Debates between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover

There have been 83 exchanges between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover

1 Mon 21st September 2020 Nigeria: Religious Violence
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (139 words)
2 Thu 17th September 2020 Taiwan
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (234 words)
3 Wed 22nd July 2020 China
Department for International Development
2 interactions (1,508 words)
4 Tue 21st July 2020 Hong Kong
Department for International Development
4 interactions (191 words)
5 Tue 14th July 2020 Taiwan
Department for International Development
3 interactions (152 words)
6 Thu 9th July 2020 Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime
Department for International Development
3 interactions (186 words)
7 Wed 8th July 2020 Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime
Department for International Development
2 interactions (1,761 words)
8 Thu 2nd July 2020 Hong Kong National Security Legislation
Department for International Development
2 interactions (2,009 words)
9 Tue 30th June 2020 Korea
Department for International Development
2 interactions (116 words)
10 Mon 29th June 2020 China
Department for International Development
3 interactions (176 words)
11 Wed 17th June 2020 China
Department for International Development
4 interactions (291 words)
12 Mon 8th June 2020 Press Freedom
Department for International Development
3 interactions (152 words)
13 Tue 2nd June 2020 Hong Kong
Department for International Development
2 interactions (125 words)
14 Thu 14th May 2020 British Citizens Stranded Overseas
Department for International Development
3 interactions (264 words)
15 Wed 13th May 2020 Syria
Department for International Development
3 interactions (114 words)
16 Wed 6th May 2020 Israel: West Bank
Department for International Development
3 interactions (118 words)
17 Thu 30th April 2020 Covid-19: Repatriation of UK Nationals
Department for International Development
2 interactions (1,614 words)
18 Thu 30th April 2020 Syria
Department for International Development
2 interactions (151 words)
19 Mon 23rd March 2020 Integrated Security, Defence and Foreign Policy Review
Department for International Development
3 interactions (389 words)
20 Tue 10th March 2020 Refugee Crisis: Greece and Turkey
Department for International Development
3 interactions (458 words)
21 Mon 2nd March 2020 Organ Trafficking: Sanctions
Department for International Development
3 interactions (241 words)
22 Mon 24th February 2020 Syria
Department for International Development
3 interactions (526 words)
23 Wed 12th February 2020 Bahrain: Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (209 words)
24 Thu 30th January 2020 Middle East Peace Plan
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (264 words)
25 Thu 23rd January 2020 Sanctions
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (307 words)
26 Wed 22nd January 2020 Violence Against Journalists
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (456 words)
27 Tue 14th January 2020 Iran: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (1,636 words)
28 Tue 7th January 2020 Middle East: Security Update
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (1,461 words)
29 Thu 31st October 2019 Brexit: Engagement with EU on Foreign Affairs
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
4 interactions (324 words)
30 Wed 23rd October 2019 North-east Syria
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (518 words)
31 Wed 23rd October 2019 Yazidis: Attempted Genocide
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (422 words)
32 Tue 15th October 2019 Northern Syria: Turkish Incursion
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (374 words)
33 Tue 8th October 2019 Syria: Withdrawal of US Troops
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (282 words)
34 Tue 8th October 2019 Falkland Islands: Landmines
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (339 words)
35 Mon 7th October 2019 Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
7 interactions (820 words)
36 Mon 7th October 2019 Hong Kong: Emergency Powers
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
4 interactions (368 words)
37 Mon 9th September 2019 Hurricane Dorian
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (532 words)
38 Tue 3rd September 2019 Hong Kong
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
4 interactions (373 words)
39 Tue 23rd July 2019 Hong Kong
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (282 words)
40 Mon 22nd July 2019 The Situation in the Gulf
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (1,466 words)
41 Mon 8th July 2019 UK’s Ambassador to the USA
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (401 words)
42 Mon 8th July 2019 Israel Defense Forces
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (234 words)
43 Mon 13th May 2019 Saudi Arabia: Torture of Political Detainees
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (426 words)
44 Wed 1st May 2019 Burma (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (872 words)
45 Wed 10th April 2019 Hong Kong: Pro-democracy Activists
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (494 words)
46 Thu 21st March 2019 War Criminals: International Mechanisms for Prosecution
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (282 words)
47 Thu 28th February 2019 Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (190 words)
48 Thu 28th February 2019 Nord Stream 2 Pipeline
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (306 words)
49 Thu 7th February 2019 Venezuela
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (223 words)
50 Mon 21st January 2019 Zimbabwe
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (307 words)
51 Wed 9th January 2019 Brexit: UK Nationals
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (218 words)
52 Wed 19th December 2018 Yemen
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (1,125 words)
53 Wed 19th December 2018 China: Uighur Muslims
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (298 words)
54 Mon 10th December 2018 Freedom of Religion or Belief
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (256 words)
55 Wed 24th October 2018 Freedom of Religion or Belief
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (373 words)
56 Mon 23rd July 2018 Jammu and Kashmir: Human Rights Abuses
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (251 words)
57 Tue 12th June 2018 BBC Persian Staff
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (271 words)
58 Mon 21st May 2018 United Nations Human Rights Council: Resolution on Gaza
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (424 words)
59 Mon 21st May 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
6 interactions (1,098 words)
60 Mon 21st May 2018 Iran and Saudi Arabia: Co-operation on Syria and Yemen
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (269 words)
61 Tue 15th May 2018 Gaza
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (408 words)
62 Tue 15th May 2018 Syria
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (292 words)
63 Wed 9th May 2018 Iran Nuclear Deal
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (1,088 words)
64 Tue 27th March 2018 Israel-Palestine Conflict
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (225 words)
65 Tue 20th March 2018 Syria
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (173 words)
66 Mon 19th March 2018 Foreign Policy: Parliamentary Participation
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (397 words)
67 Thu 22nd February 2018 Syria: Eastern Ghouta
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (323 words)
68 Tue 20th February 2018 Commonwealth Summit
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (260 words)
69 Thu 25th January 2018 Brexit: Foreign Policy
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (310 words)
70 Wed 24th January 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (1,453 words)
71 Mon 15th January 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
8 interactions (1,548 words)
72 Mon 15th January 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (1,038 words)
73 Wed 13th December 2017 Commonwealth Summit 2018
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (179 words)
74 Tue 12th December 2017 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (326 words)
75 Mon 11th December 2017 Visit to Oman, UAE and Iran
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (1,362 words)
76 Wed 29th November 2017 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
15 interactions (1,825 words)
77 Tue 21st November 2017 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
23 interactions (4,314 words)
78 Mon 20th November 2017 Yemen: Humanitarian and Political Situation
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (981 words)
79 Tue 24th October 2017 Raqqa and Daesh
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (370 words)
80 Thu 19th October 2017 Syria
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (261 words)
81 Tue 17th October 2017 Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
4 interactions (352 words)
82 Tue 10th October 2017 Hurricane Irma: Disaster Relief
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
3 interactions (261 words)
83 Tue 12th September 2017 Hurricane Irma
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
2 interactions (1,559 words)

Nigeria: Religious Violence

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Monday 21st September 2020

(3 days, 1 hour ago)

Lords Chamber
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Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, we are working with the Government of Nigeria, and with NGOs and faith NGOs on the ground, such as Christian Aid and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, to support communities--particularly those that have been displaced--and we will continue to do so.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, Amal Clooney has just resigned as envoy on media freedom because of the Government’s statement that they may not respect an international treaty that they have just agreed and signed. What challenge does this situation pose for the Minister as he makes the UK’s case for media freedom and freedom of religion and belief, including in relation to Nigeria, at UN bodies and elsewhere?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I remain resolute in standing up against human rights abuses in whichever forum I attend, and will continue to do so on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government.

