Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon debates with Foreign and Commonwealth Office

There have been 175 exchanges between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Thu 17th September 2020 Taiwan (Lords Chamber) 21 interactions (844 words)
Mon 7th September 2020 Treaty Scrutiny: Working Practices (EUC Report) (Grand Committee) 3 interactions (2,739 words)
Thu 3rd September 2020 Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lords Chamber) 19 interactions (742 words)
Wed 12th February 2020 Bahrain: Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (437 words)
Mon 10th February 2020 Taiwan (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (560 words)
Thu 30th January 2020 Middle East Peace Plan (Lords Chamber) 19 interactions (981 words)
Thu 30th January 2020 Iran: Stability in the Middle East (Lords Chamber) 4 interactions (1,973 words)
Wed 29th January 2020 Sudan and South Sudan (Lords Chamber) 15 interactions (566 words)
Wed 29th January 2020 Rohingya Muslims (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (608 words)
Thu 23rd January 2020 Sanctions (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (556 words)
Wed 22nd January 2020 Violence Against Journalists (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (725 words)
Mon 20th January 2020 Kashmir (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (572 words)
Mon 20th January 2020 China: Uighurs (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (612 words)
Wed 15th January 2020 Hong Kong (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (682 words)
Tue 14th January 2020 Iran: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (3,268 words)
Thu 9th January 2020 Sexual Violence Overseas: Treatment of Victims (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (653 words)
Tue 7th January 2020 British Citizens: Working Abroad (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (479 words)
Tue 7th January 2020 Middle East: Security Update (Lords Chamber) 28 interactions (3,487 words)
Tue 5th November 2019 Intelligence and Security Committee Report (Lords Chamber) 19 interactions (1,309 words)
Thu 31st October 2019 Brexit: Engagement with EU on Foreign Affairs (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (652 words)
Thu 24th October 2019 Syria and Iraq (Lords Chamber) 6 interactions (2,096 words)
Thu 24th October 2019 Hong Kong (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (3,266 words)
Wed 23rd October 2019 Yazidis: Attempted Genocide (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (611 words)
Wed 23rd October 2019 North-east Syria (Lords Chamber) 13 interactions (1,115 words)
Thu 17th October 2019 South Africa: Money Laundering and Corruption (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (820 words)
Tue 15th October 2019 Northern Syria: Turkish Incursion (Lords Chamber) 17 interactions (1,356 words)
Tue 15th October 2019 Queen’s Speech (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (3,198 words)
Tue 8th October 2019 Falkland Islands: Landmines (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (669 words)
Tue 8th October 2019 Syria: Withdrawal of US Troops (Lords Chamber) 15 interactions (885 words)
Mon 7th October 2019 Hong Kong: Emergency Powers (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (711 words)
Mon 7th October 2019 Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (Lords Chamber) 15 interactions (1,269 words)
Mon 9th September 2019 Hurricane Dorian (Lords Chamber) 17 interactions (1,055 words)
Wed 4th September 2019 Saudi Arabia: Human Rights (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (704 words)
Tue 3rd September 2019 Hong Kong (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (866 words)
Thu 25th July 2019 China: Organ Harvesting (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (463 words)
Thu 25th July 2019 United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the United States: Leaked Messages (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (1,876 words)
Wed 24th July 2019 FCO Support for Persecuted Christians (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (654 words)
Wed 24th July 2019 Bahrain (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (723 words)
Wed 24th July 2019 Council of Europe: House of Lords Members’ Contribution (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (1,828 words)
Tue 23rd July 2019 Commonwealth: Decriminalising Homosexuality (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (566 words)
Tue 23rd July 2019 Hong Kong (Lords Chamber) 15 interactions (1,151 words)
Mon 22nd July 2019 The Situation in the Gulf (Lords Chamber) 19 interactions (3,687 words)
Mon 8th July 2019 Israel Defense Forces (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (587 words)
Mon 8th July 2019 UK’s Ambassador to the USA (Lords Chamber) 15 interactions (974 words)
Thu 20th June 2019 Anti-Semitism (Lords Chamber) 9 interactions (2,851 words)
Thu 6th June 2019 Sudan (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (599 words)
Tue 21st May 2019 UK Foreign Policy in a Shifting World Order (International Relations Committee Report) (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (3,416 words)
Wed 15th May 2019 Wilton Park (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (536 words)
Tue 14th May 2019 Attacks on Journalists (Grand Committee) 2 interactions (2,092 words)
Mon 13th May 2019 Saudi Arabia: Torture of Political Detainees (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (685 words)
Mon 13th May 2019 Iran and Gulf Security (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (911 words)
Thu 9th May 2019 Nigeria: Fulani (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (638 words)
Thu 9th May 2019 Sri Lanka: UNHCR Refugees (Lords Chamber) 11 interactions (1,545 words)
Thu 9th May 2019 Syria (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (3,039 words)
Wed 8th May 2019 Iran Nuclear Deal (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (1,342 words)
Wed 1st May 2019 Lord Mayor’s Show: Taiwan (Lords Chamber) 18 interactions (765 words)
Wed 1st May 2019 Burma (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (2,230 words)
Wed 1st May 2019 Republic of Guinea-Bissau (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (27 words)
Tue 30th April 2019 Sudan (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (684 words)
Wed 10th April 2019 Hong Kong: Pro-democracy Activists (Lords Chamber) 17 interactions (1,320 words)
Thu 4th April 2019 China: Religious Freedom (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (577 words)
Tue 2nd April 2019 Venezuela: Russian Troops (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (787 words)
Tue 2nd April 2019 Sexual Violence (Grand Committee) 2 interactions (2,170 words)
Mon 1st April 2019 Yemen: Giving Peace a Chance (International Relations Committee Report) (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (2,834 words)
Thu 21st March 2019 War Criminals: International Mechanisms for Prosecution (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (678 words)
Wed 20th March 2019 Brexit: Bilateral Relations with European Union Member States (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (694 words)
Thu 7th March 2019 Yemen: Women and Girls (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (755 words)
Thu 28th February 2019 Nord Stream 2 Pipeline (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (646 words)
Thu 28th February 2019 Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (350 words)
Wed 13th February 2019 Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Grand Committee) 6 interactions (1,736 words)
Mon 11th February 2019 China: Uighur Muslims (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (833 words)
Thu 7th February 2019 Venezuela (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (649 words)
Tue 5th February 2019 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (Lords Chamber) 9 interactions (1,593 words)
Tue 5th February 2019 Sri Lanka (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (1,553 words)
Thu 31st January 2019 Zimbabwe (Lords Chamber) 4 interactions (1,788 words)
Wed 23rd January 2019 Open Doors 2019 World Watch List (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (678 words)
Mon 21st January 2019 Zimbabwe (Lords Chamber) 18 interactions (907 words)
Tue 15th January 2019 Sudan (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (501 words)
Thu 10th January 2019 China: Human Rights (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (546 words)
Thu 10th January 2019 Western Balkans (Grand Committee) 3 interactions (3,374 words)
Wed 9th January 2019 Brexit: UK Nationals (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (781 words)
Wed 9th January 2019 Forced Marriages: Repatriation Charges (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (556 words)
Wed 19th December 2018 China: Uighur Muslims (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (680 words)
Wed 19th December 2018 Yemen (Lords Chamber) 24 interactions (3,268 words)
Tue 18th December 2018 Nigeria: Intercommunal Violence (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (736 words)
Mon 17th December 2018 Rohingya Refugees (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (692 words)
Mon 17th December 2018 Ukraine (Grand Committee) 8 interactions (1,936 words)
Mon 10th December 2018 Freedom of Religion or Belief (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (659 words)
Mon 10th December 2018 Sudan and South Sudan (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (622 words)
Thu 15th November 2018 Yemen (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (1,872 words)
Wed 24th October 2018 Freedom of Religion or Belief (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (665 words)
Wed 24th October 2018 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (774 words)
Tue 23rd October 2018 Jamal Khashoggi (Lords Chamber) 22 interactions (3,166 words)
Mon 23rd July 2018 Jammu and Kashmir: Human Rights Abuses (Lords Chamber) 18 interactions (706 words)
Mon 23rd July 2018 British Overseas Territories: Same-Sex Marriage (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (650 words)
Thu 19th July 2018 Freedom of Religion or Belief (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (871 words)
Thu 28th June 2018 Sudan (Grand Committee) 2 interactions (1,719 words)
Thu 28th June 2018 Violent Extremism (Grand Committee) 2 interactions (1,826 words)
Wed 27th June 2018 Turkey: Prisoners (Lords Chamber) 8 interactions (394 words)
Thu 21st June 2018 Turkey: Pride March (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (637 words)
Tue 12th June 2018 BBC Persian Staff (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (679 words)
Tue 12th June 2018 Burma (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (652 words)
Mon 11th June 2018 Yemen (Lords Chamber) 9 interactions (1,386 words)
Thu 7th June 2018 Palestinian Territories (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (2,788 words)
Thu 24th May 2018 UK and the Western Balkans (IRC Report) (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (2,828 words)
Mon 21st May 2018 Iran and Saudi Arabia: Co-operation on Syria and Yemen (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (804 words)
Mon 21st May 2018 Commonwealth: Discriminatory Legislation (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (580 words)
Mon 21st May 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 47 interactions (7,793 words)
Mon 21st May 2018 United Nations Human Rights Council: Resolution on Gaza (Lords Chamber) 13 interactions (1,104 words)
Tue 15th May 2018 Syria (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (756 words)
Tue 15th May 2018 Gaza (Lords Chamber) 19 interactions (1,050 words)
Thu 10th May 2018 Myanmar (Grand Committee) 2 interactions (1,880 words)
Wed 9th May 2018 Syria: Idlib (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (634 words)
Wed 9th May 2018 Iran Nuclear Deal (Lords Chamber) 26 interactions (3,255 words)
Wed 9th May 2018 European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 2018 (Grand Committee) 5 interactions (1,859 words)
Thu 3rd May 2018 Brexit: Sanctions Policy (European Union Committee Report) (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (3,572 words)
Wed 25th April 2018 Commonwealth Summit: Freedom of Religion or Belief (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (597 words)
Tue 27th March 2018 Israel-Palestine Conflict (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (688 words)
Mon 26th March 2018 Nigeria (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (635 words)
Thu 22nd March 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018 (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (1,628 words)
Thu 22nd March 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018 (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (3,755 words)
Wed 21st March 2018 Commonwealth Summit: Human Rights (Lords Chamber) 18 interactions (628 words)
Tue 20th March 2018 Syria (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (598 words)
Mon 19th March 2018 Foreign Policy: Parliamentary Participation (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (723 words)
Wed 7th March 2018 Saudi Arabia (Lords Chamber) 9 interactions (1,125 words)
Wed 28th February 2018 ISIS: Trial of British Citizens (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (527 words)
Wed 28th February 2018 International Development Committee: Burma Visas (Lords Chamber) 13 interactions (1,398 words)
Mon 26th February 2018 Syria: Humanitarian Situation (Lords Chamber) 13 interactions (1,439 words)
Thu 22nd February 2018 Syria: Eastern Ghouta (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (1,003 words)
Tue 20th February 2018 Commonwealth Summit (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (690 words)
Thu 8th February 2018 Gulf States: Human Rights (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (705 words)
Thu 8th February 2018 Bermuda: Same-sex Marriage (Lords Chamber) 6 interactions (893 words)
Mon 29th January 2018 Turkey: Human Rights (Lords Chamber) 18 interactions (763 words)
Thu 25th January 2018 Brexit: Foreign Policy (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (735 words)
Wed 24th January 2018 Hong Kong (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (678 words)
Wed 24th January 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 17 interactions (2,541 words)
Thu 18th January 2018 Freedom of Religion and Belief (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (735 words)
Thu 18th January 2018 United States: Foreign Policy (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (3,162 words)
Wed 17th January 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 31 interactions (6,626 words)
Mon 15th January 2018 Commonwealth Summit: Faith Leaders (Lords Chamber) 20 interactions (620 words)
Mon 15th January 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 9 interactions (2,845 words)
Mon 15th January 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 26 interactions (4,509 words)
Wed 10th January 2018 Georgia (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (607 words)
Wed 20th December 2017 Syria (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (672 words)
Wed 13th December 2017 Commonwealth Summit 2018 (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (698 words)
Tue 12th December 2017 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 25 interactions (3,637 words)
Mon 11th December 2017 Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Ministerial Guidance (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (608 words)
Mon 11th December 2017 Visit to Oman, UAE and Iran (Lords Chamber) 20 interactions (3,328 words)
Mon 11th December 2017 Sudan and South Sudan (Lords Chamber) 6 interactions (1,777 words)
Wed 6th December 2017 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 8 interactions (1,183 words)
Wed 29th November 2017 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 61 interactions (5,939 words)
Tue 21st November 2017 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 80 interactions (11,358 words)
Mon 20th November 2017 Yemen: Humanitarian and Political Situation (Lords Chamber) 22 interactions (2,949 words)
Thu 16th November 2017 Permanent Structured Cooperation (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (574 words)
Wed 15th November 2017 West Papua (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (634 words)
Wed 15th November 2017 Saudi Arabia and Iran (Lords Chamber) 13 interactions (575 words)
Wed 15th November 2017 Zimbabwe (Lords Chamber) 15 interactions (1,569 words)
Tue 14th November 2017 Daesh: Raqqa (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (1,004 words)
Thu 2nd November 2017 Commonwealth Summit 2018 (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (2,133 words)
Wed 1st November 2017 Terrorism: Sexual Violence (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (569 words)
Wed 1st November 2017 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 8 interactions (6,232 words)
Fri 27th October 2017 Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (1,709 words)
Thu 26th October 2017 UN Security Council: Information Sharing (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (655 words)
Tue 24th October 2017 Raqqa and Daesh (Lords Chamber) 15 interactions (1,088 words)
Thu 19th October 2017 Syria (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (704 words)
Tue 17th October 2017 British American Tobacco (Lords Chamber) 17 interactions (658 words)
Tue 17th October 2017 Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (619 words)
Mon 16th October 2017 Iran: Future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Lords Chamber) 13 interactions (670 words)
Mon 16th October 2017 Northern Cyprus (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (1,486 words)
Thu 12th October 2017 Sri Lanka (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (1,991 words)
Wed 11th October 2017 Burma: Rohingya People (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (592 words)
Tue 10th October 2017 Hurricane Irma: Disaster Relief (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (692 words)
Tue 12th September 2017 Hurricane Irma (Lords Chamber) 20 interactions (3,945 words)
Tue 4th July 2017 Middle East (IRC Report) (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (3,372 words)
Thu 22nd June 2017 Queen’s Speech (Lords Chamber) 4 interactions (5,568 words)

