lord Young, has just made, notwithstanding the minor caveat that I entered the Chamber as he was replying to the previous order and note the unnecessary duplication and replication which can cause confusion. I encourage him, and the Government generally, to stay in touch with the local authorities that…

Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Combined Authority (Election of Mayor) (Amendment) Order 2017 – Motion to Approve (16 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: Just before the Minister leaves that point, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, was making the point that as we go forward it will be important to keep under review how the provision actually works out in practice. I fully support the order being laid before your Lordships’ House, and the next one, which deals with Liverpool and the Merseyside area, where there is agreement…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: South Sudan: Armed Conflict (14 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Bates on 23 February (HL Deb, col 411), what new initiatives they are taking to (1) stop the fighting in, (2) curtail the flow of weapons to, and (3) bring about better conditions for humanitarian aid to reach the people of, South Sudan.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: South Sudan: Arms Trade (14 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Bates on 23 February (HL Deb, col 411), whether they intend to ask the UN Security Council to reconsider imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Burma: Rohingya (14 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the statement by the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide on 6 February, that (1) the scale of violence alleged to have been perpetrated by the Burmese security forces against the Rohingya community amounts to “dehumanization”, and (2) the existing government of Burma commission is not a credible option to undertake a…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Burma: Rohingya (14 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether the existing government of Burma commission investigations into allegations of sexual violence in Rakhine State are credible and being conducted in line with the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Written Answers — Department for Education: Refugees: Children in Care (14 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to (1) the correspondence sent by Lord Alton of Liverpool on 20 February on behalf of ECPAT UK concerning missing, trafficked and unaccompanied children, and (2) the findings of the report by ECPAT UK, Heading back to harm, published in November 2016, that (a) a number of local authorities were unable to provide figures on the…

Written Answers — Department for Education: Schools: Asbestos (13 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they intend to take to protect children and teachers from the dangers of asbestos, in the light of the findings of the Education Funding Agency in their reports published in February, and of the information released in the Freedom of Information request 201607236, of August 2016, that 319 teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980,…

Written Answers — Home Office: Refugees: Children (9 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to respond to the statement by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, published on 22 February, concerning the protection of unaccompanied child refugees against modern slavery and other forms of exploitation.

Written Answers — Home Office: Refugees: Children (9 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to respond to the recommendations made by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner on 22 February, on (1) safe refuge for child refugees under section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016; (2) safe refuge for child refugees under the Dublin III Regulation; (3) working with partners to improve protections in Europe; and (4) working to address the…

Written Answers — Department for International Development: South Sudan: Famine (8 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Lord Bates on 23 February (HL Deb, col 411), what humanitarian access is available to NGOs in Unity State; and what is their estimate of the percentage of South Sudan’s population that remains inaccessible to agencies seeking to provide food to those affected by famine.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: South Sudan: Famine (8 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Lord Bates on 23 February (HL Deb, col 411), what progress has been made in ending South Sudan’s civil war; and how many people they estimate (1) have been displaced, or (2) have become refugees, as a consequence of the war and conflicts in the neighbouring areas of the Republic of Sudan.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: South Sudan: Famine (8 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Lord Bates on 23 February (HL Deb, col 411), what is their estimate of the number of children in South Sudan now affected by malnutrition.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: South Sudan: Famine (8 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Lord Bates on 23 February (HL Deb, col 411), how much new money has been allocated to alleviate famine in South Sudan; to whom it has been (1) allocated, and (2) given; and how it is being used.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: South Sudan: Famine (8 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Lord Bates on 23 February (HL Deb, col 411), and to the statement by the Secretary of State for International Development on 22 February announcing new packages of life-saving UK aid for South Sudan and Somalia, how much new money is being made available and allocated for use in South Sudan.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: South Sudan: Famine (8 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Bates on 23 February (HL Deb, col 411), when the new money allocated to help famine victims in South Sudan was signed off; who are the intended recipients of that funding; and whether any of that money has been allocated to (1) the government of South Sudan, (2) NGOs, or (3) UN agencies, and if so, how much.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: South Sudan: Famine (8 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Lord Bates on 23 February (HL Deb, col 411), who is coordinating international efforts to help the victims of the famine in South Sudan; and what meetings the Minister and Secretary of State have convened with their international counterparts to ensure an effective response to the famine.

Assisted Dying – Question for Short Debate (6 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the noble Baroness’s Question asks whether legislation in North America on what is called “assisted dying” forms an appropriate basis for such legislation here. I will answer that question in just one word: no. Quite apart from any issues of principle, just look at what is now happening in Oregon. When Oregon’s assisted suicide law was enacted, it was to…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Iraq: Islamic State (6 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 8 February (HL5121), how many projects are actively collecting evidence against perpetrators of violence, war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Iraq, and what are the objectives of each project.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Syria: Islamic State (6 Mar 2017)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 8 February (HL5121), whether they are satisfied that sufficient progress has been made in the collection of evidence by the Independent Mechanism established by UN General Assembly resolution 71/248 regarding war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by members of Daesh.

International Scandal As Escaping Christians Continue To Suffer -Ijaz Paras Masih died in Detention Centre. Read report on”The United Nations: Missing In Action.” Also – Celebration in Parliament of the 126th Birthday of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar and the campaign to Make Caste History.

International Scandal As Escaping Christians Continue To Suffer

 

Thailand’s Government and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Bangkok have been accused of “negligence” after a Pakistani Christian asylum seeker died in a detention centre last month.

 

https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/06/unhcr-accused-negligence-pakistani-christian-dies-thai-detention-centre/

 

I contacted UNHCR about the death of Mr. Ijaz Paras Masih, the Pakistani Christian asylum seeker who died while in the Immigration Detention. They simply said that “UNHCR’s position globally, as enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, is that no refugee or asylum seeker should be prosecuted or detained merely on grounds of illegal entry or overstay of a visa, save in the most exceptional situations.  While Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, we continue to advocate for alternatives to detention for person of concern to UNHCR based upon existing Thai law. We also look forward at least to enhanced access to bail as stated by the Royal Thai Government in its 15 November 2016 responses (paragraph 130) to the Human Rights Committee’s List of Issues in Relation to the Second Period Report of Thailand under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

 

I have asked them what progress they are making with enhanced access and how many more Christians escaping persecution in Pakistan are still held in these atrocious conditions. I have personally been inside this detention centre and you can read my report at: https://davidalton.net/2015/09/04/international-scandal-of-95-detainees-held-in-one-cell-including-children/

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The United Nations:  Missing In Action:  June 2017

https://www.gisreportsonline.com/opinion-the-united-nations-missing-in-action,politics,2232.html

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The United Nations – missing in action

Dag Hammarskjold was one of the great secretaries-general of the United Nations.

The Swedish economist turned diplomat began work at the UN in 1950, serving as the organization’s second secretary-general from 1953 until 1961. That year, while trying to negotiate a ceasefire in the Congo, he was killed in a plane crash in Zambia. Questions remain about the circumstances in which this courageous man died.

 

Today, different questions are being asked about the future of the Organization he once led.

 

Why, as the world confronts so many challenges, is the UN so often missing in action?  What can be done to reform the organization so that Hammarskjold’s successors might reconnect with its mission?

 

A different world

The UN was created in 1945 following the collapse of the League of Nations (1920-46). The world had come through the Great Depression, the Second World War and the Holocaust. In a flurry of hopefulness at the end of these horrors, the international community promulgated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention. It also created a raft of international organizations – all with the avowed intention that international cooperation would prevent such catastrophes occurring ever again.

 

This was also the era of the Truman Doctrine and the United States government’s astoundingly generous $13 billion Marshall Plan (worth $189 billion today) – although the rationale behind the plan was more than simple altruism.

 

Truman told Congress that “the seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grow in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full growth when the hope of a people for a better life has died. We must keep that hope alive.”

 

Truman’s world would be one of free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression.”

 

In 1947, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall had insisted that “it is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace.”

 

In parallel, this repudiation of isolationism and xenophobia gave birth to the Bretton Woods principles, which provided an international architecture governing investment, free trade and the flow of money.

 

This euphoria of internationalism was echoed, in 1951, by the creation of a common market, the European Coal and Steel Community, which would ultimately morph into the European Union.

 

In 1950, Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, said the community’s purpose – especially in controlling coal and steel, the main ingredients of war – was to “make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible.”

 

Taken together, this remarkable period of enlightened statesmanship enabled the regeneration and economic renewal of Europe’s fractured cities and regions.

 

Truman saw it as the best hope of defeating new forms of National Socialism, creating prosperity on the Western side of Stalin’s Iron Curtain, and offering ways forward for the emerging new postcolonial nations in Africa and Asia.

 

This, then, was the hopeful climate in which Dag Hammarskjold assumed leadership of the United Nations in 1953.

 

Road from hell

Profoundly aware of the League of Nations’ ultimate failure, Hammarskjold had a realistic view of what the UN might achieve, declaring that the organization “was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell.”

 

In his Inferno, the 14th-century poet Dante Alighieri depicted hell as nine concentric circles of suffering located within the Earth. This accurately represents the post-Hiroshima 20th-century world in which Hammarskjold’s UN found itself.

 

Every century and every generation is confronted by those same concentric circles – torments of mankind’s own making. In saving us from hell, Hammarskjold believed that the UN had to take the international community beyond the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia and the conduct of international relations through the nation state.

The UN was to be an instrument that encouraged dialogue and cooperation in resolving conflict.

 

Today, in a world facing powerful political, technological, environmental and social challenges, the United Nations seems to talk endlessly and at best gets to apply bandages to the world’s wounds.

 

The hellish intractability of many crises facing the contemporary world is underlined by a cursory look at the issues high on Hammarskjold’s agenda in 1953. These included attempts to smooth relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors; a 1955 visit to China to negotiate the release of U.S. pilots captured in the Korean War; and the creation of an Emergency Force geared to resolving violent crises in countries like the Congo.

 

Interestingly, and following his belief that if you didn’t understand religion you couldn’t understand the world, Hammarskojold overcame opposition in allowing the Holy See to participate at the UN. He had a profound understanding of the enduring significance of religion in a world where, even today, 84 percent say they have a religious affiliation.

 

Overwhelmed by demons

More than 60 years on, Hammarskjold would surely question the UN’s effectiveness in addressing the dangers facing humanity today: resurgent nationalism; varying forms of totalitarianism; ideologies hostile to free societies; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the abject failure to resolve conflicts, whether in Sudan, Syria or Afghanistan; and the blights of famine, poverty and inequality.

 

Does the UN remain the linchpin of a rules-based international order? Has it moved us beyond Westphalia, by encouraging cooperative resolution of conflicts?

 

Why does it struggle so badly to relate its work to religion (with more than 1 billion Catholics and 1 billion Muslims in the world) and fail to understand the role of the great faiths in human development and the fight against terror?

 

The UN’s effectiveness must be measured against the challenges posed by Islamist terrorism; refugees and mass migration; globalization; nuclear proliferation; digital technology and cyber warfare; and a crisis of confidence in the political elites and institutions that are supposed to meet these threats.

 

While the demons of hell have been upping their game, it appears that the UN’s angels have been at least temporarily overwhelmed.

 

Yet, Hammarskjold’s fundamental proposition still holds true: not one of these challenges can be resolved on a national basis, without international cooperation.

 

Reform or die

Part of the UN’s problem has been an inability to come to terms with a world in which 45 percent of the population is aged 25 or under.

 

Hammarskjold lived in a pre-internet age and would be amazed to see how cyberspace shapes, for good and ill, our transnational relationships – be they personal, political, social or economic.

 

For example, recall the role of social media in the Arab Spring, in connecting pro-democracy campaigners in countries like Burma, in cyber warfare, fake news, in hate speech, in coded messages inciting Islamist terror, or in the hands of a tweeting president. The UN’s own narrative seems missing in this dangerous new world.

 

And beyond cyber space, transnationalism has been reinforced by the unprecedented ease of travel. Globalization allows assets and taxable income to be transferred across the world by legal or illegal means, the same way people can be transported by a low-cost airline or a human smuggler.

 

This is the world that Hammarskjold’s successor, Antonio Guterres, must come to grips with after taking office on January 1. Mr. Guterres set out with three top priorities: peacekeeping, sustainable development, and reform of the UN’s internal management.

 

The new secretary-general is right about the urgent need for restructuring and renewal – without which the UN may suffer the fate of the League of Nations. If he fails, the Security Council’s five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. – will bear a great deal of the responsibility.

 

The omens do not look particularly favorable.

 

Losing America

As Guterres assumed office, a new occupant arrived at the White House.

 

Throughout his election campaign, Donald Trump had only negative things to say about the UN, describing it as a “club” for people to “have a good time.”

 

By signaling support for the use of torture, a disinclination to finance the UN’s peacekeeping budgets, lack of support for the International Criminal Court, and an unwillingness to help to fund obligations to refugees, President Trump has set the U.S. on the path of disconnection.

 

Simultaneously, however, Mr. Trump has understood popular disillusionment with the political classes and their chosen priorities. He correctly identified the misuse of international funds to promote coercive population control and abortion programs.

 

In the past, UN agencies indirectly aided and abetted China’s grotesque one child policy. In Africa, politicians complain that UN agencies blackmail recipients of aid by threatening to cancel other programs. That is neither a moral nor a practical choice – and President Trump is right about that.

