Occupied Palestinian Territories: Humanitarian Situation

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Thursday 9th November 2023

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness about the phenomenal role that aid workers, agencies and doctors are playing on the ground. I know that some British doctors are still serving in the hospitals under such intense pressures; I pay tribute to them. There are doctors lining up to go into Gaza to provide support.

I also agree with the noble Baroness that we need to take stock of the human tragedy unfolding in Gaza. It is for us all not just to contemplate but to act upon. That is why the nature of the cessation required needs to ensure that support can get in, but it must also be done in a safe and secure manner. If we look at the example of the field facilities we are discussing with partners, including field hospitals within Gaza, they must satisfy the issues of security for Israel and for those working there. The access and supply routes should be equally secured. Those are some of the key priorities we are currently working on.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, I call on the Minister to make his first port of call the international Red Cross, whose job it is to take care of hostages. If it gets out the hostages and Hamas comes out from hiding behind civilians, the temperature will cool. It is also the job of the surrounding Middle East countries—among the richest countries in the world—to come to the aid of the Palestinians, not least through Egypt opening the border. But first, the hostages.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness—I have said this before about the hostages—that we are working with many of the countries she highlights. Qatar, for example, as the noble Baroness will know, is playing a key role in this respect. That is a key focus for us in our priorities. There are three areas. We want those who need to leave Gaza to leave, the hostages to be released and the aid to go in. Those three things require that we work towards ensuring that the conditions on the ground sustain that. Let me reassure the noble Baroness, in terms of not just the hostage release but the future, that the near neighbours to Israel need to play a role as partners in peace. I can assure the noble Baroness that, from our conversations and the discussions and diplomatic engagement we are having, they are very seized of that priority.

Polish Jewish Holocaust Victims: Stolen Property

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Wednesday 25th October 2023

(4 months, 1 week ago)

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Asked by
Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of progress made at the International Terezin Declaration Conference in November 2022 towards securing from the government of Poland (1) restitution, (2) compensation, or (3) commemoration, of property stolen from Polish Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

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, it is this Government’s assessment that there has been no progress on these important issues in Poland itself following legislation passed in 2020 which closed the door to any restitution or compensation claims. However, we continue to urge the Polish Government to take steps to ensure that claims are addressed. My noble friend Lord Pickles, the UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, raised this in a meeting with the Polish ambassador on 3 August. He will raise it again during his visit to Poland this week.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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Continuing the theme of breaches of human rights, Poland is the only modern European country not to fulfil its moral and legal duty in relation to property. I have been asking this question for 14 years: asking the Government to take action on behalf of thousands of dispossessed victims, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and Poland has responded by putting more and more obstacles in the way of claims by legislating against them and even making it an offence to discuss Poland’s involvement—if it was—in the Holocaust. New Prime Minister Tusk promises to restore the rule of law and take Poland forward to liberal democracy, so, rather than just attending conferences with supporters, will the Government reopen direct negotiations with Prime Minister Tusk and raise at the Council of Europe Poland’s human rights failure to honour the obligation to restore property? It is a stain on Poland’s record.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness will also recognise, as I did when I was preparing for this particular Question, exactly how her sentiments were similar to my sentiments, in that I have had to respond on a number of occasions in different ministerial portfolios on this question. The new Government are being formed. Obviously, the results are still being taken forward and different parties and alliances are coming together. The clear indication is very much that Mr Tusk may well emerge in forming the new Government. We will of course continue to prioritise it.

I would say to the noble Baroness that it is not just about attending meetings or conferences. The noble Baroness will know of the direct leadership of my noble friend on this issue. We take a strong stand on the issue of property restitution, in line with our unwavering commitment to supporting Holocaust survivors and families, and we will continue to do so in the months and years ahead.

Israel/Gaza

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Tuesday 24th October 2023

(4 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, I thank those in this House who have extended support, sympathy and understanding during these past two terrible weeks. I particularly appreciate the mention by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury of my young relative Yosef Guedalia, whose relatives he met in Israel last week and whose great-grandparents suffered in the Holocaust.