Taiwan

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Thursday 17th September 2020

(1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
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.

China

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Wednesday 22nd July 2020

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing this Statement on China and Hong Kong to the House. It is surely right to seek a positive relationship with China, with its ancient culture, economic strength and developing excellence in science and technology—especially green technology—as the Statement makes clear.

Nevertheless, we cannot turn a blind eye to human rights abuses, and the Secretary of State is right to identify the appalling treatment of the Uighurs. Can the Minister say whether the Foreign Office has now taken a view on the China Tribunal’s conclusions, and is the FCO bringing China within the scope of the new Magnitsky sanctions?

In terms of Hong Kong, we have a special responsibility. Britain and China signed a treaty, which is lodged at the UN, protecting the rights of those in Hong Kong for at least 50 years. The national security law has blown that away. Like the noble Lord, Lord Collins, I therefore welcome the Government’s actions on citizenship for BNO passport holders, the suspension of the extradition treaty and the extension of the arms embargo. Nevertheless, I once more flag the position of young activists who do not have BNO passports and will be particularly at risk. Will the Government make sure that no one is excluded from this offer? What steps are they taking to ensure that those facing political persecution can freely leave?

The involvement of independent foreign judges in Hong Kong has long been seen as the canary in the coal mine: if they went, the writing would be on the wall for the independence of Hong Kong. The President of the UK Supreme Court has now questioned whether UK judges can continue to sit on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. What is the Minister’s view?

As I asked yesterday, does the Minister believe that there can be free and fair elections to the Legislative Council in September? Will the Government seek to send an election observation mission to Hong Kong? What further actions might the Government take if these elections are not free and fair?

There is also wide concern about free speech. Will British journalists be advised to relocate, and how might access to a free internet be protected? Are the Government willing to work alongside others to create a UN special envoy or rapporteur for Hong Kong, who could have special responsibility for monitoring the human rights situation on the ground? Is there a way this could be done without China simply vetoing it?

As I have expressed before, I remain concerned that not all countries in the EU, a tiny number of Commonwealth countries and no countries in Asia, South America and Africa supported the UK in relation to the new law. This is a desperate situation, and China should recognise the loss to their country of an outflow of talented young people from Hong Kong and step back, even at this late stage, from implementing this new national security law. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

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

My Lords, I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for their support of the Government’s position. I am sure they both recognise—indeed, they have acknowledged—the fact that, over several months now, the Government have stood up for what they said they would do.

I know, in my own work as Human Rights Minister, that we have not only strengthened but sought to build alliances in the context of the UN Human Rights Council and gained support—including ourselves, there were 27 countries that voted for the statement. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, has rightly reminded us again, there were a vast number of countries that were not supportive of the statement initiated by the United Kingdom, and that is a cause for concern.

Therefore, we continue to work through all international fora, as well as bilaterally, to ensure that not only the situation in Hong Kong but that of the Uighur Muslims—which the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, mentioned specifically—is at the forefront of all our minds. It is particularly noticeable and disappointing that very few countries in the Islamic world have spoken out in defence of the Uighur Muslims. I am not for a moment suggesting that one religion should speak in its own defence, but whoever is persecuted, wherever they are persecuted and irrespective of your faith or belief, you should stand up for their rights, and it is disappointing that we have not seen a response from the wider community. However, we continue to work undeterred.

The noble Baroness mentioned the Commonwealth and will have noted that we have the support of notable partners, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in this respect. We will continue to work with them in further strengthening the response from across the Commonwealth. In the context of the European Union, there was a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, which agreed that national Governments would focus on this issue and announce appropriately.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about the visit today of the German Foreign Minister, which is ongoing. I have been on a virtual visit to the UN today, so I have yet to see the updates from those discussions. However, knowing the German Foreign Minister well, I know how much he cares about human rights. Recently, I was with him when he chaired an event at the UN Security Council on the important issue of preventing sexual violence in conflict and standing up for the most vulnerable. We share a value system with many of our EU partners and, more globally, across the Commonwealth—values central to Commonwealth thinking. We will continue to raise these issues bilaterally and in international fora.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned the role of various private institutions in Hong Kong, which continue to operate. The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have been clear that companies must decide in which countries they will operate, but that, while that is a business decision for them, everyone should recognise that the situation prevailing in Hong Kong is a direct contravention of the joint agreement and of “one country, two systems”. As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, reminded us, this agreement has been lodged with the United Nations. Therefore, we continue to implore China to uphold its obligations as a P5 member of the UN Security Council and as a wider player on important issues currently confronting the world—not only Covid-19 but also, as we work towards COP 26, China’s important role in ensuring that the world faces the challenges of climate change.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about the sharing of evidence and work around the Magnitsky sanctions. Again, I would cause speculation if I were to say specifically what the next designations will be, but before the Recess we shall have a debate about the sanctions that have already come forward.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about red lines. On the issue of the Uighurs and human rights across the world, the intention of the global human rights sanctions regime is to hold those who abuse human rights and commit gross human rights violations to account. However, I cannot speculate on the specifics of China at this juncture.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked a specific question on the sharing of evidence. We work very closely with partners across many areas, including the United States among others. We share a common value system with countries in the European Union, with the United States and with many countries in the Commonwealth and beyond. Many countries look towards us for the initiation of what we have done and invoked through the global human rights sanctions regime. I know that other countries—I know of many in Europe—and the European Union itself are considering a similar specific global human rights sanctions regime.

The noble Baroness also rightly raised the important issue of the judiciary in Hong Kong. As I am sure she recognises and as all noble Lords have followed, what has happened as a material change in the announcement of the national security law is the passing of the appointment of judges from the Chief Justice to the Chief Executive. This is in direct violation of Section 3(3) of the joint declaration. We also saw a statement from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reed, on 17 July. While it remains a question for the judiciary, I am sure that everyone will reflect very carefully on the important role that judges have played in Hong Kong under the existing joint declaration. We continue to implore the Chinese and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to continue to uphold the independence of the judiciary.

The noble Baroness also rightly asked about the pending elections. There is some suggestion and speculation that the Covid crisis might be a factor in consideration of whether these elections are held, but our position remains clear and consistent: we believe that the elections in Hong Kong should be open, fair and transparent. We will continue to raise these issues consistently with the Chinese authorities and the Hong Kong Administration.

Hong Kong

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the political situation in Hong Kong.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, we are deeply concerned by the situation in Hong Kong. China’s new national security law breaches the Sino-British joint declaration and directly threatens a number of Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms. Early reports of the law’s initial implementation are also troubling. We will not look the other way on Hong Kong and we will continue working with partners to hold China to its international obligations.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

I thank the Minister. What prospects are there for fair and free elections in Hong Kong this autumn and what steps are the Government taking to assist young activists, such as Joshua Wong, who are not BNO passport holders?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon [V] - Hansard

My Lords, obviously there have been elections even this year at local level. We continue to impress on the Hong Kong authorities and the Chinese authorities the need to ensure that one country, two systems is sustained, maintained and, indeed, strengthened. However, recent events have indicated otherwise and we continue to lobby both Administrations in this respect, including protecting those people who do not qualify for BNO status.

