Debates between Baroness Blower and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon during the 2019 Parliament

Colombia: Human Rights

Debate between Baroness Blower and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Monday 12th July 2021

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord and will take that forward. I agree with the premise that we need to see a clear demarcation in the responsibilities of the police.

Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower (Lab)
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My Lords, I refer to my interests as recorded in the register. A recent ruling from the transitional justice court named 10 Colombian army officers as responsible for murdering 120 civilians and disappearing 24 in 2007-08. These cases relate to the so-called “false positives”: the Colombian state stands accused of killing close to 6,500 civilians, dressing them as guerrillas, during the Uribe presidency. Given the hostility to the transitional justice court from certain quarters in Colombia, can the Minister repeat Britain’s support for this institution and welcome the positive engagement of former FARC commanders, who have recognised their role in crimes during the armed conflict?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am happy to confirm the Colombian Government’s long-standing commitment to assist former guerrilla fighters in their transition to civilian life following the peace agreement. We remain committed to this and since 2015 have given over £63 million of support directly to Colombia through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund.

Palestine

Debate between Baroness Blower and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Wednesday 7th July 2021

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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My Lords, on the issue of economic incentives, we believe that it is important that we progress our economic relationship with both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. We do not hesitate to express our disagreement with Israel whenever necessary. However, on the specific issue of sanctions against the State of Israel, which the noble Baroness may be alluding to, we stand very firmly opposed to such boycotts or sanctions.

Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower (Lab)
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I refer your Lordships to my interests as recorded in the register. Recognition of the state of Palestine is an internationally significant concern. I would like to ask the Minister today about an urgent concern. What representations have Her Majesty’s Government made to the Government of Israel about the house evictions and demolitions in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, which appear designed to change the demography of the holy city?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness and we have been very clear on our position on the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. It is a threat to the communities currently in Sheikh Jarrah and we urge the Government of Israel to cease such actions permanently. Indeed, these points were very much raised and discussed during my right honourable friend’s visit to Israel and the OPTs.

Commonwealth Heads of Government

Debate between Baroness Blower and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 27th May 2021

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Earl’s second question, this is of course ongoing. Dealing with discrimination is never a job done, whether at home or abroad, and we need to remain vigilant on the issue. On the specific countries, some have declared quite openly the reforms that they have undertaken. Others, because of domestic sensitivities, have sought more discreet support from us in that regard, which is why we have not named them specifically. I am sure that the noble Earl is aware of several countries that have declared progress on, for example, the important priority of LGBT issues.

Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower (Lab)
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My Lords, there have been a number of Questions in your Lordships’ House about the education of girls, the answers to which usually rely on the repetition of sums of money allocated by the Government. Can the Minister give a concrete example of an action taken to move towards providing 12 years of high-quality education for girls—and indeed for boys? Could he specify a proposal that the UK Government will have on the agenda to move more quickly to achieve this goal?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I can certainly share with the noble Baroness, including in my responsibilities as Minister for South Asia, how we have invested specifically not just in school building programmes in Pakistan—a Commonwealth country—but in teaching, textbooks and support, ensuring that there is an inclusivity to the educational agenda. As I said in response to an earlier question, the issue is never done. We need to remain focused on delivering the priority on girls’ education. We have seen over £200 million spent on 11 countries and I would be happy to provide specifics of other programmes to the noble Baroness.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Debate between Baroness Blower and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Monday 17th May 2021

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, if I could give a personal reflection—as someone who is Muslim by faith, Indian in origin from my father’s side and Pakistani in origin from my mother’s side—I assure the noble Lord that this remains a priority for myself and stress the equality and rights of every citizen across the Commonwealth, irrespective of faith, creed, sexual orientation or any other definition. It is important that we stand up for all citizens across the Commonwealth and for equal rights.

Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower (Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that specific actions are needed—as called for by CHOGM in 2018—to provide 12 years of quality education for girls in particular, as this will be the surest way to work towards both global social justice and greater equality? If so, what specific actions will Her Majesty’s Government support and pursue?

Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Debate between Baroness Blower and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 21st January 2021

(12 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I hear what the right reverend Prelate says but, to be clear, the United Kingdom will not support, sign or ratify the TPNW. The reasons are very clear to us: it fails to offer a realistic path to global nuclear disarmament and, importantly, risks undermining the effective non-proliferation and disarmament architecture that we already have in place, in particular the work that has already been achieved with key partners on the NPT.

Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower (Lab) [V]
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I declare my interest as in the register. I am compelled to repeat the question from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry. Given the global importance of this treaty, will the Government consider sending in an observer capacity a delegation when the treaty parties convene later this year, whether in person or virtually? Clearly, in observer status the Government might learn something of interest.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness that we are fully aware of the challenges that currently confront us on the global stage and the importance of ensuring that we see non-proliferation. There are major challenges with this treaty, including the fact that it does not look at the existing security architecture, including our obligations to NATO. It does not look at how we deal with the threats from nations such as the DPRK. My Answer was very clear about what our belief is on the treaty. If parties to that treaty engage with us bilaterally, of course, we will continue to engage with them on wide range of matters.

Colombia

Debate between Baroness Blower and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Monday 7th December 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness and look to working with her on this important agenda. Colombia is an FCDO human rights priority country and we raise human rights with the Colombian Government’s representatives whenever possible. Indeed, I discussed the issue at length with Ministers, relevant institutions and civil society during my virtual visit to Colombia on 13 October. We are also proud to lead on Colombia’s peace process at the UN Security Council and have contributed £60 million in support of peace, stability and security since 2015.

Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower (Lab) [V]
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I thank the Minister very much for his Answer, and refer to my interest as recorded in the register. The peace process is clearly vital. A recent newspaper report in Colombia, revealing details of an undercover operation by the Colombian Attorney-General’s office, apparently designed to entrap FARC peace negotiators and undermine the peace process, is alarming. The Attorney-General’s office, led by Néstor Humberto Martinez, reportedly provided five kilos of cocaine for the operation, but this and other relevant information was withheld from the courts. Was the British Ambassador—or other British authorities—made aware of those details at the time of the arrest of the FARC peace negotiator in 2018? What is the Government’s assessment of these revelations?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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As the noble Baroness will appreciate, I am not going to comment specifically on press reports. In terms of the specifics of the case, she raises important challenges that Colombia continues to face. The issue of narcotics and drugs is a major one. Colombia remains one of the largest producers of cocaine in the world—among others. The violence that we currently see affects local communities and former FARC combatants, led by the issues we have seen around drugs. We remain committed to peace accords, which the current President and his team have assured us of. On the specific matter of the case the noble Baroness raises, if there is more information to share, I will write to her.