My theme today is that the root of the problem is education. The creation of Israel and the displacement of population is and was nothing out of the ordinary in the 20th century. There was the partition of India and Pakistan because Muslims and Hindus could not co-exist, which created at least 14 million displaced persons and 1 million deaths. A million Irish entered the UK; hundreds of thousands of Poles had to settle elsewhere; 40% of Greek Cypriots were displaced by the Turkish invasion; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, said, hundreds of thousands of Jews were expelled from most countries in the Middle East, leaving no one of the Jewish faith in the countries from which they were expelled, even though 2 million Arabs are living in Israel. All the many displacements and refugees that I have referred to were settled, with one exception. It is not because a state of Palestine has been denied—that has been offered and rejected four times—but because the Islamists cannot accept having any Jews living in the Middle East at all.

The cure for these problems lies in the Middle East. Will the Minister ask Qatar to continue its benevolent intervention? Will he encourage the countries of the Middle East to continue, not abandon, the Abraham accords? Will he ask the many countries in the Middle East where Palestinian refugees are living in dire conditions —most notably Lebanon, Syria and Egypt—to settle them? Why should there be refugee camps 50 years after they arrived there? They should be given citizenship and allowed to work and have an education, as they are not in Lebanon. That would not rule out their return to a state of Palestine one day, but they should not be kept in a state of dejection as human pawns.

I come to a further aspect of education. The Minister said of the Holocaust, “That was then and this is now”, but that is not the case. There is a straight line from one to the other. Holocaust education and memorialising has almost wholly missed the mark. It is fruitless to cast the Holocaust as a self-contained episode in the past. The learning centre—such a misnomer—planned for Westminster would have visitors believe that it was all the Nazis, it was all in the past, it was just a question of not hating and not being a bystander, and that here in the UK it is clear that democracy protects against genocide. That is simply not true. The erection of barriers around the Berlin memorial is a portent of things to come. The hatred and anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust are bubbling under again today, and once again there is too much apathy and failure to recognise the old hatred. As David Baddiel said, “Jews don’t count” when it comes to stamping out today’s hatred and racism.

I am sorry to say that some of the worst is in our universities. I hear all the time of sad episodes: in Portsmouth an academic is excusing Hamas; a recent NUS report on anti-Semitism in universities is all too sadly being borne out today; there are rampages around universities; there is a motion at the University and College Union calling for “intifada until victory”; and Cambridge and UCL are calling for a mass uprising against Israel. These young people had Holocaust education. I call on the Government to start an overhaul of that education. It should be Jewish history education, setting the Holocaust in context, as the late lamented Lord Sacks called for. Young people should be taught what happened before the Holocaust, of the Jewish contribution to civilisation and what happened afterwards, culminating in the establishment of Israel. We have a Black History Month; why can we not have a Jewish history month, or at least a curriculum?

Finally, as others have said, Iran is behind all of this. It has created its axis of resistance. The Government should stop appeasing Iran, and make sure that it gets no closer to its nuclear ambitions and that sanctions are applied. They should call on the rest of the countries in the Middle East to follow that lead—to be humanitarian towards Gaza and to work for peace and the end of this conflict. It lies in the countries of the Middle East.

British-Iranian Relations

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Thursday 23rd February 2023

(1 year ago)

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Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lord Alton is our moral compass in international affairs, and how fitting is his choice of subject today. This is a regime that has rewarded the attacker of Salman Rushdie and teaches its children to engage with martyrdom and the Islamic revolution and to call for the death of America and Israel.

But the gravest danger is its nuclear programme, in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It is not joint because the US withdrew; it is not comprehensive because there are loopholes and sunset clauses, such as only a 10-year limit on centrifuges; it is not a plan because there is no strategy to prevent the development of an Iranian bomb; and it is not action because the IAEA cannot monitor or obtain accurate intelligence about Iran’s nuclear activity. It has amounted to a waste of time because Iran has never given up on its plan to develop nuclear weapons, and it seems to us that it is not bound by that agreement. Uranium purified to 84% has reportedly been traced. Even at 60%, there is no peaceful use for that uranium.

If Israel is provoked into a strike, the consequences could be world-threatening. The Government should be insisting on snap-back sanctions, albeit that they too expire in 2025. Iran is in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by supplying Russia with drones used to attack Ukraine. It is the cause of destabilisation right across the Middle East, supporting Assad, the rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. How tragic that Syria appeals for assistance in the aftermath of the earthquake yet is funded for warfare by Iran to the tune of billions.

