Celebration in Parliament of the 126th Birthday of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar and the campaign to Make Cste History.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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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

And

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.

Rare and Neglected Tropical diseases; Countering Extremism: lessons from Indonesia;Chemical Weapons Attacks; Digital Economy Bill – and why we need to be vigilant in combating gratuitous violence and hatred on the net

Debate on Rare and Neglected Tropical Diseases April 3rd 2017

 7.39 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

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 Professor Janet Hemingway, whose brilliant leadership has ensured that the school has maintained its world-class status, and the remarkable Professor David Molyneux, who ranks as one of the foremost global authorities on neglected tropical diseases.

The Liverpool school has been involved with NTDs since its creation in 1898, and has been responsible for many of the ground-breaking discoveries in the field. A school staff member was among the small group who coined the term “NTDs” with the World Health Organization in 2004-05. I should like to use my brief contribution to this evening’s debate to shine a light on the school’s amazing work and to encourage the noble Lord, Lord Bates, to consider what extra assistance might be given.

Let me give the House just some examples of the ground-breaking work in which the Liverpool school has been involved in the past decade. With DfID support, the lymphatic filariasis programme continues to make a real impact on poor people in 12 countries, having assisted ministries of health to deliver 200 million drug doses since 2009. As a result, in Malawi, for instance, transmission of filariasis has stopped. The Liverpool school and the London Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases have expanded their commitment to those who remain disabled through the disease, recognising the tandem aims of stopping transmission and, as my noble friend Lady Hayman said, reducing chronic disablement. The school has been identifying patients, training surgeons to alleviate this stigmatising male genital disease, and demonstrating the benefits of surgery to those who are disabled.

Secondly, LSTM researchers are at the forefront of new and exciting approaches to mapping neglected tropical diseases using remote sensing technologies, mobile smartphone technologies for detecting NTD cases, patient identification and mapping diseases. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell us what study DfID has made of the use of such technologies.

Thirdly, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the school has developed the use of the antibiotic doxycycline and, with industrial partners, has developed a new drug ready for clinical trials to treat river blindness and elephantiasis.

Fourthly, the school’s staff are at the forefront of research on insecticide resistance—a major and increasing problem in the fight against malaria, but now also against Zika. This work has major policy impacts in all insect-transmitted diseases. The LSTM is a key policy adviser to the World Health Organization and is working on Zika projects to assist control. Perhaps the Minister could say a word about that too.

Fifthly, the school leads the way in snake-bite research. Snake-bite is a massively underestimated problem globally. I was amazed to be told that at least 100,000 deaths per year are attributable to a condition that often leads to amputation. Africa is in dire need of anti-venoms, as the major manufacturer has ceased production. The LTSM is seeking to develop new products which are multivalent, do not need to be in cold storage and are therefore affordable to those in urgent need. Perhaps the Minister will also comment on that.

Sixthly, researchers are undertaking critical work to improve the use and monitoring of insecticide in India to assist visceral leishmaniasis elimination programmes. VL is a fatal disease if untreated, as we have heard, but effective control of the sand-fly is vital to reduce transmission to some of the poorest people of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and elsewhere.

Seventhly, LSTM researchers are involved in reducing the burden of sleeping sickness in several countries, with cases now at the lowest reported level ever—fewer than 3,000 per year. Perhaps the Minister can tell us how and when we expect to see this reach zero.

To conclude, around 1 billion neglected tropical diseases are treated each year via donated quality drugs to the poorest people most in need at lowest per capita cost of any health intervention. This is often called, “the best buy in public health”, addressing equity, human rights, disability alleviation, and based on effective partnerships and alliances from community to global level. It is crucial work and my noble friend is right to press the Government to build on the progress made since the 2012 London declaration.

7.45 pm

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Opening remarks by Lord Alton of Liverpool at the round table meeting on

“Countering Violent Extremism in Muslim-Majority Countries: Lessons from Indonesia”, hosted by APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief

Tuesday, 4 April 2017, 09:30 – 11:30

We are meeting in the aftermath of a terrible act of violence here in the precincts of Parliament. The topicality of our discussion is also underlined by the recent violence outside Santa Clara church in Bekasi,  and the trial of Jakarta’s Governor on Blasphemy charges.