 

By behaving like arrogant neocolonialists, unaccountable elites gradually lose public and political support. That can cost an institution dearly, as the European Union, Britain’s Left and American Democrats have discovered.

 

Affront to values

The reason so many Americans – especially Republicans – are skeptical (and even worse) about the UN is that it appears incapable of resolving big issues while taking up minor causes that affront deeply held American values.

 

For instance, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that Jews are entitled to live in safety in their homeland – and that it is a miracle of God’s providence that the land of Israel was restored. They therefore find it unconscionable that the UN endlessly criticizes the only pluralist, liberal society in the Middle East – even if it is a deeply flawed one.

 

Last December, the UN General Assembly ended its annual legislative session by adopting 20 resolutions against Israel and only six resolutions on the rest of the world combined – three on Syria, and one each on Iran, North Korea and Crimea.

 

In April 2016, the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris adopted a resolution that ignored Jewish ties to its holy site of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall area in Jerusalem’s Old City. It referred to the Temple Mount area solely as Al-Aksa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif, except for two references to the Western Wall Plaza that were put in parenthesis. This just makes UNESCO look anti-Semitic.

 

Not only are these decisions unjust, they make the UN irrelevant in the eyes of Americans – whether they are Democrats (a party with a historically strong Jewish constituency) or evangelical Republicans. Ignore religious sensibilities and you become a waste of time for decision-makers in Washington.

 

The UN should never forget that it relies on assessed and voluntary contributions from member states. It should never forget why it was set up – principally to maintain international peace, to promote security, to champion human rights, to encourage sustainable development, to safeguard the world’s environment and heritage, and to provide relief where natural disasters, famine or violent conflict occur.

 

If it wants to retain support, it should stick to its day job, not try to peddle an ideology.

 

Root and branch

As part of a fundamental reform, the UN needs to examine how secretaries-general are elected. The point is to find contemporary Hammarskjolds – men or women of talent – rather than rotating through the usual suspects.

 

There is a great deal to be said for a seven-year, nonrenewable term of office.

 

The current arrangement of reelection after five years, perhaps by design, makes the incumbent more susceptible to pressure from those with the power to propel or block his or her candidacy (and so far, it has always been “his”).  Secretaries-general should also have better things to do than canvassing for votes.

 

Leadership positions at the UN should be based on qualifications and the ability to do the job. The 17 members of the Geneva Group (the UN’s major funders) should be driving forward this urgently needed reform. Many posts will come vacant during Mr. Guterres’ first term, presenting an opportunity to do things differently.

 

The UN seeks to halt our slide into hell through its main organs –the deliberative General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, the International Court of Justice – and through its agencies, which include the

World Bank Group, UNESCO, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme and the Human Rights Council.

 

These agencies have a very mixed record.

 

In Nairobi, for instance, I challenged an indifferent UN official about funds that had been embezzled from phantom projects for much-needed water catchment dams and reservoirs in northern Kenya.

 

In the Congo and South Sudan, I protested about the role of so-called UN peacekeepers whose actions had ranged from incompetent to illegal.

 

Policing the peacekeepers

Mr. Guterres would do well to examine the recommendations of the Westminster Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict, which called for an international jurisdiction to root out and hold to account peacekeepers accused of sexual violence against the people they were supposed to protect. Such misconduct brings peacekeeping into terrible disrepute.

 

At present, responsibility for deal with these matters rests with the countries contributing the troops. Some – among them Uruguay, Pakistan and South Africa – have court-martialed soldiers charged with offences on peacekeeping missions, but these actions have only scratched the surface.

 

Nor does any of this come cheap.

 

The UN spends more than $8 billion a year to deploy 86,000 troops. With civilian employees, the total personnel on peacekeeping missions is around 120,000.

 

President Trump’s proposal to cut $1 billion in funding from UN peacekeeping work would jeopardize these operations. It is not unreasonable, however, to demand value for money and better outcomes.

 

In assessing the future role of its blue helmets, the UN should also place greater emphasis on training them to prevent conflict in the first place.

 

When Dag Hammarskjöld was found dead in his plane, in his briefcase they found a copy of Thomas a Kempis’s Imitation of Christ.  He would have been familiar with Jesus’s admonition: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

 

The UN should be putting more resources and time into making peace and preventing conflict rather than keeping peace and boots on the ground. This also points to the need for the secretary-general to open channels to non-state actors such as the free Kurdish cantons of northern Syria.

 

Failure to do this will bring new horrors. Consider the world’s newest country, South Sudan, where the abject failure to prevent conflict has produced a catastrophic famine, entirely man-made and wholly avoidable.

 

Confronting inertia

Here we must say something about the Security Council. More than any other arm of the UN, its success or failure will determine whether we slide into the abyss.

 

At the end of the Cold War, it was rather naively assumed that Security Council would overcome the incapacitating effect of the veto (often by Russia), which had frequently stymied coherent and coordinated action.

 

Instead, communism gave way to the Vladimir Putin era, and the tensions and divisions within the Security Council have continued.

 

Most recently, in February and April 2017, Russia used its veto to block UN sanctions over the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. An effective response was left to President Trump, who ordered a Tomahawk missile strike against the Syrian airbase from which the chemical attack was launched.

 

In dealing with an evident war crime, the UN was again found missing in action. Its statisticians, however, have been very active – busily counting the dead.

 

They estimate that some 400,000 Syrians have been killed and more than 5 million have fled the country since the war began in 2011. Another 6.3 million people are internally displaced.

 

The UN has failed to end the war, failed to protect civilians, and failed to bring the perpetrators to justice. What does the agony of Aleppo say about the impotence of the UN and the collective shame which this war has brought on the international community?

 

It is not only the colossal loss of life and the vast displacements of people that shame us, but also the UN’s failure to set in motion Nuremburg-style trials for those responsible for crimes against humanity and genocide.

 

Scourge of genocide

This scandalous failure to provide justice – or even to establish mechanisms for trying those responsible for mass executions, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of gender-based violence, torture, mutilation and the enlistment and forced recruitment of children – shames the UN and its members. That is, all of us.

 

Genocide – as the UN itself has declared – is never a word to be used lightly. It is not determined by the number of people killed, but by specific genocidal intent.

 

In 1948, in the wake of some of the worst atrocities in history, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

 

The culmination of years of campaigning by the Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, it laid upon the signatories a moral and legal duty to “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide – the crime above all crimes.

 

Once it is recognized that genocide is being committed, serious legal obligations follow, but in our own times states have been reluctant to accept their responsibility to prevent a recurrence of this “odious scourge.”

 

Notwithstanding resolutions by the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the British House of Commons and the U.S. Congress identifying atrocities against Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide, the UN has conspicuously failed to act.

 

The Security Council’s failure to refer evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) – or for any other court to act ­­– has become a scandalous circular argument. Some 124 states are signatories to the ICC’s Rome Statute, but the Court’s authority is fatally undermined when great nations do not demonstrate their belief in the rule of law. Already we see some states withdrawing from the ICC.

 

Who’s to blame?

The West says that Russia will use its veto to prevent any referral on atrocities in Syria.

 

The same diplomats say that China will use its veto if an attempt is made to bring North Korea before the ICC.

 

This comes after a UN report in 2014 found that North Korea’s violations of human rights and crimes against humanity make it “a state without parallel.”

 

The Commission of Inquiry called for the ICC to bring to trial those responsible for “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

 

On reading the report, it is difficult to identify any of the 30 articles comprising the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that are not violated every day in North Korea.

 

Yet, three years after the report’s publication (and as the world watches nervously while Pyongyang contemplates a sixth nuclear test), the regime wallows in impunity – making a mockery of the UN’s proclaimed doctrine of a “duty to protect.”

 

Veto versus duty

Not to act is to act. It sends a very dangerous message that state and non-state actors can behave as they wish, since international institutions are incapable of holding perpetrators to account.

 

Changing the veto powers of the Security Council’s permanent members is no simple business. Such a step would be resisted by those who wield the veto, and it would require amendment of the UN Charter. But Mr. Guterres needs to consider the question, and perhaps referral of crimes to the ICC could be exempted from the veto.

 

It is true that the permanent members are unlikely to take measures to curb their own influence. Gaining a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly will not be easy, either ­– but this is not an issue Mr. Guterres can dodge if he wants to fundamentally reform the UN.

 

Imperfect and indispensable

Dag Hammarskjold was not naïve about the UN’s capacity. As he once said: “We should … recognize the United Nations for what it is – an admittedly imperfect but indispensable instrument of nations working for a peaceful evolution towards a more just and secure world.”

 

He also had some hopeful words that Mr. Guterres might want to pin above his desk: “Setbacks in trying to realize the ideal do not prove that the ideal is at fault.”

 

The UN may be missing in action, but it is not in our interest to confirm reports of its death.

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

Remarks by David Alton, Lord Alton of Liverpool, at a meeting on April 26th 29017, in the British House of Lords, to celebrate the 126th Anniversary of the birth of Dr.Babasaheb Ambbedkar

 

 

Dalit voice Dr.Ambedkar2

Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar who was born into a family of untouchables in 1891

 

On a visit to West Bengal I was once given a small terracotta pot, which I keep on a shelf in my study.

Such pots must be broken once a Dalit – an untouchable – has drunk out of them so as not to pollute or contaminate other castes.

This is the 21st century. It is not the pots which need to be broken, not the people, but the system which ensnares them.

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

He said that the caste system,

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

 

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

Lest you think that these are historic questions let me make absolutely clear that hardly a day passes without some new horror being perpetrated against the Dalits.

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

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

Segregated and oppressed, the Dalits are frequently the victims of violent crime. In one case, 23 Dalit agricultural workers, including women and children, were murdered by the private army of high-caste landlords. What was their crime? It was listening to a local political party, whose views threatened the landlords’ hold on local Dalits as cheap labour. The list of atrocities and violence is exponential.

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

 

Caste should be recognised as a root cause of this misery and a root cause of trafficking, of modern day slavery and poverty and unless we raise the profile of the oppressed Dalits nothing will change.

dalits cast out caste

Cast out Caste – Make Caste History

Dalits are trafficked and exploited. Who will raise their voice on their behalf?

Voice of Dalit International were good enough to send me a copy of Dhananjay Keer’s admirable biography of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar who was born into a family of untouchables in 1891 and the anniversary of  whose 126 th birthday we celebrate today.

Dalit voice Dr.Ambedkar

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

Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar who was born into a family of untouchables in 1891

When Dr. Ambedkar died on December 7th, 1956, Prime Minster Nehru adjourned the Lok Sabha for the remainder of the day having told parliamentarians that Ambedkar had been controversial but had revolted against something which everybody should revolt against – all the oppressing features of Hindu society.

Nehru with Ambdekar

Nehru with Ambdekar

 

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

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

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

In 1927, the young Ambedkar famously led a march to the Chavdar reservoir, a place prohibited to Dalits. On arriving at the reservoir, he bent down, cupped his hands, scooped up some water, and drank—an act completely forbidden by the caste system. The Brahmins, or upper castes, responded by furiously pouring 108 pots of curd, milk, cow dung, and cow urine into the reservoir – a ritual act which they claimed would “purify” the water polluted and defiled by untouchables.

 

Ambedkar could so easily have taken the path of violent revolution, spurred on by bitter hatred or a need for revenge – but although others regarded his shadow as a sacrilege and his touch as a pollutant, he demonstrated why it is the caste system which deserves to be put beyond human touch not the men, women and children condemned by it.

Ambedkar made untouchability a burning topic and gave it global significance. For the first time in 2500 years the insufferable plight of India’s untouchables became a central political question. Among untouchables themselves he awakened a sense of human dignity and self respect. He repudiated the helplessness of fate, the impotent, demoralised incapacity that insisted that everything is pre-ordained and irretrievable.

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

He began a war against a social order that allowed caste to condemn millions to a life of irreversible servitude and social ostracism. This was an existence he had shared. “You have no idea of my sufferings” he once said. Having personally experienced life below the starvation line, the effects of destitution and squalor, the humiliation of ejection, segregation, and rank discrimination, “having passed through crushing miseries and endless trouble” 

 

Ambedkar determined to challenge these evils by entering political life: becoming renowned as a scholar-politician, sadly, a combination so little in evidence today.

 

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

“the roots of democracy” are to be found “in social relationships and in the associate life of the people who form the society.” He said that “if you give education…the caste system will be blown up. This will improve the prospect of democracy in India and put democracy in safer hands.”

He believed that “the roots of democracy” are to be found “in social relationships and in the associate life of the people who form the society.” He said that “if you give education…the caste system will be blown up. This will improve the prospect of democracy in India and put democracy in safer hands.”

Education is still the best hope for social transformation. Once people are empowered by education – as Ambedkar was himself – they can begin to address issues of poverty, lack of dignity, discrimination and other dehumanising attitudes.

Once people are empowered by education – as Ambedkar was himself – they can begin to address issues of poverty, lack of dignity, discrimination and other dehumanising attitudes

 

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

dalit advice to educate, organise and agitate, Dr.Ambedkar

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

He said the challenge was to “educate, agitate and organise.”