Unfortunately, snap-back sanctions would not hit Iran’s dealing in oil with China, but sanctions hitting the Iranian people may lead to the day when the Government are finally overthrown due to the miseries inflicted on their own people. Will our Government assure this Committee that the JCPOA is dead and that pre-JCPOA international arms restrictions should be restored? Will they downgrade diplomatic relations and close the Islamic Centre of England, which allegedly in effect represents Iran’s Supreme Leader?

Global Health Policies

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Monday 30th January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I meant this current year and next year. That is why I can assure the noble Lord that within the scope of the decisions being made, the issue of girls and women is a key priority, and rightly so.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, does the Minister feel at all inhibited in calls for his international leadership by the fact that our own health system is failing in so many ways? In particular, we are drawing in nurses and doctors from countries that need them much more than we do.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness raises a point about health recruitment. We are committed to working with the likes of the World Health Organization, which is governed by a strict UK practice for international recruitment, including a ban on direct recruitment for countries that the World Health Organization deems to have the weakest health systems. I agree with the noble Baroness, notwithstanding what I have just said, We work with particular countries to ensure that those who are recruited from those countries have an opportunity to return. For example, in India, we are looking at the opportunity to take advantage of studying medicine in the UK and working within the NHS in the UK; but within the scope of that, after the practical and academic experience, the individuals can return to healthcare in India. These are the innovative ways in which we need to work with other countries to ensure that we get the kind of universal healthcare coverage that is required.

Equality Act 2010: The Impact on Disabled People: Follow-Up Report (Liaison Committee Report)

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Tuesday 21st June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Moved by
Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech
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That the Grand Committee takes note of the Report from the Liaison Committee The Equality Act 2010: the impact on disabled people: Follow-up report (2nd Report, Session 2021–22, HL Paper 60).

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, I have had the privilege of being involved with disabled people’s rights since 2015. I say privilege in a personal sense, because albeit that there are 14.6 million self-reported disabled people in the UK—22% of the population—what we discovered on our committee was that, unless we are very lucky, as we get older we are all likely to suffer from mobility, sight and hearing problems without necessarily identifying as disabled, and yet in need of the adjustments made for disabled people. In the seven years of my involvement with disability, my arthritis has progressed and I completely empathise with step-free access, for example.

I know that the Minister is a caring and compassionate person, but I have to tell her that my involvement with disability rights has also been the most disillusioning and disappointing issue I have faced in my years in this House. What I have to say now will explain that. In sum, there has been hardly any progress: no central champion in the Cabinet; no will to be proactive rather than reactive; and always jam tomorrow, not jam today—witness the National Disability Strategy. Shockingly, I have to report that in January a High Court judgment, in the case of Binder v the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, found that the strategy was unlawful because a proper consultation involving specific proposals to be put to disabled people was not carried out.

There is no strategy and the Government have not, as far as I am aware, started the process to reconsult and create a fresh strategy that takes account of what disabled people need and want. Rather than moving forward with disability rights, the Government have gone backwards. Moreover, it is an affront to parliamentary sovereignty that major parts of the Equality Act 2010, from 12 years ago, are still not in force.

The disability committee was fortunate and grateful that our report of 2016 was chosen for follow-up by the Liaison Committee, and we are appreciative of the boost that gave to our recommendations. The Government’s response, however, is almost entirely unsympathetic. I enumerate it here theme by theme. In the follow-up report, we expressed the hope that the Inter-Ministerial Group on Disability and Society and the ministerial disability champions would drive our recommendations forward. I have to confess that I do not understand the difference between the two groups but, in any case, there is little published information about the interministerial group. It is reported that it met three times and then lapsed. I see that the Government are advertising for regional stakeholder chairs of disability groups; that seems to me to be spreading tomorrow’s jam even more thinly so that it leaves no taste at all. Can the Minister tell us the difference between the two groups, whether they are functioning and what has been reported from them?