Taiwan

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Tuesday 14th July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I share the noble Lord’s view of the positive elements of the relationship with Taiwan. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary congratulated President Tsai on her victory.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, when the national security law was imposed on Hong Kong, 53 countries supported China on it at the UN Human Rights Council. Only 27 countries, including only half of EU states and no state in Asia, Africa or South America, supported us. Now that we have left the EU, how are we building a strong alliance to defend Taiwan against any aggression?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to raise this concern. I agree with her figures. As Human Rights Minister, I worked on that proposal. There is much more work to be done but I assure her that we work very closely with European partners, particularly on Hong Kong, and share common interests when it comes to Taiwan.

Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Thursday 9th July 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, when such scenarios arise, each case will have its specific circumstances to be looked on. Various tools are available to us, including the cancellation of a visa if someone is in the UK. But without going into the details of any particular case, it would be looked upon on its merits and circumstances.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

I welcome the new sanctions proposals, although they need to be extended to cover corruption. Does the Minister agree that the new regime must be overseen and run by an independent body so that is not driven or impeded by political considerations?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, there are measures in place. If someone has been designated and they feel that needs to be reviewed it would go to a Minister, but the court systems exist to allow for that review. In all of this there is a parliamentary overview and, as I have said, there will be opportunities to debate designations. They will be looked at. On corruption, as I said yesterday, we are looking at other frameworks, including the UN frameworks. We will follow those in bringing new proposals forward in time.

Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord for the Statement. This is a major step forward and I thank him, his right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and his officials for all their work. Many have played their part in this, including organisations like Transparency International and campaigners like Amal Clooney. I also acknowledge the very brave Bill Browder, who will realise that the Russian leadership would happily do to him what it did to the Skripals. Bill Browder has described the UK Government’s initiative as “a huge milestone” and to quote him again

“Most kleptocrats and human rights violators keep their money in the UK, have houses in London, and send their kids to British schools.”

This will have a stinging effect on bad guys around the world.

These bans are also a tribute to Sergei Magnitsky, who paid for his courage and honesty with his life. I am very glad that his family was able to watch this Statement being made from the Foreign Office. I commend the Government for listing 25 Russian nationals who are linked to his case. It is good, too, that 20 of those who played their part in the death of Jamal Khashoggi are also sanctioned. And yet just yesterday, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, has made clear, we granted the sale of arms once more to Saudi Arabia.

It is important, too, to note that two senior Myanmar generals who were involved in the suppression of the Rohingya population are also listed, although it has been noted that this may be largely symbolic because they have no known assets in the UK and would not be allowed to travel here anyway. I note also that two organisations which have been linked with human rights abuses in North Korea will be sanctioned.

However, there are omissions, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and others have said. Where is China in this? Will those who are oppressing the Uighurs be included? Will proper consideration be given to the China Tribunal’s conclusion about organ harvesting, and might sanctions result? What of the doctors who may have been involved? What about those who are taking actions in Hong Kong, including potentially Carrie Lam, who has overseen the destruction of human rights there by overseeing the abandonment of “one country, two systems”.

In their equivalent legislation, the United States and Canada include corruption, and I have seen how effective US sanctions are in rooting out corruption in Africa. To quote Bill Browder again:

“Once you get onto a sanctions list you become a non-person in the world of finance. You can’t do business with anybody. … It is probably the worst thing that can happen to people who are very wealthy. These are rich government officials who made their money through graft and theft and imprisonment.”

Can the noble Lord update us on whether corruption charges will be included?

Can the noble Lord also tell us how the new regime will be overseen, so that it is not knocked off course by short-term concerns? Will its administration be separate from the FCO, DIT and the MoD, which might have other interests? What parliamentary oversight will there be? I note too that we have not yet seen the long-awaited report from the Intelligence and Security Committee and I support the demands for that committee to be resumed immediately.

When we were in the EU, we had of course engaged with it to bring all EU countries along with us, particularly Sweden and the Netherlands, on similar human rights sanctions proposals. I am glad that we will continue to work with our EU colleagues, although that will be more challenging. However, the more we work together on this, the more effective we will be. I note already that, on human rights in China and Hong Kong, many more countries of the UN supported China than supported our position, and that will be a challenge in the future. Overall, however, I welcome this Statement as a major step forward and I look forward to the noble Lord’s response.

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

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for their remarks in support of the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. Perhaps I may reflect for a moment. I remember working with both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness during the passage of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, and again I pay tribute to the level of co-operation and indeed the excellence of the debates we had not only on the whole of the statute but specifically on the importance of the issue of sanctions. I am therefore delighted that we have been able to bring forward what my right honourable friend has described as the launch of a global human rights sanctions regime. I thank both noble Lords for welcoming it, as indeed did all Members in the other place.

As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, has said, while welcoming the names which have been mentioned—the noble Baroness also referred to the 25 Russian nationals—I believe that they both talked about omissions. I would not term it as such. This is very much the first tranche. Everything has to be based on evidence and, clearly, that evidence is collated. I know that both noble Lords will respect the fact that those who have been designated should be given the opportunity to challenge the designation, and that has been incorporated into this new regime.

On the issue of corruption, which both noble Lords pointed out was not initially included in what we have proposed, as my right honourable friend alluded to in the Statement, this is something that we have already started work on. However, it was important not only to introduce the framework but also to recognise that designations were needed to give strength to what has been laid before Parliament, and therefore I am pleased that this process is under way given that corruption is an issue that we continue to look at, as my right honourable friend has said.

Both noble Lords talked about the recent announcement made with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the arms deal. I believe that the noble Baroness acknowledged the fact that including the names of those who committed the appalling crime of the targeting and assassination of Jamal Khashoggi reflects the deep concern and outrage which was expressed across your Lordships’ House.

I turn to the issue of restarting export licences to Saudi Arabia. My right honourable friend the Trade Secretary has looked at the court ruling and we have adhered to its proposals to make the necessary amendments to our processes. Perhaps I may reassure all noble Lords that we will not issue any export licences when there is a clear risk that the items concerned may be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law. As I have said before, every licence application is rigorously assessed against strict criteria and we will not issue an export licence where to do so would be inconsistent with them.

The new sanctions regime will give the UK a powerful new tool in order to hold to account those who are involved in serious human rights violations or abuses. I can assure noble Lords that we will keep the export licence regime and the controls we exercise under close scrutiny and review. However, we will do so while adhering fully to the points which were raised during the judicial review of the decision.

Both noble Lords rightly talked about the importance of co-operation and working with partners. We have, along with the US and Canada, already engaged in working on the inclusion of similar sanctions on corruption, as the noble Baroness pointed out. We work closely with our Five Eyes partners and I can give her an assurance on her specific point about our partners in Europe. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary recently visited Germany and we are working closely with our EU partners in looking at how the EU can also bring forward a global human rights sanctions regime. However, I know that both noble Lords will agree that any regime in the world can work effectively against those who commit the most heinous crimes and the worst kind of human rights abuses only if we work in tandem and together with other countries. We will continue to emphasise that point as we look to expand the designations further in the future as well as to expand their scope to include issues around corruption, which was mentioned by both noble Lords.

The noble Lords talked about scrutiny. In closing, I assure them that I recognise the range of views expressed by both noble Lords, and in the other place, on the best approach to take to designation proposals. I know that, as can be seen by the list today, many parliamentarians have over a long period continued to engage with the Government—they have engaged directly with me as the Minister for Human Rights—on the importance of bringing forward designations. I also recognise the range of views expressed by parliamentarians on the best approach to implementation, and I am grateful for continuing to hear soundings to this effect.