Extremist interpretations of Islam motivate radical movements and terrorists throughout the world. While there is no single means to stem radicalisation, unless these interpretations are challenged and undercut, these conflicts will grow. The present narrative of Islam and its radical manifestation that revolve around the Middle East blinds us from two important keys to understand the long term solution.

First, it is a contest of ideas. This contest can’t be won by gunpowder, especially in a digital age and we need to spend much more time thinking about the role of social media in generating hate speech and violent ideology.

Second, instead of focusing only on the problems in the Middle East, we need to focus on finding the long term solution which may lie far away from the centre of problems.

This is where Indonesia stands out in the Muslim world.

With Muslims accounting for roughly 88% of its 260 million people, Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy with more Muslims than the whole Middle East combined. Its economy is the largest in Southeast Asia and among all Muslim majority countries. As opposed to a caliphate or an Islamic state, constitutional democracy enjoys a broad based support in Indonesia, including from the two largest Muslim organizations with around 100 million members, NU and Muhammadiyah. Indonesia does not have a state religion.

Indonesia’s stronger resistance to radicalism is rooted in its thousands of years of experience with cultural and religious diversity. Peaceful co-existence and cooperation between people with different cultures and religions have been part of its rich history and the glue of the nation with more than 13,000 islands, 1,000 ethnicities, and 700 languages.

As acknowledged by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth office in pledged action at the UN Human Rights Council until 2019, advancing freedom of religion or belief – as outlined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights –to build cohesive communities in which all individuals are equal to manifest their beliefs is a critical element of preventing radicalisation. Breaking-down fear and intolerance towards ‘the other’ by facilitating inter- and intra-faith discussion builds understanding and provides counter narratives to those considering carrying out violence in the name of religion.

Indonesia may well be the counter narrative that the world desperately needs to win this contest of ideas. For Indonesian Muslims, the radical Islam being fueled largely from the Middle East is denigrating Islam, damaging the world, and threatening the peaceful Islam, or what they call the middle path (wasatiyyah) Islam, in Indonesia. They want to stop radicalisation.

Since this war of ideas is a global one, leaders from Indonesia and other countries need to work together to understand the contest – too often violent – and to find the solution. The Indonesian leaders understand that the United Kingdom is a key ally in this.

This visit by the Indonesian delegation, a Christian and Muslim partnership, to the United Kingdom is part of a joint project by Leimena Institute (Indonesia) and Fieldstead and Company (USA) to defeat the extremist religious ideology by consolidating middle path Islam in Indonesia and promoting it to the world, especially among the Muslim majority countries. It is a unique opportunity to work hand-in-hand with a major moderating force in the Muslim world to bring about fundamental reform. It can have a far reaching theological, political, and security impact. It is in the national interest of the United Kingdom and other Western countries to explore the possibility of this global partnership initiative.

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Syria -Chemical Weapons April 5th House of Lords

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

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 Omar al-Bashir. We have seen a chemical weapons attack using a toxic nerve agent in an international airport in Kuala Lumpur. Does this not all point to a climate of impunity in which those responsible do not believe that they will be brought to justice? In pursuing the point that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, has just made, will we be pressing also for a referral to the International Criminal Court of all those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My thoughts today are very much concentrated on the children and other civilians who suffered yesterday in Idlib. The noble Lord will be aware of my previous answers on this issue, to the effect that in the international field we bring cases before the International Criminal Court when we are able to do so, with the agreement of the Security Council. With regard to Syria, there have been more than two occasions when the regime has been proven to use chemical weapons—there have been three. The proof has been gained by the OCPW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, and there are further investigations afoot.