Taiwan

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Thursday 17th September 2020

(1 day, 14 hours ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of the presence of the Chinese Air Force in Taiwan’s airspace; and what steps they are taking to support the independence of that country.

The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the United Kingdom is concerned by any activity that risks destabilising the cross-strait status quo. All sides should refrain from taking provocative actions and resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue. Our long-standing policy on Taiwan has not changed; we have a strong, unofficial relationship with Taiwan based on dynamic commercial, educational and cultural ties.

Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB) [V] - Hansard

I thank the Minister for his response. China clearly rejects international rules and values, as evidenced by events in Hong Kong, on the Sino-Indian border and in the South China Sea, and, most recently, by its repeated aggressive incursions into Taiwan’s airspace. Does not the UK’s reluctance to provide Taiwan with overt political, diplomatic and trade support indicate tolerance for China’s expansionist policies, with particular reference to Taiwan?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, we remain very strong in ensuring that, on the basis I have already outlined, we continue to strengthen our wide range of exchanges with Taiwan, including in relation to trade. Where the recognition of a state is not a prerequisite to any involvement or engagement in international bodies, we have stood up for the right of Taiwan to be part of those discussions—we are very much in favour of that.

Lord Blencathra (Con) - Hansard

Will my noble friend the Minister condemn this further blatant act of aggression by the communist regime in China of threatening its neighbours and stealing islands in the South China Sea? Will he work with all other free, democratic nations to strengthen the military commitment to Taiwan and make it clear that Taiwan is an independent country and not part of the People’s Republic of China?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, as I have already outlined, we have repeatedly stood up on the basis of our relationship with Taiwan. On the actual challenges that Taiwan faces in the context of China, we consider that the Taiwan issue is one to be settled peacefully by the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Again, I reiterate to my noble friend that we call out where there are issues of disagreement with China, and anything that seeks to destabilise the current status quo in the Taiwan Strait is a matter of concern for Her Majesty’s Government.

Lord Kilclooney Portrait Lord Kilclooney (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, increasingly China is exercising its economic, military and political influence, as has been mentioned, in the South China Sea, India, Australia and of course Hong Kong, and in some nations in Africa and Latin America. Is it not time that there was a joint meeting of the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom to agree a joint policy towards China before there is a horrible incident?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, there are many areas of concern, which I have outlined from the Dispatch Box, in China’s recent behaviour and its exercising particular policies and programmes within the context of the South China Sea, to which the noble Lord referred. We have discussed several times in the Chamber, and I am sure will continue to, the recent concerns we have had over the actions it has taken through the security law in Hong Kong and the continued issue of human rights in mainland China, particularly with regard to the Uighurs. These will remain the subject of discussions with our allies, close friends and partners, as the noble Lord suggests.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, the continued campaign to isolate Taiwan by the People’s Republic is limited not just to economic and military issues. There is, obviously, the response by the WHO. Of course, at the time of this pandemic, it is really important that Taiwan is able to input its response into the WHO. We need to ensure that this campaign of isolation does not continue. While I am on the subject of the WHO, what further has the Minister done to raise with it the clear evidence of forced organ harvesting in China? Will the UK argue for an end to self-assessment and a move towards independent verification?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, concerns have been raised with the World Health Organization on the issue of organ harvesting. I know the noble Lord is aware that the evidence does not comply with action in this regard, but I am sure that we will return to those discussions.

On the initial question about the World Health Organization and World Health Assembly, we continue to lobby in that respect. This is an organisation where the criteria that I outlined earlier about statehood not being a prerequisite applies. Given the performance of Taiwan in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, I think that it has an important contribution to make in this regard.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, the US Mission to the UN has tweeted that the UN

“was founded to serve … all voices”

in the world, and that

“Barring … Taiwan … is an affront not just to the … Taiwanese people, but to UN principles.”

Does the Minister agree?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, as I have just said in my previous answer, we regard the relationship with Taiwan as an important one bilaterally. Equally, we believe that Taiwan has a role to play in international organisations where statehood is not a prerequisite. In the current pandemic of Covid-19, Taiwan’s response shows that it can make a valuable contribution. Therefore, we hope that in November, for example, at the World Health Assembly, it is allowed to attend as an observer.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark Portrait The Lord Bishop of Southwark - Hansard

My Lords, this country has recognised the Government in Beijing as the legitimate authority in China since January 1950, with a very distinctive status, as the Minister has acknowledged, for Taiwan, which should be discussed peacefully between the authorities in Taipei and those on the mainland. I am glad to hear about the Minister’s lobbying in connection with the World Health Organization. Would he care to comment on this pattern of marked aggression by the current Chinese Government, which has sought to limit options for people at home and abroad and is so damaging?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right to raise the importance of a peaceful discussion on the issue of Taiwan between people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. I agree with him. Increasingly we have seen human rights issues where China is concerned, and I have spoken on that from the Dispatch Box. Our relationship with China is a strategic one, but that does not prevent us from calling out human rights abuses when they occur.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Portrait Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate (Non-Afl) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, does the Minister accept that any representations that the UK makes in relation to the violation of Taiwan’s airspace by the PRC exemplify the unnecessary weakening of the UK’s authority and soft power brought about by the Government’s cavalier attitude to the admitted breach of international law by their introduction of the internal market Bill, which seeks to alter the provisions of the withdrawal agreement entered into with the European Union and signed by the Prime Minister?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s latter point, I think my right honourable friend the Prime Minister clarified the intent behind the internal market Bill. On the substance of the noble Lord’s question in general, we continue to defend the rights of people around the world, including those in China, where human rights abuses occur and where there are international agreements, as we have talked about before. On the agreements between China and the United Kingdom on Hong Kong, we will continue to lobby to ensure that “one country, two systems” is sustained going forward.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I recently had the pleasure of visiting Taiwan with the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and the noble Lord, Lord Best. I found there a proud, flourishing, democratic country, constantly bullied and threatened by China. Inexplicably, the UK does not recognise Taiwan. What steps have the Government actually taken to remonstrate with China over the recent unprovoked belligerence, and all the other petty measures that it regularly takes to try to intimidate its neighbour?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness about the vibrancy of the democracy. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary congratulated the president on her election at the time. I share the noble Baroness’s concern: whether we are talking about Taiwan or Hong Kong or mainland China, these are deeply concerning issues and we continue to raise them bilaterally, and where necessary in multilateral fora, to ensure that the issues can be addressed quite directly.