Let me assure both noble Lords that, in line with the sanctions Act, we will continue to report to Parliament, as required under its Sections 30 and 32. Doing so also provides Parliament with regular moments where Members may scrutinise the actions that the Government have taken in respect of human rights sanctions. There is also provision to debate the laying of these instruments. We are of course working through the usual channels. I understand that there will be a debate in the other place on this very issue on the 16th of this month. There is a 28-day limit from when these provisions were introduced on 6 July, so we will certainly look through the usual channels to have a debate as soon as we return from the Summer Recess. That will be the earliest opportunity, bearing in mind the current challenges in the parliamentary schedule. But this will ensure that we comply and that your Lordships’ House has an opportunity to debate these designations.

Finally on the designations, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, did not mention this, but the words still ring in my ear about the importance of laying a report in this respect. We will continue to fulfil that obligation and review those who have been designated every three years, which was another key point that both noble Lords raised with me during debate on what became the Act.

Hong Kong National Security Legislation

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Thursday 2nd July 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the Minister for presenting this Statement. Hong Kong is in a terrible situation. The Government are right that the new security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the joint declaration. We have obligations to assist, as a cosignatory to the joint declaration—a treaty lodged at the UN. Already, there have been arrests in Hong Kong, and we see peaceful activists withdrawing from political comment, in fear.

In 1997, Hong Kong represented about one-third of China’s GDP. Now that is only 3%. We may see a thriving territory—the gateway to China—but China’s rise, and therefore the relative decline in Hong Kong’s significance, shows loss of leverage. I therefore commend the Government for their actions, given China’s economic and political dominance. But that makes it even more essential that international law is respected.

I welcome the proposals to grant BNOs and their dependants the right to live here, and to work or study, with a path to citizenship. However, this still leaves behind many young people who have been at the heart of protests and are therefore particularly at risk. Will the Government extend their offer to all Hong Kongers? What steps will the Government take to ensure that BNOs can leave Hong Kong to take up the Government’s offer if they feel the need to do so? Will the UK provide them consular protection? What liaison has there been with Carrie Lam’s office to ensure that those arrested will be immediately released, given that she emphasises that the new law does not crack down on freedom of expression? What steps are the Government taking to ensure that Hong Kongers in the UK or British citizens and British-based businesses will not be targeted? What is happening in relation to the proposed UN special envoy for Hong Kong to monitor human rights there? Are we looking at the Magnitsky sanctions in relation to human rights abuses there?

Does the Minister know if British judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal feel that they can continue, and what might be the future for Taiwan? I am very glad to hear in the Statement of the report of the UN Council on Human Rights about the situation both in Hong Kong and Zhenjiang. Reports of the treatment of the Uighurs are horrifying. Can he say whether full consideration has yet been given to the China tribunal’s conclusions about forced organ harvesting? I note that the countries which supported us in that statement to the Human Rights Council are largely European, but notably not all EU countries, together with Australia, New Zealand and Canada. There are no Asian, African or Latin American countries, unless you count Belize in Central America and one Micronesian island. There is no widespread support from the Commonwealth, which clearly is not going to replace the EU as a supportive bloc for us and the rules-based order. Does he worry about those omissions, bearing in mind the heavy Chinese engagement in many regions of the world?

This is a dangerous time for Hong Kong and I am very glad that we are offering the refuge that we are, although that loss to the territory further damages Hong Kong itself. But wider than that, China’s actions are immensely worrying for future global relations and the rules-based order. There are indeed so many issues that must be faced together, including, of course, climate change.

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

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for their support for my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary’s Statement. As my right honourable friend has said previously, we delivered on what we hoped we would not have to deliver, as a consequence of the decision taken to impose this new law on the people of Hong Kong. As both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness acknowledged, this is a breach, and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have both been clear, during Prime Minister’s Questions and the Statement yesterday in the other place, that this does represent a breach of the “one country, two systems” agreement, which has been signed. As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, reminded us, it has status because it has been deposited within the context and the confines of the United Nations. Moreover, it is also a breach of China’s own Basic Law for Hong Kong, as it contravenes the scope of Article 23.

I turn now to some of the specific questions, points and observations made by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness. I say first to the noble Lord, Lord Collins —I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, agrees with this, as do we all—that China has an important role to play in our current international system and in the context of the United Nations. Further, as I have acknowledged from this Dispatch Box, it is also playing an important role in meeting the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has assisted many countries in procuring, for example, ventilators and PPE equipment. We acknowledge that, and I know that that view is shared by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, alluded to the importance of addressing climate change. China will be hosting an important conference next year, as will we at COP 26. It is important that we work together, because while the focus of the world has rightly been on the Covid-19 pandemic, one should not forget for a moment the challenges posed by climate change. Addressing these issues without China’s direct engagement will not result in the success from a global perspective that we all seek. However, I repeat what I have said previously: we are clear-eyed in our Statement, and regarding our relationship with China. China is a key partner for us in many areas. However, as this issue, on which we disagree very strongly, has illustrated, we carry a special responsibility when it comes to Hong Kong, as yesterday’s announcement again confirmed.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked who will be eligible under the announcement that has been made. As I mentioned in your Lordships’ House a few days ago, we estimate that some 2.9 million people will be eligible. That includes those who currently have BNO status, those who would qualify for BNO status if they applied for it and, of course, their dependants. That will be applied universally.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked about other young people. Looking at the media reports and current reporting, it was deeply concerning that only yesterday, as soon as the law came into effect, a number of individuals were detained under its provisions. We have already relayed these concerns: yesterday the Chinese ambassador to the UK was summoned to the Foreign Office and met the PUS, and we asked specifically about China’s intent in terms of the implementation of the new law, particularly under certain key sections. We will continue to keep that very closely monitored and under review. Of course, if people seek to apply for asylum in the United Kingdom, their applications will continue to be looked at on their merits.

I speak as a Minister but also in a role which both noble Lords know that I take very seriously—that of a human rights Minister. In our country’s history we have long been supportive of those who have spoken out against oppression around the world. That should be the case today—and I am proud to say that it is—and it should be the case in the future as well.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, both touched on the important issue of the Magnitsky global human rights regime and sanctions regime. I wish I could provide a specific answer to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, but I reassure him once again that we are looking to introduce the new regime very shortly. There are procedures and timings to go through but, as I have said to the House, it will certainly be before the Summer Recess and, as a sanctions Minister, I have been closely involved in progress in this respect. I pay tribute to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, who I know has taken a very personal interest in this particular issue and is seeking to bring it forward at the earliest opportunity.

The noble Baroness and the noble Lord asked about work within the UN. As a human rights Minister, I was directly involved in working with the 27 countries, including the United Kingdom, which signed and supported the statement that our ambassador delivered at the UN Human Rights Council. It covered—as the noble Baroness rightly acknowledged—not only the situation in Hong Kong but the appalling situation suffered in particular by the Uighurs in Xinjiang. We will continue to raise that issue with partners.

The noble Baroness asked about key partners. I have just come from a virtual meeting of the UN Security Council, which looked specifically at the importance of peace and securing peace in the context of the Covid crisis. The meeting was chaired by our German partners, and I was pleased to attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. We continue to work with our European partners, as well as others, in support of human rights, the rule of law, standing up for obligations and media freedom—again, a point mentioned by noble Lords.

The noble Baroness rightly mentioned her concerns about working through the context of the Commonwealth and other alliances. We continue to do so and need to do more; I fully acknowledge that. We need to make a very strong case on the premise of human rights and continue to make the case for upholding and strengthening the international rules-based system.

