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House of Commons

Tuesday 12th December 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tuesday 12 December 2023
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock

Prayers

Tuesday 12th December 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Prayers mark the daily opening of Parliament. The occassion is used by MPs to reserve seats in the Commons Chamber with 'prayer cards'. Prayers are not televised on the official feed.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Speaker’s Statement

Tuesday 12th December 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I wish to inform the House that I have received a letter from the hon. Member for Witney (Robert Courts) informing me of his resignation as Chair of the Defence Committee. I therefore declare the Chair vacant. Nominations for the election of a successor are now open and will close at 12 noon on Tuesday 16 January. Nomination forms are available from the Vote Office, the Table Office and the Public Bill Office. Only Members of the Conservative party may be candidates in this election. If there is more than one candidate, the ballot will take place on Wednesday 17 January from 11 am to 2.30 pm in the Aye Lobby. Briefing notes with more information about the election will be made available in the Vote Office.

Oral Answers to Questions

Tuesday 12th December 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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The Minister of State was asked—
Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
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1. What assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of recent increases in violence in the west bank.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)
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11. What assessment he has made of recent increases in violence in the west bank.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
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19. Whether officials in his Department have had discussions with their counterparts in Israel on the recent escalation of violence in the West Bank.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Mr Andrew Mitchell)
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The Government have made it clear that settler violence and the targeting and, on occasions, killing of Palestinian civilians is completely unacceptable.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins
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As calls for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza and an enduring peaceful resolution in the region continue, we must also remain opposed to the violence taking place in the west bank. To that end, does the Minister share my view that settlement building in the west bank and across the Occupied Palestinian Territories is unacceptable and unlawful and must stop immediately?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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Yes. The hon. Lady will know that the position of the Government is and has been for many years that those settlements are illegal. I am pleased to be able to confirm that for her.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
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The same question could be asked again: it is unlawful, but what are the Government going to do about it? Does the Minister think that one day we might actually see some prosecutions in relation to those violations of international law?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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On the point about settler violence, if that is what the hon. Gentleman is referring to, we believe that it is not good enough just to arrest those responsible. They need to be both prosecuted and imprisoned.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan
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The problem is that there are key figures in the Israeli Government who are stoking this violence, with the Finance Minister publicly declaring that there are “2 million Nazis” in the west bank. What representation is the Secretary of State making to Israeli counterparts to demand a far more robust response to this violence?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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I can tell the hon. Lady that the Prime Minister spoke about this directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu on 5 December and he made clear that we welcome Israel’s recent comments condemning instances of settler violence, but that Israel must take meaningful action to stop it.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Secretary of State.

David Lammy Portrait Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)
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Another day when the Foreign Secretary is unaccountable, in the middle of a war that could still get even worse. West bank violence is rising, Hezbollah have attacked Israeli positions and Israeli airstrikes have hit towns in south Lebanon. A widening of this conflict is in no one’s interest, and all parties must show restraint. While he is absent from this place, what steps is the Foreign Secretary taking to prepare for further escalation and to deter all parties from full-blown regional war?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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First of all, I fully understand that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to have close contact with Lord Cameron as the Foreign Secretary, but he will be aware that he is in almost continuous contact with the Foreign Secretary by text and WhatsApp—indeed, Mr Speaker, if he was in any closer contact it would probably be a civil partnership.

On the substantive point about the widening of the conflict, the right hon. Gentleman will know that, very early after 7 October, the Prime Minister moved a British military asset to the eastern end of the Mediterranean, first to try to ensure that, if there were any arms being moved, we would know about it, and secondly to have eyes on what was happening. British diplomacy, along with that of our like-minded allies and friends, is devoted to ensuring that the conflict does not widen.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We come now to the SNP spokesperson.

Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith (Stirling) (SNP)
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The UK is providing logistical and surveillance support to the state of Israel. Has any evidence come to light that gives concern about the commission of war crimes in the west bank or in Gaza?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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Britain is providing some overflight of Gaza to help us identify, and move forward the issue of recovering, the hostages. That is exactly the right thing to do.

Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith
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To repeat the question, has any evidence come to light that gives concern about the commission of war crimes? Can the Minister assure us that any such evidence that comes to light will be sent over to the International Criminal Court in response to its call for evidence under article 86, with which the UK is surely bound to co-operate?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The hon. Gentleman will know that it is not just the Government but many different organisations that are seeking to identify what is happening on the ground, and the extent to which international humanitarian law is being abided with. Any such evidence will undoubtedly be put before the relevant authority—the courts that he mentioned, specifically—if such evidence is available.

Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con)
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2. What steps his Department is taking to implement the UK’s commitments in the White Paper on international development, published in November 2023.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Mr Andrew Mitchell)
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The White Paper includes 217 commitments to be delivered through to 2030. I have asked officials in the Foreign Office to work with colleagues across Government to implement the commitments and determine the order of priority.

Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce
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I thank the Minister for that reply and for his leadership on the excellent White Paper, particularly because, in the run-up to its publication, he clearly listened to calls for more targeted support and humanitarian relief for those who are left behind on account of their religion or belief. The challenge now is to turn those innovative commitments into reality, which will require a revised approach to development programming. Will he meet me and others at a roundtable to discuss that?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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It is always a pleasure to meet my hon. Friend, who has an office next to mine in the Foreign Office. May I thank her for her comments about the publication of the White Paper? The way in which it has been received around the world demonstrates renewed energy and vigour. I hope that it shows Britain’s reinvigorated leadership on those important matters, and, of course, value for money for our taxpayers.

Valerie Vaz Portrait Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab)
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The White Paper also talks about development diplomats. How many will be trained and what will be the cost?

Valerie Vaz Portrait Valerie Vaz
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Development diplomats—they are in the White Paper.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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Yes, the right hon. Lady is quite right: we are increasing the number of development diplomats—I thought she mentioned something about water, but I may have misheard. The point about the White Paper is that it sets out very clearly the aims and aspiration that Britain has to drive forward the sustainable development goals and ensure that we increase climate finance at this critical time. She will be pleased to have seen that and will note that we are now driving forward that agenda.

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)
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3. What recent discussions he has had with his counterpart in Mauritius on the negotiations on the sovereignty of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (David Rutley)
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The Foreign Secretary has not yet had a chance to meet his Mauritian counterpart. However, the Prime Minister met the Mauritian Prime Minister at the G20 in September to assess the state of negotiations. They welcomed the progress made and agreed to meet again soon.

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski
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I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but in my 18 years of loyal service as a Conservative Member of Parliament, I have never been more disappointed, alarmed and angry about the conduct of the Foreign Office. In this matter, it is negotiating in a neocolonialistic way with Mauritius—an entity that is over 2,000 km away from the British Indian Ocean Territory—without consulting the indigenous people, the Chagossians, whom we expelled in 1968 to make way for an American air force base. The time has come for us to respect the right of self-determination and ensure that the Chagossians are allowed to return to the British Indian Ocean Territory, and for them to decide the future of those islands, rather than handing them to the Chinese client and puppet state of Mauritius, which would be highly counterintuitive to our AUKUS commitments.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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The UK has been working in close co-operation with the US since negotiations began in November 2022, and it supports our approach. The UK, the US and Mauritius have all made clear that protecting the base on Diego Garcia, including by preventing foreign malign influence, is a top priority. We will ensure that any agreement achieves that. It is in our national interest and that of our partners, and it is vital for regional and global security.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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The Government are preparing to disregard international law with their Rwanda Bill today. They seem to continue to want to disregard international law in the case of decisions handed down by the International Court of Justice and other international bodies with regard to the Chagos islands. If the UK Government will not live up to their international obligations and the findings of international bodies, how with any credibility can they ask other countries to do the same?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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We are working closely with the relevant Government—with Mauritius, as I have said—to take forward those negotiations. They are being taken forward in good faith, notwithstanding the need to protect our national, regional and global interests at the same time.

Andy Slaughter Portrait Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab)
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4. What recent discussions he has had with his counterpart in Israel on the number of civilian deaths in Gaza.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
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5. What recent discussions he has had with his counterpart in Israel on the number of civilian deaths in Gaza.

Imran Hussain Portrait Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab)
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10. What recent discussions he has had with his counterpart in Israel on the number of civilian deaths in Gaza.

Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab)
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15. What recent discussions he has had with his counterpart in Israel on the number of civilian deaths in Gaza.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
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21. What recent discussions he has had with his counterpart in Israel on the situation in Gaza.