 

 

Digital Economy Bill – and why we need to be vigilant in combatting gratuitous violence and hatred on the net  – March 20th 2017.  Parliamentary Debate:

internet

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) 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 that it is very hard to do justice to genuine discussion or indeed scrutiny, which is what this House is supposed to do with these measures. Although I welcome the measured way in which the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Ashton of Hyde, introduced the amendment today and his assurance that there will be a Green Paper, I was also very taken by my noble and learned friend’s comment about the difficulties there would then subsequently be in having legislation. That is all the more reason not to legislate in haste, lest we end up repenting at leisure.  3.45 pm   Secondly, and in parenthesis before I turn to my substantive points, I was struck by what my noble and learned friend said about public opinion on this issue. Although some might think this a very narrow view, polling over the weekend showed significant opposition to the Government’s proposal. Indeed, support for it ranged from 5% to 10% in the ComRes poll. Some 82%, rising to 86% in the case of women, thought that online standards should be the same as those offline or stronger—the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Gordon. Only 4% thought that online standards should be weaker but sadly, as we have heard, that is the ultimate, though probably unintended, consequence of the amendments before your Lordships’ House. I have long had an interest in the subject of children and media safety, after the tragic death in February 1993 of James Bulger, near the constituency in Liverpool which I represented when I was in another place. The 24th anniversary of his murder has just passed. I promoted a cross-party amendment to bring in increased protections for video material. As a result, the Government introduced the amendment, which is now Section 4a of the Video Recordings Act 1984, into this House on 14 June 1994. That section has become known as the “harm test” and I hope noble Lords will indulge me while I quote what was said in this House at the time by Earl Ferrers, who was speaking for the Government: “There may be some works which the board believes would have such a devastating effect on individuals or on society if they were released that there should be the possibility of their being refused a video classification altogether, and the clause leaves the board free to do that. The criteria mean that the British Board of Film Classification must consider who is in fact likely to see a particular video, regardless of the classification, so that if it knows that a particular video is likely to appeal to children and is likely to be seen by them, despite its classification being for an older group, then the board must consider those children as potential viewers. That does not mean that the board must then ban the video altogether. The board will still have discretion on how, or whether, to classify it; but it must bear in mind the effect which it might have on children who may be potential viewers … our amendment goes wider and is not confined to psychological harm or harm only to children. Harm to adults and to society in general can be taken into account”.—[Official Report, 14/6/1994; col. 1592.] Earl Ferrers was right then and those words stand the test again today. This framework has underpinned video regulation since and was adopted into the regulation of video on demand in 2014. It was totally logical that it should be included in this Bill when it was introduced in the other place. In parenthesis, and before saying anything further, I commend the Government for taking on the regulation of pornography on the internet through the Bill. I particularly support what the Minister has been saying about age verification and the effort he has been putting into that issue. Our principal, but not only, concern is the protection of children; hence the emphasis on age verification. However, we should not delude ourselves into believing that this can be enough to meet the significant challenge. The evidence of the damage being done to children and young people through easy access to pornography is deeply disturbing and should give us all pause. Last November, the Justice Minister, Dr Phillip Lee, the Member for Bracknell, said that the internet is, “driving greater access to more worrying imagery online. In the extreme, the sexualisation of youth is manifesting itself in younger conviction ages for rape”. Hopefully, this legislation will make a significant dent in the amount of material seen by children and will lead to a reduction in the concerns that have been so extensively documented over the last couple of years. However, having stepped on this worthy but difficult road, some potholes have appeared, not least whether and how we should regulate what adults see. I am aware that some noble Lords are of the view that it is out there; we do not need to worry about it; it has all been going on for ages; adults should be able to see what they like and we should not interfere. However, we have not taken that view in the offline world, under the Video Recordings Act 1984. One reason for that is that it became abundantly clear that children were accessing gratuitously violent material because adults simply left it lying around. It also became clear that what we see influences our behaviour, whether we are children or adults. The advertising industry certainly believes that what we see influences us. I looked at figures for advertising over the weekend. In the last 12 months, more than £5 billion was spent on TV advertising—a record amount. Taking UK advertising expenditure as a whole, in 2016 it increased by 7.5% to £20 billion, and internet ad spend increased by 17.3% to £8.6 billion. What we see affects what we eat and wear, how we spend our money and how we behave. What is true for the advertising industry is manifestly true for these other influences too. Indeed, Parliament has rightly rejected a disinterested, laissez-faire approach to the online world of video on demand, as is evident in the Communications Act 2003. We have had to say that some material simply is not appropriate, even behind age verification, with the harm test being a consideration in what the British Board of Film Classification will classify. The Government are saying that nothing will change with their Amendments 25H, 25W and 25YC: what is illegal offline is, and will remain, illegal online. Yes, but only up to a point. For instance, we are saying, “Don’t possess explicit animated images of children, but it is okay for a website to supply this to you if it is behind age verification as it does not meet the definition of extreme pornography”. We are telling retailers that they cannot supply an unclassified video work without committing an offence, but that if they are a website the regulator will not bother them unless the work is unclassified because it contains extreme pornography. Extreme pornography is a very narrow definition of very violent pornography. It is a much narrower category than prohibited material, against which the law is enforced offline and against which the Digital Economy Bill currently suggests that the regulator should enforce the law. Violent pornography will be caught via the extreme pornography offence only if it is life threatening or likely to result in not just injury but serious injury to specifically named body parts—as we have heard from my noble friend Lady Howe—clarifying that serious injury to other body parts would not be caught, as she mentioned. Rejecting the current prohibited material standard would also mean making space for sexually violent material that would not fall within one of the criminal offences but which the BBFC would not classify, “in line with the objective of preventing non-trivial harm risks to potential viewers and, through their behaviour, to society”. I understand that some may say that even with these amendments the provision of an age verification regulator with the power to enforce the law online would be beneficial to the extent that it means extreme pornography would be caught. For me, however, and I suspect much of the country, the presenting issue is quite different. We are at Report stage of a Bill that has completed all its stages in the Commons and almost all its stages here. These issues should have been more widely aired and these amendments should have been considered in the House of Commons and in depth in Committee in both Houses. There should be a public debate about the changes the Government are proposing and how they will impact on other media standards, which they inevitably will over the longer term. Unless there is evidence that there is no detrimental impact, the definition of extreme pornographic material will revert to that originally used for prohibited material and the ability to provide all this material via age verification with impunity will be removed. Amendment 25YD would give us all time for reflection and to review what the evidence says on the impact of violent pornography on women, and whether the Government have got the regulatory framework right. Twenty-four years ago, I was talking about concerns arising from violent videos. Technology and accessibility to media have changed dramatically over that time but human nature has not. The same principles of harm to children, adults and the wider society need to be weighed and confronted. It was this House that introduced the harm test in 1994 and it is this House that should now ask the Government to reflect further, which is precisely what my noble and learned friend’s amendment seeks to do. 