Coming back to my original point about the relationship with China today, China has, and is playing, an important role on the world stage. It also has international obligations on the world stage. We will continue to remind China of those obligations and to work together where our interests are aligned positively, in areas such as Covid-19 and climate change. However, this will not prevent us raising our deep concerns about the human rights situation in mainland China and, of course, the recent announcement made by the Chinese authorities on the new law for Hong Kong.

We therefore again appeal to the Chinese authorities to reconsider their approach, but in the interim we have now embarked on a particular route, and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be coming forward with further details of the announcements and operation of the new scheme. I am sure both noble Lords have seen the details of what we have announced thus far, and that will ultimately lead to a pathway to citizenship.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, also asked about British judges. That is an important point because, under this law, the appointment of those judges has switched. It has gone from the Chief Justice to the Chief Executive. We believe that that upholds neither the principles of China’s basic Hong Kong law nor the spirit and details of the agreements that we have signed, including the joint declaration. That is therefore a worrying development; we will look at it closely because other announcements have been made as part of it, including on setting up local committees to look at the enforcement of the law. Again, we believe that that goes directly against both elements of the joint agreement and China’s basic law for Hong Kong.

I assure the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that we will continue to work actively on the world stage. They asked about the UN rapporteur. In that regard, let me assure them that my right honourable friend has very much led from the front on this issue. I pay tribute to his efforts, particularly at the G7. As I said, we have worked closely on securing support with 26 other countries that, like us, are on the Human Rights Council. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said, if we need to explore further diplomatic routes, we will continue to do so.

Korea

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Tuesday 30th June 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, what assessment has been made of the spread of coronavirus in North Korea, for example through satellite assessment and attendance at clinics, and do the Government think that conflict with the south is a deflection from that?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to draw attention to the situation in North Korea on both the humanitarian and human rights front. Yes, the challenge remains to understand what support we can provide. Although we of course support sanctions, she will be aware that humanitarian support continues to be delivered through the UN avenues. We called on North Korea to make an assessment of its situation domestically on Covid-19 and allow support to its citizens.

China

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Monday 29th June 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right. The standing committee is currently debating this very issue and the decision is awaited. On BNOs, the Prime Minister has been very clear. I am sure that the noble Baroness also saw his article at the beginning of this month, where he made it clear that anyone eligible for BNO status—which is the larger number of more than 2.9 million people—would qualify for citizenship.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, with which countries is the United Kingdom working to counter China’s threats to Hong Kong, Taiwan in the South China Sea and elsewhere, and how is that progressing?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, as the noble Baroness will be aware—I am sure she follows this—we have worked very closely with our European allies, including the likes of Germany and France. Allies remain allies: the noble Lord may not agree with me, but they do. We will continue to work also with others in the region. An earlier question pointed at the South China Sea. We work with other key partners, including the likes of Australia.

China

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Wednesday 17th June 2020

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of their relationship with the government of China; whether they intend to alter that relationship; and if so, how they intend to do so.

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

My Lords, our approach to China is rooted in our values and strategic interests. As a leading member of the international community and as a major economy, China has to be involved in solving global issues. However, when engaging China, we stand up for our principles, including international law, human rights and national security. We want a mature, pragmatic relationship with the Chinese Government, which means collaborating where our interests align, being clear where they do not, and working to resolve our differences.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

Given China’s economic and political dominance, its threats to Hong Kong and Taiwan, and in the South China Sea, and its eternal suppression of human rights, do the Government still think that there can be a golden age of engagement with China? Given that we cannot do this alone, with which countries are the Government working to achieve this?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, as the noble Baroness knows, I am an eternal optimist: there can of course be a new golden age, in every sense. We are working with China on the important issue of Covid-19; indeed, China has helped not just us but others with PPE procurement. Other areas where there is scope for collaboration include issues around trade and the environment, a cause close to the noble Baroness’s heart. We are working collaboratively on COP 26, because, without China’s participation, COP 26 will not achieve its ambitions. We work constructively in all these areas. As I said earlier, where we have differences, we raise them—privately, at times, but in international fora at other times.

Press Freedom

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Monday 8th June 2020

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness that we raise this issue of media freedom in bilateral conversations as well as through multilateral fora, and we will continue to do so. If you are a democracy, of course, the responsibility becomes ever greater. The freedom of the press and protection of the media is a fundamental pillar of good governance and democracy.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

When did the Government last raise the harassment of BBC Persian staff with Iran or on the international stage?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness that this is very high on our agenda in our direct bilateral conversations with Iran, and we have also had that discussion at various levels within the Human Rights Council. Iran is very much a state that suppresses media freedom and indeed other human rights, and it continues to be a country of concern in the human rights report that we issue every year.

Hong Kong

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Tuesday 2nd June 2020

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

The noble Lord clearly recognises that this move potentially breaks the Sino-British agreement. Will the path to UK citizenship therefore be extended to all Hong Kong citizens, not just those with BNO status, and their dependents?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Baroness makes an important point. We have had many discussions on this. I assure her that, if China continues down this path and implements this national security legislation, we will be required to change the status of BNO passport holders. The Foreign Secretary was quite specific: we would set in train arrangements allowing BNOs to come to the UK for longer than the current six-month period and apply for extendable periods of 12 months to work and study, which will in itself provide a pathway to citizenship.

British Citizens Stranded Overseas

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Thursday 14th May 2020

(4 months, 1 week ago)

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

My Lords, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is leading efforts to repatriate British travellers and their families who normally live in the United Kingdom. On 30 March, the Foreign Secretary committed £75 million for charter flights where commercial routes are not an option, prioritising the most vulnerable. We have now brought back more than 31,000 people on 146 flights from 27 countries, organised by the Foreign Office. More than 19,000 British passengers who were aboard 60 cruise ships on 17 March have all disembarked.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for all his and the FCO’s work. However, by early April, the EU had brought home half a million citizens. Under the EU scheme, Germany had chartered more than 100 flights for 20,000 citizens; the UK had chartered only six for 1,000 people. Why did the UK not play a full part in what the EU offered, and are we doing so now? I note that there has just been an EU flight back from the Gambia.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her remarks about the work of the Foreign Office. The teams both in London and in post have been working around the clock on the repatriation effort. We have taken the view that it is right to keep commercial flight options open, which has resulted in a larger number of British nationals—for example, in Pakistan—returning. Where there have been no commercial flights, we have then embarked on charter options. I believe that that that was the right decision and we have had a successful operation which continues today.

Syria

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Wednesday 13th May 2020

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Lord raises an important point on Resolution 2504. Most recently, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary had a call with the Minister about the importance of keeping those corridors open. We hope that not only will this happen but that we will be able to open up additional humanitarian corridors.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

Will the Government consider time-limited sanctions relief for Syria to permit international transactions and supplies and to make the health of the civilian population a priority?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I have already made clear the Government’s position on sanctions, which is taken together with our EU colleagues. These will not be lifted until such time as we see meaningful engagement from the Assad regime.

Israel: West Bank

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Wednesday 6th May 2020

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I have already stated the Government’s position and I am happy to restate it. We believe in a two-state negotiated peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, the Israel Attorney-General’s office has warned the Israeli Prime Minister that annexation could trigger an International Criminal Court investigation into senior army officers and others. Will the Government co-operate if such an investigation occurs?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I am not going to speculate on what may or may not happen. It remains very clear that we support a negotiated settlement between both sides, as I have said. As for anything which the ICC brings forward, we are supporters of the ICC, as the noble Baroness will know.