 

Ambedkar rightly perceived the negative effects which caste has on economic development – and in his booklet “Annihilation of Caste” he argued that caste deadens, paralyses and cripples the people, undermining productive activity by frequently denying opportunities to those with natural aptitude and through the entrenchment of servitude. Caste amounts to the vivisection of society.

annihilation of caste

The Annihilation of Caste b y Dr.Ambedkar

In India you can’t make poverty history unless you make caste history. 

 

Through Dr.Ambedkar’s colossal labours caste began to decay but even now it has not died.

 

Although untouchability was barred by the constitution, the system was not dismantled. Most of the worst forms of exploitation are proscribed by statute, but all too often the laws are simply not implemented and the police further entrench, rather than protect against, caste prejudice.

Tens of millions of India’s citizens are subject to many forms of highly exploitative forms of labour and modern-day slavery. This often plays into the problem of debt bondage and bonded labour, which affects tens of millions. It perpetuates a cycle of despair and hopelessness, as generations are bonded to the family debt, unable to be educated and unable to escape. Tragically, the debt is often the result of a loan taken out for something as simple and essential as a medical bill.

 

At times, Britain and India have had a turbulent relationship; but what is often called “the idea of India” is one that continues to captivate and enthral anyone who has been fortunate enough to travel there and in 1949, India and Britain were founding members of the Commonwealth, which exists to promote democracy, human rights, good governance, and the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multiculturalism and world peace.

 

India is the world’s largest democracy—home to one-sixth of the world’s population. It can be proud of its many fine achievements. Like all our democracies, it is a work in progress, and there are many bright spots. India produced one of the first female Heads of Government; a Dalit, Dr.Ambedkar, wrote the constitution; a female Dalit became a powerful politician; a Muslim has been head of state four times; and a Jew and a Sikh are two of India’s greatest war heroes. So an astounding amount has been achieved.

 

However, India cannot be proud of the more general fate of the Dalits, the caste system, or the extremism which feeds off ostracism and alienation and which threatens modern India.

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

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

Dalit rally Dr.Ambedkar

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

Dalit voice Dr.Ambedkar

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

North Korea – Drinking in the Last Chance Saloon: a State “without parallel”; Interview on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Programme; Question in Parliament on April 27

Lord Alton discuss North Korea on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08nf4dw/victoria-derbyshire-26042017 – scroll forward to 1h25m.

North Korea
27 April 2017

Question
 11.29 am
 

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what evaluation they have made of the risks to world peace posed by the situation in North Korea.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I should mention that I co-chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea.

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

My Lords, we have made it clear that North Korea must stop its destabilising behaviour. Its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes are a violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions and a threat to regional and international security. We fully support action at the United Nations Security Council to counter this threat and maintain pressure on the regime. The Foreign Secretary will shortly be discussing North Korea’s illegal activity at the Security Council.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, yesterday’s presidential invitation to the White House of all 100 Members of the United States Senate for a briefing on the unfolding and dangerous crisis on the Korean peninsula underscores its gravity, as does the recollection that the last Korean war cost nearly 3 million lives, including those of 1,000 British servicemen. With one-quarter of North Korea’s gross domestic product used on armaments and over 1 million men under arms, how are we using our own diplomatic presence in Pyongyang and Beijing and at the Security Council to engage China, to avert North Korea’s present and long-term threat, and to forestall a catastrophic outcome? Closer to home, why was the Korea National Insurance Corporation able to use London—an issue that I raised with the Government last January—to generate over £113 million to support both the regime and its nuclear weapons programme?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

I will turn to the specific point before I answer the more general and important point that the noble Lord first made: the EU designated the London office of the Korea National Insurance Corporation on 28 April 2016. Since that date the UK has taken the appropriate actions to sanction the firm and has absolutely followed that through; we take sanctions policy extremely seriously, which is why we issued a White Paper on sanctions just last week. On the general point, we have worked and will continue to work not only through our critical engagement with the North Korean Government in Pyongyang through our embassy there but also at the United Nations, because it is only by work with the United Nations Security Council co-operating and with China exerting influence that there can be any change to North Korean behaviour.

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con)

My Lords, I reinforce the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that the key to this incredibly dangerous situation is the full engagement and support of the Chinese Government and the sharing of their concerns with ours and those of the rest of the world. Is it not possible that HMG might be able to play a particularly useful intermediary role in this area?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

As always, my noble friend makes a most important point. I can give him an assurance that the Foreign Secretary is meeting the Chinese representatives when he travels later today to New York. He has already had very fruitful discussions with China. It is notable that the whole of the United Nations Security Council, including China, agreed that sanctions should be exerted on the DPRK, and China has shown good faith in that this year in its sanctions on coal.

Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke (Lab)

My Lords –

Lord Campbell of Pittenweem (LD)

My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Evans of Bowes Park) (Con)

My Lords, with brief questions we can hear from the Liberal Democrats and then the Labour Benches.

Lord Campbell of Pittenweem

My Lords, what is the response of Her Majesty’s Government to the opinion expressed today by Mr Paul Wolfowitz, who was a member of the Administration of George W Bush and is no shrinking violet in these matters, that the solution to the crisis with North Korea will not rest in military action, not least because of the dangers that that would present to the citizens of South Korea?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made it clear that he sees military action as undesirable. We, along with our allies in America, have not taken offensive action. It is of course North Korea that has been offensive in its actions. Clearly the position of Seoul on the border means that any military action would be absolutely disastrous. That is why we are all working together as allies in the United Nations to ensure that there are stronger sanctions and, in particular, that there is a stronger will on the part of China to exert its influence on North Korea, to avoid an escalation of what we have seen over the last few weeks.

Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke

My Lords, given the uncertainty that exists about North Korea, not least after President Trump’s discussions yesterday with the Senate, if there is the possibility of military engagement by the United States against North Korea, would there be a situation similar to what the Foreign Secretary suggested this morning in relation to Syria, which would engage British troops? If that is the case, what attempts will be made to consult Parliament, given that the elected House will cease to exist in a very few hours’ time?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, it is a straightforward fact that the United States has made it clear that it is not seeking military action. It is installing a defensive missile system and working with allies in the area such as South Korea. What came across very strongly in the announcement by the Secretary of State in America yesterday is that the United States is seeking a peaceful resolution. It made it clear that it wants to bring North Korea to its senses, not to its knees.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)

I welcome the Minister’s response about the Security Council, but will she reassure us that when the Foreign Secretary is in New York, he will be in communication with his counterpart in the United States to ensure that these two great allies act in concert to ensure effective sanctions?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Yes, my Lords: in New York but also on a more regular basis.

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

 

NORTH Korea – Drinking in the Last Chance Saloon.

north korea map 2

At the Tumen River border with North Korea in North East China, September 2012, where border guards shoot North Koreans trying to leave their country

At the Tumen River border with North Korea in North East China, September 2012, where border guards shoot North Koreans trying to leave their country

In 2012 President Obama warned Syria that if it used chemical weapons it would lead to a military response from the United States. In August 2013, as more than 1,400 civilians were killed in a sarin gas attack near Damascus, the famous “red line” was crossed and along with civilian deaths American credibility was dealt an equally lethal blow. In international diplomacy the most dangerous thing you can do is to make meaningless assertions and not to see them through.

Any parent or school teacher will tell you that a child needs to have certainty about parameters of acceptable behaviour – and know that when a line is crossed it will carry consequences. Uncertainty and unwillingness to see through endless threats or chastisement only result is worsening behaviour and the desire to see how far the red line can be pushed back.

Winston Churchill went further. He said that if you make the mistake of trying to pacify or placate a tyrant the tyrant will eventually come after you: His definition of an appeaser was “one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”  

But it was Churchill who also said that “To jawjaw is always better than to warwar and he argued that “The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.”

That is certainly the case with North Korea.

Starting wars is far easier than ending them or in predicting the law of unintended consequences. Yet, the United States is once again staring at another red line, and at a State which believes it can terrorise its neighbours as well as its own people.

While President Obama insisted on a policy of “strategic patience” – which amounted to doing nothing and hoping for the best – North Korea has been developing a nuclear capability, seeking to miniaturise weapons and to use submarines to threaten American cities and democratic societies.

By doing nothing, the Obama Administration allowed the situation to fester.

A Second Term Obama might have unilaterally ended the continuing state of war with North Korea – a war which between 1950 and 1953 led to the deaths of around 3 million people. It might have opened the way to change – it might not, but now we will never know. Doing nothing rarely achieves anything.

Under Kim Jong-Un North Korea has been drinking in the Last Chance Saloon.   

He runs a State which the United Nations says has human rights violations that are “without parallel”.  He has intensified his goading and his blackmail and believes he can act with impunity.  

The United States knows that if it does not take decisive action now then it will never be able to do so. The crocodile will be waiting for them.

No doubt the decision to drop an 11-ton bomb on eastern Afghanistan was not only designed to attack ISIS in their underground dug-outs but to demonstrate to North korea that their underground nuclear facilities and command centres hidden deep inside mountains ar not impervious to US fire power. 

War fever is gripping the region and probably only China can now help avert a catastrophic war.    

Also see “A State without Parallel”:

https://davidalton.net/2017/03/11/calls-made-in-geneva-to-hold-north-korean-regime-to-account-for-crimes-against-humanity/

Some Recent Questions In Parliament:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6576):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of reports of human rights violations committed by the government of North Korea against its exiled citizens, and of some exiled North Koreans having become UK citizens, what is their response to the recommendation by the UNHCR group of independent experts on accountability in their report to the 34th session published on 24 February that UN Member States “enact legislation with extraterritorial effect for gross violations of human rights and, for those States that recognize the principle of universal jurisdiction, consider how they can contribute to securing accountability for human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”; and whether they intend to enact such legislation. (HL6576)

Tabled on: 04 April 2017

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We welcome the UN Group of Independent Experts Report which is an important milestone in the process of developing a viable framework for accountability for those who commit human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). At the UN Human Rights Council in March, the UK strongly supported a new resolution on DPRK human rights which drew on the recommendations in the report. The adoption of the resolution demonstrated that there is broad consensus among the international community on strengthening the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Seoul. This provides OHCHR with additional resources to gather and evaluate evidence and consult legal professionals about how this evidence could be used in any future internationally agreed framework for accountability. Legislation already exists in the UK which covers extraterritoriality. War crimes under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957, and a small number of other grave offences, including torture, are already subject to universal jurisdiction.

Date and time of answer: 19 Apr 2017 at 16:33.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6577):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are aware of (1) members of Chongryon, formerly known as the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, entering or doing business in the United Kingdom, and (2) whether Chongryon members have had any interactions with diplomats from the DPRK Embassy in London, in the last five years. (HL6577)

Tabled on: 04 April 2017

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not monitor the day to day activities of diplomatic missions in London nor do we have records of meetings and engagements arranged by those missions.

Date and time of answer: 19 Apr 2017 at 16:05.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking, including through the British Embassy in Pyongyang, to ensure that the government of North Korea does not breach the Vienna Convention; and what advice they are offering to British nationals in, and travelling to, North Korea regarding their safety, in the light of the temporary ban imposed on Malaysian diplomats from leaving the country.

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

We expect any State who has signed and ratified the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to abide by its provisions.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office keeps travel advice under constant review and updates country specific advice if we are aware of an incident that might significantly affect British nationals travelling to that country. The purpose of our travel advice is to provide objective information and guidance to help British nationals make informed decisions regarding foreign travel. As our travel advice for the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea (DPRK) states, we do not assess that the temporary restriction on Malaysian diplomats leaving the DPRK will affect the safety of British nationals travelling to DPRK.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 5 November 2015 (HL 2969) which stated that “the DPRK is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since 1987″, whether they classify as the sponsoring of terrorist acts (1) the plot by a North Korean defector to kill Park Sang-hak in 2012, (2) the plot by two North Korean military officers to kill Hwang Jang-yop in 2010, and (3) the claims made by Won Jeong-hwa that she had been given orders by North Korea to assassinate two South Korean army intelligence officers with poison; and if not, why not.

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

We are aware of reports which allege the involvement of the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in these unlawful events in the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the actions taken by the ROK authorities in response to these incidents. Whether or not they amount to acts of terrorism under our domestic legal definition would be a matter for the investigating authorities to establish. We continue to have significant ongoing concerns regarding the DPRK’s flagrant disregard for international norms and standards. We regularly raise these issues directly with the DPRK government.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 3 November 2015 (HL2960), what assessment they have made of the terror threat to UK nationals, including those who are NorthKorean refugees and human rights workers in North Korea, from the government of North Korea and its diplomatic personnel.

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

Any credible threats against British nationals would be fully investigated by the relevant authorities.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that North Korea has issued orders to assassinate a British businessman who helped to facilitate the defection of North Korea’s then deputy ambassador to London.

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

Any credible threat to the safety of a British national or a resident of the UK is matter for the relevant police authority to investigate.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to introduce human rights sanctions against North Korea, in line with those imposed by the United States.

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

As I set out in written question HL2194, we will always 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 objectives of stability on the Korean peninsula and improved human rights for NorthKoreans.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the remarks by David Slinn, the former UK Ambassador to North Korea on 24 January, concerning the difficulties of negotiating with Kim Jong-un.