Lord Rogan Portrait Lord Rogan (UUP) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is united in its condemnation of China’s incursions into Taiwanese airspace, which are clearly acts of provocation. Have Her Majesty’s Government made their opposition to these actions clear to the Chinese ambassador in London? What consideration has been given to supporting Taiwan in strengthening its military defences as a means of demonstrating our revulsion at Beijing’s arrogant aggression?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord on any attempt to impact the status quo. I say again what I said before: the issue of Taiwan is one to be settled peacefully for both sides. It is important for China to sustain and retain its objective of settling any disputes with Taiwan in a peaceful manner and in the interests of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, the time allocated for this Question has elapsed.

Treaty Scrutiny: Working Practices (EUC Report)

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Monday 7th September 2020

(1 week, 4 days ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, treaties signed by the Government of the day have enormous ramifications for our country and our partners in their agreements. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, they now increasingly have wide policy implications that they have not had in the past, which is why it is so important that Parliament, civil society and the wider public play a role in their development and scrutiny.

I, too, thank the three chairs for their excellent introductions to their respective reports, each of which shines a light on the inadequacies of the current arrangements. As we have heard, the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 is not necessarily fit for purpose. As my noble friend Lady Taylor, chair of the Constitution Committee, said, there has been little time and virtually no opportunity provided for Parliament to have a say prior to the agreement.

Of course, as we have heard in the debate, it is long established that the agreement of treaties is a matter for the Executive, but as we leave the European Union and take on significant new powers in treaty-making, it is right that we consider what scrutiny should be applied to this prerogative, as many noble Lords have said. As the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, said, these three reports can act a cornerstone for those considerations. Each of them makes it clear that the provisions of CRaG do not suffice.

A tick-box exercise whereby the Government can claim that they have engaged with Parliament by laying the treaty under the negative resolution procedure is not a process of scrutiny. Again, as my noble friend Lady Taylor highlighted, the Constitution Committee did not express the view that Parliament should be required to endorse the Government’s mandate prior to commencing treaty negotiations, but it came down firmly in favour of a general principle of transparency from the Government throughout the treaty process. That is what this debate is clearly about, and I hope that the Minister will respond to that specific call.

The Government have also been asked by all the committees about the need to engage more effectively with the devolved institutions throughout the process. We have of course heard about the Constitution Committee’s recommendation and we now have a scrutiny committee, in the form of the EU International Agreements Sub-committee. The point made by my noble and learned friend Lord Golding—no, Lord Goldsmith; it is because I am seeing a note that he is a Whip, but he has hidden it now—is that it is simply not enough to have the committee. We need to ensure that it has sufficient time and is able to consider those necessary reports from the Government. The Government’s response in July 2019 to the Constitution Committee said that the CRaG Act remained

“a viable legal framework for scrutiny.”

However, they committed to engage

“with whatever parliamentary scrutiny structures the Houses implement”,

so it is incumbent on the Minister today to say exactly what that means in respect to the committee that we have established. Exactly what will they do to ensure that there is proper engagement with the committee?

As we have heard, on the general issue of transparency, the Government said in that response that they did not agree that they

“should operate on a presumption of transparency for all treaty negotiations.”

They said that, when deciding what information to make public, they had to balance

“openness against … factors including the risk of undermining the UK’s negotiating position”.

My noble friend Lady Taylor addressed that specific point. Again, it is incumbent on the Minister to set out to us what he sees that balance as being. Exactly how will the Government measure it?

As the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, said in his contribution, our recent trade agreements have included the one announced with Japan, which is of great interest to Members of both this House and the Commons. However, at present, no debate on its provisions is scheduled. We have not had the opportunity to comment properly on it and, unfortunately, present arrangements mean that such trade treaties will be scrutinised only when the Government see fit. I am sure there are many who believe that the Government will never see fit.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned the need for standards in trade agreements. When considering the predecessor Trade Bill in 2019, noble Lords in this House made some 30 amendments covering employment, food and environmental standards, customs arrangements, Northern Ireland—we know that we will talk about Northern Ireland again tomorrow—and the future of EU collaboration. As the then Minister who was taking the Trade Bill through at that time put it,

“no legislation passes the scrutiny of this House without being improved.”—[Official Report, 6/3/19; col. 615.]

She said that “this is unquestionably true” in relation to these issues.

This side of the House strongly believes that the Government need to establish appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals, whether as significant changes to the existing EU ones or new, free-standing FTAs. The International Trade Select Committee and the Lords’ new International Agreements Sub-committee should have early access to negotiating mandates, receive ongoing negotiation reports and have the powers to make recommendations for the final approval of trade treaties and agreements. We must ensure that consumers, trade unions and wider civil society, and the nations and regions of this country, are fully engaged in trade policy.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said, these international arrangements are not limited to trade agreements. She mentioned extradition treaties as an example. This was recently the subject of debates on the extradition Bill. The Minister will recall that I previously tabled a Motion which led to the debate on the extradition treaty with Kuwait. I was pleased that the Government found time for that debate and allayed my concerns over the extradition of those who may face the death penalty. However, there is no single mechanism—no guarantee that Parliament will have that opportunity to scrutinise. As my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith said, we need proper structures for appropriate, democratic oversight. I repeat that it is incumbent on the Minister to set that out in very clear terms this evening, in response to these three excellent committee reports.

The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. I am going to say something which I have probably never said before in your Lordships’ House: I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. He described these parliamentary reports as “excellent”. I fear that that is where our agreement may come to a very Lord-like difference of opinion. I am, nevertheless, truly grateful to noble Lords for their insightful contributions to this excellent debate. I also echo the sentiments of other noble Lords in acknowledging the sterling work done by my noble friend Lord Boswell during his tenure.

I thank all noble Lords present, all committees and staff for their excellent work in the production of these reports. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, reminded the Committee that, whatever the new norm will be, life has changed. It is, therefore, a particularly strong testament to everyone involved that in the same 12 months that these reports were produced, Parliament has established a dedicated treaty committee, with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, as an exemplary chair. I welcome my early engagement with that committee.

I know the noble Lord, Lord McNally, well. One of my first jobs in government was to serve as his Whip. Those who have seen the noble Lord perform at the Dispatch Box will appreciate my great skill in ensuring that the words “Keep Calm and Carry On” were regular reflections of the exchanges that we had. I hope that, if I am not able to directly answer all the comments in the course of my remarks, I shall be able to provide the level of warm reassurance that the noble Lord mentioned.

The production of these reports is testament to the magnitude of the issue being considered today: how the United Kingdom negotiates and concludes our international treaties. As always, I listened very carefully from the outset. The noble Lords, Lord Whitty and Lord Foulkes, and my noble friend Lord Balfe talked about how the committee itself should be governed and operate. I noticed that there was a difference between my noble friend’s perspective and what the noble Lords, Lord Whitty and Lord Foulkes, suggested on whether it should be a Joint Committee. As I am sure noble Lords will acknowledge, this is very much for Parliament itself. I engage directly with the Joint Committee on Human Rights in my capacity as Human Rights Minister and the Government look forward to working with any scrutiny mechanisms established by Parliament within the CRaG framework. I also welcome the International Agreements Sub-Committee, established in April this year.

It would be remiss of me not to pick up on the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, about the recent remarks that have been made and where we currently are in negotiations with our EU partners. In reflecting on the excellent contribution of my noble friend Lady Noakes, the noble Baroness said that my noble friend was looking at the past. I fear that my noble friend was attempting to remind noble Lords of the present: where we are today. We have left the European Union and therefore it is important, as the UK moves forward, to recognise that we will have full control of our treaty policy.

It is also right that Parliament takes a heightened interest in how the Government conduct their treaty negotiations. That has been reflected in the excellent debate today. We are at a crucial juncture in our constitutional order, and at this early stage I recognise that strong governance, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, reminded us, is vital. Our actions this year will set a precedent for the UK’s international agreements long into the future. However, the constitutional balance, which my noble friend Lady Noakes mentioned in her remarks, also requires us to be cautious about not tying the Executive’s hands.

The three reports considered today recognise that treaty-making is, of course, a function of the Government, subject to appropriate parliamentary scrutiny. That scrutiny is provided for, as all noble Lords acknowledge, in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, which enshrines the principles of parliamentary accountability in our international treaty relations. In the Government’s response to the previous reports—I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, that I too hoped that we would have published my response to the report, but I hope we will issue it very shortly—we fully acknowledged the case for improving processes around the way the Act is implemented to ensure effective parliamentary scrutiny.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Donaghy and Lady Northover, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, among others mentioned the CRaG Act. They also recognised the reforms that have taken place. As we know, the Act is barely 10 years old. The fundamental nature of treaties has not changed significantly in that time and it is the Government’s view that CRaG respects the balance between the need for parliamentary accountability and the fundamental right of the Executive to negotiate for the UK internationally, exercising their powers under the royal prerogative. The rule is a result of centuries of constitutional practice, as we have heard, and it serves an important function. The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act allows the United Kingdom to speak clearly, with a single voice as a single actor under international law.