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien (Harborough) (Con)
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22. What steps he is taking to support civilians in Gaza.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
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23. What assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Mr Andrew Mitchell)
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Britain has increased planned assistance to Palestinian civilians to £60 million, and has delivered over 74 tonnes of aid. The recent pauses in fighting were a welcome opportunity to get hostages out and aid in. We know that more is needed: more fuel, increased humanitarian access and assistance into Gaza, and compliance with international humanitarian law.

Andy Slaughter Portrait Andy Slaughter
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Did the Minister see the analysis recently published in the respected Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the proportion of civilian deaths in Gaza is significantly higher than the average civilian death toll in all conflicts around the world during the 20th century? Does that not give the lie to any claim that Israel is avoiding civilian deaths, and as the death toll in Gaza approaches 20,000, is it not now time for the whole international community—including the UK—to support a ceasefire that protects civilian lives?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The hon. Gentleman will know the importance that the Government and Opposition Front Benchers attach to saving civilian lives, and will know that Britain has made it absolutely clear to the authorities in Israel that we expect them to abide by international humanitarian law and understand and accept the rules of war. He will equally know that the unprecedented figures he refers to follow on the back of an unprecedented attack by terrorists on 7 October, a pogrom in which more Jewish people were murdered than at any time since 1945 in the holocaust.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones
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I wholeheartedly welcome the fact that the UK has increased its humanitarian aid by £60 million since 7 October. Can my right hon. Friend outline how his Department is working to ensure that that funding is spent as effectively as possible, by which I mean reaching those in the most urgent need? I am sure we have all been greatly distressed by the suffering of the innocent civilians in this conflict.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have 82 tonnes of humanitarian supplies in Cyprus ready to go, and 5 tonnes of medical equipment ready to go. As soon as there is the possibility of getting more aid and support into Gaza, we will be using those supplies to do exactly that.

Imran Hussain Portrait Imran Hussain
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In the past nine weeks, over 250 Palestinians—including 69 children—have been killed by the Israeli security forces in the west bank, and over the past year we have seen a dangerous rise in the number of attacks by violent, illegal Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property. Even the United States announced that it would impose a travel ban on violent extremist settlers last week, but all the UK Government have been able to announce is that planning is going on. How much more bloodshed do we need to see before the Government stop planning and start acting, and will the Minister take real action today against violent, illegal settlers?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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I made clear in my answer to Question 1 that the Government condemn without qualification the illegal attacks by settlers on Palestinians. The hon. Gentleman asks me specifically about visa bans; while I cannot give a commentary in this House, I can tell him that our plans in that respect are moving forward.

Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Lewell-Buck
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A stop-start approach is likely to prolong hostage captivity and increase the risk to hostages’ lives. It also continues the relentless loss of civilians and innocent children. If the UN Security Council resolution returns with a condemnation of Hamas, will the UK do the right thing this time and back an immediate humanitarian ceasefire?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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As the hon. Lady will know, not least from the urgent question asked in the House yesterday by the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), neither the Government nor the Opposition believe that a ceasefire is the right way to proceed. However, I can tell her that we are very heavily engaged in what is happening in these Security Council resolutions, and the Security Council permanent members were at Rafah yesterday, looking in detail at the situation on the ground.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith
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There has to be a ceasefire to protect civilians in Gaza. Does the Minister agree with the US Secretary for Defence when he said that

“protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is both a moral responsibility and a strategic imperative”,

and that

“if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat”?

Are the Government making those representations to the Israeli Government?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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Of course, the position of the American Defence Secretary is exactly the position of the British Government, and that is why we say at all points that everyone must adhere international humanitarian law.

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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The whole House is appalled by the atrocities committed by Hamas, but also by the civilian suffering in Gaza. Will my right hon. Friend set out the steps he is taking to relieve civilian suffering, and also the steps he is taking against illegal settlements and the actions of violent settlers, because they are an obstacle to the two-state solution and to a lasting and just peace?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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On the first part of my hon. Friend’s question, I can tell him that we have delivered 74 tonnes of aid to el-Arish, which we are trying to make sure gets in. On specific relief, I can inform the House that 100 trucks and 120,600 litres of fuel did get across the border into Rafah yesterday. It is nothing like enough, but there was some progress yesterday.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran
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Israel has detained huge numbers of Palestinians in Gaza. The International Committee of the Red Cross has received reports of 3,000 missing between 7 October and 29 November, and many also in the west bank. We have seen the images of those men stripped on the beaches, and Haaretz has released an article showing that 10% to 15% of them were connected to Hamas, which means that nearly 90% were not. Are this Government making representations to the Israeli Government about their treatment of Palestinian detainees?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The situation the hon. Member describes is not clear in the fog of war, but I can tell her that we emphasise to everyone the importance of abiding by international humanitarian law and of course the Geneva convention, to which she was referring.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)
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Every life lost, whether Palestinian or Israeli, is a tragedy, and so often in conflict and wars it is the children who suffer the most. What further discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the United States and other partners about having new humanitarian pauses? Finally, I am supportive of the Government, but may I ask him whether he feels that the Israeli response is proportionate?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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We are arguing in every way we possibly can that there need to be humanitarian pauses, and that they need to be five days long so that we can get relief and humanitarian supplies into Gaza. On my right hon. Friend’s final point about proportionate force, as I said earlier during these questions, that is why we emphasise continuously the importance of abiding by the rules of war.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Lyn Brown Portrait Ms Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab)
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In Gaza, almost 80% of the population have been forced from their homes with nowhere safe to go. Sewage is flowing in the streets, with enormous risk to health, while hospitals and ambulances continue to be hit. Half the population are starving. The most recent report is of over 18,000 Palestinians killed, including utterly appalling numbers of children. I recognise the efforts of Ministers, but it is barely even slowing down the tide of death when the humanitarian crisis simply needs to end. What is the Minister’s strategy to do that?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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At all points, Britain is trying to use its brilliant international network, working not only with the other United Nations Security Council members, but through our intense diplomatic network around the middle east. On trying to see a political track when it becomes available, Britain, with its allies, is doing everything possible to achieve that. On the suffering that the hon. Lady described—everyone in the House will agree with her analysis of that—the Foreign Secretary recently announced an additional £30 million of support. We are looking at how that can be used specifically to assist with medical issues, particularly for children.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)
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6. What steps his Department is taking to support the overseas territories with climate change adaptation.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (David Rutley)
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The FCDO is working in partnership with the territories to develop climate security assessments through the conflict, stability and security fund. Our blue planet programme has provided over £35 million since 2016 to enhance marine protection and build climate change resilience.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland
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I am reassured that the UK is investing heavily in climate change adaptation. Does my hon. Friend agree that the best way of future-proofing that is for the FCDO to appoint a dedicated Minister for all the overseas territories and to ensure that the UK never relinquishes sovereignty for any of them?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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I have recently been appointed as the FCDO Minister responsible for the overseas territories. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has made it clear that every Department should have a Minister whose portfolio covers responsibilities to the OTs. The UK has no doubt about its sovereignty over the overseas territories. Any decision to end British sovereignty should be on the basis of a clear constitutionally expressed wish of the territory’s people.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
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As you know, Mr Speaker, our global British family in the UK overseas territories contains 94% of all the unique species that the UK is responsible for. These huge marine areas throughout the world’s oceans are hugely vulnerable to climate change, yet are negligible contributors to it. It has been great to see more OTs sign up to the blue belt initiative, work with groups such as Great British Oceans and attend the recent COP. What is the Minister doing to encourage more overseas territories to join the blue belt and to assist overseas territories to get access to strategic international funding for conservation, adaptation and resilience?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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It is an important question. Our need to tackle climate change extends widely to the OTs. We have done significant work on the blue belt programme, and we have engaged a large number of OTs at COP28 this year so that we can help push forward their work and give greater access to this funding. It is vitally important.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
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7. Whether he has had recent discussions with his counterpart in Pakistan on the Maira Shahbaz case.