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

We remain open to dialogue with the government of the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on the issue of denuclearisation. However, the DPRK regime must give the international community a credible signal that it is prepared to discuss our significant concerns about their nuclear and ballistic missile programme. This includes respecting UN Security Council Resolutions and international law.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have discussed with the European Union and individual EU member states (1) the use of North Korean labour, (2) the use of European bank accounts by North Korean nationals in the EU, and (3) a united response to the report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea; and if so, when those discussions last took place.

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

We are engaged in a dialogue with European partners about strengthening EU measures towards the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea (DPRK) following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2321, including the issue of North Korean labourers and the use of European bank accounts by NorthKorean nationals. We are committed to ensuring that sanctions measures are robust and effective at limiting the DPRK’s ability to fund its nuclear and ballistic missile programme.

The UK holds regular discussion with EU partners on DPRK human rights, including how best to take forward the recommendations of the UN Commission of Inquiry report. We are currently working with EU partners at the UN Human Rights Council to achieve a strong resolution on DPRK human rights which draws on the conclusions of the recent Group of Independent Experts report on accountability.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 28 February (HL Deb, col 714), whether at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council they will support recommendations (1) to establish an ad hoc tribunal, or (2) to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court.

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

The UK welcomes the recent UN Group of Independent Experts report on accountability for those who commit human rights violations in the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK). We support further work on their recommendations by the Special Rapporteur on DPRK Human Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure the most effective framework for accountability can be established.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench  2:58 pm, 28th February 2017

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the sanctions imposed by China against North Korea following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam and the recent ballistic missile test, whether they will call in the North Korean Ambassador.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I should mention that I am co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea.

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

My Lords, on 14 February we summoned the ambassador for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in response to its ballistic missile test on 11 February. We made it clear that such actions were in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a threat to international security, and that such destabilising activity must stop. We continue to be deeply concerned by its actions, including reports that it is responsible for the killing of Kim Jong-nam.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, does not the horrific use of VX, a toxic nerve agent, to assassinate Kim Jong-nam serve to remind us of North Korea’s total disregard for international law, whether through the use of banned chemical weapons, of which it has some 5,000 tonnes, its nuclear and missile test, or the execution and incarceration of hundreds of thousands of its own citizens? Has the noble Baroness noted that at the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is currently meeting in Geneva, there are recommendations to establish an ad hoc tribunal or to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court? Will we be endorsing this and seeking China’s support to bring to justice those responsible for these egregious and systemic violations of human rights?

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

The noble Lord is right in his condemnation of the DPRK’s complete disregard for international norms. Dealing with those is a difficult matter. We certainly support the UN Commission of Inquiry and want to see how we can take forward its recommendations.

With regard to the alleged use of VX, Malaysia has gathered its own information. We have no reason to doubt its conclusions that it is VX, a highly toxic nerve agent, and that the DPRK is responsible, since it has the capacity to produce it. Until there is an international awareness of that information, we cannot take action internationally to condemn what has happened and provide the evidential link between the DPRK and the murder of Kim Jong-nam.

Lord Robathan Conservative

My Lords, there was a very similar assassination on British soil not a mile from here—that of Alexander Litvinenko—by the Russian Secret Service. Can my noble friend please tell us when she last called in the Russian ambassador, and what progress has been made on that inquiry?

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

My Lords, I cannot recall the exact date because, of course, I do not call in the Russian ambassador. But I can reassure my noble friend that I am aware that the Russian ambassador has been called in on at least one occasion last year with regard to Russia’s disregard for international norms. Whatever country uses international murder to dispose of people who are inconvenient to it is wrong and should face international opprobrium.

Lord Anderson of Swansea Labour

My Lords, China is the key player in relation to North Korea, and its action appears to complete the isolation of that country. How do the Government interpret its sanctions? Are they temporary, or can we expect a sea change in China’s policy?

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

The noble Lord is right to point to the fact that China has now made it clear that it is compliant with the UN Security Council resolution on sanctions on the coal trade between the DPRK and China. On 18 February this year, China declared that it would be fully compliant. It had actually been in breach in December, so it has made sure that throughout the whole of this year it will now be compliant. We welcome that public declaration and look forward to receiving further details about how it is observed. It was an important step forward.

The Bishop of Peterborough Bishop

My Lords, I have a particular interest in those who escaped from North Korea, both through my membership of the all-party group and the link that we have in the diocese of Peterborough with the diocese of Seoul in South Korea, which does a lot to support escapees. Can the Minister please tell us whether our Government are talking to the Government of China about their apparent policy of sending refugees straight back to North Korea, where they face execution or incarceration in camps, and whether we will ask China to allow people freedom of passage to those countries which welcome them?

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

The right reverend Prelate raises an important issue on which we are at variance with the Chinese. They believe that those who flee the DPRK to save their own lives are in fact economic migrants and are therefore subject to return. I can assure the right reverend Prelate that we did indeed raise the issue of forced repatriation of refugees on numerous occasions with China, most recently at the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in October, and we will continue to do so, including in international fora. We have also discussed the UN Commission of Inquiry report with senior Chinese officials in Beijing. It is important that we keep up pressure on this matter.

Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat

The imposition of sanctions is all the more significant having regard to the previous ambivalence of the Chinese Government towards North Korea. Should not these sanctions be warmly welcomed, not only here but in the White House, so that, whatever their differences, China and the United States can make common cause in the containment of North Korea?

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

The noble Lord is absolutely right. As the new Trump Administration have taken office, it is important that they and China find accord on this matter.

Baroness Cox Crossbench

My Lords, what is Her Majesty’s Government’s assessment of the security of North Korean defectors here in the United Kingdom and the potential security threat of the North Korean embassy in this country?

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

My Lords, it is a matter of fact that we have, of course, concern for all those who are in this country, whatever their nationality. We have a duty of protection in general terms. We do not provide individual protection for those who are not British citizens, as such, but we are aware that some persons are at particular risk. Because of security matters and the safety of those individuals, it would be wrong of me to go further than that.

Baroness Smith of Basildon Shadow Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry report which urged all democratic countries to help break the information blockade that engulfs North Korea. The All-Party Parliamentary Group has organised a successful campaign to persuade the BBC World Service to broadcast to North Korea. Is the Minister able to tell your Lordships’ House when those broadcasts will begin?

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

My Lords, I am not at present able to do so, but we strongly support the BBC’s mission to bring high-quality impartial news on this matter, including, of course, providing information about DPRK. I will see whether the BBC has come forward with any further information that I have not heard about recently.

Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, does my noble friend have any information about the number of Christians who are now incarcerated in North Korea for the sake of their religion? It is one of the countries where they are most harassed and oppressed.

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

My noble friend is right to raise the plight of Christians in North Korea. Although the constitution in DPRK provides the right to have freedom to believe, those who practise religion outside very closely state-controlled faiths find themselves subject to appalling persecution. It is matter that we raise frequently with the North Korean Government through our embassy in Pyongyang, the United Nations and the Human Rights Council. But it is a continuing, appalling, flagrant breach of international norms.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether any children born to one NorthKorean parent in China, who have not acquired citizenship of either the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, or the People’s Republic of China, have claimed asylum in the United Kingdom; and if so, whether they have been granted refugee status.

Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

Information on claims and decisions is published as part of the Government’s Immigration Statistics quarterly release.

The relevant data tables can be found in tabs AS_01 and AS_01_q at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/572374/asylum1-q3-2016-tables.ods

The tables are also attached to this answer.

Data Tables (Excel SpreadSheet, 3.06 MB)

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many individuals born in North Koreawho have sought asylum in the United Kingdom have been deported since the United Kingdom–Republic of Korea Readmission Agreement came into force.

Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

Information on removals is published as part of the Government’s Immigration Statistics quarterly release.

These can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/572383/returns5-q3-2016-tables.ods

The table is also attached to this answer.

Asylum Data Table (Excel SpreadSheet, 3.49 MB

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 19 December, whether any UK funds or UK nationals provide specialised teaching and training of the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea nationals in business and economic management entrepreneurship; and if so, what assessment they have made of the impact of such training on North Korea’s economy and, in particular, that country’s acquisition of illicit goods.

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

The UK, through our Embassy in Pyongyang, funded business and economic training in the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea (DPRK) between 2013-2015, delivered by an international Non-Governmental Organisation. This training focused on providing ordinary North Koreans with the skills needed to run their own small businesses and to expose them to internationally accepted practices in economics and trade. These projects have been fully audited to ensure they meet the criteria for Foreign and Commonwealth Office funding. We are not aware of any UK funding or UK nationals providing teaching and training which could contribute to the DPRK’s acquisition of illicit goods. The UK is not currently funding any such training activities.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

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.

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

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.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

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.

Lord Young of Cookham Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

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.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

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.

Lord Price The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

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.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

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.

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

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.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

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.

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

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.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

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.

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

The total budget allocation for the British Embassy in Pyongyang this financial year is £203,627, which is used to cover a variety of costs including the estate, local travel, fuel and vehicle maintenance and local staff wages. For operational and security reasons we do not disclose the precise breakdown of the costs of maintaining certain posts. The bilateral programme fund budget for the British Embassy Pyongyang this financial year is approximately £235,000, which includes £200,000 for the British Council English Language Programme, £9,456 for a project to support disabled people in South Hamgyong and North Pyongan province, and £16,691 to provide a secure supply of drinking water to a remote North Korean community.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

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.

Lord Price The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

The Government has made no such assessment.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

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.

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

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.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) about reports that uranium from the DRC has been sold to North Korea.

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

As the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire), set out in his Written Ministerial Statement of 8 March, which I repeated in the House of Lords the same day [HLWS571], the Government remains deeply concerned by North Korea’s continued development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, and its sustained prioritisation of these programmes over the well-being of its own people. All states are obliged to abide by UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting uranium transfers to North Korea. We would take any credible reports of such transfers from anywhere in the world very seriously. We have not engaged with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo on this issue.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has access to North Korean refugees in China; and what steps they have taken to address the specific matter of China’s responsibilities to aid North Korean refugees fleeing North Korea.

Baroness VermaThe Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees does not have access to the North Koreans at the border area in China.

We raise our concerns around refoulement – the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution – regularly through our Embassy in Beijing and at the annual UK-China Human Rights Dialogue.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of North Korea on reports of widespread rape committed by its military; and whether the UK defence attaché to North Korea will raise this issue with their counterpart.

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

We are aware of the disturbing reports of sexual violence within the Korean People’s Army. We consistently raise our concerns about the appalling human rights situation in the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea (DPRK) directly with the regime. In June, our Ambassador to North Korea made clear the UK’s position on human rights in a speech in Pyongyang attended by DPRK senior officials. We regularly raise North Korean human rights issues in multilateral fora such as the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council, and will continue to do so.

David Alton – Lord Alton of Liverpool – is co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary group on North Korea.

Washington Speech on Syria: Diplomatic Association Dinner, Bacon House, Washington DC, 11th May 2017; speech on Persecution of Christians, Washington, May 2017;Carnage at Westminster -as parliamentarians hear from some of those who face terror every day of their lives. Link to Milton Lecture on Protecting Fundamental Freedoms Whilst Combating Hate. Easter Attacks on Egypt’s Copts.

 

Speech on Syria: Diplomatic Association Dinner, Bacon House,   Washington DC, 11th  May 2017 – David Alton

 

I will address three things:

 

  1. The contagious spread of the Genocide against Christians and other minorities;

 

  1. The need for Realism in combatting Islamist ideology; and

 

  1. Upholding the rule of law and Prioritising the safety and future of minorities within the region.

 

  1. The contagious spread of the Genocide against Christians and other minorities;

Our entire world is less tolerant and more violent: from Syria, Iraq and the continued rise of the so-called Islamic State, or Daesh, which continues to murder people and eradicate culture and heritage; to the horrors of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where the Sudanese regime has dropped more than 2,500 bombs on its civilian population; to Boko Haram’s abductions, bombings and murders in Nigeria; to the burning alive of Christians in Pakistan; to the beheading of 21  Copts in Libya and the bombing of their churches and monasteries in Egypt. 

In Syria and Iraq the violence goes under the name of genocide and is the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our time, generating the largest movement of displaced people since World War II.

In 2016 Antoine Audo, the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, said that two-thirds of Syrian Christians had either been killed or driven away from his country. 

Zainab Bangura, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, has authenticated reports of Christian and Yazidi females—girls aged one to seven—being sold, with the youngest carrying the highest price tag. One 80-year-old Christian woman who stayed in Nineveh was reportedly burned alive. In another Christian family, the mother and 12 year-old daughter were raped by ISIS militants, leading the father, who was forced to watch, to commit suicide. One refugee described how she witnessed ISIS crucify her husband on the door of their home.

On 23 July 2014, I warned in an opinion piece in the Times:

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

I said that,

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

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

All faith communities and minorities have suffered, but the fate of the country’s Christians is catastrophic. The Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Jean-Clément Jeanbart, asked during a hearing at the House of Lords:

What are the great nations waiting for before they put a halt to these monstrosities? Let me cry with my people, violated and murdered. Allow me to stand by numerous families in Aleppo who are in mourning. Because of this ugly and barbarous war, they have lost so many loved ones, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters and cherished children”.

ISIS has murdered, plundered, raped and abducted, including whole villages of Assyrian Christians – continuing a slow burn genocide that has its roots in the genocide of the region’s Armenians.

Since 2011 ISIS, and other terrorists who describe themselves as Islamist, have devastated two of the Middle East’s four largest remaining Christian communities: in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt — all churches with Apostolic roots.