As noble Lords will also understand, negotiating a treaty is an art. However, I also acknowledge the contribution from my noble friend Lord Moynihan, who importantly reminded us of the strength and skills in our own parliamentary democracy, particularly—I add with perhaps a degree of bias—the expertise that we find in your Lordships’ House. At some stage, though, in the negotiations themselves, both sides will have to offer compromises. I am sure, however, that many noble Lords will recognise that these compromises are best kept in reserve. I was in business for more than 20 years prior to joining the Government, and I learned that all negotiations require the need for big sleeves. Announcing your position in advance often risks giving your negotiating partner the upper hand. Sometimes, of course, confidentiality—which many noble Lords mentioned—will be key. We are, of course, reminded of the Good Friday agreement.

However, if we are too prescriptive in the requirements that we make around CRaG, we risk tying our negotiators’ hands. Negotiators must be equipped to represent the national interest to the best effect. Equally, however, I respect the necessity, as has been said today, that they remain mindful of Parliament’s interests. As any Minister negotiating a treaty will be aware, the importance of Parliament’s role cannot in any way be ignored. Knowing that Parliament can resolve itself against ratification or may need to pass implementing legislation is an important consideration during the course of negotiations and in engaging with Parliament under CRaG.

The issues of CRaG, its reform and how Parliament moves forward with scrutiny were also matters of much debate in this regard. In the time I have I will pick up on some of the specific questions that were asked about the Government’s current position. As I already said, further details will emerge from the formal response that the Government will issue to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith.

What has changed since CRaG was adopted, though, is the level of public interest now that the UK has control of its treaty policy, as the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, highlighted. I say to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and others that the Government welcome this increased interest. We accept that this justifies increased engagement and information within the CRaG framework whenever possible. As I said, this will vary at times due to individual negotiations but could include engagement through the negotiation process before an agreement is formally laid before Parliament under the Act.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, also talked of the importance of parliamentary scrutiny. The Government acknowledge that, and I add that we also believe that parliamentary scrutiny does not necessarily end with ratification. I assure noble Lords that the Government are committed to publishing all treaty amendments, not just those that require ratification and thereby trigger CRaG. Likewise, for other implementations, derogations or withdrawals, we look forward to working with the International Agreements Sub-Committee to provide transparency effectively and appropriately.

On living up to these commitments, our response has to date focused on the important issue of trade deals—an area where there has been significant recent interest, for understandable reasons. I am pleased to note the positive response to the bespoke approach of colleagues in government, particularly those in the Department for International Trade, in this respect. This point was acknowledged by several noble Lords. Its regime of engagement and transparency allows for effective scrutiny of trade agreements. I suggest to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and reassure the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, that we have seen through the recent compressive publications before negotiations—whether with the US, Japan, which the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, mentioned specifically, Australia or New Zealand—that the DIT, as well as other departments, will continue to keep Parliament informed through regular updates on negotiation progress.

In addition, the Government will also seek to allow time before finalising a new free trade agreement and laying it before Parliament under CRaG. That will allow the relevant scrutiny committee to produce an independent report. This open and detailed process will help Parliament and the public understand the agreement and its implications. This reflects the Government’s continued commitment to transparency.

I will pick up on some of the specific questions. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, and other noble Lords mentioned the 21-day timescale. In this regard, the Government commit to continue the regular constructive meetings between officials and those in the committees. In addition, it might be appropriate in certain cases for the Government to share a signed or initial treaty text with the relevant Select Committee or the IAC in advance of laying formally under CRaG to help the committee manage its scrutiny workload. This is especially appropriate for the FTAs, as I mentioned, and the Government will seek, as I said, to allow time between finalising a new FTA and laying it before Parliament under the CRaG procedure. The noble and learned Lord asked specifically about the timescales, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. The Government will consider the use of Section 21 of CRaG, whereby Ministers can extend 21 sitting days where appropriate.

Another issue that came up from several noble Lords was MoUs. This was a matter of discussion between me and the committee during our exchanges. As noble Lords reminded us, MoUs are used where it is appropriate to include a statement of political intent or political undertaking. In general terms, MoUs are drafted in non-legally binding language to reflect political commitments. They are not binding as a matter of international law and are not published or laid before Parliament as a matter of government practice. Particular elements of this, including the Ponsonby rule, were covered by the noble Lord, Lord Beith, and the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza. In situations where MoUs raise questions of public importance, it might be appropriate for the Government to draw such matters to Parliament’s attention; for example, by way of a Written Ministerial Statement. Other measures are available to Ministers, as my noble friend Lady Noakes reminded your Lordships. However, it is not the Government’s intention routinely to submit MoUs for scrutiny.

The issue of devolved Administrations approving treaties that affect devolved issues was raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Taylor and Lady Donaghy, and the noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria and Lord Collins, among others. The United Kingdom Government recognise that the devolved Administrations have a strong interest in international policy-making in relation to devolved and reserved matters that impact on the distinct interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I assure noble Lords that the Government remain committed to working constructively with the devolved Administrations to facilitate the effective implementation of our international obligations.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, mentioned ways of scrutiny in other countries. My noble friend Lord Lansley also reminded us of the importance of scrutiny. As I have said, the Government welcome the establishment of the IAC and will engage quite directly. In preparation for this debate, I looked at some of the measures deployed by other countries. JSCOT, the Australian scrutiny committee, has a sifting mechanism—the noble and learned Lord mentioned this—and we see its value. It is in the Government’s interest to ensure that the most qualified committees scrutinise relevant treaties. Whereas under CRaG we allow 21 days, it is my understanding that the Australian committee currently has 15 days to scrutinise a particular treaty.

Human rights were also rightly raised—the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, talked of their importance. I assure noble Lords that none of the 20 continuity trade agreements already signed has reduced standards in any area. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister outlined in his Greenwich speech, we remain committed to upholding high environmental, human rights and labour standards. The recent merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the Department for International Development aligns the importance of our values agenda with our development policy. For example, when transitioning the EU deal with the Republic of Korea, we agreed a joint statement on human rights within a separate political declaration signed by our ambassador and the vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs in Seoul. That was published on 21 August 2019. More widely, the Government have already committed to set out in Explanatory Memoranda whether there are any significant human rights implications so that departments consider the human rights implications of all treaties.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Taylor and Lady Northover, the noble Lords, Lord Beith and Lord Whitty, and my noble friend Lord Lansley mentioned the importance of confidential briefings. The IAC report specifically acknowledged the limits of sharing confidential information regarding FTAs. The Government have a responsibility to protect UK interests in our international negotiations and to ensure that we do not release information that would undermine our negotiating position or our partners’ legitimate expectations of confidentiality. I know that noble Lords agree on this important principle. However, in line with our commitment to transparency and to aid parliamentary scrutiny, we have already seen our DIT colleagues share information where appropriate with the IAC on a confidential basis to keep it apprised of our FTA negotiations. Likewise, the Government will assess whether to give confidential briefings on a case by case basis.

I am coming to the end of my time. In acknowledging the excellence of the debate we have had, and the debate that I am sure will continue, I give a continued commitment in my capacity now as Minister of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to engage. I underline that the Government value parliamentary scrutiny and look forward to engaging closely with the committee in this respect. I assure all noble Lords that no one doubts that Parliament’s role is to hold Ministers to account. Equally, I am sure that all noble Lords recognise that the Government have a responsibility to secure the best outcome when it comes to the national interest in our international negotiations.

One yardstick by which the country will be measured going forward is our record as a sovereign and independent nation on negotiating and concluding new treaties that reflect our new status. Therefore, there is a balance to strike, as I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Collins. But let me assure noble Lords that we believe that the framework of the CRaG continues to strike that balance. With the additional engagement that I have outlined today, which of course will be detailed in response to the noble and learned Lord’s report, I believe that we will be able to provide more reassurance to all noble Lords about the Government’s commitment to transparency and to work with the committee in a constructive and progressive way.

With the additional engagement and information-sharing measures that I have outlined this afternoon, I hope that I have provided a degree of those warm words for the noble Lord, Lord McNally, among others, with the added reassurance that the Government remain absolutely committed to working with Parliament for the effective scrutiny of our international agreements and obligations.

Lord Goldsmith (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I want to start by thanking the Minister for what were not just warm words—there was some substance in them as well. We will study them very carefully. I know that he would have wanted to respond in more detail in writing to the report before today, if he had been able to do so, and I recognise that.

With the Minister, this has been an enormously valuable debate, and I think so for two particular reasons. First, it is because of things that noble Lords have said, to which we will go back many times, I imagine, to see just what they are. It is not just about the new touchstone for parliamentary ignorance from the noble Lord, Lord Beith of whether you can distinguish you Ponsonby rule from your CRaG Act. It is also about the very important political statements about the importance of the job of scrutiny of international treaties. The second reason is that, with one notable exception, the Committee has almost unanimously been of the view that scrutiny by Parliament of international agreements is something that has to take place and has to take place in an effective way. The ideas and thoughts that have come from noble Lords are important. I suppose that it has not been before its time. Even in terms of the British Parliament, taking 150 years to come to the recognition that actually treaties are just as important as domestic laws is not that bad.

There are two points that I hope the Minister will take from the debate. One was the comment made by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, about the importance of having evidence-based scrutiny. That is one of the reasons why the time to consider treaties is important. We want to hear from stakeholders and the public what they think, and 21 sitting days is not enough to do that. It is important to have that evidence, and we believe that it will help the Government, because they will need to know what the issues are so that they can, I hope, take them into account when they negotiate the treaties.

The second point, which was made by my noble friend Lady Taylor of Bolton, was about the Government’s attitude. She suggested that that was the most important thing, and we look for not just warm words but an attitude of government that is determined to see scrutiny operate effectively. Of course, ultimately, the Government make the decisions, but we believe that they will be guided and helped by scrutiny from this place.