Leo Docherty Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Leo Docherty)
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We strongly condemn forced marriage and the forced conversion of women and girls, including in Pakistan. We regularly raise our concerns, including individual cases, at a senior level with the Pakistani authorities, and we fund projects in Pakistan to address the underlying causes.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh
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At the age of 14, Maira Shahbaz was abducted, forced into a marriage and raped. She escaped and has been sitting in one room with her entire family, terrified. She is now 18. I have lost track of the number of meetings I have had with successive Home Secretaries and the letters I have written. Nothing has happened to get this girl out, yet at the same time 100,000 fit young men are pouring across the channel in search of a better job. For God’s sake, can we not show some Christian compassion? What more can the Foreign Office do in Pakistan to try to stop these forced conversions and forced marriages?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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We continue to press these individual cases with the Pakistani Government. The former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) raised human rights, including the persecution of minorities, with caretaker Prime Minister Kakar on 25 September. Lord Ahmad raised the need to protect minority communities with caretaker Foreign Minister Jilani on 13 September and again in a letter on 5 October. We continue to raise in Islamabad the issue of forced marriage and conversion with the Pakistani authorities.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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This is not only about the case of Maira Shahbaz, but about the cases of many other young Christian girls, young Hindu girls and young Sikh girls in Pakistan being kidnapped from an early age. It is clear that there is an epidemic in Pakistan of the kidnapping and abuse of young girls. What is being done with Pakistan to change the attitude and the law of the land?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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As well as making representations at a senior level, we fund programmes in Pakistan working to address child and forced marriage and gender-based violence, discrimination and intolerance, especially against minorities, in an effort to achieve cultural change that will attend to this matter. Of course, that is slow and painful work, but our team in Islamabad is fully focused on it.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
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8. What recent discussions he has had with his Israeli counterpart on Israel’s obligations under international law.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Mr Andrew Mitchell)
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Israel has the right to defend itself against terror, restore its security and bring the hostages home, but it must abide by international law and take all possible measures to protect civilians.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
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I do not disagree with anything that the Minister has just said, but the question is: what does Israel having to abide by international law actually look like? We know that it has acted with impunity in the west bank with illegal settlements, and historically with the building of the wall and so on. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter) said, the sheer scale of casualties of innocent civilians in Gaza raises serious questions. What does it actually mean when we say that Israel has to abide by international law?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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It means precisely what it says. The fact that Israel is a democracy and the fact that all around the world people will be looking carefully at how things are being conducted in the region should give the hon. Lady hope that international humanitarian law counts and will be supported.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Wayne David Portrait Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab)
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Recently the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Karim Khan KC, visited Israel and the west bank. In relation to Gaza, he stated:

“A law is not some cosmetic adornment that can be disregarded. It’s a fundamental requirement that must be complied with.”

I assume the Minister will agree with that. If that is the case, will he ensure that Britain co-operates fully with the prosecutor in his work?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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As a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court, Britain will always co-operate. We strongly support the ICC. The hon. Gentleman will know that, as a state party to the Geneva convention, the Israeli Government are obliged to take action against Israeli nationals accused of grave breaches of international humanitarian law, were there to be any, so that would not be a matter for the ICC.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
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9. What steps he is taking to help tackle destabilising activities by Iran in the middle east.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (David Rutley)
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Iran bears responsibility for groups it has long supported. We have stepped up our response to recent attacks. HMS Diamond will bolster our maritime presence in the region and a new Iran sanctions regime will soon be in place, giving us greater powers to designate Iranian activity.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers
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The regime in Tehran has been blatant, public and even unapologetic about its backing, funding and arming of Hamas—terrorists who we now know are not just murders but rapists. In the light of that, is it not time to snap back the full range of sanctions on Iran, to sanction a wider number of officials in Iran and to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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Our new Iran sanctions regime will be laid imminently, giving us new and enhanced powers to counter Iran’s hostile activities in the UK and around the world, and its oppressive practices at home. We have already sanctioned more than 350 Iranian individuals and entities, including the IRGC in its entirety.

Chris Bryant Portrait Sir Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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I agree with the comments made by the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers), but should we not also be wondering about what Iran is doing within its own borders? Four hundred and nineteen people were executed in Iran between January and July, and 127 have been executed since 7 October. Iran has been using what is happening in Israel as a cover for much faster executions, including those of 17-year-old Hamidreza Azari—a child—and Milad Zohrevand, who is the eighth “Woman, Life, Freedom” protester to have been executed by this horrible regime. Is it not time that we really took the case to Iran about its own human rights record?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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The hon. Member makes a very important point. We call out the brutal repression of the protests that have taken place, and we continue to hold Iran to account for its human rights record, including the repression of women, girls and children, as he highlights. We will, as I said, bring to bear a new sanctions regime to assist in those efforts.

Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) (SNP)
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12. Whether his Department is taking diplomatic steps to help ensure that perpetrators of alleged human rights violations against the Tamil community in Sri Lanka are held to account.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Anne-Marie Trevelyan)
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The UK is working closely with international partners on this long-standing priority, including at the UN Human Rights Council, where the UK led resolution 51/1 on Sri Lanka.

Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin
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Many prominent Sri Lankans were credibly accused of war crimes against the Tamil minority, particularly towards the end of the 30-year civil war in Sri Lanka. But all these years on, they are still at large, unlike the nearly 18,000 Tamils who went missing and are still unaccounted for. In response to the SNP spokesperson, my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Alyn Smith), we were told earlier that evidence of war crimes would be taken seriously. How can the people of Palestine have any faith in that if the Tamil people of Sri Lanka have had the evidence sitting there for all these years and the Government are doing nothing, other than wringing their hands?

Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait Anne-Marie Trevelyan
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We all take these issues very seriously. I was in Sri Lanka just a few weeks ago, and I was able to raise the need for progress on human rights, on reconciliation and, indeed, on accountability with the President of Sri Lanka during my visit.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Tamils, may I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to assure the House that the FCDO is actively considering the evidence for sanctioning those credibly accused of war crimes who are active participants in Sri Lankan high society, and that she will pass that evidence on to the United Nations Human Rights Council, in line with resolution 30/1?

Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait Anne-Marie Trevelyan
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I commend my hon. Friend for his active and championing work as chair of the APPG. He is right, and we absolutely recognise the concerns of the Sri Lankan public, and indeed victim groups, about the creation of a credible domestic accountability process. We continue to urge the Sri Lankan Government to address those concerns. As I said, I raised them when I was there. I was also able to discuss human rights and justice issues with members of civil society, Tamil representatives and the governor of the Northern Province when I visited Jaffna.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
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Sri Lanka is a key member of the Commonwealth family and occupies a strategically vital position geographically. Warm relations are vital, but for far too long, those accused of brutal crimes in the past, including against the Tamil minority, have escaped justice. Will the Minister outline what steps she is taking to support the Tamils’ calls for justice, including, if necessary, by taking action against existing and former Sri Lankan Ministers? Will she outline the support for Sri Lankan democracy and human rights?

Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait Anne-Marie Trevelyan
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The hon. Lady is absolutely right. We welcomed the recent written update on Sri Lanka by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and, in September, the UK Government issued statements that emphasised the importance of inclusive transitional justice and effective governance reforms in order to highlight the arbitrary use of laws to suppress dissent. As I said, we led UNHRC resolution 51/1 on Sri Lanka, providing the mandate for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to report on Sri Lanka, and we continue to work with it.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
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13. What recent diplomatic steps he has taken to help secure peace in Israel and Palestine.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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17. What recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of formally recognising the state of Palestine.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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20. What steps his Department is taking with international partners to support a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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24. Whether he has made an assessment of the effectiveness of Israel’s campaign against Hamas.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Mr Andrew Mitchell)
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There must be a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—a two-state solution that provides justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson
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The aerial bombardment by Israel of one of the most densely populated regions in the world in Gaza has been devastating. Recent statistics reported in Israel show that 61% of deaths in Gaza have been civilians. When the Prime Minister spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister last week, did he urge him to stop besieging and blockading Gaza, to comply with international law, which must mean being proportionate, and to protect innocent lives?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The hon. Member is right. At the COP, the Prime Minister was able to have meetings with Qatar, Egypt and Jordan, as well as with Israel, and he reiterated the point that he has made publicly before, which is that Israel has the right to self-defence, but it must operate within international humanitarian law.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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The Minister talks about the need for a two-state solution, and we will not find much disagreement on that, but how can he advocate a two-state solution when the Government refuse to recognise the state of Palestine? Is he confident that there will be much left of Palestine after Israel’s continued bombardment? That is why we need a ceasefire right now.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The Government strongly support the two-state solution. Of course, before these terrible events on 7 October, there were new partnerships with Israel developing across the middle east: one thinks in particular of the Emirates and Bahrain. When there is a break in the clouds and an opportunity for a political track to get going, we will do everything we can to build on the important point that the hon. Member underlined.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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Notwithstanding the attempted genocide of 7 October and the cynical use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, the single best solution for peace in the region is a two-state solution. What steps are the Government taking to facilitate that? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the kidnappers, murderers and rapists of Hamas cannot be involved in those negotiations?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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Yes. We certainly agree with the United States that Gaza should be under Palestinian control in due course and that there is no place for Hamas in all of that. In respect of my hon. Friend’s point about how we advance towards a two-state solution, he will know that the Foreign Secretary has been both in Tel Aviv and on the west bank in Ramallah, and we are looking to see what Britain can do to help build the capacity of the Palestinian state in the future, and to bolster it.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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The Minister will have access to intelligence—ours and that of our allies—that he may not be in a position to share with the House. Will he therefore share his understanding of the effectiveness of Israel’s campaign to weaken and eliminate Hamas and return the hostages, given the appalling and unacceptable loss of innocent Palestinian life—thousands and thousands of children have been maimed and killed—given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza, given that more than 100 Israeli hostages remain in captivity there, and given that Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel every day?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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We are doing everything we can to help the hostages to whom she referred and to ensure that they come home. We do that through negotiations, not least in Qatar, and through the overflights, which I referred to earlier. The hon. Lady may rest assured that the Government take precisely the same view as her on what should be achieved.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife) (LD)
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14. Whether he has had discussions with his counterpart in the Philippines on the case of Leila De Lima.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Anne-Marie Trevelyan)
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We welcome the release of Leila De Lima on bail, which is a positive step for human rights and the rule of law. The UK’s ambassador has repeatedly raised this case with the Philippines Government, and visited her during her detention.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain
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I agree that it is good news that Senator De Lima has been released on bail after nearly seven years of detention. What representations are the Government making to their counterparts in the Philippines, via the ambassador, about resolving all the other charges against her, which are believed to stem from her vocal opposition to thousands of extrajudicial killings in connection with former President Duterte’s war on drugs, and about a meaningful investigation into those killings?

Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait Anne-Marie Trevelyan
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The UK Government regularly engage with the Government of the Philippines on the full range of our human rights concerns. We welcomed the 2020 UN Human Rights Council resolution, which proposed technical co-operation on human rights between the Government of the Philippines and the United Nations. The resolution resulted in a three-year UN joint programme, which commenced in 2021, to which the UK has contributed £400,000. We will continue to work alongside them.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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16. Whether he has had recent discussions with his Commonwealth counterparts on the proposed readmittance of Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Mr Andrew Mitchell)
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I regularly discuss a broad range of issues, including Zimbabwe, with Commonwealth counterparts, most recently on Sunday in Dubai when I met the Commonwealth secretary-general, Baroness Scotland. The decision on re-entry is for all members, based on the membership requirements and the values and principles set out in the Commonwealth charter.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones
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Given the recent enlargement of the Commonwealth, the matters that the Minister referred to are important. More than 100,000 Zimbabweans live in the UK, many in south Wales, and thousands work all year round in our NHS. What engagement has the Minister had with the Zimbabwean diaspora to understand the diversity of perspectives and to support their views about Commonwealth membership and other challenges and issues that they face?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The hon. Lady is right that Zimbabwe has a productive and vibrant diaspora in the United Kingdom, and we hear their views many times. Britain warned that the election needed to be violence-free and fair, and it was certainly violence-free. We are waiting for the full report of the observers before making a judgment on further events.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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18. What steps he is taking to help secure the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Mr Andrew Mitchell)
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We are working with international and regional partners to secure the release of hostages, including British nationals.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
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I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. The hostages who have been released report sexual and physical violence committed against them while in captivity. The Israeli Health Ministry reports that hostages were drugged to make them look happy. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Hamas are treating hostages in an inhumane fashion, the international Red Cross should be given the opportunity to visit them all, and we should ensure that they are returned home as soon as possible?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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My hon. Friend is quite right about the rights of the international Red Cross. We are involved in intensive diplomatic efforts to secure the release of the hostages. It is continually raised by the Prime Minister, who met families of British people taken hostage by Hamas and of other hostages during his trip to Israel. My hon. Friend may rest assured that while I cannot give a running commentary on these matters, we are doing everything we can to secure their release.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
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I wholeheartedly support the calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all the remaining hostages held by Hamas and other groups. However, further to the Minister’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck), I refer him to UN resolution 1860 of 2009, when the UK supported a ceasefire in Gaza and a permanent ceasefire followed a few days later.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The hon. Lady will be well aware of the view of the Government and, indeed, of the Opposition Front Bench, on the possibility of a ceasefire at this time, which we simply do not think exists. On the earlier events that she refers to, the situation then was very different from the one that pertains today.

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con)
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On the issue of hostage taking, the British-Russian dual national Vladimir Kara-Murza was jailed and poisoned by the Putin regime for criticising the war in Ukraine. He is a de facto hostage of the regime. I have just met his mother, who is in Parliament today. Will the Minister arrange for me to meet the Foreign Secretary with his relatives to hear about the conditions and torture he has been subject to?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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I am advised that Ministers have met the family, but I will see what I can do to facilitate a meeting, as my right hon. Friend requests.

Gregory Campbell Portrait Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP)
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Small numbers of hostages have been released in the past as a result of pauses in the response by the Israeli authorities. Will the Minister undertake to ensure that there is wider understanding, both here and internationally, that those pauses are best activated whenever Hamas does not take advantage of them and again embed themselves in hospitals and civilian populations?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The hon. Gentleman is right to emphasise the importance of humanitarian pauses, and preferably humanitarian pauses that are several days long. We are doing everything we can to try to ensure that the case for humanitarian pauses, and the ability that would result of getting aid, support and supplies into Gaza, is achieved.

Theo Clarke Portrait Theo Clarke (Stafford) (Con)
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25. What discussions his Department has had with NATO allies on support for Ukraine during winter 2023-24

Leo Docherty Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Leo Docherty)
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The UK regularly discusses support for Ukraine with NATO allies and partners, including at the recent NATO Foreign Ministers meeting and the NATO-Ukraine Council, which the Foreign Secretary attended alongside Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba. Together, we approved an ambitious programme, including on energy security and interoperability. Allies remain steadfast in their commitment to support Ukraine through the winter and for as long as it takes.

Theo Clarke Portrait Theo Clarke
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As a member of the armed forces parliamentary scheme, I recently visited NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps headquarters in Gloucester, so I welcome that yesterday the Defence Secretary announced the UK-led Ukraine maritime capability coalition to give our allies the power to rule the waves. What steps is the UK taking to help Ukraine to rebuild its armed forces and provide humanitarian assistance to its citizens?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The maritime domain is hugely important. We will continue to work with NATO and Ukraine, including through NATO’s €500 million comprehensive assistance package, to which we have contributed £82 million. In November, the Foreign Secretary attended the first meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council at Foreign Minister level. He emphasised the need to sustain our support to Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald Portrait Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP)
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Notwithstanding President Zelensky’s meeting in the White House today and the Foreign Secretary’s visit to Capitol Hill in recent days, what are the Government doing to ensure that US support for Ukraine, which is the anchor of all European and broader international support, remains steadfast despite the ongoing political situation in the US?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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We are leading by example.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Mr Andrew Mitchell)
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The Government are focused on our vital priorities, notably: supporting Ukraine, standing with Israel, and providing aid to Palestinian civilians. The Foreign Secretary and I met global leaders at COP28, who welcomed the UK’s leadership at this critical time. We discussed our newly launched international development White Paper, which seeks to get the sustainable development goals back on track at this halfway stage, when they are so far off. As mentioned before, I will deputise for the Foreign Secretary in this House and make regular statements to keep Members updated.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney
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What steps is the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office taking to persuade and encourage our NATO allies to continue and enhance not just their military but civil support for Ukraine in its brave campaign against Putin’s evil invasion?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right to put it in those terms. The Foreign Secretary met the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba at the NATO-Ukraine Council. My hon. Friend will know that nearly £10 billion in military, humanitarian and economic support has been provided by Britain since February 2022, and we were the first country to provide lethal aid. We are the biggest contributor to the armed forces in Ukraine of any single nation.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Secretary of State.

David Lammy Portrait Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)
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An aggressive threat to a smaller neighbour, an attack on recognised international borders, an illegitimate referendum stoking historical grievances—the Putin playbook is being copied in Caracas by Maduro. We must stand up to bullies and tyrants with imperial ambitions. As we maintain our steadfast commitment to Ukraine, can the Minister reaffirm the UK’s unwavering support for Guyana’s sovereignty?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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Yes, I can. Yesterday I attended a meeting convened by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, and it put out a statement last night which I very much hope will reassure the right hon. Gentleman.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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T2. What progress has my hon. Friend made on the granting of full environmental protection to the waters around the South Sandwich Islands, as well as additional protections and improved management around South Georgia?