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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 sites and take their own lives. I attended a school prize giving in a north-west school, and the headmaster told me, when I arrived, how a child in that school had taken their own life only the day before. As noble Lords can imagine, that was a terrible tragedy not only for the family but for the whole school, and it certainly changed the atmosphere on that occasion. That child had been visiting one of the suicide sites on the internet, and the headmaster discovered that several other children had been doing the same. It can be revenge porn or the kind of trolling to which the noble Baroness referred, the harassment of young women in particular, or the whipping up of xenophobia, racism or anti-Semitism, and it is right that there should be a code of practice, and we should get on with it. I hope that the Minister will tell us more about the Green Paper, what the framework will be for it and when we are going to start to seriously look at these issues 

internet

Mesothelioma – and the threat to pupils and teachers in schools – Minister replies

 

Mesothelioma – and the threat to pupils and teachers in schools – March 2017

March 23rd 2017: Lord Nash, the Department for Education, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6161):

Question:
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. (HL6161)

Tabled on: 20 March 2017

Answer:
Lord Nash:

The Department takes the issue of asbestos in schools very seriously. The evidence from the freedom of information requests of incidents of asbestos disturbance in schools, reported by local authorities, demonstrates exactly why the Department is committed to supporting and challenging schools, local authorities and academy trusts to fulfil their responsibility to manage asbestos safely in their schools.

We have recently updated and improved our published guidance for schools, which clearly states that if accidental exposure to asbestos has occurred, the duty holder must inform the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This is a legal requirement and the HSE may investigate if major issues are raised where a duty holder’s compliance with their legal duties is called into question. The guidance also provides information for duty holders on the consequences of not complying with regulations and is available to all local authorities and schools.

We also recently carried out a data collection in schools on how they manage asbestos to understand how they were complying with their duties, and have published the findings. In future we plan to seek further assurances from duty holders to ensure that asbestos management is compliant with legislation and guidance across their education estates.

Date and time of answer: 23 Mar 2017 at 17:50.