Covid-19: Repatriation of UK Nationals

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Thursday 30th April 2020

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. I welcome the financial contributions to Gavi, the WHO and others, whose efforts are clearly vital in this crisis. As we know, their work saves lives. I also welcome the contribution to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, something which no Government after this must neglect. I pay tribute to the huge amount of work undertaken by the FCO, DfID and our embassies and high commissions during this crisis. However, we seem to be behind other countries in getting people home.

On 27 March, the EU had brought home half a million citizens. The United Kingdom chartered six flights for 1,000 British citizens through the EU crisis scheme; Germany chartered over 100 flights for over 20,000 German citizens. On 1 April, the Independent reported that Air France had flown more than 200 rescue missions but that

“the UK has yet to reach double figures in government-sponsored repatriation flights.”

By mid-April, only 5,000 out of 20,000 UK citizens in India had been brought back. Why did we lag so far behind our EU colleagues? The Government emphasised —and still do—that they were working with other countries, yet we seemed particularly unwilling to work with our EU colleagues. Why was that? Looking at where we are now, can the Minister answer the question from the noble Lord, Lord Collins: how many more people need to be brought home?

The Minister mentioned Nigeria in the Statement. I am sure he will know that there has been a surge of deaths in Kano state, an indication that coronavirus may be more widespread there than the Nigerian authorities are admitting. Are we making quarantine plans for those who come back from Nigeria?

The Minister mentioned that we have tripled our capacity in consular centres. That is obviously welcome, but we have brought home many diplomats and their families from countries with weak health systems. Are we working jointly with the EU to maximise our capacity? There have been many complaints about inadequate capacity and communication.

The Minister mentioned PPE. Again, we all knew from reports on Twitter, if nowhere else, that the United Kingdom had been invited to join the original EU scheme. No one can say that we did not know about it. So why did we not? The Minister will know that the Government’s latest Statement on this is not persuasive.

However, I am very glad to hear that we intend to act globally. Some countries appear to be using the cover of this crisis. Some are taking authoritarian measures. In Hong Kong, human rights campaigners such as the esteemed lawyer Martin Lee have been arrested. What will we do to challenge these actions? Israel has just formed a coalition Government who may now plan to annex the Occupied Territories. Can the Minister assure us that we will make it plain that this is contrary to international law and will be resisted? I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for their questions. I start by thanking them for their kind remarks acknowledging the work that has been done. As a Minister responsible for a particular part of the world—south Asia—that has seen thousands and thousands of British travellers being impacted, I am acutely aware of the challenge that has been posed by the repatriation efforts. Again, I commend the efforts of our diplomats on the ground, and the consular efforts being made through countless numbers of emails and telephone calls. Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness mentioned the ramping up of consular support. We have certainly seen this in the inquiries made by parliamentary colleagues on behalf of their constituents and in response to direct cases. The current level is circa 3,000 calls—to put that in context, around 45% of those calls cover south Asia. A substantial number of calls are coming in for that part of the world.

I acknowledge the support of both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord on the issue of vaccines. This remains a key priority. We are all watching closely the recent developments in Oxford and we wish well everyone around the world who is seeking a solution. I am proud that, notwithstanding the domestic challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis, the support that we are giving to Gavi and CEPI underlines the United Kingdom’s commitment to standing up with partners in the global fight against coronavirus, as well as against other viruses.

I took part in a multilateral conference organised by our German and French colleagues—the Foreign Ministers of both countries—which, again, underlines the level of co-operation. Picking up on a point made by the noble Baroness about working with our EU partners, the UK will be hosting a joint conference with the EU on our response to Covid-19. Whether on repatriation or our general response internationally, I assure the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that we will continue to work with our EU partners as well as other international partners on this global crisis.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised the various communication challenges with various posts. He mentioned India specifically. I put on record my thanks to our acting high commissioner, who has taken to her task in an admirable fashion. I know the volume of British nationals that she has been challenged with repatriating. It is notable that with 52 charter flights from India we will have returned more than 10,000 British travellers to the United Kingdom. That is no small feat. It is down to our consular efforts in India and to the support that was subsequently given. The noble Baroness and the noble Lord mentioned that we started our charter flights later than other partners. As a former Aviation Minister of two years standing, I know all too well the challenges posed by securing charter permissions. I stand by our actions, as does the Foreign Secretary, when we sought to keep using commercial routes where they were viable. A good and notable example of that was Pakistan, from where we were able to return more than 7,500 people on commercial flights because the national carrier PIA continued to operate.

On pricing, which the noble Lord raised, as it relates to some commercial carriers, we have addressed this directly with the airlines. For example, PIA has restarted its flights and its current charging is reflective of the charter flights that we are deploying from Pakistan. We will continue to employ these flights. We have extended flights to other countries, including Bangladesh. Through charter flights, we have returned 800 people from Nepal and, on commercial flights, 600 people from the Maldives. That gives an example of how a combination of commercial operations and charter flights has resulted in the substantial success thus far of the policy.

However, I am not complacent. Both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord raised the issue of British travellers who are still abroad. There are a large number, running into the thousands, in India alone, as well as in Pakistan. It is a patch I know well. I assure noble Lords that we are working around the clock to ensure that flights are laid on. Some people are undoubtedly making decisions to stay in-country. They are looking at the domestic profile of the coronavirus spread in the UK compared with in the country they may be visiting, or where they may be staying with friends or family. We are stressing to anyone who has booked a charter flight that, once they have booked it, they should get on that flight; otherwise, they will be denying an opportunity to someone else to return.

The noble Lord also raised the issue of the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and issues of repatriation, communications and commercial routes, which I have already addressed.

The noble Baroness asked about partnership and working on the issue of PPE with all partners. I have referenced a couple of countries, including in my patch of south Asia, that we are sourcing PPE from. The Foreign Secretary has made this a priority. We are part of the EU scheme. I think that the misunderstandings that arose have been addressed directly by the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office in his response to the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

I also assure both noble Lords that we are dealing tomorrow with issues surrounding the development response. I will seek to update them regularly to ensure that all noble Lords, particularly those serving on our Front Benches, are fully versed in the numbers and challenges that we face. I have been a Foreign Office Minister for close to three years now, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, keeps reminding me, but I have never faced a challenge like this. There have been crises, but this is unprecedented. When we say that, it is probably an understatement. But I assure noble Lords that we are leaving no stone unturned and we are undoubtedly learning lessons from the challenges that are being posed.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked what more could be done, and we are learning lessons, such as on the vulnerability of individuals who are visiting countries. That is why, with the Foreign Secretary’s approval and at my direction, countries, certainly in the areas that I looked after, opened up registers before the charter flights started to ensure that we could identify the most vulnerable and those with underlying medical conditions so that they could be returned as soon as possible on the earlier charter flights. The charter flights continue, and we will continue to update the House regularly on this important issue, which I know is of concern to all noble Lords.

Syria

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Thursday 30th April 2020

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

What realistic assessment has been made of the incidence of the coronavirus in Idlib and in Syria as a whole, and how can testing be increased? Does the Minister agree that an urgent, comprehensive and co-ordinated emergency response plan is now required?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, if I heard the noble Baroness correctly, I stand with her in condemning the actions taken by different groups on all sides on the ground, which have caused great suffering to people in Syria. We continue to work to alleviate the human suffering there. I share with the noble Baroness that because of the fragile ceasefire, there is a glimmer of hope—35,000 people have returned to the region—but we also continue to investigate, including with the OPCW, events that have taken place in the past, including the 2017 attack. Again, I reassure the noble Baroness that anyone responsible should be held to account by the international community.