In Iraq the Christian population has been reduced to around 200,000 from their pre-2003 population of 1.4 million.

Syria is estimated to have lost up to half of its 2 million Christians.

What has happened in Iraq and Syria has been formally branded by Pope Francis, by the US Congress, by the European Parliament and by the British House of Commons as a genocide. 

The same Islamist genocidaires say that Egypt’s Copts are their next target, their “favourite prey”, and have designated  Egypt’s Sinai for an extension of their Caliphate.

This contagious genocide was graphically underscored on Palm Sunday when two Coptic Orthodox churches were bombed, murdering 45 members of the congregations and with 1000 Sinai Christians driven from their homes.

Ancient Christian communities are ruthlessly, systematically and relentlessly targeted: with Christians executed, raped, abducted, held ransom, their homes and livelihoods destroyed, and, where able to, forced to flee. 

Pope Francis, during a visit to a migrant centre in Greece, had the personal horror brought home to him when a Muslim man told him that he saw terrorists slit his wife’s throat when she refused to discard her crucifix.

 

  1. The need for Realism in combatting Islamist ideology; and

 

 

 

No dialogue with Islamic leaders that is worth the name can ignore the enormity of what is underway or imply, as some do, that any critique of this attempted annihilation is a “defamation against Islam.” 

During his visit to Egypt Pope Francis went to the ancient centre of Sunni Muslim learning and where 1,000 preachers are trained each year, and dialogued with Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, who has described those responsible for the terror as “deviants” from the right path of Islam and says they “misunderstand” Islam. He said that “Exonerating religion from terrorism is no longer sufficient.”

Taking the grand sheikh’s own words, he should be asked to define and clarify key terms that ISIS and other jihadi groups use to attract and recruit Muslims. Tayeb has already made progress with the doctrine of takfir, a form of excommunication which the terrorists use to justify the killing of Sunni Muslims who reject extremism.

Following the welcome lead of the High Religious Committee in Morocco, who earlier this year rescinded its 2012 death penalty for apostasy, Alzhar needs to press on with what some have described as “a religious revolution” engaging Imams in redefining what is and what is not acceptable – especially adumbrating what may and may not be taught.

We all know that allowing someone to be described as an infidelpolytheistidolatorapostate, or blasphemer is like an incitement to murder. Hate speech is then enshrined by the doctrines of dhimmitude and jihad.

Muslim teachers urgently need to develop a social teaching on citizenship – “a healthy secularity”  a “diverse plurality”, that recognizes the political and civic standing of every citizen, whatever their religious beliefs or lack of them and understands that societies are enriched, not endangered, by their minorities.

So much for 1) namiong the genocide for what it is and 2) the ned for realism.

 

  1. Upholding the rule of law and Prioritising the safety and future of minorities within the region.

 

 

 

Here we must say something about the centrality of the rule of law and the practical steps we must take to provide protection.

In February 2016 in Parliament, supported by Lady Cox, and against the opposition of the UK Government, we moved amendments to designate events in Syria and Iraq as a genocide.  

Motions were passed in the European parliament and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and, after Congress and the State Department received a 300-page report detailing more than 1,000 instances of ISIS deliberately massacring, killing, torturing, enslaving, kidnapping or raping Christians the U.S.House of representatives, by 393 votes to zero, declared that grotesque and targeted beheadings and other depredations constitutes a genocide.

I will not read the entire resolution of the House of Representatives but the last phrase says that,

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

 

On behalf of the White House, Secretary of State, John Kerry, said:

“Naming these crimes is important”, and that Daesh, in targeting these minorities with the purpose of their annihilation, is “genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions”— in what it says, what it believes and, indeed, what it does. He called for criminal charges to be brought against those responsible.

Vice President, Mike Pence, said the same thing this morning at a conference being held in Washington 

The British Daily Telegraph said that the West has a “moral duty” to name this genocide for what it is.

Genocide is never a word to be used lightly and is not determined by the number of people killed but by specific genocidal intent. The subsequent failure to refer the evidence to the ICC or any other any court has become a scandalous circular argument

In order to investigate, the ICC would need a referral from the UN Security Council. The failure to make such a referral turns the genocide convention into little more than window dressing – an insult to the original drafters and ratifiers, as “never again” becomes a hollow slogan devoid of meaning.

The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, in the wake of some of the worst atrocities in history.

It was the culmination of years of campaigning by the Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, and recognised that “international co-operation” was needed,

“to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge”.

When countries added their signatures to the Convention it laid upon them the moral and legal duty to,

“undertake to prevent and to punish”, genocide—the crime above all crimes.

For the minorities in the Middle East, whose very existence is under direct and immediate threat, where minorities are being annihilated before our very eyes, these sentiments are not worth the paper on which they are written.

I have visited the genocide sites in Rwanda—a salutary and chilling experience.

I am always struck that President Clinton and British Ministers of the day say that their failure to identify and take action to prevent the Rwandan genocide, which led to the loss of 1 million Tutsi lives, was their worst foreign affairs mistake; lamenting the failure to decry the genocides in both Rwanda and Bosnia quickly enough, despite the overwhelming and compelling evidence that existed. 

William Hague, speaking on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, said:

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

His successor as Foreign Secretary, Mr Philip Hammond, said that the horror of Srebrenica,

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

Once it is recognised that genocide is being committed, serious legal obligations follow, but states have proved reluctant to engage with their responsibilities.

Under the Genocide Convention countries are obliged to take action: to prevent the genocide, to protect victims and to punish the perpetrators. 

Those responsible, the ISIS fighters, originate from nearly 100 countries. At least 5000 of them come from European countries and hold European passports. Yet none of them has faced trial for genocide, even though ISIS itself clearly states it intends to continue to commit genocide. The world community is utterly failing the victims of ISIS, failing to uphold Conventions it has solemnly ratified but also failing to keep their own countries safe.

A Government cannot claim to be tough on crime, often petty crime, if it lets off the hook  people who actively participate in an organization that commits genocide. 

By upholding the rule of law we also have the opportunity to make a step change – by moving beyond aerial bombardment to a consideration of justice. This is surely what marks us out as different from terrorists like ISIS.

 

Our demand must be that, under our commitment to the rule of law, however long it takes, we will bring those responsible for abhorrent mass executions, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of gender-based violence, torture, mutilation and the enlistment and forced recruitment of children to justice.

 

And finally, what must we do to help recreate safe places in Syria and Iraq in which Christians might live?

Now that joint Kurdish and Assyrian forces have recaptured a number of villages, are we going to provide teams, especially in the Khabur River Valley area, to find and dispose of mines and make homes and villages safe again?

Where ground has been recaptured, will we be enhancing their military capability – their ability to protect themselves? Will we providing a guaranteed no fly-zone?

And are we going to provide serious support for the Kurdish-Assyrian democratic self-administration governmental structure; to its commitment to civil society and the rule of law?

This should be the model for a post-ISIS Syria and possibly for the entire region – a model proposed by Bassam Ishak, the President of the Syriac National Council of Syria, whose vision of a Syria is one where rights are based on citizenship; where all people, regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender, are treated equally; and where women have a prominent role in the structures.

Bassam Ishak, whom I have met this week In Washington,  says “Without achieving the full rights of all the minorities of Syria, no new Syria will emerge and no political actor will win.”

These solid pillars should surely be the pillars of a post-ISIS Syria.

The overall goal must be to enable all Syrians who have left, including Christians, to return to their homes, to be safe when they return, and to participate in rebuilding the Syrian infrastructure and Government on the basis of social and political equality, with religious freedom and human rights being safeguarded.

 

It is not perfect but the Kurdish-Assyrian coalition is the best example in this fractured region of hard-headed bridge-building and what the West should want to see in the Syria of the future. It might also become the model for Damascus and for the region.

To end, our failed policy towards Syria thus far has been to wish on it the same outcomes that we have seen in Iraq and Libya; failed policies that have been oblivious to the suffering and mayhem that has ensued. As Einstein said when defining insanity: “insanity is when you do the same thing over and over again.”

We must put the defeat if ISIS and radical islam as our tope priority and establish mechanisms to bring to justice those responsible for cimres against hmanity and genocide – either through the ICC or regional tribunals; we must protect the region’s minorities and guarantee its diversity. Do these things and we might offer some hope in the hearts of the belegured and suffering people of Syria. 

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Subject: World Summit In Defence of Persecuted Christians May 2017 The Mayflower Hotel Washington DC

David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool)

Accompanying slides, click at: https://davidalton.net/media/

I have been asked to speak about advocacy and how we can influence policy makers.

We began today by singing Amazing Grace. It was composed by John Newton, an infamous slave trading sea captain from Liverpool, the city I was proud to represent in the House of Commons.  

Newton came to see that “the right to choose to own another human being as a slave” was simply wrong – and he changed his mind. He then worked with a young man whom John Wesley told to be an “Athanasius Contra Mundum” – an Athanasius Against the World. The young man was William Wilberforce. 

It would take forty years to end the slave laws but by patiently building striong alliances and by changing people’s minds they achieved their objectives.

They achieved their goal because they spoke to people’s hearts and to their heads – as we must do. 

These should be our arguments:

1. the world’s promise of protection; 

2. the reality: for many, Article 18 is not worth the paper on which it is written; and

3. how we should respond; what we might do.

1. the world’s promise of protection cand be found in Article 18 of the1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which proclaims the right of every human being to believe, not to believe or to change their belief; and it can be found in the Genocide Convention;

Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has acquired a normative character within general international law. It 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…an “international Magna Carta for all mankind.”

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.

The bloodiest century in human history -with the loss of 100 million lives – the 20th century produced the four great mass murderers —Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot.

Having studied the Armenian Genocide and the 1933 massacre of Assyrian Christians in Iraq, the Polish Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin – who had lost 49 of his relatives in the Holocaust – devised the 1948 Genocide Convention, which sits alongside Article 18 . Lemkin said “international co-operation” was needed, “to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge.”

The 147 signature countries have a moral and legal duty to, “undertake to prevent and to punish” those responsible.

2. The Reality: for many, Article 18 is not worth the paper on which it is written.

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.

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.

Infringement of freedom of religion and belief morphs into persecution and, all too quickly, can morph into crimes against humanity and genocide.

  Briatin’s former Chief Rabbi,  Jonathan Sacks, says:  “The persecution of Christians …is one of the crimes against humanity of our time.  I am appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked. It is the religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing.”

What protest was there on Palm Sunday 2017 when two suicide bombings killed 44 people at Coptic churches in Egypt?

Or when, in December 2016, an explosion killed 25 worshippers during Sunday worship in Cairo.

Or when, in 2015, ISIS executed 21 Coptic Christians who, “in the moment of their barbaric execution”, were repeating the words “Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Where were the protests, when, in 2013, Egypt’s Kristallnacht led to the burning or bombing of more than 50 of Egypt’s churches schools, homes.

Last month ISIS  proclaimed a new caliphate in Egypt’s Sinai and say Copts are their “favourite prey.”

This systematic campaign is an attempt to repeat the horrors of Syria and Iraq – where Parliaments, Congress and world leaders have formally declared a genocide.

Such declarations are meaningless if there is no basis for bringing to justice those responsible for assassinations of church leaders, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom, the sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women, forcible conversions, the destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and Christian artefacts and theft of lands.

In 1914, Christians made up a quarter of that region’s population.  The genocide began with the slaughter of Armenian Christians. Now Christians are less than 5%.

Genocides occur when you first turn a blind eye to discrimination and persecution – sometimes hidden in the clothes of a country’s laws.

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.

Within the last seven days Governor Ahok of Jakarta has been given a two year prison sentence – making a mockery of Indonesia’s reputation for pluralism and tolerance – emboldening extremists. If , allowed to stand, it will send Indonesia in the direction of Pakistan where this week a 51 year old Pastor was impisoned for life, having been awaiting trial since 2012. He was bogusly convicted for allegedly sending a text message on a phone that was not even his. 

Within the last week we have seen blasphemy laws used to give a life sentence to a pastor in Pakistan – on the basis of a text message sent from a phone he didn’t own – and two years imprisonment for the Christian Governor of Jakarta.

In Pakistan Asia Bibi stands condemned to death for so called blasphemy. Imprisoned since 2009 this mother of five children says: “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind.”

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

Shahbaz Bhatti 1

While taking evidence in South East Asia from Christians fleeing Pakistan I heard the story of Basil – a pastor’s son, who was burnt alive after refusing to convert.

Or think of Iran where Saeed Abedini, was imprisoned for 10 years for “undermining national security” by hosting Christian gatherings in his home.

Or China, where Catholics like Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang, who died last year aged 94, spent half his life in prison; where Protestants, since the beginning of 2016, have seen 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.

Think, 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.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s leaders, indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, continue to bomb and use chemical weapons in Darfur and to bomb Christian communities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

In Nigeria, think of the 200 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok by Boko Haram who bomb churches and target believers stating that their declared aim is to eradicate Christianity.

Or North Korea – where I have been four times.

The United Nations says its egregious human rights violations make it a “State without parallel” where 200,000 are incarcerated; that 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 Christian escapee, Hae Woo, told me that torture and beatings are routine, that prisoners were reduced to eating rats, snakes, or even searching for grains in cow dung: “the dignity of human life counted for nothing.”