We made recommendations about government leadership in this field. In their response to our 2016 initial report, the Government said that they were committed to creating a public service ombudsman combining local government and parliamentary and health remits. It was announced in the Queen’s Speech in 2015. We saw that as an opportunity to support the Equality and Human Rights Commission and disabled people’s organisations, and secure compliance with the Equality Act 2010, but the Government now say that they are not bringing forward this legislation. Yet they have announced a new ombudsman for private landlords. Why should that have priority, and will it do anything for disabled tenants?

Coinciding with the Liaison Committee review, last summer the Government announced a National Disability Strategy. We immediately expressed the view that this new venture should not displace or put aside the need to implement recommendations already made, in favour of setting up new targets. The strategy is now null and void because of the High Court judgment I referred to. Where is the programme for starting again on consultation and creation, this time taking account of the recommendations in our report rather than setting them aside in favour of vague future promises?

Maybe the reason why disabled people are not heeded is that there is no Cabinet voice for them. We recommended that the Minister for Women and Equalities should be a stand-alone, full-time role with the right to attend Cabinet. This was dismissed as a matter for the Prime Minister’s choice. Who holds the role of Minister for Women and Equalities currently? It is Liz Truss, who is, as we know, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Not even a superwoman, which no doubt Ms Truss is, could possibly carry out the exceptionally onerous job of Foreign Secretary while also concentrating on women and equalities. With all due respect to her competence, this is farcical.

We also recommended that the Minister for Disabled People be made a member of the Cabinet’s social justice committee. This mirrored a recommendation by the Commons Women and Equalities Committee. The social justice committee was set up about 10 years ago on the understanding that a cross-department attitude was needed. While Wales and Scotland have similar committees, the English one was disbanded in 2016 without its duties being redistributed to other committees. Why was this done? Who in Cabinet is leading on disability rights issues? What committees are taking these on?

As an aid to achievement of disability rights, we recommended that the public sector equality duty in Section 149 of the Equality Act be amended so that the public authority would be under a duty to take proportionate steps towards the achievement of disability issues. The way the PSED works now tends to be passive rather than proactive. The Government rejected our recommendation on the ground that it would involve opening up the Equality Act as a whole to amendment. They feared that such an alteration would lead to court litigation concerning actions that claimants alleged should have been taken and whether they were proportionate. The Government have left this untouched. Our 2016 criticisms remain. The wording of the PSED means that a public authority can make no progress at all towards the aims of the general duty and yet be judged compliant with it by the courts.

On a similar theme, we recommended that regulations should change so that public authorities would be required to develop and implement a plan of action setting out how they will meet the requirements of the PSED in all their functions. The Government pushed this into the long grass, commenting only that it would be considered in any future work to review the specific duties placed by the PSED on public authorities.

Perhaps the most egregious of all the failings to implement the Equality Act relates to Section 36, which would mandate reasonable adjustments to the common parts of buildings, paid for by the tenant, where needed for disability access. In 2016, we said we could not understand why another review was needed. Six years later, still nothing has happened, and again we recommended that Section 36 be brought into force within six months. The Government’s response was to refer to difficulties the Scottish Government had faced in implementing equivalent provisions, and to say that a consultation was imminent. When is this consultation? What is the timetable? Why is it necessary? How can the Minister defend non-implementation of a section of an Act 12 years after its passage? Is this not an affront to the legislative work of Parliament?

Disabled people’s access to sports grounds is a well-known problem. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, has tried to improve matters with his Accessible Sports Grounds Bill, which would have given local authorities a discretionary power to refuse a safety certificate to large sports stadia that were not accessible. It did not get through the Commons. The Government’s response was that existing legislation was sufficient to ensure access to sports stadia for disabled fans. It is a delicate issue because legal action can be initiated only by an individual, and no single fan wants to upset his club and come into conflict with it. While there has been some progress and recognition of the issue, a recent survey by Level Playing Field found that many disabled fans suffered abuse and that there was a poor level of staff disability awareness, inaccessible public transport and general access barriers at stadia. In 2015 the Government set out a sports strategy promising action and said that they would work with the football and safety authorities to improve the situation. But there are no metrics of success. What progress can the Minister tell us of in the last seven years?