Integrated Security, Defence and Foreign Policy Review

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Monday 23rd March 2020

(6 months ago)

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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, in response to the first question, Her Majesty’s Government’s biological security strategy draws together our work on building national resilience to natural, accidental and deliberate risks from biological agents. I concur with the noble Lord that there are countries around the world which still engage in the activity he described. I reassure him that we work very closely with international partners to strengthen co-operation against potential biological threats, including through the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention and the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism. To make this very topical to the current crisis, the FCO and Her Majesty’s Government are working very closely with their diplomatic network to monitor the spread of coronavirus throughout the world. We are working with international partners to tackle this global challenge.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, does the Minister agree that, for years, there have been warnings about pandemics? Did he note that, in the 2015 review, there was a declared need to tackle threats that did not recognise borders? On epidemics, it said:

“No single nation can act alone on such transnational threats.”

It also stated:

“We have detailed, robust and comprehensive plans in place and the necessary capacity to deal with infectious diseases, including pandemic influenza”.

Does he agree that, once we are through this crisis, we will need to pay close attention to not only the health but the economic and social implications of our interconnectedness, and that poverty in one part of the world and the practices rooted in it can quickly affect all of us? This must be part of the upcoming review.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that the current crisis and the challenges it imposes have asked us to redefine all relationships. If there is one conclusion we can draw from where we are today—we are still on the cusp of the crisis here in the United Kingdom—it is the sheer interdependency of humanity. This crisis does not know borders, political differences or geographical space. It knows one thing: that it will affect us all in some shape or form, as we are seeing. Once we are over this crisis, it is important that, not just as a nation but collectively through international partners and the relationships we have, we learn lessons and share experiences so that when this kind of pandemic hits again, we are even better prepared.

Refugee Crisis: Greece and Turkey

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Tuesday 10th March 2020

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I first thank the noble Lord for his remarks. I am sure I speak for everyone in your Lordships’ House—we have all seen the images and pictures from the border—in saying that the situation is deplorable, with desperately vulnerable people seeking refuge and security. I am sure our thoughts are with those who have suffered, particularly those currently on the border. He rightly raises the issue of UK support. Last week the UK announced a new package of £89 million in humanitarian aid to save lives and protect Syrians at increasing risk of violence in Idlib. This includes tents, foods, medical care and, particularly, support for women and girls.

The noble Lord is right to raise the importance of working with key partners across the piece, including the EU. As I said in my Statement, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken directly with the Greek Foreign Minister and we are working closely with the Turkish authorities, who are crucial in this respect. President Erdoğan is visiting Brussels and the purpose of those meetings is specifically to address this issue; I will update the House accordingly. Last week my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary was in Ankara, where this issue was raised directly with the President of Turkey.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating that Answer. The refugees are clearly in the most desperate situation, being bombed out of Syria, pushed out of Turkey and pushed back from Greece. Does he agree that this plays into the hands of people smugglers and is yet another crisis that must be tackled multilaterally?

Speaking of crises that cross borders, neither Turkey nor Syria has yet declared any cases of coronavirus. Does the Minister think this is plausible, given the situation in Iran, and does he agree that refugees and those in the camps will be especially vulnerable to the virus? What analysis is being made of its potential impact?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

Then noble Baroness raises a very valid issue. Indeed, when I was being briefed, that was a specific question. As she will appreciate, the situation is fluid. While immediate medical attention is being provided, there is no exact figure for the numbers who may be caught up in the coronavirus crisis. As she will be aware, part of the issue is that Turkey has closed its border with its near neighbour Iran, for containment reasons. However, a specific assessment of the numbers has not been made. On the wider point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, we of course continue to lead. For the past three years, the UK has been the leading nation, with close to a quarter of the refugees who have taken safe haven across the EU coming to the UK.

Organ Trafficking: Sanctions

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Monday 2nd March 2020

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I note and pay tribute to the noble Lord’s work on this. I assure all noble Lords that the whole purpose of the scope of the sanctions regime is to ensure that we hold individuals who abuse human rights to account for their actions, whatever the basis of those human rights—indeed, I remember many a debate in your Lordships’ House on this legislation—and whatever the abuse.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, the China Tribunal has concluded that China’s forced organ harvesting constitutes a crime against humanity. I know the noble Lord takes his responsibilities as Minister for Human Rights seriously. Has he read the China Tribunal’s report? A draft was out about six months ago, and it has now been finalised. If he has, does he agree with it? I note that he did not raise this issue at the Human Rights Council the other day.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on that final point, as the noble Baroness will know from her own experience as a Minister, when you are at international fora you are very much time-limited on all the issues, and the exclusion of a particular issue does not mean that there is not a focus or priority attached to it. She will know that the final report was issued yesterday; it is 562 pages long. I have not yet read it, but we are considering it and I will respond to her in detail once we have done so more fully.

Syria

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Monday 24th February 2020

(7 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I shall take the last question first. I am sure that the noble Lord shares—indeed, all noble Lords will do so—the sentiments that we pay tribute to the courage and sacrifices made by the Kurds in particular. We pay tribute to the work of the SDF in successful efforts that were made against Daesh in Syria. I assure him that we remain very much committed to the fight against Daesh and regard the SDF very much as a partner in this fight.

The noble Lord asked about the practical steps we are taking. First, on 5 February, the former Minister for the Middle East and North Africa visited Ankara to discuss the situation specifically in Idlib with Turkish government Ministers. Last month, the United Kingdom hosted a meeting of special envoys of the small group on Syria, which includes Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, ourselves and the United States, to discuss the situation in Syria, including specifically the need for de-escalation in Idlib. As I said in the Statement, we have repeatedly used our position at the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council to call on Russia and the regime to end the offensive, adhere to specifically agreed ceasefires in Idlib and, importantly, respect obligations under international humanitarian law, which was the first point that the noble Lord raised, particularly with reference to the Assad regime. I am aiming to travel to the UN Human Rights Council tomorrow, and my statement will reflect those concerns.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord for his response. The IRC and others have described what is happening in Syria as a humanitarian catastrophe—and it clearly is. He has expressed his frustration in terms of what can be done to assist. We have the extraordinary situation of joint Russian-Turkish military patrols in north-east Syria and, at the same time, Russian planes bombing Turkish positions in Idlib. As to what can be done, addressing food prices is of critical importance. They have increased by 60% since September. Even then, an estimated 6.5 million Syrians were already food insecure. Can the Government review sanctions to see if there are ways in which they could mitigate the impact on ordinary civilians? Also, into this comes coronavirus. What assessment is being made of the risks that it may pose to those with reduced immunity who are crowded together in terrible conditions, as well as to those seeking to help them?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Baroness makes some practical points, and I will write to her on her last point on the assessment made on coronavirus. That is a valid concern, particularly given the current situation regarding humanitarian aid. The noble Baroness will be aware that we are deeply concerned that at the UN Security Council, when a resolution was discussed on the humanitarian corridors, it was with great regret and disappointment that two countries—namely, Russia and China—chose to block the resolution. That has resulted in the loss of two of the four crossing points for humanitarian aid. We continue to press, and we support the UN mandate and mission there. As regards sanctions policy, I will take her point back.