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (David Rutley)
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The South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands marine protected area provides comprehensive protection against the entire maritime zone. It has been rated one of the most sustainable in the world. The Government are currently undertaking their second five-year review, and a report is expected early next year.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
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T3. Alexei Navalny has gone missing from his penal colony, and has not been heard of for nearly a week. Will the Minister join international counterparts in making urgent representations to try to find out where he is, and to ensure his personal safety?

Leo Docherty Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Leo Docherty)
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We condemn this outrageous detention, and we will continue to make representations in Moscow and elsewhere for consular access and Mr Navalny’s release.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)
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T6. “World malaria report 2023” shows that the number of malaria cases and deaths remain above pre-pandemic levels. What more can the Government do to ensure that we recover lost ground, and also drive towards the total eradication of this awful disease?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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My hon. Friend is right to ask that question. British scientific expertise has delivered two new malaria vaccines, and as a result of our replenishment of the Global Fund we are working to ensure that 86 million mosquito nets are delivered, providing 450,000 seasonal malaria chemoprevention treatments.

Nia Griffith Portrait Dame Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab)
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T4.   The Minister for Africa has rightly highlighted the involvement of the Rapid Support Forces in atrocities in Darfur, and many Members have flagged the links between external states and the RSF. When the Minister was in Dubai for COP28, did he raise the issue of external support for the RSF with those deemed likely to be responsible?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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I raise these issues not only at the COP but whenever I have the opportunity to do so, not least in discussions with Hamdok, the last Prime Minister of Sudan. While we welcome the call from last Saturday’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development summit for an immediate cessation of hostilities, we remain acutely concerned by the events that are taking place, many of which bear the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
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T7. The threat to Guyana’s territorial integrity has already been highlighted. Can the Minister reassure me that we are taking steps with our allies in the region to deter any use of force by the Maduro dictatorship?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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Venezuela’s actions with regard to Essequibo in Guyana are completely unacceptable. The border was settled in 1899, and we are working with our regional partners, such as Brazil, and with international bodies including the United Nations Security Council, the Commonwealth—as has already been mentioned—and the Organisation of American States to de-escalate tensions.

Claire Hanna Portrait Claire Hanna (Belfast South) (SDLP)
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T5. The horrifying death toll in Gaza includes more than 100 aid workers and some 70 journalists. The vast majority of media casualties have been Palestinian journalists who went on working in the face of airstrikes and the deteriorating humanitarian situation as a result of the lack of information caused by the denial of access to international media. The National Union of Journalists warns of systemic targeting of journalists in Palestine, a further breach of international law. How will the Minister impress on the Israeli Government these specific obligations?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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As I said earlier, we do stress the importance of abiding by the rules of war. I pay tribute to the brave humanitarian workers who put themselves in harm’s way, unarmed, to help their fellow citizens.

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con)
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What precedent do the current negotiations between London and Port Louis on the future of the British Indian Ocean territory have in relation to the sovereignty of other uninhabited overseas territories, and, indeed the British sovereign base areas in Cyprus?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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As raised earlier in substantive questions, we continue to have our negotiations on the British Indian Ocean Territories, which we are taking forward in good faith.

Kenny MacAskill Portrait Kenny MacAskill (East Lothian) (Alba)
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T9. It is not just citizens of the United Kingdom but the Government of Cyprus who are being denied information as to what the US military may be flying from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus to Israel. Is that not something that they should know about, given the risks, and is it not something that we should know about, given the complicity?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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When it comes to Cyprus we have been working closely with our allies attending to the need for security, which may pertain to the release of hostages, so I think this is entirely a good thing.

Mark Logan Portrait Mark Logan (Bolton North East) (Con)
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I am a vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Japan, and we have recently hosted more than 60 companies in Parliament, for which we thank the Minister for Investment and Blick Rothenburg. With increasing securitisation in international politics, is it not more important than ever to big up UK-Japan commercial opportunities? As the Japanese say: ganbatte ne!

Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Anne-Marie Trevelyan)
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The UK-Japan bilateral relationship has never been stronger. The Hiroshima accord that the Prime Minister agreed with Prime Minister Kishida on 19 May cements and builds on a period of sustained growth and deepening of our enhanced global strategic partnership.

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (Tooting) (Lab)
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As many of us go home tonight and kiss our children, parents in Gaza will be searching for body parts to recognise their children and burying them. Families broken; futures stolen. Is the Minister comfortable with over 18,000 innocent Palestinian civilians being killed, many of them children? When will he do the right thing and call for a ceasefire?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The hon. Lady reflects the pain and agony that those parents feel with great eloquence, and it is felt across the House, but the issue is how we address the causes of what happened on 7 October and the fact that a pogrom was imposed by Hamas, killing so very many Jewish people. We have to move towards a moment where the political skies clear and there is an opportunity for a new political initiative.

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid (Banff and Buchan) (Con)
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I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Does my hon. Friend recognise the recent joint statement from Armenia and Azerbaijan as a historic milestone towards the normalisation of relations? Can he tell us what this Government are doing towards bringing about a lasting peace treaty?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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We are greatly encouraged by the joint statement from Azerbaijan and Armenia confirming their intention to normalise relations. As I made clear to both countries during my recent visit, we fully support their efforts to achieve a historic and lasting peace.

John Cryer Portrait John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)
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In answer to question 9, the Minister seemed to say that the Government were planning to completely proscribe the IRGC. Could he confirm that? If that were the case, it would be welcomed across the House.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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To be clear, I said that we would be introducing a new sanctions regime.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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My constituent Amani Ahmed arrived here from Gaza for her PhD just days before the outbreak of the war and is now desperately trying to bring her husband and three children to the UK. UK Visas and Immigration advises travelling to the nearest visa application centre but that is impossible as they are unable to leave Gaza. Can the Minister urgently intervene to ensure that Amani’s family are able to join her safely in the UK?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The hon. Lady will know that there is a specific track to pursue on this, and if she has not already been in touch with the crisis centre at the Foreign Office, that is what she should do immediately.

Florence Eshalomi Portrait Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op)
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Last week I was contacted by Kennington Bethlehem Link, a voluntary group dedicated to working with Israelis and Palestinians. It raised the case of Anas Abu Srour, who was arrested by the Israeli army. This week it was announced that he had been detained for six months in administrative detention, and the reason for his arrest is still unclear. A petition of support has been signed by over 6,000 people in nine days, so will the Minister please ask the Foreign Secretary to work urgently with his Israeli counterpart so that we can find out why he was imprisoned?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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If the hon. Lady will make available to me the full details of that case—assuming that she has not already told the Foreign Office—I will look into it for her and ensure she gets an answer.

Fabian Hamilton Portrait Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East) (Lab)
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That great world-beating British charity, the HALO Trust, has just announced the destruction of its 2 millionth landmine. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the trust, and also pledge further funding, which will be vital and necessary if it is to be able to deal with the outcome of Ukraine?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to pay tribute to the HALO Trust. Before I returned to Government I was an ambassador for the trust, so I speak with some pride in this matter. If he looks carefully at the International Development White Paper, which drew strength from all across the House in its commitments and identifying important aspects, he will see that HALO is mentioned there.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
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It is good to see you back in your place, Mr Speaker.

Is the Department monitoring the case of Raffaele Mincione, the British citizen who is currently being taken through the Vatican state courts, and is it making any representations to the Vatican courts about his case? Will officials agree to meet me to discuss the case?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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I can certainly organise for someone to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss that but, as he will know, arrangements with the Vatican were substantially changed in the year 1534, in the reign of King Henry VIII. As far as I know, there has been no change since then to reverse that.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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India’s supreme court has upheld the Indian Government’s decision to revoke article 370 of the constitution, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. What assessment has the Minister made of the situation, as many Kashmiri constituents are quite worried?

Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait Anne-Marie Trevelyan
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We took note of the supreme court decision, and we continue to discuss with both parties the need both to resolve the continuing situation and to have constructive dialogue with the Kashmiris involved.

Points of Order

Tuesday 12th December 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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12:30
Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. With crucial talks at COP28 locked in disagreement, we are hearing reports that the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, the right hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), is on his way back to the UK. It is said that he

“will continue to be the lead UK minister for the negotiations with any final decisions agreed with him.”