So that’s the reality check.

3. How we should respond; what we might do?

We need a consistent, coherent international strategy.

At every opportunity we must wake up the world to the scale of the persecution and to the obligations that flow from both Article 18 and the Genocide Convention.

However long it takes, we have a duty to bring to justice those responsible for their crimes against humanity.

In the UK we have designated a day in November as “Red Wednesday” to commemorate the persecuted. The Houses of Parliament and other public buildings and churches were lit reed, people worse an item of red clothing, and Facebook pages were lit red. It should be replicated around the world.

Perhaps we also need a new Convention on Religious Freedom 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.

We must promote religious literacy among policy makers and the population at large. Given that 84% of the world’s population declare a religious faith policy makers cannot understand the world if you do not understand religion.

We must emphasise the tangible benefits that accrue to societies that protect religious freedom. A society which promotes religious freedom will be enlivened and enriched and one that does not will decay

People of faith and of no faith must also enter into one another’s stories – and we need to speak up far more passionately and clearly about the suffering of the household of faith.

We urgently need a persuasive new narrative capable of forestalling the unceasing incitements to hatred which pour forth from the internet;

We are failing to counter this with common perspectives, common ethical ideals of and underlining how we can learn to live together.

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, an Ahmadi who often reached out to Christian neighbours and customers and was murdered by an islamist for doing so.

Let me end.

We must wake up to these realities and use the freedoms with which we have been blessed to speak for those who are not so fortunate. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis, who said that “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil…not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

If, for so many, our Christian faith is worth dying for, for us is should be worth living for.

And we have the freedom and the duty to do so.

So let us commit to break the silence and to act and be fearless advocates on behalf of the suffering crucified Church.

dietrich-bonhoeffer

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Carnage at Westminster – as parliamentarians hear from some of those who face terror every day of their lives

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2017/03/23/westminster-has-seen-worse-now-it-must-show-persecuted-christians-that-terror-wont-win/

Link to Milton Lecture on Protecting Fundamental Freedoms Whilst Combating Hate:

https://davidalton.net/2017/03/03/john-milton-lecture-mansfield-college-university-of-oxford-on-freedom-of-religion-or-belief-march-3rd-2017/

Business Not Quite As Usual

P.C.Keith Palmer

Police Constable Kevin Palmer Murdered in the Westminster Precinct

In her Statement, in the aftermath of the attack at Westminster, the Prime Minister defiantly insisted that parliamentary business would today continue as usual.

theresa_may_commons_tribute_cfyasf

The Prime Minister

During the morning sittings in both Houses, there was a united and wholly unambiguous message that those who would destroy our democracy and fundamental freedoms will not succeed. But in the sombre atmosphere that inevitably prevailed, it wasn’t quite business as usual. 

And we always need to remind ourselves that this is not the first, and will not be the last attack on Westminster – both on the buildings and on the values which are its foundation stones.

Nearly forty years ago, on March 30th 1979, on the day after I was elected to the House of Commons in a by-election, Airey Neave was murdered by the Irish National Liberation Army, blown up just yards from where P.C. Keith Palmer – a father-of-two and a member of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Squad – was yesterday murdered by an Islamist terrorist.

Keith had worked at Westminster for fifteen years and he was one of our gallant band of men and women who protect us and every day greet us, and endless visitors, with great courtesy but who also know that Westminster is far more than a tourist attraction.

It is an iconic building that stands for democracy and freedom and is therefore bound to be a target for those who wish to destroy those things and impose hate driven ideologies.

P.C.Palmer’s body lay just yards from the entrance to Westminster Hall – which was subjected to Nazi bombs at the height of World War Two. 

westminster bombed during world war 2

Westminster silhouetted by the light of fires caused by Nazi bombs

In 1940 a high explosive bomb fell into Old Palace Yard. In 1941 an incendiary hit the Victoria Tower and a police sergeant showed great courage when he climbed the scaffold and extinguished the burning magnesium with a sandbag. Then the western courtyard was hit and two auxiliary policemen were killed.

Next, the Commons Chamber was hit along with Westminster Hall – built by William Rufus in 1097. As the Commons burnt, firemen with axes broke down the doors of the Hall and as the medieval rafters burnt they pumped in water from the Thames to save the Hall.

westminster hall bombedhouse of commons destroyed

Westminster was bombed by the Nazis – the House of Commons was destroyed.

P.C.Palmer stands in a long and heroic tradition of extraordinary bravery placed at the service of their country.

If the walls of Westminster Hall could speak they could tell this nation’s history – of its struggles for political and religious freedom, its belief in human rights and its belief in the rule of law.

From its construction in 1097, and the first meeting of Parliament in 1265, to the trials of William Wallace in 1305, of St.Thomas More in 1535, and Charles I in 1649, to the lying-in-state of Kings, Queens and Prime Ministers, there is little that this Hall could not tell us about who we are and what we stand for as a nation.

My first visit to Westminster Hall was as in 1965, as a school boy, when we came to pay our respects to Sir Winston Churchill whose body had been brought to the Hall – and whose leadership saw this country through its darkest hours.

Yesterday, after being locked down for several hours in Central Lobby many of us were taken into the Hall – where hundreds of people waited as events continued to unfold.

Here were Peers, MPs, secretaries, researchers, ancillary and catering staff and visitors to the House– the complete diverse mix that makes up the Westminster community on any working day.

 westminster hall

Peers, MPs, Staff and Visitors Congregated in Westminster Hall

I wondered what some of the school children, who had been singing songs to keep up their spirits, would make of this their first visit to Westminster. Beyond the tragedy I hope they will be inspired and realise that in every generation the baton must pass to the one which follows.

As the attack was taking place I was meeting with the Egyptian Coptic Bishop, Angaelos. A few months ago he had spoken in Westminster Hall at the annual parliamentary prayer breakfast.

During our meeting we had been talking about recent attacks on his church community – many driven out by ISIS killers from the Sinai Peninsula. We talked about the Copts who had been murdered by ISIS in Libya – who went to their deaths refusing to renounce their faith.  We were recalling that the last time we had been together was to stand outside Westminster Abbey at a service of remembrance to mark the deaths of 25 people at Cairo’s Cathedral of St.Mark.

coptic martyrs 2Icon of the 21 Coptic Christians beheaded in Libya in February 2015

Coptic Christians Executed By ISIS

Then, interrupting our conversation, one of our Doorkeepers urgently asked us to follow him – and he took us to Central Lobby. Among many we spoke to there was Lord Tebbit – who in 1984 had survived the Brighton bomb and whose dear wife Margaret had been paralysed by the attack.

Bishop Angaelos and I spent five hours in the lockdown in Central Lobby and in Westminster Hall. Horrible, but nothing in comparison with what happened to those who were killed, maimed or wounded.

At 4.00pm I had been due to chair a meeting on North Korea and I still don’t know if anyone hoping to come into the House for that hearing was hurt but I do know that South Koreans were among the casualties on Westminster Bridge. The intended speaker, who had escaped from North Korea, and his translator, sent me a text to say that they had got safely away.

This morning I arrived at the House at 7.30 am to prepare for a meeting I was due to chair on the Committee Corridor about the plight of Christians in Erbil, and who had escaped from ISIS genocide in Iraq and Syria.

The meeting had been organised by the charity Aid to The Church In Need. They had flown over Mr Stephen Rasche, who heads the humanitarian and resettlement programmes for more than 70,000 displaced Christian families in northern Iraq.

WP_20170323_09_54_43_Pro

Stephen Rasche met with Parliamentarians, Ministers and Officials

Although we were unable to get members of the public into the building we went ahead with the meeting and Mr.Rasche spoke to Peers such as Baroness (Helena) Kennedy QC, Lord Hylton, and Lord Gordon and he met the DFID Minister, Lord Bates.

Mr.Rasche’s visit comes at a critical time for Christians in the wake of the expulsion of ISIS from the Nineveh Plains, the region of northern Iraq which for centuries had been home to Catholic and Orthodox communities as well as other minorities. What sort of message would it have sent to them if that meeting had to be cancelled because of Islamist terror on the streets of London?

It’s almost a year since the House of Commons voted to declare events in Iraq and Syria to be a genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other minorities. 

christian genocide

Stephen Rasche said that the programmes he organises on behalf of Chaldean Archbishop, Bashar Warda of Erbil, are running out of medicine, food – and hope. He described what it is like to live every day under the shadow of terror: “Christians are hanging on as a people – just barely” . 

He pointed out that British aid simply doesn’t reach those we have declared to be the subject of genocide because the aid goes instead into UN camps in which the minorities would be too frightened to stay  as many of those who persecuted them are in those very same camps.

Without help “medicine will run out in 40 days, food in two months.” Without help no-one from these ancient communities will be left: “we will become custodians of a caretaker culture.”  

Archbishop Warda in the UK

Archbishop Warda in Parliament in 2015

They are praying for the day when it will be safe to return to the Christian villages of Nineveh Plain and Mosul – but meanwhile they are a people whose story is written in mass graves, enslavement, rape and torture.

Yesterday, London had a glimpse of the brutality and unforgiving hatred that fuels this global ideology. 

But, as Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, reminded us when we assembled in the House later in the morning, hatred need not win. 

Westminster has withstood far worse, and in displaying traditional British stoicism and resilience, Parliament must also inspire and encourage beleaguered communities, the world over, by displaying leadership and determination in resisting those who would destroy the values for which P.C.Palmer gave his life.

David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool) is an Independent Crossbench Peer.

houses of parliament on red wednesday

The Houses of Parliament lit in red on “Red Wednesday”, November 2016, to commemorate all those who have died or are persecuted for their religious beliefs.

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Palm Sunday and Easter Attacks On Egypt’s Copts “ISIS’s “favourite prey”

Nina Shea of the Hudson institute says the position of Egypt’s Copts “ is very serious. We did a mapping of Salafi groups and found there are scores there. Isis has a beach head in north Sinai and appeal throughout the country. The military is corrupt and incompetent, assuming it even wants to protect the Copts. 

“Iraqi Church leaders now tell us there are less than 200,000, maybe as few as 100,000 Christians left in all Iraq. They’ve been decimated, down from 1.4 million. Baghdad contributes to their plight and the West has cruelly abandoned them.”

Unless the World wakes up to this the Copts will be subjected to the same genocide that has been unleased on the minorities of Iraq and Syria. In a recent video, ISIS threatens to make the targeting of that two thousand year old community its priority, chillingly calling the Copts its “favorite prey.”

Recent Questions in parliament:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6512):

Question Lord Alton of Liverpool:


To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they have offered the government of Egypt to protect Egypt’s Coptic population from ISIS, following reports of targeted attacks, killings, and forced conversions. (HL6512)

Tabled on: 03 April 2017

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are concerned about recent attacks in both Cairo and North Sinai against the Coptic Christian community, claimed by Daesh. The Government of Egypt has reaffirmed its commitment to protecting the rights of minorities and to the need for religious tolerance. We welcome President Sisi’s consistent calls for peaceful coexistence and the Government of Egypt’s expression of support for the rights of Christians and for religious tolerance.

As part of our UK-funded projects and programmes in Egypt we are providing counter-terrorism assistance to the Egyptian authorities and counter-IED training for the Egyptian security forces. We are committed to supporting the Egyptian Government’s fight against terrorist groups, including those who seek to target minority groups such as Coptic Christians.

Date and time of answer: 19 Apr 2017 at 16:06.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of Coptic Christian families in Egypt who have been forced to flee North Sinai province following a number of killings in recent weeks by suspected Islamist militants; and what representations they have made to the government of Egypt about those reports.

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

We deplore all discrimination against religious minorities and constraints on their freedom to practise their faith. The Egyptian constitution contains protections for freedom of religious belief and it is important that these rights are respected.

The UK Government continues to work closely with the Egyptian authorities on security and counter-terrorism, including through training Egyptian officers who operate in areas such as North Sinai to counter improvised explosive devices used by Islamist militants.

We have regularly raised our concerns about the deterioration in the human rights situation with the Egyptian Government, including issues affecting Christians. We have also raised our broader concerns around the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, which are essential to improving the protection of freedom of religious belief in Egypt.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what offers of help or advice they have made to the government of Egypt about the improvement of security of the people attending places of worship following the bombing of the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St Mark in Cairo; and what assessment they have made of the levels of persecution and discrimination against the Coptic minority.

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

Following the attack against El-Botrosiya Church on 11 December, the Prime Minister, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) wrote to the President of Egypt to express her deep condolences and reiterate the UK’s support for Egypt in its fight against terrorism. The Foreign Secretary, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), Her Majesty‘s Ambassador to Egypt, and officials in London have also expressed their condolences to the Egyptian authorities. The UK Government continues to work closely with the Egyptian authorities on security and counter-terrorism, including through training Egyptian officers in countering improvised explosive devices and close protection.

The UK Government has been clear that freedom of religious belief needs to be protected and that the ability to worship in peace is a vital component of a democratic society. We are concerned about recent reports of sectarian violence in Egypt, and welcome President Sisi’s consistent calls for peaceful coexistence and the government of Egypt’s expression of support for the rights of Christians and for religious tolerance.

