Sanctions: Russian Individuals

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Thursday 25th April 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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First, I commend my noble friend for summarising exactly the intent of the UK Government and our partners: to go from freeze to seize. All countries in the G7 have been clear on this. There is a meeting in June, which we will be part of, to look specifically at proposals on the table. The focus right now is on a windfall-plus proposal put forward by the United States, which would involve a loan to Ukraine issued by the US and other willing G7 members and repaid over several years from the future profits generated by Russian sovereign assets held in Euroclear. This is just one practical example of the kind of work that we are doing in co-ordination with our key partners.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, I strongly support the idea of sanctioning Mr Putin and his colleagues, but once again I ask the Government to provide some assurance that great care will be taken to protect the great Russian people—many of whom I know—who may have assets and yet have nothing to do with the war in Ukraine and who have never supported Mr Putin anyway, in general. They are at risk as this country and other countries extend the scope and severity of the sanctions against Mr Putin and his colleagues.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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As I have said to the noble Baroness and others, and as I know all noble Lords agree, our fight is not against the Russian people. We have seen the appalling treatment of those Russians who have been brave—let us not forget the tragic case of Mr Navalny. We are currently seeing others being held, and I know noble Lords are very much seized of that. We need to ensure that we stand with the Russian people against the draconian regime which suppresses their rights as well. I add that our own sanctions regime is based on a principle which allows for legal recourse, if an individual or an organisation has been sanctioned unfairly. This again underlines the importance of the system of appealing against sanctions, if the individual or the organisation feels that it has been unfairly applied.

Russia: War Crimes in Ukraine

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Wednesday 17th April 2024

(2 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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On the noble Lord’s final point, he will know that, as the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, I am very much seized of this and we are working with the first lady of Ukraine on the issue. The register is an important element; that is why the UK has been a strong advocate—indeed, at a previous meeting with our European partners, I signed that register on behalf of the United Kingdom. On the accountability mechanism, we are working with key partners, including the US, to ensure that we get the right mechanism to ensure that it is legally based, internationally founded and applied and ultimately provides accountability and support to the tragic victims and survivors of the crimes to which the noble Lord alludes.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, I fully support the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, but can the Minister assure the House that the penalties dished out to Mr Putin and his cronies will be limited to those people responsible for the war crimes in Ukraine? I lived and worked in Russia for several years, and I know a lot of senior Russians who are utterly decent and who would never support the war crimes committed in Ukraine. I appeal to the Minister to assure us that care will be taken in punishing only those responsible.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I can assure the noble Baroness. On a personal anecdote, the noble Baroness talks about Russians. Our fight is not with the Russian people. I know of a child who is at my son’s school whose mother is half-Russian and half-Spanish, and he is not going back to Russia to see his grandparents because of the fear of what consequences may face a young child who has just started off in life.

Recycled Plastics

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Tuesday 13th February 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The noble Baroness raises a very good point. Domestically, we are seeking to increase the supply of recycled plastics and reduce the demand, through regulation and tax, for virgin plastics, but we recognise that whatever we do domestically will not help to solve this global problem. That is why we are a founding member of the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution. At the United Nations Environment Assembly in March, we drove through, with Rwanda and Peru, a commitment to see an end to plastic pollution by 2042.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, the Birmingham expert commission on plastics and the environment, which I chaired, recommended the introduction of a sliding-scale tax on plastic packaging. Can the Minister assure the House that the Government will introduce such a sliding-scale tax, which would greatly benefit the environment?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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We are looking at all sorts of reforms to our measures. The plastic packaging tax increases with inflation and has gone up to £217 per tonne this year. We are continuing to look at extended producer responsibility reforms and to see whether the work that the noble Baroness has talked about has an application in terms of how we deliver these regulations.