I would like to feel that this debate, which has gone extremely well, has taken account of what we said, particularly at paragraph 32 of our report, which is that it may be—and we hope it is—that in a pragmatic way we will be able to conduct the necessary scrutiny without amendment to the law. If not, we will look at that and give fair warning of that. This debate has perhaps fired the starting pistol on that warning, and we will come back to it.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Thursday 3rd September 2020

(2 weeks, 1 day ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V] - Hansard

From its formation in 1997, the Department for International Development supported the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, and built Britain’s reputation as a world leader in aid and development. It is clear already that these principles are an afterthought for the new FCDO, with recent reports that the Government will abolish the 0.7% target in an attempt to blur the lines over what constitutes aid. Can the Minister commit today that there will be no revocation of the provisions of the International Development Act 2002, which guarantees that all aid spending must combat poverty?

The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I regret that I totally disagree with the noble Lord. The coming together of the two departments as a merger will strengthen the global reach of our development capacity and capabilities. Yes, I can confirm our continued commitment to the 0.7% target. It was a Conservative-led coalition Government who brought that into law.

Lord Bruce of Bennachie Portrait Lord Bruce of Bennachie (LD) [V] - Hansard

I urge the Government to make an early statement of coherent development policy objectives for the new department. I am glad that the Minister has reaffirmed the 0.7% but the Government have given conflicting messages on this issue, implying that the already slashed budget may be diverted elsewhere. The Secretary of State gave an evasive answer to my colleague Layla Moran yesterday, so I am glad that the Minister here has given a straight answer today. The workload of monitoring development and working with ICAI is surely beyond the effective capacity of one committee, so will the Government recognise that we need a dedicated committee to deal with this, which happened when the ODA was within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the time of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

Parliamentary committees are very much a much a matter for Parliament, but certainly my right honourable friend the Prime Minister’s view is that they should reflect departments. The noble Lord mentioned ICAI and that will continue, although this provides an opportunity to review its governance and ensure that it is fully aligned with the new department.

Lord Jay of Ewelme Portrait Lord Jay of Ewelme (CB) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, there is a lot in the Statement about global Britain. Does the Minister agree that in the eyes of both the developed and the developing worlds, the success of global Britain will depend on the maintenance of a high-quality global aid programme? Will he once again scotch rumours of a raid on the 0.7% target by other departments?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I reassure the noble Lord, a former PUS to what was the Foreign Office, that I have already given a commitment to the 0.7% target. Yes, global Britain is about our development leadership and our diplomacy, and the FCDO brings the two together.

Lord Bates Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Bates) (Con) - Hansard

I call the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper. She is not there, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Boateng.

Lord Boateng Portrait Lord Boateng (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, poverty and hunger are fuelled by instability and conflict. Will the Minister give the House the assurance that the new department will work closely with the Ministry of Defence in addressing those issues, that there will be adequate funding—indeed, an increase in funding—for that, and that it will be subject to scrutiny by this House and the other place to ensure aid effectiveness?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

One of the great and obvious advantages of our parliamentary system is the scrutiny that the noble Lord alludes to, and I am sure that that will continue through Statements, Questions, Urgent Questions and so on. However, I assure him that, not just through the creation of the new department but through the integrated review, our international capabilities will be very much aligned through the FCDO and the Ministry of Defence.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V] - Hansard

On 16 June, the Prime Minister said that the guiding principle of the new department would be promoting the UK’s national interest overseas. Does the Minister agree that, at least in theory, there could be the possibility of a clash between promoting that national interest—for example, by supporting a prestigious project which has been much wanted by the beneficiary Government—and supporting the most vulnerable communities in that country? If there is the possibility of this clash, what monitoring process will be in place to really ensure that those most vulnerable communities are not pushed aside?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the noble and right reverend Lord has talked to two sides of the same coin. I think that our national interest reflects the importance of investing in the interests of the most vulnerable communities, of looking at responding to humanitarian challenges as we see them, and of alleviating poverty and famine. Those will very much remain priorities for this new department.

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top Portrait Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top (Lab) [V] - Hansard

Do the Government recognise that one reason that this country has done well internationally is precisely that DfID has been outside the FCO? Four out of five of the fastest-growing economies last year were in Africa, and many of those countries really appreciated that we had moved from the department that they associated with colonialism to one that was focused on their needs and on working in partnership with them. What criteria for success will the Government have for development in the new department?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, in advance of the announcement of the new merged department but also during the current pandemic, this Government have repeatedly outlined, and put money behind, their priority of standing up for the most vulnerable. The Gavi summit, led by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, was a very good example of that. I assure the noble Baroness that the work that DfID has done over many years is recognised, and we are now leveraging the full potential and strength of our development leadership alongside the strength of our diplomatic network.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative was given an amber/red score in the latest review by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which raised concerns about the lack of funding, strategic planning and long-term programming. Will the Government ensure that the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative is put at the heart of the work of the new department and that the initiative receives all necessary support so that the United Kingdom meets the commitments that we made at the 2014 global summit?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, as the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, I assure my noble friend that this remains very much at the heart of our work. As I have mentioned to her previously, I am keen to ensure that there is a long-term, three-year rolling strategy that ensures that we build on what we have achieved on this important agenda.

Baroness Uddin Portrait Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I echo the words of the noble Baronesses, Lady Armstrong and Lady Helic; I agree with them entirely. The Minister will be aware that Bangladesh is struggling in dealing with the Rohingya refugees. I hope that commitment from the new department will continue. Is he also aware of the work of University College Hospital? Its CPAP campaign is working with Bangladesh, preparing to provide, immediately, very cost-effective ventilators, which Bangladesh very much needs. Would the Minister consider meeting with me and the team at UCL to discuss this and find a way to support this programme?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, let me assure the noble Baroness that I would be happy to meet with her and the team. Let me add to this the reassurance that during the current pandemic, as the Minister responsible for south Asia, I have been working very proactively with both the Government of Bangladesh, as well as other Governments across south Asia—as my colleagues have in other parts of the world—to ensure that our response to the Covid pandemic does reflect the needs the most vulnerable around the world. I look forward to meeting with the noble Baroness in due course, and I have received her correspondence in this respect.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I declare my interests as stated in the register.

The Statement concludes that the new FCDO will project the UK as an ever-stronger force for good in the world. “Good” would mean supporting our US allies in extending the arms embargo on the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime. “Good” would mean not only wholeheartedly and unconditionally welcoming the UAE-Israel agreement but also helping to build on it. “Good” would also mean consistently voting in the right camp at the United Nations, and ensuring that our generous aid to the Palestinians is rechannelled directly to the Palestinian people, because we know that so much of it is being misused and misappropriated. Can I therefore ask the Minister whether the new department will acknowledge where mistakes have been made and correct them? Then, we can indeed project the UK as an even stronger force for good in the world.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend, that it is important that we talk about our role as a force for good. As Minister for Human Rights, I believe that the merger of the Foreign Commonwealth Office with the Department of International Development allows us to directly align our values agenda with the important support we give to the most vulnerable communities around the world. The noble Lord mentioned, in particular, the recent agreement reached between the UAE and Israel. He knows that I welcome that, and I know the UK Government have welcomed that, as forward progress in reaching out and ensuring that we see lasting peace in the Middle East. It is an important step forward. On the issue of the UN and the United Kingdom’s consistency of statements, as he will be aware, we have, for example, strengthened our position on the Human Rights Council. I agree with my noble friend: not only the Palestinian people but any recipient of aid, anywhere in the world, must be the direct beneficiary. Where there are shortcomings, and things need to improve, we will do just that.

Bahrain: Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Wednesday 12th February 2020

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to continue to provide funds for Bahrain through the Integrated Activity Fund following the decision of the Fourth Supreme Court of Appeals in Bahrain to uphold the death sentence in respect of Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, progress on human rights reform has been made, but there remains more to do. The United Kingdom is committed to supporting Bahrain-led reform, including through carefully targeted assistance and private and public engagement. We are clear that disengaging or criticising from the sidelines is less likely to deliver the positive reform that Bahrain and the international community seek.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD) - Hansard

I have been given the official dossier from the Bahraini Special Investigations Unit, which reveals that its investigation into the torture allegations of the death row inmates Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa was inconsistent, contradictory and contravenes international standards. The dossier shows that the SIU, which the noble Lord maintains is transparent, is quite the opposite and implicated now in human rights abuses. In the light of this, will the Minister agree to a meeting with me and representatives from the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy to discuss this dossier, the IAF funding and why these two men transpire to have been deemed guilty by the Bahraini authorities even before they went to the dock?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I am always happy to meet and we can look into that. On the noble Lord’s more specific point, I beg to differ. It was because of the United Kingdom’s investment in and provision of technical support, particularly for the oversight authorities, that the cases of Hussain Moosa and Mohamed Ramadan were looked at again. The noble Lord shakes his head but that is a fact. Of course, we regret the fact that the death penalty prevails as a form of sentencing in Bahrain. In that respect, I assure the noble Lord that I, the ambassador and my right honourable friend Dr Murrison, the Minister responsible, have made it known that we do not believe the death sentence should prevail, and we will continue to make that case to the Bahraini authorities.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord makes the point about positive engagement and seeking change, and I know that the UK is funding the alternative non-custodial sentencing programme. However, we now have a report from eight UN experts on this programme, saying that it discriminates against human rights defenders. What does the noble Lord say about that when he is the Minister responsible for human rights and his own programmes are discriminating against them?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

Given his background, I am sure the noble Lord will know that we worked directly with UNDP on that programme and we have been working on this issue. He raised the issue of alternative sentencing and we have seen positive outcomes: up to 1,000 people have now been looked upon for alternatives to prison sentences. The noble Lord rightly raises genuine concerns about human rights and those continue. As I said in my original Answer, we are far from where we want to be but our continual engagement with the Bahraini authorities is producing results.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Portrait Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (Con) - Hansard

Does the Minister agree that the British judicial system is one of the best in the globe, if not the best, and that many countries have benefited through training from our judicial systems? Can he offer additional training to some of the countries that we know well have uncertain outcomes of their judgments? I know how much judges of the countries I serve in welcome visits, support and training from our judicial system.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My noble friend makes a helpful suggestion, but we are seeking to do more. In this respect, judges from Bahrain have visited Crown Courts and magistrates’ courts in the United Kingdom and we continue to engage with the judiciary on this point.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, in the past hour the UN has called on Bahrain to prevent the execution of these two men, saying:

“Admission of evidence obtained under torture into any proceeding violates the rights to due process and fair trial and is prohibited without exception. If carried out in these circumstances, the death penalty would constitute an arbitrary killing.”