I expect the Government will tell us that the number of disabled people in work has increased, but the gap between disabled and non-disabled working people remains the same. The figures look better only because more people are identifying as disabled and more people are in work. The Government’s aim to help disabled people into employment will be thwarted if public transport is not accessible, but Section 163 of the Equality Act, which would make taxi licences conditional on compliance with accessibility regulations, remains uncommenced after 12 years.

In addition, we recommended that the accessibility requirements apply to private hire vehicles. The Government did not accept our recommendations. They have launched a consultation on taxi and private hire vehicle best practice and have said that, at some time in the future, they will legislate to mandate disability awareness training for all drivers. When will the Government take the steps necessary to ensure that every disabled person can get into a hired vehicle and get to work? The new Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Act, passed in May, is not relevant to disabled people, as it is, as it says, about reporting safeguarding and other dangerous issues relating to drivers.

Not just disabled people, but all citizens, need to be able to access justice to enforce their rights. Even where litigation can be afforded, it may present particular challenges to disabled individuals, who may find barriers to understanding and navigating their way through the legal system. We recommended that the costs should be mitigated by implementing qualified one-way cost-shifting in claims concerning discrimination under the Equality Act. This means that a successful defendant cannot recover their costs from the losing claimant, except in precise circumstances. It makes bringing reasonable legal action less of a costly risk.

Costs have an adverse effect on the rights of disabled people to enforce their legal rights. The Government said last year that they were considering the issue. Can the Minister tell us what progress has been made in amending the Civil Procedure Rules to achieve this? Can she explain future plans and timetables, given that a commitment has been made to do this? Our recommendation was that it be achieved within six months.

In general, disabled people need legal aid to enforce their rights, especially as it is for the individual to take action, and it is a brave and well-resourced individual who embarks on this. We salute the handful who have taken their issues to court. Legal aid may be available for legal advice concerning unlawful discrimination. Income thresholds qualifying for the help with fees remission scheme have changed in line with inflation, but not capital thresholds.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission launched an inquiry in May 2021 to examine whether legal aid enables people who raise a discrimination complaint to get justice. We do not know the result but, whenever it comes, it is intended to inform the Government’s review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. What progress has been made, if any, are the Government changing the Lord Chancellor’s guidance on legal aid in discrimination cases?

All in all, this is a sorry tale: no progress in implementing the 2010 Act; barriers to getting justice; poor treatment of sports fans; difficulty in getting transport to work and elsewhere; and a general sense that the Government prioritise the supposed interests of business over the needs of disabled people for adjustments and support. This has the effect of putting a large segment of the population out of the job market and out of contact with their fellow citizens. Why do the Government not have more empathy with them? Do Ministers not look at their ageing relatives—and indeed colleagues in this House—and realise that, in the fullness of time, they too will be in wheelchairs, on Zimmer frames, hard of hearing and worse still? They should act now to uphold parliamentary sovereignty as expressed in the Equality Act and for the sake of justice for a large segment of the population. I beg to move.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Young of Cookham) (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester, is taking part remotely. I invite her to speak.

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Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, I thank all those who have joined this debate. The absence of certain members of our committee who are disabled is really rather poignant and illustrates just how difficult it is for disabled people to participate, whether it is by video or whether they cannot get here on public transport. I know that several of them would have wanted to be here.

I very much welcome the Minister’s offer to meet, and I apologise to her most sincerely for not having spotted her email of about a week ago offering a meeting. Had we had one, our speeches would have been a bit less like ships passing in the night. I would very much like to take up her offer and look forward to working with her, because I know that she cares about this. We have seen her attitude in various welfare matters, and I know her to be a caring person who wants to do the right thing by disabled people.

I welcome the Government’s efforts in sign language. When we heard witnesses in our committee six years ago, some people managed to come and give evidence in sign language and interpretation was provided—however, at very great expense. Anything that improves the ability of people who use sign language to get their message across and be heard is very welcome.

I welcome the fact that a consultation has been launched on Section 36, on new homes and, I think, on various other things too. An awful lot of consultation is going on, and I must remind the Minister that the judgment in the Binder case said that a consultation should not just be vague and unspecific; it should put forward specific proposals that the Government are making, in order that there be a specific response from disabled people. The court also said that disabled people and all their various organisations should be consulted. I hope that we are not back again in future saying, “Another consultation has gone wrong”. I urge the Minister and all her assistants to make sure they get those consultations, of which she mentioned about half a dozen, right according to the judgment in the Binder case.