The Government needs to give their   response to the remarks of Mr Phil Keay, former head teacher of Hetton School in Sunderland, that on more than one occasion pupils needing to be ‘de-dusted’ and hosed down due to asbestos exposure http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2017-03-06/HL5810/

 

And further to their written answer ( HL5810)  they should say why it was that  in response to a Freedom of Information request made by Lucie Stephens, whose mother Sue Stephens, a teacher, died from mesothelioma in summer 2016, no reports of asbestos exposure were recorded for Hetton School, even though asbestos was registered as being present and whether they accept that public confidence is compromised when exposure incidents are reported and acted upon but redacted from  official responses to freedom of information requests?

  http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/education/pupils-had-to-be-hosed-down-over-asbestos-risk-as-school-building-crumbled-1-8438840

The reference to a Freedom of Information request relates to an FOI request made by Lucie Stephens whose mother Sue Stephens, a teacher, died from mesothelioma last summer. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/user/lucie_stephens

Schools: Asbestos:Written question – HL5810

Asked on: 06 March 2017
Department for Education
Schools: Asbestos
HL5810
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, published by the National Union of Teachers.

A

Answered by: Lord Nash
Answered on: 13 March 2017

The department takes the issue of asbestos in schools very seriously. The findings from the asbestos in schools data collection show that the vast majority of schools that responded appear to be managing asbestos well and are fully compliant with legislation and guidance. For those that did not have fully documented plans, processes and procedures in place, the department provided immediate advice on the actions needed to address these issues and sought assurances of compliance from responsible bodies and schools.

We have also recently published updated guidance which provides information on how those legally responsible for asbestos management in schools – local authorities, schools and trusts – should manage asbestos. This includes new supplementary guidance to help duty holders understand where asbestos is commonly found, so that they can work with qualified professionals to assess and manage the risks. We also intend to further enhance scrutiny on duty holders for managing asbestos in their schools, by developing an assurance process for all duty holders to report on the management of asbestos across their respective education estates.

Alongside this, we continue to provide significant funding to schools to help those legally responsible for maintenance to keep their school buildings in a good state of repair. We are investing £10billion to maintain and improve the condition of the schools estate by 2021, and schools and responsible bodies are able to use the funding that is available to them to remove asbestos where that is appropriate.

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Debate on Mesothelioma: October 27th 2016

https://davidalton.net/2016/03/01/mesothelioma-why-are-servicemen-and-women-excluded-from-help-call-in-the-house-of-lords-for-an-annual-impact-statement-to-monitor-the-number-of-fatalities-and-progress-on-research-into-causes-an/

Also see:

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

October 27th 2016

5.20 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.25 pm

Full debate follows:

Mesothelioma – Hansard Online

MESOTHELIOMA

 27 October 2016
Volume 776
 Question for Short Debate
 5.00 pm

Asked by

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

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

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

        There have been inexcusable delays in providing adequate resourcing for research into effective treatments for this dreadful illness. More than twice as much is spent on breast cancer research per sufferer, for example, than on mesothelioma. This matters. Although these are projections and, given the long gestation periods for this illness, they could well be underestimates, more than 50,000 people are projected to die in this country alone. There will be many more times that number in the rest of the world. Mesothelioma is a global problem. It affects almost everywhere in the world, including some of the poorest countries in Asia and Africa, countries ill-equipped to develop such research on their own.

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

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

        The Government obviously have it in their power to provide it by increasing the sums of money available for research, and the arguments for doing so are compelling. I shall run through them briefly. Apart from the alleviation of terrible suffering in patients, it would save taxpayers money. Of course, there is no guarantee that any research will produce results, but the experience of research into other cancers suggests that a combination of money and time will produce significant advances in treatment, saving taxpayers some of the huge sums involved in treating mesothelioma sufferers, currently upwards of £75,000 per patient, with total annual costs exceeding £185 million. By 2050, the total is likely to rise above £5 billion. Investing in mesothelioma research can only help to build on our world lead in biomedical research.

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

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

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

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

5.08 pm

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

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

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

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

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

5.12 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.16 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.20 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.25 pm

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

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

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

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

5.30 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.34 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.40 pm

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

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

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

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

5.45 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Committee adjourned at 5.56 pm.

meso1meso UK

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