Does the Minister agree?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I am aware of those reports, but I have not seen the full detail. On a previous occasion last year, when the death penalty was also passed, I made a direct intervention. Unfortunately, that death sentence was not reversed. Subsequently, at the Human Rights Council, we made specific reference under Item 2 on the death penalty and will continue to do. I will review the report the noble Baroness mentioned on my return. It remains the consistent position of the United Kingdom Government that the death penalty should not be part of sentencing policy. We continue to make that case with Bahrain and elsewhere.

Taiwan

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Monday 10th February 2020

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Baroness Falkner of Margravine Portrait Baroness Falkner of Margravine - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their policy towards Taiwan, and in particular on (1) security, and (2) international engagement issues.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the United Kingdom’s long-standing policy on Taiwan is unchanged. The UK and Taiwan have a strong but unofficial relationship based on dynamic commercial, educational and cultural ties. We support Taiwan’s participation in international organisations where statehood is not a prerequisite, and Taiwan can make a valuable contribution. On security, we are concerned by any activity that risks destabilising the status quo. Issues should be settled between people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine Portrait Baroness Falkner of Margravine (Non-Afl) - Hansard

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware of fresh Chinese attempts at economic coercion against Taiwan since the re-election of President Tsai Ing-wen last month, including attempts at the United Nations to stop parliamentarians engaging with her Government? Does he agree that when China presents its “one country, two systems” policy to Taiwan alongside military threats, along with the tangible example of Hong Kong, that is more likely to convince the Taiwanese to be rather sceptical of Chinese assurances as to their future?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

On the structure and the relationship with Taiwan, as I said in my original Answer, it remains the Government’s view that it is very much for those on both sides of the Taiwan Strait—representatives in Taiwan and China—to determine the best way forward in the interests of the people of Taiwan. As for the noble Baroness’s broader question on the United Nations, as I have said, for organisations such as ICAO and the World Health Organization, our view is that being a state is not a prerequisite to membership. We remain very clear, with our like-minded partners, that Taiwan’s contribution to those organisations is important and that it has a vital role to play.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I declare my interest as the Government’s trade envoy to Taiwan; the Minister will know that this constrains me a little in what I can say in the Chamber. Will the Minister take back to his right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary the very great satisfaction among the friends of Taiwan at the statement made by Mr Raab after the legislative and presidential election? He offered warm congratulations to the people of Taiwan on the smooth conduct of those elections, and to Dr Tsai Ing-wen and her party on her re-election.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I will of course be pleased to take back those comments to my right honourable friend. It is important that we recognise the democratic process in Taiwan. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the noble Lord’s work on the relationship between the United Kingdom and Taiwan, specifically on trade. It is, I am sure, in part his efforts, alongside those of British companies, that have resulted in a rising level of trade. Indeed, UK exports to Taiwan grew by 40.8% last year.

Baroness Fall (Con) - Hansard

Does the Minister believe that the President of the United States would feel bound by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act? It states that America will

“consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States”,

and will

“make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.”

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, my noble friend will appreciate that it is not for me to comment on United States policy. I can, however, reaffirm that the United Kingdom remains committed to our relationship with Taiwan. As I said in response to an earlier question, we are committed to the importance of trade and culture, and we have seen the prosperity of that: the economy of Taiwan is bigger than that of many Asian economies. It is important that we strengthen our work in this respect. On the wider point of resolving any issues between Taipei and Beijing, it is important that both sides negotiate the issues that need to be addressed. That is the best way forward.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I agree with the Minister: the ultimate relationship has to be determined by those two entities. However, he mentioned multilateral organisations, in particular the World Health Organization. We are currently facing a global crisis, and it is important that countries and entities such as Taiwan play their full part in it. What representations has he made to the WHO to ensure that Taiwan can play a full part in the work to ensure that the public interest and the people of the world are put first, before politics?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I agree with the noble Lord. Indeed, in preparing for the Question, I asked how many identifiable cases of coronavirus there are in Taiwan; currently there are eight. It is important that it is part and parcel of the solution. I assure the noble Lord that we continue to support representations that the Department of Health has made directly in lobbying for Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization. We are also working with like-minded countries, including the United States and Australia, to ensure that, at the World Health Assembly which takes place in May this year, Taiwan is represented.

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, Taiwan is a democracy, and yet it is being denied recognition by many Governments across the world. We now have a situation, as has been pointed out, where the World Health Organization, which prides itself on promoting inclusive health for all humanity, has excluded Taiwan from its membership and does not allow it to participate in the World Health Assembly. What are we doing with the World Health Organization to ensure that Taiwan has at least a slot in the World Health Assembly at this stage?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I have always wanted to say this from the Dispatch Box: I refer the noble Lord to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Lord Broers Portrait Lord Broers (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, is the Minister aware of Taiwan’s importance when it comes to semiconductor technology? Taiwan leads the world in making semiconductor chips. In fact, it is said that the latest artificial intelligence and machine learning chips can be made only in Taiwan; they cannot be made even in the United States.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Lord makes a very important point. It is why the United Kingdom is very committed to growing our trading relationship with Taiwan. Currently, more than 300 UK companies are located across a variety of sectors, including the one the noble Lord mentioned.

Middle East Peace Plan

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Thursday 30th January 2020

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer given by the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa to an Urgent Question in another place. The Statement is as follows:

“As the Foreign Secretary made clear in the Statement on Tuesday, the Government welcome the release of the United States proposal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It clearly reflects extensive investment in time and effort. A peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that leads to peaceful coexistence could unlock the potential of the entire region and provide both sides with the opportunity for a brighter future.

Only the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian territories can determine whether proposals can meet the needs and aspirations of the people they represent. We encourage them to give these latest plans genuine and fair consideration and explore whether they might prove a first step on the road back to negotiations.

The United Kingdom’s position has not changed. Our view remains that the best way to achieve peace is through substantive peace talks between parties, leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states and a just, fair, agreed and realistic settlement for refugees.

Our first priority now must be to encourage the United States, Israelis, Palestinians and our partners in the international community to find a means of resuming the dialogue necessary for securing a negotiated settlement. The absence of a dialogue creates a vacuum, which fuels instability.”

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East is a two-state solution negotiated with the consent of both sides. I note that the Government have welcomed this proposal, but surely it is striking that it has been published after consultation with only one of those states. If we are to find a diplomatic resolution, the Palestinian Authority must be involved in the process. Does the Minister agree that the involvement and consent of Palestine is vital for any agreement?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important point, and I believe I have covered that in part in the Statement I have just repeated: the UK’s

“view remains that the best way to achieve peace is through substantive peace talks between parties, leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps”

and

“Jerusalem as the shared capital”.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, this plan goes contrary to international law. It is an annexation plan and would give the Palestinians no control over their borders, water or security, no port and no airport—to mention just a few points. Yet the Government’s press release—I notice the Minister has added a few words to the end of it—welcomed this as “a serious proposal” that should be given “genuine and fair consideration”. How can the Government claim that in leaving the EU we will be better placed to fight for the rules-based international order and human rights? If annexation goes ahead, what will the Government do to protect international law?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Baroness suggested that I added certain lines. Just for clarity I should say that, as she knows from her own experience, that is not how government works. I have stated the Government’s position, which again restated that, as far as we are concerned,

“the best way to achieve peace is through substantive peace talks”.

She is right to raise concerns about annexation. We have always retained and sustained, and I reiterate again, that any annexation of any lands would be against and contrary to international law.

Lord Grocott Portrait Lord Grocott (Lab) - Hansard

Can the Minister confirm absolutely clearly that this proposal involves further annexation of Palestinian land? Is there any other part of the world where the Government sanction annexation of neighbouring territories or even countenance it? Further, although he repeats the commitment to a two-state solution, as all Ministers of all parties have, can he confirm that this latest proposal manifestly makes any possibility of a two-state solution almost impossible?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, as the noble Lord rightly says, I have stated what the United Kingdom’s position is, as is entirely appropriate. This proposal has been put forward by the United States. Like any peace proposal or peace plan, it is worth consideration. It has been described as a first step. I agree with the noble Lord that, as I have said before and continue to say, any settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians has to be credible, has to be accepted and must involve consideration by both sides. We hope the current proposal on the table means that the Palestinians will also seek to engage on this, but as I have reiterated, from our perspective this is a first step.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick Portrait Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I share some of the reservations that have been expressed about the position that the Government have taken, but could I ask for clarification on two points? First, some press reports have said that the proposals actually double the land available to the Palestinians. Where is this extra land coming from? Is it just the bits in the desert bordering Egypt? Secondly, do the Government actually approve of the annexation of the Jordan Valley, thus cutting Palestine off from Jordan?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I will not go into the specific details of the plan. I have stated what the UK’s position is. On the reported annexation and the plan for the Jordan Valley, the position of Her Majesty’s Government is very clear: the unilateral annexation of any lands is against international law.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Portrait Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, the Minister said that he hopes this will be the basis for taking forward discussions. Has there been any indication whatever from the Palestinians that they are willing to take forward discussions on this basis?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I can share with the noble Baroness that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary spoke with President Abbas on these proposals earlier this week. I understand that my right honourable friend the Minister for the Middle East is also meeting the Palestinian representative. I hope that they will engage with the proposals. Like the noble Baroness, I have followed the statements they have made thus far, but as I have said before, we hope that this plan is a first step and will engage all communities towards the final objective of two viable states.

Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Portrait Lord Campbell of Pittenweem (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, is it not difficult for the Government to maintain what is essentially a position of neutrality on this matter given our responsibilities under, for example, the Balfour Declaration? The truth is that this is neither a peace plan nor a two-state solution. It is a fait accompli in favour of Mr Netanyahu, as demonstrated by his public response to it in the White House. It is an annexation not just of land on which illegal settlements have been based, nor of the Jordan Valley, but of the Golan Heights, all of which is contrary to international law. Why do the Government not give a robust response in favour of the principles of international law—the kind of response we gave when Mr Putin annexed the Crimea?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the point about annexation, the noble Lord mentioned the Golan Heights. When the United States made that statement in support of Israel, we made our position clear: we are against annexation, which is against international law. I reiterate that annexation of any territory unilaterally is against international law.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, it is a strange phenomenon that so many noble Lords are quick to reject the proposals. What do they know better than the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Bahrainis and the UAE, who have all welcomed the proposals? That is a promising sign, but most notable is the statement from Qatar. So often in the rejectionist camp, Qatar is now calling on the Palestinians and Israelis to sit down together. What efforts is my noble friend making with the Palestinian leadership to encourage them to sit down and talk rather than reject the initiative as, sadly, they have done too often in history?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, my noble friend is right that certain parts of the Arab world share the objective of the plan’s being a first step. Countries have made statements according to how they view it. On the issue of engagement with the Palestinians, and I have said, we hope that the Palestinians engage on the first step of the proposals. We are making efforts. As I said earlier, my right honourable friend has spoken to President Abbas, and we will meet the Palestinian representative to London later today.

Lord Turnberg Portrait Lord Turnberg (Non-Afl) - Hansard

My Lords, it would be no exaggeration to say that this proposal is controversial, but it is certainly not the endpoint. It is not even the beginning of the end, nor the end of the beginning. It being on the table might be the beginning of the beginning of a process. Surely both sides can discuss it, at the very least. Does the Minister agree that objecting from the outset, as the Palestinians have done, is not terribly helpful?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I am coming to the beginning of the end of my time. Noble Lords have repeatedly and rightly raised issues; I am sure that we will return to this plan and the wider issues across the Middle East. It is important that there is something on the table. Countries across the region have sought to give due consideration and, as I said, this is not the UK plan but an American plan. The United Kingdom position, of a viable two-state solution with a shared capital in Jerusalem, has not changed.

Lord Pickles (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, surely Her Majesty’s Government should be not neutral on this issue but on the side of peace. The period since the Oslo accords has been littered with missed opportunities, generally involving the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to engage. Everyone in this House with any influence on the Palestinian Authority should urge it to engage in this. A large part of the Arab world is behind this, and Her Majesty’s Government should do their best to facilitate this important peace process.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I assure my noble friend that we are on the side of peace. I share his belief in the importance of all parties engaging. We are doing our utmost to ensure that the Palestinians engage with this proposal, but as I said, it is an American plan, which we believe to be a first step.

Iran: Stability in the Middle East

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Thursday 30th January 2020

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lord Turnberg for securing this debate. The tension between Iran, the US and their allies, which culminated in the killing of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani earlier this month, has stabilised. I am pleased that this House is able to debate Iran, and the Middle East, at a time when we have realised that the immediate ambition of all actors is to avoid conflict. The people of the Middle East deserve to live in a peaceful, stable environment, free from the fear of imminent war. The UK can play a part in enabling such an environment by encouraging all leaders to interact through international institutions and to use these as our primary mechanism for defusing future tensions.

In the long term, we have a responsibility to support a framework which commits Iran to internationally recognised norms and formalises its relations with the West. The JCPOA is an opportunity to do exactly this. Regrettably, the agreement has disintegrated following President Trump’s withdrawal, the situation worsened by Iran’s violation of the uranium enrichment clauses. Although the JCPOA is not operational in its current state, we would be mistaken to abandon it altogether unless all other avenues have been exhausted. Can the Minister confirm what steps the Government are taking to resolve the present dispute, and detail the present status of the dispute mechanism?

If the JCPOA is to collapse completely, any replacement for the agreement may take years to develop and in the vacuum of a new deal, we increase the risk of conflict. Those who oppose the JCPOA have been scarce on the detail of what would replace it. Can the Minister explain exactly what the Government believe would differ in a future agreement, in order to gain the support of Iran and the US?

The immediate priority of the UK must be to encourage Iran to comply again with the present agreement, and to ask President Trump to return to the table. However, in the absence of any overnight miracle and a new agreement, we must also consider how we can maintain the present détente. There is a responsibility, which Iran must uphold, to international law, including the non-proliferation treaty.

In recent days and weeks, the Iranian Government have again used inflammatory language. We must make it clear that this is unacceptable and serves no benefit to the Iranian people, but we must also repeat our invitation for them to come in from the cold and work with the international community.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I join all noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, for tabling this timely debate and for setting the scene in such a detailed and expert way, particularly on the challenges across the region. Perhaps I may say from the outset how much I welcome the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton. The great advantage of your Lordships’ House, particularly for a Minister for Foreign Affairs, is that rather than look things up they can turn to many people—I look around at those who have taken part in our debate today—to provide expert insight on a particular situation, deal or issue. That is for the simple reason that they were there. Having the noble Baroness contribute to this debate is welcome.

As many noble Lords have said, the recent escalation in tensions between the US and Iran is deeply concerning. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and others said, a conflict is in none of our interests—neither of Iran nor of any party within the region or the globe as a whole. However, one thing is clear: the world must recognise and understand Iran’s destabilising influence in the Middle East—I agree with my noble friend Lord Polak on that.

The United Kingdom has long recognised the need to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapons capability, something that would significantly inflame tensions in the region. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best means available to do that. It was the best means when it was first negotiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton. The primary aim of the JCPOA was to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons and it had achieved that aim. However, while the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remained the best means available to do that, it had its limitations—the noble Baronesses, Lady Ashton and Lady Northover, the noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, and my noble friend Lord Polak all talked of those limitations; for example, issues around ballistic missiles and the sunset clause. We also recognise the JCPOA’s strengths, which the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, reminded us of. It has prevented Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, which is an important pillar of the wider global non-proliferation architecture. The deal remains vital for our national security and the shared security of our partners and allies.

We have also held concerns about Iran’s activity in the region, including through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Quds Force, which was under the command of General Soleimani. That is why we will not lament his death. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lord Polak referred to the proscription of the IRGC. They will probably know the answer that I am about to give: that, while we do not comment on individual groups being considered for proscription, we keep a list of those proscribed organisations under review. I assure noble Lords that we have done just that. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others talked of Hezbollah. It is quite right that in 2019 proscription was extended to the whole organisation and not just the military wing. I think that that was a distinction that many found difficult to justify.

Recent escalation in the region, particularly around the JCPOA, has been deeply concerning, not just for the Middle East but for the world as a whole. The last thing the region needs is another conflict. Diplomacy and dialogue are required, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, reminded us, and are the only way forward. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, among others, that the Government’s immediate aim is to de-escalate tensions. In the longer term, we want Iran to play a more transparent and constructive role in regional affairs—the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, talked of Iran’s rich history in this respect—and to act in accordance with international rules and norms.

Iran’s influence on stability, or instability, in the Middle East is the issue before us today. As several noble Lords reflected, Iran’s size, its rich culture, its strategic location and, yes, its people—as the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, reminded us—are extremely important. It has been highly influential in the region for centuries, if not millennia. That is still the case today. Much of Iran’s regional behaviour should be seen through that lens. It is motivated by a desire to assert what Iran believes is its rightful place as a historically influential power. This explains Iran’s use of proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. They serve to promote and protect what Iran sees as its long-term strategic interests in the region.

Since 1979, Iran’s outlook has sadly been shaped by a radical revolutionary ideology—the focus of the excellent contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Alton—with a number of crucial defining factors. Among them are a sense of self-reliance, forged during the horrific war with Iraq in the 1980s; a strategic rivalry with Saudi Arabia—the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, alluded to that—and enmity towards Israel, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, among others.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, reminded us, one of the Iranian Government’s stated primary foreign policy aims is also to remove the US from the region. Without military means to do this directly, it has acted via proxies, deniable attacks and provocations. Let me assure the noble Baroness that we will continue to work with our European partners to see how we can bring pressure to bear on Iran. I say in response to other noble Lords that, yes, we will also be talking to the Russians and others who have influence over Iran.

More recently, and particularly since May last year, Iran has used activity in the region as a means to force the US to ease its policy of maximum economic pressure, a policy that Iran sees as economic warfare. It is important to distinguish these recent, tightly focused provocations from the established pattern of Iran’s behaviour, which is driven by its long-term strategic aims.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab) - Hansard

On the American policy of effectively bankrupting Iran and causing collapse within it, does the Minister agree that, far from it leading to its coming to a conference table, it is more likely to lead to a failed state lashing out and a possibility of conflict?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I was about to say that we do not agree with the policy of maximum economic pressure. I will come on to talk about INSTEX in a moment.

It is important that we place recent incidents in the former category of focused provocations. The attacks on shipping in the Gulf over the summer, on Saudi oil infrastructure in September—I was in Saudi Arabia just after that attack—and in Iraq in December triggered the recent cycle. All were designed not only to pressure the US, both directly and via its regional allies, to reconsider its approach but to show to the Iranian public, the region and the wider world that Iran would meet “maximum pressure” with “maximum resistance”. The gradual and systematic reduction in Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal since May has had the same goal in mind, as the noble Lord just reminded us: to show resistance and force the US to change tack.

I assure noble Lords that we remain committed. The noble Lords, Lord Tunnicliffe and Lord Browne, asked about action taken by the United Kingdom. The UK engages closely with all countries in the region. We continue to do so with Iran; we continue to have our embassy there, notwithstanding recent pressures. Our continued diplomatic presence in Tehran is vital. Since 1979, we have chosen continuously to engage with Iran. Despite the many challenges in our relationship, this Government are convinced that engagement remains the best approach. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, that, together with our partners France and Germany, we remain committed to dialogue and finding a diplomatic way forward. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary have all spoken to their counterparts in the US, Iran and across the region in recent weeks to stress the importance of de-escalation and a diplomatic track.

The United Kingdom remains committed to working with the international community—I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Browne, is reassured by that—to ensure that Iran abides by international laws and norms and is held to account for its destabilising activity in the region.