I also hope that consultations will not hold things up. We would like a date of commencement of, for example, Section 36 and when new homes will be required to be accessible. There was a little bit too much use of the words “commitment” and “subject to parliamentary time”. Those phrases always raise red flags with me.

On sport, I have to respond that sports stadia do not know exactly what is required of them under the Equality Act. There is a need to be more specific, which is why the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, put forward his Bill. They are bound by the Equality Act to make “reasonable adjustments”; it would seem by past practice over the last few years that either they do not know or they wilfully do not know.

Finally, it is disappointing that some of the responses that the Government gave in their answer to the Liaison Committee’s report, for example on PSED, are still there. The main flaw in the approach is the lack of a strong champion in the Government and of a strategy. I hope that, one day, we will have both of them. In the meantime, I thank the Minister and I look forward very much to having a meeting with her very soon.

Motion agreed.

Shireen Abu Aqla

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Tuesday 17th May 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, in joining my noble friend in prayers for the family of Shireen Abu Aqla, I am sure that I speak for all Members of your Lordships’ House, irrespective of what our positions are or where the Government or anyone else may stand, when I say that while we ultimately seek and hope for peace and security for all, I condemn any shocking or tragic death and express our solidarity with those who suffer the tragedy of such actions. This underlines the importance of achieving a resolution to the conflict. It is important that we strive to find peace in the Holy Land.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, it is sad but not surprising that the general opinion piles in to find that Israel is guilty before any investigation is carried out. Will the Minister encourage the Palestinians to hand over the relevant evidence—I believe it is a bullet, and we hope that it will be the right one—for investigation? Will he also encourage the Palestinians to stop their “pay for slay” policy whereby the families of assassins who are in prison are given salaries? That would be one way to cut down the amount of tragic bloodshed in that area.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the tragic killing of Shireen Abu Aqla, it is important that we have made the UK’s position clear. Indeed, on 13 May, with other members of the UN Security Council, we not only condemned the killing but stressed the importance of an

“immediate, thorough, transparent, fair and impartial investigation”

and the need to ensure accountability. In this respect, anyone who has evidence in support of such an investigation needs to bring that forward. It is also important to say that no one who commits these acts achieves any goal towards the important path of peace. What we need at this time is reflection on the tragedy that continues to engulf all communities across Israel and the Palestinian territories but, equally, to ensure that the structures and justice systems act to bring justice for those who suffer as a consequence of these tragic acts.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Thursday 7th April 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, the dire situation in Ukraine has meant that we have lost the focus that we should be directing on an equally dangerous situation regarding Iran. In advancing towards a renewed JCPOA and in trying to escape from reliance on Russian oil and gas, we may end up funding the development of another nuclear state whose political stability, human rights record and disregard for international law is at least as bad as, and probably worse than, Russia’s.

President Biden is leading the craven negotiations with a state, Iran, that has had no compunction in breaching the terms of the 2015 agreement, and whose record is one of imposing the death penalty on minors and protesters, extreme violence against religious minorities and violation of women’s rights, inter alia. The debate for today envisages both the possible return to the JCPOA and the outlook for a regional agreement. We can see that the world is a much more dangerous place than it was in 2015, and the use of nuclear weapons is a reality.

The original JCPOA has been a dangerous failure. It has served only to postpone the problems. The missiles proliferate, and Iran works to destabilise the region through terrorism, making no secret of its ambitions to create nuclear weapons. What for? It was right to impose sanctions on Iran, and the bottom line is that this is what we should continue to do, because no deal with Iran is ever likely to bring peace. The Abraham Accords were and are a step forward, but rather than them rolling on and expanding, the possibility of a renewed JCPOA has frozen normality efforts in the Middle East. President Biden has failed to incentivise nations to make peace with Israel. His main achievement in this area has been to make one reconsider one’s opinion of President Trump’s foreign policy.