Israel-Hamas War: Diplomacy

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Tuesday 12th December 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that as a first step, as I have said, the hostages must be released. It is a no-brainer, as far as I am concerned. Those people were taken, so that will be a vital first step. The other issue to recognise is that we have proscribed Hamas as a terrorist group. It is for Hamas to choose its pathway. Does it want to put down weapons and talk peace? Then say so and put that offer on the table. I alluded earlier to being in Qatar. We are seized of ensuring that, in every country, we deliver the vital messages to those who have influence over Hamas. Given the priority of releasing the hostages and bringing a cessation to the violence we are seeing, Hamas needs to lay down its weapons and say that it no longer wishes to continue to attack Israeli interests.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, does the Minister accept that following the widespread breaches of human rights by both Israel and Palestine over quite a period, it has now become urgent for the international community to bring pressure to bear on them both to replace their leaders with those who genuinely respect the human rights of both communities? Only with such leaders on both sides—it will not do if it is simply on one side —will Israel and Palestine have hope to live in peace in the future.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I am sure the noble Baroness agrees that it is for Israelis and Palestinians to choose who leads them, but I agree with the sentiments that she expresses. It is important that we have people who recognise, as difficult as peace is, how a sustainable peace can be possible. That is why we have committed ourselves to revitalising and energising the peace process that leads to the delivery, in practical terms, of the two-state solution—not just one in which Israel and a Palestinian state live side by side in peace and security but one in which there is a recognition that real strength comes from the inter- dependency of people and communities.

Ukraine: Humanitarian and Economic Support

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Tuesday 5th December 2023

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton Portrait Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his question. There are two answers to that. One is the EPC, this new body that brings together EU members with other European countries, including the United Kingdom. That is a good forum in which to talk about our support for Ukraine. The other is the Ukraine Recovery Conference that we hosted here in June, which will be a regular fixture—other countries will host it—and brings together everybody to make sure that we maximise the economic support. It marshalled something like $60 billion of economic support for Ukraine. So there are ways in which to make sure that we combine effectively with European partners and others to get this essential assistance in place.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, in answer to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, about what the Government are committing in the way of weapons to Ukraine for 2024, the Foreign Secretary made lots of nice phrases and comments—but could he actually answer the noble Lord’s question? What commitment can he make to what weapons there are and how much we are spending on weapons for 2024 for Ukraine?

Lord Frost Portrait Lord Frost (Con)
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My Lords, I appreciate that I am a relative newcomer to this House, but I had understood that in Committee discussion is supposed to focus on the amendments before us. What I have heard today is very much a rerun of the discussion we heard in this place last week, with repeated invocations of issues of principle around this Bill and the protocol, which are extremely important but might not be resolved in this debate simply by repeating the points over and over.

I have been trying to follow the detail of this on my electronic device, with my documents in front of me—I know the technique may not be familiar to everybody in this House, but I am trying my best. I was not intending to speak but, as some points of principle have been raised, I feel it is right to put certain circumstances on record.

I will make three brief points. First, I feel we are having a highly abstract discussion about a very concrete and real situation. Noble Lords all know what is happening in Northern Ireland at the moment and what has happened over the last year and in recent months: the constant, gradual deterioration of the real political situation in Northern Ireland, the undermining of the institutions of the Good Friday agreement, and the degradation of some of the habits of co-operation and working together that we have seen over the years. This is a real situation, which must be dealt with. This Bill is a way of dealing with it and the Government—rightly, in my view—believe it is the best way of doing so.

We have to engage with that. We have to take real-life action to deal with the problems that exist on the ground in Northern Ireland. Important though discussions of international law and a reinvocation of why we signed this agreement may be, they do not deal with the real situation on the ground now. The Government are the Government of this country, and they are right to put forward proposals that deal with this situation. The best way to deal with it would be to expedite this Bill, not to delay, defer or withdraw it. The best contributor to stability in Northern Ireland would be to get this on the statute book and enable people to know what they are dealing with.

Secondly—

Lord Frost Portrait Lord Frost (Con)
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No other noble Lords have taken interventions, so I will complete my points if I may.