 

 ————————————————————————————————————————————-

Hudson Center for Religious Freedom Senior Fellow  Samuel Tadros is an expert analyst on his native Egypt and Islamist extremism.  A Coptic Christian, himself, he has  personal experience with the persecution now being waged by ISIS against that community in Egypt, having had friends and relatives among the survivors of recent deadly church bombings, including the one earlier this week, on Palm Sunday, at St. George’s Orthodox Church, in Tanta, Egypt.  In a recent video, ISIS threatens to make the targeting of that two thousand year old community its priority, calling the Copts its “favorite prey.”

 

Sam’s extraordinary reflection, at the bottom of this message, appears in The Atlantic and provides poignant insights into the plight of the Copts. 

 

Time

http://time.com/4732357/isis-coptic-christians-palm-sunday-egypt-bomb/

“If you’re a Coptic Christian in Egypt today, you’re now asking many questions,” said Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Hudson Institute who writes frequently on sectarian relations in Egypt. “What has the state done, why are we being targeted, am I safe any longer and should I leave Egypt.”

Bloomberg

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-04-09/blast-hits-church-in-egypt-s-tanta-killing-at-least-21

“The bombings were ‘a mixed bag’ for El-Sisi, said Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington.

‘On the one hand it reinforces his narrative that Egypt is in war against terrorism, rallying the nation around the flag and so forth,’ Tadros said. ‘At the same time the attacks send a message of incompetence of the security apparatus’ in containing the militancy, he said.

If the jihadist group proves able to operate more extensively outside of Sinai, ‘that would be a very dangerous development,’ he added.”

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Transcript of Radio Interview

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-monday-edition-1.4064013/april-10-2017-episode-transcript-1.4066637

Excerpt:  “ [The Copts] face discriminatory policies at the hands of the government. Discrimination in laws and government appointments. Restrictions in building churches and they face exclusion and discrimination in society at large and incitement against them by Islamists as well as these attacks. Copts have special place in Islamist doctrines. Perhaps this is a reflection of the fact that they are more than 50 percent of the Christian presence in the Middle East as a whole. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the disproportionate number of Egyptians that plays an instrumental role in the formation of Islamist groups or the Islamist narrative. I mean it’s a war. Why they’re targeted? It is for who they are. Islamic State has released a 30 minute video after the December bombing of the cathedral complex in Cairo where they collaborated. It’s not about anything that individuals Copts have done. They basically call them the Worshipers of the Cross. These are by their very existence warriors against Islam. And thus every single Copt is a possible target.”

FoxNew.com: Quoted by Judith Miller:

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/04/11/judith-miller-trump-egypt-and-future.html

“Samuel Tadros, of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, estimates that there have been at least 100 major attacks on Christians and their churches since [Pres. Sisi] came to power.”

Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bloody-sunday-on-joyous-holiday-parents-search-for_us_58ebeab6e4b081da6ad006c0

“Samuel Tadros, scholar of Middle Eastern Studies at the Hudson Institute, has written “Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic quest for modernity” (Hoover Institution Press, 2013). He explains in an interview that 90 percent of his Facebook friends ask him how they can leave the country. ‘Not everyone will leave, but everyone is contemplating it,’ says Samuel Tadros. ‘My parents have nobody left to take care of them’. Out of his own Coptic family, half of them live outside of Egypt. There were two Coptic churches in the US in 1970. In 2012, the number had increased to 202. That speaks volumes.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/copt-attacks-egypt-isis-sinai/522735/

What Palm Sunday Means to Egypt’s Copts

Christianity was born in pain in the country. An attack on a holy day is another bloody symbol of its beginnings.

O-sana va-sili too Esraeel

At Saint George Church, a Coptic church in Tanta, Egypt, the deacons were finishing the final vowels in Evlogimenos (the Hosanna to the King of Israel), when the bomb exploded, leaving 28 worshipers dead and many others wounded. Shortly afterwards, a suicide bomber, failing to enter Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, where the Coptic Pope was leading the liturgy, detonated his bomb outside the church, leaving 17 people dead. A joyful day, one where Coptic children compete to turn their palm fronds into the most beautiful of shapes, suddenly became the deadliest day of attacks on this ancient community.

The twin bombings were hardly the first attacks against Egypt’s Coptic Christians. Nor are they likely to be the last. In recent years, Copts, who constitute more than half of all Christians in the Middle East, have been setting the grisliest of records, with each new attack claiming more victims than the one before. The Islamic State has claimed credit for the recent bombings. Following its bombing in December of the Coptic Cathedral complex in Cairo, the group released a message promising more to come for the “worshipers of the cross,” the group’s name for the Copts. A week-long murder spree targeting Copts by ISIS in Northern Sinai in February nearly emptied the region of Christians. Bombing Coptic Churches just before Christmas and Easter, ISIS seemed to take particular delight in targeting Copts during their most joyful celebrations.

* * *

Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts.

— Psalms 65:4

Palm Sunday is a day of contradictions in the Coptic calendar—a day of joy as the Lord enters Jerusalem, a day of preparation for a week of sorrows as the faithful follow Christ’s every step on the road to the cross. But the most extraordinary event occurs immediately after the liturgy. The deacons replace the red stoles on their tunics with darker ones, and the rite suddenly shifts from the joyful sha’aneen, (or, Hosanna), to a general funeral for all living Copts. The verses from Psalms 65 are followed by the Pauline Epistle from 1 Corinthians 15, which promises resurrection of the believers. As the Church fixes its gaze on the death of its savior, no funerals are held for Copts during Holy Week; the general funeral prayers on Palm Sunday are meant to bless all those who die.

Christianity was born in pain in Egypt, its message of hope bathed in blood. Fleeing persecution in Israel, the young Jesus found refuge in the country. Yet suffering and martyrdom would become the central features of the Church his disciples would found. Saint Mark the Evangelist, who introduced Christianity to Egypt, shed his blood on the streets of Alexandria, and countless Copts followed him as they clung to their faith in their redeemer in the face of endless persecution. That initial blow, struck by Roman Emperors, was the first of many. The names of rulers may have changed, from Roman and Byzantine emperors to Muslim caliphs and governors, discriminatory laws changed from the Muslim rules of Dhimmitude, to the exacting, oppressive laws of Egypt’s present-day rulers, but the nature of the Coptic plight has not.

Through it all, Copts clung to their church. As everything from employment opportunities to roster spots on soccer teams were closed to them, the church became more than a house of worship, providing health care, private education, even sports venues. A Coptic nation exists today—but it does not seek independence. Membership is based not on race, nor, after the loss of the Coptic tongue, on a distinct language or even purely on religion. Instead, Copts are bound by the unique history of a church, a history of suffering. Holy Week may be focused on the pain of Christ, but for the Copts, their pain is seen and felt through His. They have carried their redeemer’s cross on the way to Golgotha, just as they carry a tattooed cross on their arms.

* * *

Thok te ti-gom, nem pi-o-oo nem pi-esmo, nem pi-amahee sha eneh amen, Emmano-eel pen-nouti pen-oroo

This is perhaps the most beautiful of the Coptic hymns; the translation: “Thine is the power, the glory, the blessing, and the majesty, forever Amen. Emmanuel our God and our King.”

During Holy Week, as the Coptic Church’s congregation walks the Via Dolorosa (or, the Way of Suffering), weeping as lashes land on Christ’s back and his body is nailed to the cross, it reminds the faithful of His power and divinity. The cross was carried not in weakness, but in strength; it was not forced, but chosen. In His acceptance of pain, Copts see their own. Over the centuries, many non-believers have ridiculed them for their perceived weakness, wondering why they have not taken up arms or sought revenge.

But like its savior, the Coptic Church carries its cross with pride. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, as Tertullian, the second-century theologian, proclaimed centuries ago. The years have taken their toll: Christianity was largely wiped out of North Africa; the places where Saint Augustine once walked no longer remember his name. Only in Egypt did it survive, the Church of Alexandria, the founding church of Copts, shining alone through Christianity’s early centuries. In Egypt’s deserts, monasticism was born at the hands of Saint Antony the Great, and it was Coptic Popes, from Athanasius to Cyril, who shaped the Christian creed and faith for the whole world.

During the Easter liturgy, a beautiful hymn is chanted, remarkably one of the few that are always recited in Arabic:

* * *

Ya kol al sofoof al sama-eyeen, ratelo le-eelahena be naghamat el-tasbeeh, wabe-tahegoo ma’na al-yowma fareheen, be-keyamat El-Sayed El-Maseeh

This hymn translates to, “All you heavenly orders, Sing to our God with the melody of praise, Rejoice with us today with gladness, In the Resurrection of the Lord Christ.” Death on the cross is followed by resurrection.

Such is the story of the Copts. While their church faces tremendous challenges in Egypt, it is flourishing abroad. In 1970, there were two Coptic Churches in the United States. Today there are 250. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than half a million Africans have joined the church, which is untainted by the legacy of colonialism, and prides itself as an African Church. There is a future for the Copts.

* * *

And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.

—Exodus 12:41

I woke up early on Palm Sunday to the news of the bombings in Egypt. I entered my daughters’ room, hugged and kissed them and thanked God that they were born in America. I called my parents in Cairo to check on them. A distant relative was praying in the Alexandria Cathedral and had just left the church as the suicide bomber detonated his vest. His car windows were destroyed, but he was unharmed.

As we made our way to our local Coptic church in Fairfax Virginia, I noticed a police car parked out front. My moment of alarm was short-lived. I reminded myself that the local police were there not because of a bomb threat, but to organize traffic as Copts flock to the church during Holy Week. If the Coptic Church is suffering in its homeland, in America it is struggling to cope with the wave of immigration that has brought over half a million of us here and will continue to bring more.

The service was a very painful one. There were no happy faces in church. The deacon could barely continue reading the Bible through his tears. The priest reminded us of the blessings we enjoy in America as we prayed for our brethren back in Egypt. My wife’s sister sent us a nice picture of her son, a deacon, at the Palm Sunday service in Cairo. I saw a picture of a similarly aged boy, also a deacon, who people on social media said was one of the victims. For the rest of the day, I could not shake the picture from my mind. On Facebook, a friend in Cairo shared how, during the liturgy, before hearing the news, she thought it was a blessing that her daughter hadn’t made it to church that day. In case there was a bomb, at least her daughter would live.

It may well be time for Copts to pack their bags, close their churches, and bid farewell to 2,000 years of Christianity in Egypt. Will the Copts follow the Jews, both ancient and modern, kicked out of Egypt at the hands of Gamal Abdel Nasser? Where would they go? Who would take them? These are depressing questions, ones that Coptic parents in Egypt are confronting. Leaving, it seems, is inevitable.

Primodos – The Secret Drugs Scandal. Congratulations to Jason Farrell and Sky TV – Why there should be a full Public Inquiry

primados 1

Primodos – The Secret Drugs Scandal. Congratulations to Jason Farrell and Sky TV

This evening (March 21st) a brilliant Sky TV documentary, Primados The Secret Drugs Scandal, is being broadcast by Sky TV. Congratulations to Jason Farrell and the team that put this forensic examination together. Sky News state that “in January 1975 the British regulator warned manufacturers Schering of a five-to-one risk that the drug could cause malformations.”  It is alleged that collusion between the medical establishment and the drug company led to the failure to warn the public about the dangers involved.

http://news.sky.com/video/primodos-the-secret-drug-scandal-10801048

The Government now needs to tell us when they first became aware that no toxicology or testing had been undertaken before the licensing of the drug Primodos; whether they have examined the alleged collusion of the pharmaceutical company who manufactured Primodos and the regulatory bodies; why the regulator alerted the drug company to a 1 in 5 risk of abnormality occurring in an unborn child, but not the public; when they first learnt that Primodos was being used in some parts of the world as an abortafacient while being sold in the UK fir pregnancy testing. and what Government what funding is being provided to research scientists in Cambridge examining   the composition of the drug Primodos and its likely affects on the child in the womb.

I have today called for a full Public Inquiry to be established  and also tabled the following questions :

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask HMG, in the light of the scientific review of the regulation of the drug Primodos to be undertaken by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, what progress has been made on the inquiry into the drug which was established in 2014; whether they have determined when regulators first became aware that (1) no toxicology or testing had been undertaken prior to the licensing of that drug, and (2) Primodos was being used in some parts of the world as an abortifacient whilst being sold in the UK for pregnancy testing; whether they have examined alleged collusion between the drug manufacturer and the regulatory bodies; and what assessment they have made of the decision of the regulator to alert the drug manufacturer of the risks associated with the drug but not the public.

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

In 2010 I pressed the Government about this scandal – and these were their replies:

Asked by: Alton of Liverpool, Lord | Party: Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the safety of the drug Primolut; and whether the licence for its sale has been reviewed.