Not only Israel but the Gulf states are opposed to the renewed agreement—hardly worth the paper it is written on—with Iran. Iran has continued its nuclear programme to a level just below that required for a nuclear bomb, and, in defiance of the UN, has expanded its ballistic missile programme. Israel obtained the archives that showed up Iran’s lies. We should apply our regard for the rule of law even-handedly. Iran supports various terrorist activities, as the noble Lord, Lord Polak, said. Our strategic review noted Iran as a primary threat to world peace.

Any new agreement needs to tackle those issues and be immediately enforceable through the reimposition of sanctions. Because of Iran’s nuclear advances, a return to the old JCPOA will be a return to an even worse agreement. All limits on Iran’s nuclear programme would expire in 2030. Any attempt to eliminate its stockpile of enriched fuel would mean its moving to another country, possibly Russia, which is keeping on side with Iran and plans to evade trade restrictions with it in a new JCPOA. This is doubly dangerous.

There is more than a danger—a probability—that money from sanctions relief would be placed back in the hands of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Tehran has said that taking the IRGC off the US terror list is a condition of a new agreement. This organisation exists to promote the Islamic revolution, cultivates terrorist networks through the region, attacks shipping, and should be proscribed by the UK. President Biden, not noted for his foreign policy dexterity, is weak enough to agree to de-list the IRGC. Will the Minister explain the UK’s attitude to this disastrous move?

There is just one glimmer of hope in these negotiations: an opportunity to establish a regional mechanism for reducing conflicts and increasing co-operation between states in the region. Will the UK advocate for regional agreement in the context of the current negotiations? If the UK feels it must go forward with a new JCPOA, will the Government at least make it into a broader agreement, addressing regional security, or press for a second, follow-on negotiating track on regional issues? This would also provide some reassurance to the rightly doubtful American lawmakers.

Some Israeli defence experts prefer a bad deal to no deal, hoping that they will get a few years of calm to prepare more defences against Iran and build a stronger Middle East alliance against it. Interestingly, the majority of moderate Arab responses to the JCPOA now are: first, that the US is losing its Arab allies and friends; secondly, that one year after Biden came to power, the Middle East is less secure and stable because of Iran; thirdly, that the Arabs feel betrayed and abandoned by the US, which has lost its credibility and prestige in the Middle East; and fourthly, that a new deal with Iran would pose a real threat, not only to the Arabs but to Israel and the US as well. We are between a rock and a hard place.

UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Thursday 9th December 2021

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind remarks. I share the point that he raises: as I said in an earlier answer, this has gone on for far too long; from both an Israeli and a Palestinian perspective, this needs resolution. I have been to Israel and the Palestinian territories. I have seen for myself the impact the conflict has on both communities. It requires peace negotiations to start again. We are encouraged by recent steps that the US has taken. The position has not changed on recognition of a Palestinian state: we will do so at a time when it serves the peace process in the best way. At the same time, we continue to support and work with the Palestinian Authority. For example, it was invited to, and attended, COP 26 recently.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, the West has supported UNRWA financially for more than 70 years, contributing tens of billions of dollars towards not solving the refugee problem but perpetuating it. Is it not time that UNRWA’s functions were transferred to the United Nations refugee council and the Palestinian Authority for the proper treatment of refugees and their resettlement and advancement? UNRWA is a failure.

Palestine

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Wednesday 7th July 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we continue to work with key partners, including the US, which is of course very important for progress. We continue to engage with both sides, as I have articulated, but, equally, we are supporting efforts such as the work being done with UNRWA in supporting education and skills in the Palestinian Territories. It is important that we continue in that respect to provide hope for the future and the basis of a future independent and viable Palestinian state.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB) [V]
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Does the Minister agree with the opinion of our two most distinguished international lawyers, the late James Crawford and Professor Malcolm Shaw, in whose opinion Palestine is not a state under international law because it does not begin to conform to the criteria set out in the Montevideo convention? It does not have the right requirements to be a functioning lawful state.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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The Government’s position is very clear. We believe that the best and the only way to ensure peace in the region is to have two states side by side, and a Palestinian state must be viable. We continue to invest our efforts in making that issue a reality but, ultimately, it needs both sides to sit down and begin the negotiations so that we can see those two states living side by side in peace.