It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, who made the points I was about to make about Article 16. When I was on the Front Bench here, I repeatedly stated that the conditions for meeting Article 16 had been met but we would prefer to proceed by negotiation. I was looked at as some sort of barbarian by many people in this House, and elsewhere, for daring to contemplate such a possibility. Yet it now seems that it is what many people would wish to do to resolve this situation—the natural way of doing so. I am very glad that is the view, but I am afraid that my view is that the situation on the ground in Northern Ireland has gone beyond that and Article 16 will not be the best way to resolve that.

Cost of Living: Pensioners

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Thursday 26th May 2022

(2 years ago)

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Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for making those points. I have no desire to wind up noble Lords, but please can we wait and listen to what the Chancellor says? Perhaps then we can speak again about your question.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that, along with some pensioners, the most vulnerable people in our society are those of working age who cannot work, because of disabilities, mental health problems or other issues? I understand from the media reports that the Chancellor will be focusing help on working-age people who can work, urging them into work with incentives and so on. Will the Minister draw to the Treasury’s attention this incredibly vulnerable group of people who will simply not be helped at all, according to press reports about the Treasury support?

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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I confirm to the noble Baroness and the whole House that the Chancellor and his team are cognisant of the issues that the most vulnerable are facing—those who cannot work and those who are in work but wish to do better. He is clear that, as this situation evolves, his response will evolve too. The most vulnerable are at the heart of what the Government want to do, so please be patient.

Ukraine

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Wednesday 30th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I have seen some of the details which have been coming out but, as I said earlier, we have not reached a point where such detailed discussions take place. Of course we have noted some of the points that have been raised. As I said earlier, we will support Ukraine in ensuring that any decision on any negotiation is led and agreed by it.

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Cross Bench!

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, we are having a very polite debate this afternoon. It does not feel as though we are right on the edge of a third world war. Mr Putin is extremely dangerous. He is not used to failure; he is not used to weakness. He does not represent the people of Russia. I worked in a Russian ministry for several years in the 1990s. Those people all want to join the West, but NATO rejected Russia, rejected Gorbachev, rejected Yeltsin and, in the early days, even rejected Putin’s requests—“Come on, let’s be partners. Let’s consider getting into a partnership within NATO.” It all sounds a bit fanciful now. Putin is there; we have to look ahead. Will the Minister take back the point that if we leave this to Ukraine, Russia will tear it apart, literally, limb from limb? NATO bears some responsibility for what is going on. Will the Minister consider that and talk about it with his colleagues?

Women: Cost of Living

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Thursday 10th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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In our debate yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, raised the issue of the higher energy costs due to the method of payment that many people face. I have agreed to take that back to the department, and I will do so. Again, I can make no promises. As for forcing change, I will have a good go.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, yesterday evening, believe it or not, I hosted a dinner for those in the bailiff industry, as I call it, and they are expecting a veritable explosion in debt, because people on benefits simply cannot pay council tax and all the other things they have to pay. Does the DWP have an estimate of that huge explosion in debt? If not, will it please get that information, because it will need it? This can be resolved only by the Treasury, and the DWP needs its ammunition.

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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I am not aware that the information the noble Baroness suggests we should have is there. She makes a good point, and again, I shall go back, talk to my colleagues and try to get that information.

Benefit Sanctions on Jobseekers

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Thursday 3rd February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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Building on the answer that I just gave the noble Baroness on the opposite Benches, if a claimant disagrees with their sanction, they can ask for the decision to be reconsidered and can subsequently appeal against it. There are hardship payments. To emphasise the point, I rang a district manager this morning and said, “Tell me about this Way to Work”. She said, “We love it. We’re very excited about it, we’ve never had so many jobs, and the last thing in the world we want to do is sanction somebody in this environment”—and I believe her.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister referred to the inundation of employers, and I can imagine that, but has any work been done to assess the willingness of employers in different sectors to take on people with no experience in that sector? It is very important that workers on the front line understand.

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes a very good point. The work coaches are well trained and their relationship with employers is gathering momentum. In fact, I heard today that employers are more prepared to take people with no experience in their industry and in fact are also considering taking people they would not normally have taken, such as ex-offenders and those with autism. So, yes, I agree.