Answering member: Howe, Earl | Party: Conservative Party

Primodos first became available in the United Kingdom in 1959 and was discontinued in 1978. Primodos was used as a hormonal pregnancy test and for the treatment of various gynaecological complaints. The licensed dose of Primodos as a pregnancy test was one tablet on each of two consecutive days. Each Primodos tablet contained two sex hormones, a progestogen (norethisterone acetate, 10 milligrams) and an oestrogen (ethinylestradiol, 0.02 milligrams). No licensed medicines currently available in the UK contain norethisterone acetate and ethinylestradiol at the same doses as Primodos. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has no information on the number of children who were born with disabilities to mothers who took Primodos during pregnancy. A total of three reports of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in association with Primodos (spina bifida, cleft palate, congenital abnormality and pre-eclampsia) via the UK’s Yellow Card Scheme are on the MHRA database. None of these cases reported the dose that was administered to the patient. As of 13 October 2010 the MHRA had received a total of 32 UK spontaneous ““suspected”” ADR reports associated with the combination of the drug ingredients norethisterone and ethinylestradiol (other than Primodos) which describe a congenital abnormality. These reports were received over a period of 45 years. The former Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) advised on the safety of a number of hormonal preparations, including Primodos in 1975 and 1977. The CSM letters and the minutes from the CSM meeting have been placed in the Library. The advice of the CSM was that these hormonal preparations should not be indicated for, or promoted as, a pregnancy test; that a warning about a possible hazard in pregnancy should be inserted in all promotional literature; and that pregnant women should not use these products. In the absence of any significant new scientific evidence that has become available since Primodos was discontinued, a meeting such as that suggested would be unlikely to benefit any of those concerned. Local clinicians and multidisciplinary teams assess the health and care needs of people who consider that they have been adversely affected by Primodos or other hormonal pregnancy tests. The MHRA therefore has no current plans to meet members of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests, people suspected to have been adversely affected by the drug Primodos, or with the pharmaceutical company, Bayer. A large number of medicines currently available in the UK contain norethisterone and ethinylestradiol. These are licensed for hormone replacement therapy, contraception, various gynaecological conditions and in the treatment of some cancers. When used for oral contraception the doses of norethisterone and ethinylestradiol are lower than Primodos. Norethisterone is also currently available as progestogen-only contraception. In common with all licensed medicines, warnings relating to potential side effects of medicines that contain norethisterone and ethinylestradiol are provided in the patient information leaflet that accompanies each medicine, including information about use in pregnancy. All medicines on the UK market are continuously monitored to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks. Primolut N is one of the norethisterone-containing medicines currently available in the UK. Primolut N tablets are licensed for use in a range of gynaecological conditions and contain five milligrams of norethisterone, a progestogenic sex hormone. Advice and warnings relating to potential side effects of Primolut N are provided in the summary of product characteristics for health care professionals, and the patient information leaflet that accompanies each packet of medicine. As with all medicines used in the UK, the MHRA, together with advice from an independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines keeps the safety of Primolut N under continuous review. The MHRA is not aware of any current safety issues with Primolut N.

26 Oct 2010 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | 2593 | 721 c264-6WA

Date answered: 26 Oct 2010

Subject: Licensing; Safety; Primolut N

show related items (1)

Asked by: Alton of Liverpool, Lord | Party: Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will meet with members of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests, people adversely affected by the drug Primodos, and with the pharmaceutical company, Bayer, to discuss the consequences for people adversely affected by the drug Primodos.

Answering member: Howe, Earl | Party: Conservative Party

Primodos first became available in the United Kingdom in 1959 and was discontinued in 1978. Primodos was used as a hormonal pregnancy test and for the treatment of various gynaecological complaints. The licensed dose of Primodos as a pregnancy test was one tablet on each of two consecutive days. Each Primodos tablet contained two sex hormones, a progestogen (norethisterone acetate, 10 milligrams) and an oestrogen (ethinylestradiol, 0.02 milligrams). No licensed medicines currently available in the UK contain norethisterone acetate and ethinylestradiol at the same doses as Primodos. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has no information on the number of children who were born with disabilities to mothers who took Primodos during pregnancy. A total of three reports of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in association with Primodos (spina bifida, cleft palate, congenital abnormality and pre-eclampsia) via the UK’s Yellow Card Scheme are on the MHRA database. None of these cases reported the dose that was administered to the patient. As of 13 October 2010 the MHRA had received a total of 32 UK spontaneous ““suspected”” ADR reports associated with the combination of the drug ingredients norethisterone and ethinylestradiol (other than Primodos) which describe a congenital abnormality. These reports were received over a period of 45 years. The former Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) advised on the safety of a number of hormonal preparations, including Primodos in 1975 and 1977. The CSM letters and the minutes from the CSM meeting have been placed in the Library. The advice of the CSM was that these hormonal preparations should not be indicated for, or promoted as, a pregnancy test; that a warning about a possible hazard in pregnancy should be inserted in all promotional literature; and that pregnant women should not use these products. In the absence of any significant new scientific evidence that has become available since Primodos was discontinued, a meeting such as that suggested would be unlikely to benefit any of those concerned. Local clinicians and multidisciplinary teams assess the health and care needs of people who consider that they have been adversely affected by Primodos or other hormonal pregnancy tests. The MHRA therefore has no current plans to meet members of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests, people suspected to have been adversely affected by the drug Primodos, or with the pharmaceutical company, Bayer. A large number of medicines currently available in the UK contain norethisterone and ethinylestradiol. These are licensed for hormone replacement therapy, contraception, various gynaecological conditions and in the treatment of some cancers. When used for oral contraception the doses of norethisterone and ethinylestradiol are lower than Primodos. Norethisterone is also currently available as progestogen-only contraception. In common with all licensed medicines, warnings relating to potential side effects of medicines that contain norethisterone and ethinylestradiol are provided in the patient information leaflet that accompanies each medicine, including information about use in pregnancy. All medicines on the UK market are continuously monitored to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks. Primolut N is one of the norethisterone-containing medicines currently available in the UK. Primolut N tablets are licensed for use in a range of gynaecological conditions and contain five milligrams of norethisterone, a progestogenic sex hormone. Advice and warnings relating to potential side effects of Primolut N are provided in the summary of product characteristics for health care professionals, and the patient information leaflet that accompanies each packet of medicine. As with all medicines used in the UK, the MHRA, together with advice from an independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines keeps the safety of Primolut N under continuous review. The MHRA is not aware of any current safety issues with Primolut N.

26 Oct 2010 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | 2592 | 721 c264-6WA

Date answered: 26 Oct 2010

Subject: Congenital abnormalities; Side effects; Primodos

show related items (1)

Asked by: Alton of Liverpool, Lord | Party: Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which drugs currently available in the United Kingdom contain Norethisterone and Ethinylostradiol; what are the known disabilities which have occurred in the children of users of drugs containing these constituents; and whether any warnings are given to those who take them.

Answering member: Howe, Earl | Party: Conservative Party

Primodos first became available in the United Kingdom in 1959 and was discontinued in 1978. Primodos was used as a hormonal pregnancy test and for the treatment of various gynaecological complaints. The licensed dose of Primodos as a pregnancy test was one tablet on each of two consecutive days. Each Primodos tablet contained two sex hormones, a progestogen (norethisterone acetate, 10 milligrams) and an oestrogen (ethinylestradiol, 0.02 milligrams). No licensed medicines currently available in the UK contain norethisterone acetate and ethinylestradiol at the same doses as Primodos. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has no information on the number of children who were born with disabilities to mothers who took Primodos during pregnancy. A total of three reports of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in association with Primodos (spina bifida, cleft palate, congenital abnormality and pre-eclampsia) via the UK’s Yellow Card Scheme are on the MHRA database. None of these cases reported the dose that was administered to the patient. As of 13 October 2010 the MHRA had received a total of 32 UK spontaneous ““suspected”” ADR reports associated with the combination of the drug ingredients norethisterone and ethinylestradiol (other than Primodos) which describe a congenital abnormality. These reports were received over a period of 45 years. The former Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) advised on the safety of a number of hormonal preparations, including Primodos in 1975 and 1977. The CSM letters and the minutes from the CSM meeting have been placed in the Library. The advice of the CSM was that these hormonal preparations should not be indicated for, or promoted as, a pregnancy test; that a warning about a possible hazard in pregnancy should be inserted in all promotional literature; and that pregnant women should not use these products. In the absence of any significant new scientific evidence that has become available since Primodos was discontinued, a meeting such as that suggested would be unlikely to benefit any of those concerned. Local clinicians and multidisciplinary teams assess the health and care needs of people who consider that they have been adversely affected by Primodos or other hormonal pregnancy tests. The MHRA therefore has no current plans to meet members of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests, people suspected to have been adversely affected by the drug Primodos, or with the pharmaceutical company, Bayer. A large number of medicines currently available in the UK contain norethisterone and ethinylestradiol. These are licensed for hormone replacement therapy, contraception, various gynaecological conditions and in the treatment of some cancers. When used for oral contraception the doses of norethisterone and ethinylestradiol are lower than Primodos. Norethisterone is also currently available as progestogen-only contraception. In common with all licensed medicines, warnings relating to potential side effects of medicines that contain norethisterone and ethinylestradiol are provided in the patient information leaflet that accompanies each medicine, including information about use in pregnancy. All medicines on the UK market are continuously monitored to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks. Primolut N is one of the norethisterone-containing medicines currently available in the UK. Primolut N tablets are licensed for use in a range of gynaecological conditions and contain five milligrams of norethisterone, a progestogenic sex hormone. Advice and warnings relating to potential side effects of Primolut N are provided in the summary of product characteristics for health care professionals, and the patient information leaflet that accompanies each packet of medicine. As with all medicines used in the UK, the MHRA, together with advice from an independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines keeps the safety of Primolut N under continuous review. The MHRA is not aware of any current safety issues with Primolut N.

26 Oct 2010 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | 2591 | 721 c264-6WA

Date answered: 26 Oct 2010

Subject: Congenital abnormalities; Drugs; Warnings; Side effects; Ethinylestradiol; Norethisterone

show related items (1)

Asked by: Alton of Liverpool, Lord | Party: Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have produced any data concerning the dosage of Norethisterone and Ethinylostradiol contained in the drug Primodos compared with the dosage given to patients.

Answering member: Howe, Earl | Party: Conservative Party

Primodos first became available in the United Kingdom in 1959 and was discontinued in 1978. Primodos was used as a hormonal pregnancy test and for the treatment of various gynaecological complaints. The licensed dose of Primodos as a pregnancy test was one tablet on each of two consecutive days. Each Primodos tablet contained two sex hormones, a progestogen (norethisterone acetate, 10 milligrams) and an oestrogen (ethinylestradiol, 0.02 milligrams). No licensed medicines currently available in the UK contain norethisterone acetate and ethinylestradiol at the same doses as Primodos. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has no information on the number of children who were born with disabilities to mothers who took Primodos during pregnancy. A total of three reports of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in association with Primodos (spina bifida, cleft palate, congenital abnormality and pre-eclampsia) via the UK’s Yellow Card Scheme are on the MHRA database. None of these cases reported the dose that was administered to the patient. As of 13 October 2010 the MHRA had received a total of 32 UK spontaneous ““suspected”” ADR reports associated with the combination of the drug ingredients norethisterone and ethinylestradiol (other than Primodos) which describe a congenital abnormality. These reports were received over a period of 45 years. The former Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) advised on the safety of a number of hormonal preparations, including Primodos in 1975 and 1977. The CSM letters and the minutes from the CSM meeting have been placed in the Library. The advice of the CSM was that these hormonal preparations should not be indicated for, or promoted as, a pregnancy test; that a warning about a possible hazard in pregnancy should be inserted in all promotional literature; and that pregnant women should not use these products. In the absence of any significant new scientific evidence that has become available since Primodos was discontinued, a meeting such as that suggested would be unlikely to benefit any of those concerned. Local clinicians and multidisciplinary teams assess the health and care needs of people who consider that they have been adversely affected by Primodos or other hormonal pregnancy tests. The MHRA therefore has no current plans to meet members of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests, people suspected to have been adversely affected by the drug Primodos, or with the pharmaceutical company, Bayer. A large number of medicines currently available in the UK contain norethisterone and ethinylestradiol. These are licensed for hormone replacement therapy, contraception, various gynaecological conditions and in the treatment of some cancers. When used for oral contraception the doses of norethisterone and ethinylestradiol are lower than Primodos. Norethisterone is also currently available as progestogen-only contraception. In common with all licensed medicines, warnings relating to potential side effects of medicines that contain norethisterone and ethinylestradiol are provided in the patient information leaflet that accompanies each medicine, including information about use in pregnancy. All medicines on the UK market are continuously monitored to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks. Primolut N is one of the norethisterone-containing medicines currently available in the UK. Primolut N tablets are licensed for use in a range of gynaecological conditions and contain five milligrams of norethisterone, a progestogenic sex hormone. Advice and warnings relating to potential side effects of Primolut N are provided in the summary of product characteristics for health care professionals, and the patient information leaflet that accompanies each packet of medicine. As with all medicines used in the UK, the MHRA, together with advice from an independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines keeps the safety of Primolut N under continuous review. The MHRA is not aware of any current safety issues with Primolut N.

26 Oct 2010 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | 2589 | 721 c264-6WA

The only way to establish why public safety was compromised and why there was a total failure of the regulatory framework is to establish a Public Inquiry under the chairmanship of a senior judicial figure.

 Also see

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Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency Consultation:

 The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency launched a consultation, ‘Hormonal Pregnancy Tests: Call for Evidence’ on Hormonal pregnancy tests on 25 March 2015 which closed on 30 June 2015. The consultation website states “we are analysing your feedback” and “visit this page again soon to download the outcome to this public feedback”. The press release, ‘Medicines Regulator Launches Call for Evidence on Previously Licensed Oral Hormonal Pregnancy Tests’ 25 March 2015 provides further information.