I do not see how that can quite be the case when he is on an aeroplane. We can only assume that he has been called back because of tonight’s Rwanda vote, and that saving the Prime Minister’s skin is somehow seen as more important than trying to save the planet.

Mr Speaker, can we bring the Minister to the House to explain why he has left the COP talks and what that means for our negotiations?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Mr Andrew Mitchell)
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Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Government, as the hon. Lady knows, is seamless. While the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero is anxious to support the Government on the important legislation tonight, my noble Friend Lord Benyon, who is one of the UK’s greatest experts on climate change, is at the COP in Dubai today to ensure that a senior Minister is representing Britain in those vital negotiations.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Right. Let us move on.

Bills Presented

Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and International Committee of the Red Cross (Status) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Dame Maria Miller, supported by Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger, Chris Elmore, Steve Brine, Julie Elliott, Harriett Baldwin, Bob Blackman, Layla Moran, Taiwo Owatemi and Sir James Duddridge, presented a Bill to make provision about the status of, and privileges and immunities in connection with, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the International Committee of the Red Cross; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 January 2024, and to be printed (Bill 140).

Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (Sentencing Guidelines) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Dame Maria Miller presented a Bill to require the Sentencing Council to issue sentencing guidelines in respect of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 January 2024, and to be printed (Bill 141).

Public Transport (Rural Areas) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sarah Dyke presented a Bill to set minimum service levels for the provision of public transport in rural areas, including for access to sites of employment and education; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 January 2024, and to be printed (Bill 51).

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Second Reading
[Relevant documents: First Report of the Home Affairs Committee of Session 2022-23, Channel crossings, migration and asylum, HC 199, and the Government response, HC 706; oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 29 November 2023, on Work of the Home Office, HC 356; oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 15 November 2023, on Work of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, HC 126; oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 8 June 2022, on Migration and asylum, Session 2022-23, HC 197.]
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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The reasoned amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition has been selected.

12:34
James Cleverly Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Cleverly)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Before I speak to the Bill, let me say that the House may well be aware that, tragically, there has been a death on the Bibby Stockholm barge. I am sure that the thoughts of the whole House, like mine, are with those affected. The House will understand that at this stage I am uncomfortable going into any more details, but we will of course investigate fully.

This Government are stopping the boats. Arrivals are down by a third this year, as illegal entries are on the rise elsewhere in Europe. Indeed, small boat arrivals are up by 80% in the Mediterranean, but they are down by a third across the channel. The largest ever small boats deal with France, tackling the supply of boat engines and parts, the arrest and conviction of people smugglers, and a 70% increase in raids on illegal working are having an impact—a positive one. We have signed returns and co-operation agreements with France, Bulgaria, Turkey, Italy, Georgia and Ethiopia. Fifty hotels are being returned to their local communities, and the initial asylum backlog, which stood at 92,000, is now under 20,000. We have sent back 22,000 illegal migrants, and the UK’s arrangement with Albania proves that deterrents work.

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I will not give way yet, as I have just started.

Last year, a third of all those arriving in small boats to the coast of this country were Albanian. This year, we have returned 5,000 Albanians, and arrivals from Albania are down by 90%. But in recent years, some of the Government’s efforts to tackle illegal migration and deport foreign national offenders have been frustrated by a seemingly endless cycle of legal challenges and rulings from domestic and foreign courts.

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I will give way in a moment. Of course, this Government respect court judgments, even when we disagree with them, but Parliament and the British people want an end to illegal immigration and they support the Rwanda plan.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams
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The Home Secretary points to deterrence. He has often used the Australian model of offshoring detention centres as a gold standard. What are his comments, then, on the fact that Australia has recently shut down its offshore centre because of the high financial and human costs?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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The hon. Lady raises the case of Australia. It had 55,000 illegal migrations by boats and that has trended pretty much down to zero—deterrence works.

John Baron Portrait Mr Baron
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I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that the British are world champions at queueing. We do not like queue jumpers, which is why illegal immigration grates with us. Will he confirm that the Government will take all steps to ensure that we remain within international law, not just now but going forward? In that case, I will certainly be supporting the Bill tonight. Does he also agree that some colleagues in this place need to be careful what they wish for?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I am confident, and indeed the conversations I have had with the Government’s legal advisers reinforce my belief, that the actions we are taking, while novel and very much pushing at the edge of the envelope, are within the framework of international law. That is important because the UK is a country that demonstrates to the whole world the importance of international law. We champion that on the world stage and it is important that we demonstrate it.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I am going to make further progress. Judges of course play an important role, but they are not policymakers and they should not be policymakers. When the courts find a particular formulation of policy unlawful, it is the job of politicians to listen to their views, respect their views and find a solution.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I will make further progress. Thanks to the efforts on the part of the UK Government and the Government of Rwanda, that is exactly what we have done in response to the verdict from the Supreme Court. The new treaty that I signed last week with Rwanda and the Bill that accompanies it are game changing. The principle of relocating people to a safe country, to have their asylum claim processed there, is entirely consistent with the terms of the refugee convention. Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal unanimously confirmed that point.

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend was an excellent Foreign Secretary, so he will know the extraordinary tensions that exist between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. The Democratic Republic of the Congo accuses Rwanda of sponsoring the M23 terrorist organisation, which is violating Congolese women and killing Congolese soldiers. This week, the Congolese President named the Rwandan President as a Hitler-like figure. What is my right hon. Friend’s response to the concerns of our Congolese friends in that regard?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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In my former role, I had extensive conversations with the Governments of both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. We do not agree with that assessment of the Government of Rwanda. More importantly, other international organisations also rely heavily on Rwanda, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the European Union. They would not do that if they believed that Rwanda was an unsafe country.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I intend to make further progress—this is Second Reading and there will be plenty of opportunities for colleagues to speak—but I give way to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon).

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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Just yesterday, I received correspondence stating:

“EU Council Directive 2005/85/EC is caught by Article 2(1) of the Protocol, therefore can be relied upon in NI (but not GB).”

It added that article 7 of the directive

“confers the right to remain in the territory”

while a claim is being processed, which

“creates additional ‘rights’ in NI”

that do not apply in GB and

“expressly frustrates the core intent of the Rwanda Bill from applying in NI”.

Has the Home Secretary had the opportunity to look at that?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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The point that the hon. Gentleman makes about differential treatment in different parts of the United Kingdom is one that we are conscious of. As the Bill progresses, he and others will have the opportunity to raise concerns about specific details. We will, of course, listen to his concerns and those of others. When passed, the Bill will address the practical implications. At the moment, the challenge of the number of refugees is not as significant in Northern Ireland as in other parts of the UK, but, as the hon. Gentleman has heard me say before, we are always conscious to make sure that all parts of the UK are, and feel that they are, in the thinking of the Government as we move forward.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I will make further progress. As I say, the principle of relocating people to a safe country to have their asylum claims processed is entirely consistent with the terms of the refugee convention. The High Court and the Court of Appeal unanimously confirmed that, and the Supreme Court did not dispute those findings in own findings three weeks ago.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is clear in international law and in relation to the question of the rule of law that in this country, with our unwritten constitution, a clear and unambiguous use of words, clearly establishing the intention of Parliament in the enactment of a law, takes precedence over international law, in accordance with the judgments of Lord Hoffmann, as well as judgments and statements by Lord Judge, Lord Denning and other very distinguished jurists, including in paragraph 144 of the judgment made last month?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. He is right that when the wording of a Bill is clear and unambiguous—where there is a deeming clause—that is the express will of Parliament, that Parliament is sovereign, and that that thinking must be adhered to through the legal process.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I am going to make some progress.

A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal, meaning that we cannot yet lawfully remove people to Rwanda. That is because of concerns that it expressed that relocated individuals might be refouled. I am sure the House knows that that means that those individuals might be re-deported to a third country. The Government disagreed with that verdict, but, as I have said, we respect the verdict of their lordships. It is important to understand that the Supreme Court’s judgment was based on the facts as they existed 18 months ago and that the Court said the problem could be remedied. As I told the House last week, we have worked on and found that very remedy. Our asylum partnership with Rwanda sets out, in a legally binding international treaty, the obligations of both the UK and Rwanda within international law.

Jeremy Wright Portrait Sir Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam) (Con)
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I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. As he says, international law and domestic law are both important, but they are different. The Bill seeks to give this House the power to deem Rwanda a safe country. Can he confirm for me that what it does not seek to do is suggest that this country, or this House, has the power to deem itself in compliance with international law? My worry stems from clause1(5) of the Bill, which, of course, reflects the Government’s intention to deem Rwanda a safe country, but then goes on to describe the safe country as one

“to which persons may be removed…in compliance with all of the United Kingdom’s obligations under international law”.