Following Iraq’s attacks on shipping in the Gulf, we joined the International Maritime Security Construct to uphold freedom of navigation. We fully understand the desire of the United States to re-establish deterrence and the need to shift the strategic calculation for the Iranian leadership by increasing the costs of Iran’s activity. We recognise the importance, as I said earlier in response to the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, of working with Russia and China, both as parties to the JCPOA and as fellow members of the UN Security Council. We have been consistently clear on the need for Iran to return to full compliance with the nuclear deal. The JCPOA is a reciprocal deal, lifting sanctions in exchange for adhering to tough nuclear limits.

The noble Lords, Lord Turnberg and Lord Polak, asked about the dispute resolution mechanism. By breaking its side of the bargain, Iran left us no choice but to trigger the DRM. In doing so, we are seeking not to end the deal but to preserve it and to bring Iran back into compliance with its commitments. Several noble Lords asked about alternatives. The JCPOA is the only deal on the table and therefore it is important that we seek compliance and return to adherence by Iran. There is no intention currently to refer the issue to the UN Security Council or to seek the snapback of sanctions. Our side of the agreement also involves taking measures to facilitate legitimate trade with Iran and we will continue to support European efforts, including through the INSTEX trade instrument. We hope that this will give the Iranian people much-needed hope and access to goods. We welcome the decision of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden to join.

My noble friend Lady Redfern rightly raised the issue of the rights of women and girls’ education. As she knows, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made girls’ education one of his primary objectives, but it is worrying for someone who looks after the agenda of women, peace and security to see the declining role of women within Iran and the suppression of women’s rights. It is important that we bring this to the fore. We regularly raise the issue of human rights, and as Human Rights Minister I assure my noble friend that I will continue to do so, both in multilateral fora and bilaterally through our engagement with Iran.

I thank noble Lords for their contributions. I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, on his specific question about DfID and its operations in Lebanon. We have robust measures but I will write on the specifics. I shall conclude by agreeing with most, if not all, contributions made by noble Lords. Iran’s history, culture and strategic location mean that it will remain an influential regional player with legitimate interests across the Middle East. Our concern is with the way Iran seeks to pursue those interests. We have long-standing concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme, its missile proliferation activity and its support for proxy groups and militias across the region. Such support is in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions and in many cases against the wishes of the people and the Governments of the states in which the proxies operate.

Finally, I assure noble Lords that the UK will continue to call for a de-escalation of US-Iran tensions, we will continue to hold Iran to account for its destabilising behaviour, and we will continue to work in good faith with our international partners to persuade Iran to return to compliance with the nuclear deal. Ultimately, we want Iran taking her rightful place as a positive, constructive influence on stability in the Middle East. I assure all noble Lords that the UK is committed to working with all sides, including Iran, to achieve that goal.

Sudan and South Sudan

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Wednesday 29th January 2020

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what priority they give to Sudan and South Sudan among their foreign policy objectives.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the United Kingdom has taken a leading role in both Sudan and South Sudan. Through our extensive political engagement, we are working with the region and international partners to help ensure a peaceful and credible transition to democracy in Sudan and the implementation of the peace process in South Sudan. We are the second largest bilateral humanitarian donor in both Sudan and South Sudan, supporting those who have suffered years of the countries’ conflict and civil wars.

The Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, I am relieved to hear that Answer, not least because we have many humanitarian workers in both countries, including my noble friend Lady Cox, who has only just returned. Could the Minister confirm that the UK-Sudan strategic dialogue is still in place? That is so important for the rebuilding of society. Will civil society, women’s groups and all those groups outside Khartoum be involved?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I agree with the noble Earl’s point about ensuring that all of civil society is directly engaged. He will be aware that, because of the unrest in Sudan in 2019, the strategic dialogue that had taken place was put on hold. We are looking to review the renewal of that dialogue but, in the interim, our ambassadors and Ministers continue to engage with all parts of civil society and the Government directly.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, probing a little on that point, the move towards democracy will obviously be very difficult. A transitional Government are in place at the moment, still with military involvement. Could the Minister tell us a bit more about what support, apart from humanitarian aid, we are giving the transitional Government to move towards democracy?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, that is a very important point. We are engaging directly with the Government of Sudan to ask them what level of assistance and technical support they need. For example, I met the ambassador only yesterday to hear directly about the kind of concerns they have. Issues of security continue to prevail. Accountability and justice from the civil war remain important, particularly in places such as Darfur. We continue to work bilaterally and through UN agencies. The noble Lord will be aware that the mandate of the UN has been extended for a year, which reflects the ambition for security and accountability in Sudan.

Baroness Cox Portrait Baroness Cox (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, just last Wednesday, I was in Abyei, the region suffering from disputes over whether it is located in Sudan or South Sudan, and witnessed the immediate aftermath of a massacre perpetrated by Arab Misseriya tribesmen against Dinka villagers? I saw the burned bodies of women and children in huts that were still burning and heard local villagers voicing deep anger that the UN’s policy prevented them escaping to hide in the bush and left them without any protection. Will Her Majesty’s Government urge the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to take the necessary measures to ensure the protection of the vulnerable people of Abyei?

Break in Debate

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I am sure I speak for all in your Lordships’ House in paying tribute to the noble Baroness’s work in the region. I am aware of the reports and I thank her for the report that she sent to my office only yesterday. I read the full results of the attack that happened. It was appalling and sickening, and I am sure I speak for the whole House in our total condemnation of it. What particularly concerned me was the fact that the UN troops—the mission—did not perhaps intervene in an appropriate manner. I have asked for a full, detailed report. I assure the noble Baroness that, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, we continue to engage. I met the ambassador yesterday and, while this was not on the agenda, I raised these concerns directly with him.

Lord Chidgey Portrait Lord Chidgey (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, with 14 aid workers killed in Sudan last year, and more than 100 since 2013, Sudan remains one of the most dangerous and needy places in the world. Can the Minister tell me whether any of the aid workers killed were sent from the UK—for example, from the DfID mission established as part of the peace process in South Sudan, VSO workers or any other UK personnel?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Lord asks for specific details. If I may, I will write on the nature of that situation. On his more general point, we are concerned about the security of aid workers because of the number of NGOs working on the ground.

The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury - Hansard

My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the meeting in the Vatican last April of religious and political leaders from South Sudan, including the President and leading rebel and opposition groups; and of the Pope’s announcement when we met last November that he intended to make a joint visit himself, with me and a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, at the end of March if the transitional Government had been established by that time in Juba. The period for establishing that Government runs out towards the end of February. May we have assurance that with the whole thing in the balance—and given what we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Cox—Her Majesty’s Government will apply carrot and stick vigorously, and give full attention over the next four weeks to enabling this new Government to happen solidly in Juba, including the presence of leading rebel members such as Riek Machar, to get a framework for peace?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

Again, I pay tribute to the most reverend Primate for his work in South Sudan. I know this is an area close to his heart. Let me assure him that we are working closely not just with the Government but with civil society to ensure that we keep on track, and that the peace agreement between the two countries remains intact. We are supporting civil society organisations as well; for example, the UK is funding and enabling the South Sudan Council of Churches to engage in mediation. That is an important part of the reconciliation process in South Sudan, and for that matter in Sudan as well.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey Portrait Baroness Chalker of Wallasey (Con) - Hansard

Has the Minister opened discussions with those countries supplying troops to the United Nations forces, which, as he rightly said, failed to intervene as they should have done in the recent disputes?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

We are very much engaged with the countries involved in that mission and will raise those concerns directly with them.

Rohingya Muslims

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Wednesday 29th January 2020

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to respond to the decision of the International Court of Justice to direct the government of Myanmar to prevent all genocidal acts against Rohingya Muslims.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the United Kingdom welcomed the International Court of Justice’s decision on provisional measures. We urged Myanmar to comply with the measures in full. We are exploring with partners how best to ensure that Myanmar implements the decision of the International Court of Justice, including through the United Nations Security Council.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

I am grateful to the Minister. Would he agree that one of the most disturbing and depressing moments during the International Court of Justice hearings was the sight of Aung San Suu Kyi defending the Tatmadaw, or Burmese army, against the charges of war crimes—crimes which have led to the forced exodus of 700,000 Rohingya, with villages burned, executions, tortures and mass rape? In supporting this important blow for justice by the ICJ, will we be using Magnitsky powers to introduce carefully targeted economic sanctions against the military, which has been responsible? How will we galvanise the opinion of the international community to ensure compliance with the ICJ ruling that Burma report in four months and every six months thereafter on how it has complied with the undertakings it has been asked to give under the genocide convention?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, we will be exploring all options with international partners. As I alluded to, I have already instigated seeing what we can do as penholders of the Security Council. I agree with the noble Lord’s assessment; when we saw Aung San Suu Kyi deliver her defence of the actions towards the Rohingya, it was a reflection of where she was and where she is today. It was a sad moment. That said, we have been supportive of the ICJ decision. On the issue of sanctions, as the noble Lord is aware, through the global human rights regime that we will implement once we have left the European Union, we will be using human rights specifically to drive our sanctions regime. More generally on sanctions, he will also be aware that we, with our EU partners, were the ones who drove sanctions against four of the six commanders who instigated and were reported on through the UN report. There are, I believe, currently 14 military personnel in total from Myanmar who are under those sanction regimes.

Baroness Warsi Portrait Baroness Warsi (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, can my noble friend assure the House that, when these discussions take place with our partners around the world, specifically in relation to action at the UN Security Council, we will bear in mind not just the now proven legal record of genocide against the Rohingya community but the killings that have taken place in Kachin province and Shan province? The communities that have been affected by the genocidal activities of the Myanmar Government now extend well beyond the Rohingya Muslim community; it is important that all their actions are put on the table.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My noble friend surprised me somewhat; normally I expect her to be on my right, and she appeared on my left today—I am not alluding to any political affiliations. She raises very valuable points on the more general situation in the different provinces of Myanmar, where we have seen systematic persecution. We have used the phrase ethnic cleansing. We have not used the word genocide, because that is a determination, as my noble friend will know from her insight and experience as a lawyer, for the courts to make. However, she raises valuable points and I assure her that in our discussions we are looking at the whole situation of every state within Myanmar.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab) -