Will he confirm that it is not the Government’s intention to suggest that it falls to any country to deem itself in compliance with international law—he does not need me to explain what the consequences of that might be elsewhere in the world—and that he will look again at the language and whether it needs to be changed to clarify that point?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I can reassure my right hon. and learned Friend that that is absolutely not the intention of the Bill. The deeming clause is specifically about the safety of Rwanda, because of our response to their lordships’ position at the Supreme Court hearing. We are not seeking to redefine through domestic legislation international law.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
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If the right hon. Gentleman is right and the treaty with Rwanda meets the concerns of the Supreme Court, why is this Bill necessary? If Rwanda is now a safe country as a result of the treaty, why is this highly controversial Bill, which is clearly causing great problems in his own parliamentary party, necessary?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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We are putting forward legislation that will be clear and unambiguous, so as to support the treaty. The treaty addresses the concerns raised by their lordships.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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With the indulgence of the House, I intend to make some progress. I want to make sure that others have a full chance to speak in this debate.

The Bill sets out to Parliament and to the courts why Rwanda is safe for those relocated there. The treaty that I signed last week puts beyond legal doubt the safety of Rwanda. It provides the basis to end the merry-go-round of legal challenges that have second-guessed the will of Parliament and frustrated this policy, this House, and the desire of the British people.

Rwanda will introduce an even stronger end-to-end asylum system, stronger still than the one that underpins its relationship with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It will have a specialist asylum appeals tribunal—

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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I thank the Home Secretary for giving way. Since we last spoke in this House, it has been confirmed that the Government have given the Rwandan Government £240 million, with a further £50 million to come in April—all independently of anybody be being sent to Rwanda. Will he now confirm that the Government’s deal also means a further £50 million in 2025 and a further £50 million on top of that in 2026?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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The right hon. Lady is asking me to confirm figures that we have put in the public domain. Unsurprisingly, I am totally comfortable confirming what I have already said. Rwanda will introduce an even stronger—

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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The right hon. Lady has the chance to make a speech in just a few moments.

The system of specialist asylum tribunals to consider individual appeals against any refused claim within Rwanda will have one Rwandan and one other Commonwealth co-president and will be made up of judges from a mix of nationalities, selected by the co-president. To the point the right hon. Lady is making about the money spent by the British Government, as is the case with many countries around the world, the Government spend money capacity building with our international partners, and we have been working extensively with Rwanda to build capacity too.

The treaty makes clear that anyone relocated to Rwanda cannot be removed from Rwanda to another country except back to the United Kingdom. It is binding in international law and enhances the role of the independent monitoring committee, which will have the power to set its own priority areas for monitoring. The committee will have unfettered access to monitor the entire relocation process, from initial screening to relocation and settlement in Rwanda. Relocated individuals and legal representatives will be able to launch confidential complaints directly with that committee. It is that treaty and the accompanying evidence pack that enable the Government to conclude with confidence that Rwanda is safe. We will need to be certain that domestic and foreign courts will also respect the treaty, and that is why we have introduced this Bill.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con)
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On that point on foreign courts, clause 5(2) says:

“It is for a Minister of the Crown…to decide whether the United Kingdom will comply with the interim measure.”

Is the advice from the Attorney General that it will be compatible with international law for a Minister to refuse to comply with such an indication?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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My right hon. Friend, who is an expert proceduralist in this House, will know that advice from the AG to Government is privileged, and I am not going to share it at the Dispatch Box, but he will also know that the Government’s position is clear and unambiguous that this is in accordance with international law. He can rest assured of that.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
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Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as a matter of law, an interim measure under rule 35 is directed not to the courts of the UK, but to the Governments of the member states? Therefore, what the Bill says simply restates what is the position anyway: it is the member state that it applies to, not the courts.

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right.

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I will give way one more time, and then I will make more progress.

Meg Hillier Portrait Dame Meg Hillier
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The Home Secretary says he will not reveal to the House the Attorney General’s advice, and that is fine, but on the issue of the money, his permanent secretary was in front of the Public Accounts Committee yesterday and told us that, as well as the payment of £50 million due next year, there are payments planned for years four and five. Is he willing to share with the House how much will be paid to Rwanda in years four and five of the programme?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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The hon. Lady will know that we have committed to a reporting schedule that is completely consistent with other Government Departments and with the reporting schedule of the Home Office in other areas. We intend to commit to doing that.

This Bill builds on the Illegal Migration Act 2023 and complements all other measures that this Government are employing to end illegal migration. The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill makes it unambiguously clear that Rwanda is safe and it will prevent the courts from second-guessing the will of this sovereign Parliament.

Maria Miller Portrait Dame Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con)
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Will my right hon. Friend give way?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I have to make progress.

The Bill gives effect to the judgment of Parliament that Rwanda is a safe country, notwithstanding UK law or any interpretation of international law. For the purposes of the Bill, a safe country is one to which people

“may be removed from the United Kingdom in compliance with all of the United Kingdom’s obligations under international law”—

I hope that will reassure my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Sir Jeremy Wright)—

“that are relevant to the treatment in that country of persons who are removed there.”

It means that someone removed to that country will not be removed or sent to another country in contravention of any international law, and that anyone who seeks asylum or who has had an asylum determination will have their claim determined and be treated in accordance with that country’s obligations under international law.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I am going to make progress. I have been generous, but I want others to have the chance to speak.

Anyone removed to Rwanda under the provisions of this treaty will not be removed from Rwanda except to the United Kingdom, in a very small number of limited and exceptional circumstances. Should the UK request the return of any relocated person, Rwanda will return them. Decision makers, including myself or the holder of the post of Home Secretary, an immigration officer and the courts must all treat Rwanda as a safe country. They must do so notwithstanding the relevant UK law or any interpretation of international law by courts or tribunals. That includes the European convention on human rights; the refugee convention; the international covenant on civil and political rights; the United Nations convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings which opened at Warsaw on 16 May 2005; customary international law; and

“any other international law, or convention or rule of international law, whatsoever, including any order, judgment, decision or measure of the European Court of Human Rights.”

The Prime Minister has been crystal clear that he, and the Government he leads, will not let foreign courts destroy this Rwanda plan and curtail our efforts to break the business model of the evil people-smuggling gangs.

Robert Buckland Portrait Sir Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend makes the point about foreign courts, but what about domestic courts? Is there not a danger that, in pursuing quite stringent measures in this Bill, we are really testing the principle of comity to breaking point? This House and this Parliament are sovereign, but we also have the independence of the courts and the rule of law to bear in mind, and restraint on both sides—by the judiciary and by this place—is essential if we are to maintain the balance of our constitution.

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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My right hon. and learned Friend knows I have a huge amount of respect for him, not just as a friend and an individual, but for his experience at the Bar at a very high level. He raises an important point, and I want to give him complete reassurance that we have looked very carefully at that balance he speaks about and we respect the importance of that. We genuinely believe this Bill gets the balance right, although, because of the growing nature of this extreme and perverse trade in human misery, we have to take firm action. We are therefore acting in a way that maintains that balance. It is novel. He says it is contentious, and that is true, but we are doing it because we have to break this business model. We have to do this.

When the European Court of Human Rights—this speaks to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg) just a moment ago—indicates an interim measure relating to the intended removal of someone to Rwanda under, or purportedly under, a provision of the Immigration Act, a Minister of the Crown alone, not a court or tribunal, will decide whether the UK will comply with that interim measure.

In order to further prevent individual claims to prevent removal, the Bill disapplies certain relevant provisions from the Human Rights Act 1998 in particular circumstances, including sections 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9. This is lawful, this is fair, this is necessary, because we have now addressed every reason that has been used to prevent removal to Rwanda. We have blocked asylum claims from being admitted with legislation that has already passed through this House: when the Illegal Migration Act 2023 is enforced, modern slavery disqualification provisions will assist with speedy removal.

The only possible blocking of removal is if an individual can demonstrate, with compelling evidence, that there is an immediate risk of serious and irreversible harm to them in particular under their individual circumstances. That sets the bar rightly very high, so that the chances of that happening are rightly extremely small. The only way to deter people from coming here illegally is to convince them that if they do, they will be unable to stay. Instead, they will be detained and swiftly removed to a safe third country, or their home country, if it is safe to do so.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I will conclude, as I have been on my feet for a while.

This is how we will save lives at sea. This is how we will deter illegal migration. And this—the House should take note—is how we will break the business model of the most evil and perverse trade that we currently can see: the trade in vulnerable people. The people smugglers are not humanitarians; they are vicious criminals, and we must take action to stop them. This is how we restore confidence in our immigration system and assert full control over our borders.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I am nearly done; let me conclude.

This is how we will overcome the intolerable pressure on taxpayers, public services and local communities that illegal immigration creates. That is how we will ensure that the system is fair: fair to those who play by the rules and fair to the British people, who are rightly sick of people arriving here from France in small boats—from France, a safe and wonderful country. Rwanda stands ready to welcome those new arrivals. It stands ready to work with us to find a solution on this global issue, rather than being part of a problem, and for that, I believe, it should have our thanks and admiration. This is an innovative and humane solution to a growing global problem. Other countries are looking at what we are doing and making similar plans of their own. A new treaty and this Bill make it clear in law that Rwanda is a safe country to which to relocate illegal migrants.

I want to extend an offer to the whole House. Colleagues across this House must know how much this matters to our constituents. Our voters, no matter which party they vote for, are warm and welcoming people to those in genuine need. We have seen that in the way in which people across this country have opened their homes to many of the half a million people who have come here via safe and legal routes in the past decade. But the British people rightly expect everyone to play by the rules, and they expect us in this House to do what it takes to stop the boats. That is what voting for this legislation means. Our voters are horrified when they see images of people drowning in the channel. They are horrified when they see people smugglers taking advantage of people. They want an end to illegal migration. This Government have a plan that will provide an alternative home for illegal arrivals to the UK and deter others from coming here illegally. I commend the Bill to the House.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Home Secretary.

13:05
Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:

“this House, while affirming support for securing the UK’s borders, reforming the broken asylum system and ending dangerous small boat crossings, declines to give a Second Reading to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill because the Bill will not work to tackle people smuggling gangs, end small boat crossings or achieve the core purposes of the Bill, will lead to substantial costs to the UK taxpayer every year whilst applying to less than one per cent of those who claim asylum in the UK, threatens the UK’s compliance with international law, further undermines the potential to establish security and returns agreements with other countries and does not prevent the return of relocated individuals who commit serious crimes in Rwanda back to the UK.”

I join the Home Secretary in expressing our sympathy for the family and friends of the asylum seeker who has apparently died on the Bibby Stockholm. I understand that the Home Secretary cannot say more about that at the moment.

This should be a debate about how we prevent lives being lost, about how we strengthen our border security, about how we stop dangerous boat crossings, and about how we fix the broken asylum system. Instead, we have just got total Tory chaos. What a fine mess this weak Prime Minister has got them all into, and got the country into as well. They are tearing lumps out of each other over a failing policy while letting the country down.

A Home Secretary has been sacked, an Immigration Minister has resigned, and the Tories have spent almost £300 million of taxpayers’ money on Rwanda without sending a single person. The Home Secretary seemed to confirm today that, in fact, it is £400 million without a single person being sent. More Home Secretaries have been sent to Rwanda than asylum seekers—that is about £100 million per trip. The climate Minister, the right hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), has been called back from the Dubai COP for the vote. Well, I guess the Government can say that at least one flight has taken off as a result of the legislation.

We have had the third Tory Home Secretary sent to Rwanda in two years, the third bilateral agreement with Rwanda in two years, and now the third Tory law on asylum and Rwanda in two years. And they are about to write their fourth cheque to Rwanda. It turns out that they set up a direct debit: hundreds of millions of pounds for a failing scheme that is only ever likely to cover a few hundred people—less than 1% of those claiming asylum last year—and has become a proxy for the deep civil wars in the Tory party.

In this carousel of Conservative chaos, we have the European Research Group, the Northern Research Group, the New Conservatives, the old Conservatives, the One Nation group, the implausibly named Conservative Growth Group, and if you thought that was an oxymoron, Mr Speaker, we also have the Conservative Common Sense Group. Seriously, there are so many fighting factions, but they all have one thing in common: they do not believe in the Bill.

The Prime Minister was forced into an emergency breakfast meeting this morning—less a smoked salmon offensive; more buttering up his MPs with bacon butties, and sides of briefing and backstabbing—promising his MPs amendments and then rowing back, telling them that he really wants to break international law but that the Rwandan Government will not let him. He is hiding behind the Kigali Administration because he is too weak to even defend his plan. Weak, weak, weak.

The Prime Minister says that his patience is wearing thin. Well, how do the Tories think the country feels when watching this chaos? He is hoping that his party will calm down over Christmas, but they all know who the Christmas turkey is, and he is sitting in No. 10.

John Baron Portrait Mr Baron
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The Prime Minister has come up with a plan. He is committed to it. We have had assurances from the Dispatch Box that all steps will be taken to stay within international law. What is the official Opposition’s plan?

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
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The hon. Gentleman hopes that his Prime Minister has a plan, but no Back Bencher on either side of the House seems to agree with it. We are clear that what we should be doing is using the hundreds of millions of pounds that the Government are wasting in cheques written to Rwanda for nothing—for a scheme that will send, at best, only a few hundred people—to strengthen our border security, go after the criminal gangs, and make sure that we clear the asylum backlog and save the taxpayer billions of pounds. [Interruption.] Actually, he has not. The Home Secretary likes to claim that he is doing that; he likes to claim that he is bringing down the number of people in hotels, but in fact that number has gone up to a record high of 56,000. Since the Prime Minister said he was going to end asylum hotel use, it has gone up by a further 10,000, because he is failing.

I welcome the new immigration Ministers to their posts, one of whom, the hon. Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove), has been an immigration Minister before. I think that during the time he was immigration Minister, net migration trebled and the number of boat crossings also trebled, but I am sure nobody will hold that against him. The Government have obviously appointed two immigration Ministers this time in case another one resigns because he thinks their policy is totally failing and too weak. In the words of the ex-immigration Minister, the right hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick), this new law will not work, “doesn’t do the job”, and is

“both legally and operationally fundamentally flawed.”

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes (Eastleigh) (Con)
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Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
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I will give way to the hon. Member if he can say whether he agrees with the previous immigration Minister or the current one.

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes
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I am grateful to the shadow Home Secretary for asking me questions; she overestimates my ability. Talking of Christmas turkeys, this morning the Leader of the Opposition gave an interview on Radio 4 that, typically, contained no policy whatsoever. Can she outline how she would reduce immigration and tackle the problems that she is castigating this Government for, given that everything she says she would do, the Government are already doing?

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
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The trouble is that they are not—they are just not. The scale of the Government’s operations to go after the criminal gangs is tiny. The £300 million that the Government have already committed to Rwanda is a third of the budget of the National Crime Agency. They are prepared to put that investment into Rwanda—into this tiny scheme that will affect only a couple hundred people—but are totally failing to invest sufficiently in tackling the criminal gangs, working with Europol and going after the supply chains. There are warehouses of boats across Europe that the European police forces are totally failing to go after, which our party has said we would go after. We would work with Europol and get new security arrangements in place, which again, the Government are failing to do.

Instead, we have the former Home Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for Fareham (Suella Braverman), who signed the last agreement and brought forward the last piece of legislation, saying that the Bill is fatally flawed and will not stop the boats. Yesterday we had Back Benchers saying that the Bill should have been pulled because it is partial and incomplete, and the Home Secretary—who privately called this whole thing “batshit”—is out to bat for it today, even though he knows it will not work.

This is the Tories’ asylum crisis. Five years ago, we did not have a major problem with dangerous boat crossings, but they let criminal gangs take hold along the channel. They failed to work with France at the beginning when they had the chance, and they let smugglers spread their tentacles along the coast, organising dangerous boat crossings that undermine border security and put lives at risk.

At the same time, the Tories let Home Office decision making collapse. They decided to downgrade the skills and experience of caseworkers, then shrugged their shoulders when productivity dropped. They failed to return people—they have let returns collapse, down by 50% compared with the last Labour Government. The next Labour Government, if we are elected, would set up a new major returns unit with, 1,000 additional staff to increase returns. Rather than the total number of returns collapsing and the Government failing to return people who have no right to be here, our party would introduce a new returns unit to make sure we have proper enforcement. [Interruption.]

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. Just shouting at the shadow Home Secretary is not a good look. You should be listening to what she has to say.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
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Will the right hon. Lady give way on the last point?