Bahrain: Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Wednesday 12th February 2020

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

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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.

Middle East Peace Plan

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Thursday 30th January 2020

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

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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.

Sanctions

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Thursday 23rd January 2020

(8 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, we continue to have helpful discussions with the noble Lord in this respect. My colleague the Minister for Africa has also written to him. On his final point on money laundering, I draw the noble Lord’s attention to the fact that in 2018 FATF undertook a review of over 60 regimes across the world, in which the UK ranked the highest, showing that we have a robust money laundering regime in place. That said, there are always improvements to be made. As far as the sanctions regime itself is concerned, as I have said before from the Dispatch Box, we are currently considering its overall scope. The noble Lord makes some helpful suggestions. On his point about other regimes around the world, as I have always said, the imposition of sanctions works best when there is connectivity across like-minded partners.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee recently described the Government’s approach to sanctions as “fragmented and incoherent.” We now hear reports that the Cabinet is divided over whether post Brexit the United Kingdom should be more or less active in this area. Can the Minister confirm that the Government and he himself promised during the sanctions Bill that the United Kingdom post Brexit would be more rather than less ambitious in sanctioning those who commit or hide human rights abuses and corruption?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, if there is any incoherence or lack of understanding, wherever it may be, I suggest across the piece that Members attend your Lordships’ House, where I am sure they will be suitably enlightened. On the specific issue of the policy around human rights, as we have said, global human rights underpin our sanctions policy. That is an assurance that I have given. We continue to develop, and we will be laying secondary legislation in that respect shortly.

Violence Against Journalists

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Wednesday 22nd January 2020

(8 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord pointed to my longevity in office, and I thank him for his support during that time. Yes, I am serving under my third Foreign Secretary, but the fact is that that campaign, launched by the former Foreign Secretary, and indeed the girls’ education campaign, launched by the then Foreign Secretary who is now serving as Prime Minister, show that these campaigns are not just down to one individual who may lead a department but are important on the broader issue of human rights.

On the media freedom campaign, he is right to draw attention to the conference. There was a follow-up during high-level week where I, together with the Foreign Secretary’s envoy, Amal Clooney, and the Prime Minister of Sudan, launched a side event on this particular issue. We as the UK have committed over £4.5 million to this project and an additional £3 million over five years to the Global Media Defense Fund. As the noble Lord will know, we are working directly with the special envoy, Amal Clooney, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, to discuss the legal dimension to the threats that journalists face. He is right to point out that it is about not just journalists who are killed but those journalists who are in prison simply for doing their job

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, as the Minister knows, I have raised with him the case of Christopher Allen several times, initially at the request of Lord Ashdown. If the FCO is indeed to defend journalists, it needs to pursue this case more vigorously. Christopher was a dual US/UK national, but the FCO did not follow the correct procedures when his family requested help. I would like to know what formal investigation of that failing in the FCO has occurred, and whether the Minister will agree to meet the family to take the case forward.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the latter point, as the noble Baroness will know, of course I would be willing to meet the family. I suggest, as I said in my original Answer, that my colleague the Minister for Africa is also present, who most recently met with Christopher’s cousin. I assure the noble Baroness that, if there have been any shortcomings in our approach, we always take that issue very seriously. I am constantly looking at issues of consular assistance to ensure that we not only respond accordingly to citizens when a particular tragedy befalls them but offer them support afterwards. On this particular issue, we want to link the support that we are providing through legal expertise to journalists with how we can bridge the gap and support those families where, tragically, the journalists themselves have been killed.

Iran: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Tuesday 14th January 2020

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. Does he notice the marked difference in tone between that Statement and the joint statement from the E3 to which the noble Lord, Lord Collins, has referred, which is from the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom? He will doubtless say that he does not see a marked difference.

The E3 statement is clear and unequivocal but statesmanlike. It argues that we

“share fundamental common security interests, along with our European partners. One of them is upholding the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and ensuring that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon.”

That is absolutely right. It argues that the JCPOA

“plays a key role in this respect, as our Leaders have just unambiguously reaffirmed.”

It states that the JCPOA is

“a key achievement of multilateral diplomacy”.

It therefore goes on to say:

“Together, we have stated unequivocally our regret and concern at the decision by the United States to withdraw from the JCPoA and to re-impose sanctions on Iran. Since May 2018, we have worked together to preserve the agreement. The E3 have fully upheld our JCPoA commitments, including sanctions-lifting as foreseen under the terms of the agreement.”

It continues by saying:

“In addition to the lifting of all sanctions, required by our commitments under the agreement, we have worked tirelessly to support legitimate trade with Iran.”

The E3 states that, since 2018 and especially recently, we

“have worked hard to address Iran’s concerns”

and

“sought to persuade Iran to change course”

in relation to it not meeting some of its obligations. It states that the E3 is referring Iran to the dispute resolution process

“in good faith with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPoA”.

I have quoted at length so that noble Lords can see the difference between what the Minister has just read out, and the E3 statement. Does he agree that the E3 statement is reasoned and reasonable? He must do so because our Foreign Secretary agreed to it. We claim in the E3 statement that we are referring Iran to the dispute resolution mechanism in good faith because we support the JCPOA. How does that square with what we have just heard is coming from the very top of the Government: that they agree with the US that this is an inadequate deal?

Does the Minister agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, who played such a key role in the negotiation of this agreement and described it as a “boulder in the door”? How are we seeking to de-escalate tensions when at the same time, we accuse Iran in the Statement he has just read out of “nefarious” intentions? Does the E3 statement square with what the Minister has said about this being a “shell of an agreement”?

It is two and half pages into this Statement before we hear that the UK is “disappointed” that the US withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018. We rightly seek that Iran comes back into compliance, but where is the request that the US comes back into compliance? We have indeed upheld our commitments, but does the noble Lord not accept that the US’s legal reach means that companies do not want to trade with Iran lest they end up in the US courts, and that, therefore, the bringing of Iran back into the global fold has been severely damaged by US actions? How does the Minister square that with what is being asked of Iran?

Which line do the Government support—the EU-supported JCPOA or Trump’s point of view? Meanwhile, we see convulsions in Iran over the shooting down of the Ukrainian plane and the lies that followed that. Does the Minister agree that the strong reaction in Iran is encouraging and reflects, as ever, the complexity and levels of education and information prevalent in Iranian society?

Might this not be a time to be statesmanlike and request, for example, that the Iranians take this opportunity to release dual nationals on compassionate grounds? It is highly likely that many in the Iranian population are well aware of their plight and would have sympathy with the release, for example, of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, so that she can rejoin her husband and little daughter. As we seek to make such a case, can the noble Lord tell me precisely when the Prime Minister will meet Richard Ratcliffe to take this forward?

The Government are right to urge de-escalation. Does the Minister agree that it is vital that we work internationally and with our EU partners to assist that process, or does he think we should be moving away from this position and towards that of President Trump?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I thank both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their comments and the general thrust of support from both Benches.

In picking up on some of the questions and issues raised, I first note that both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness mentioned the E3 statement of 12 January. It is right: we are members of the E3 and the mechanism has been invoked in partnership. It is an E3 decision. The noble Baroness felt there were nuanced differences between the Statement I read out and that of the E3. The language is of course agreed with our partners, but the general thrust of both statements is very much inclined towards ensuring a diplomatic solution and that the diplomatic channel with Iran remains firmly open.

It is with deep regret that this mechanism has been invoked. The noble Baroness spoke of the sterling work of the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, who I know and respect greatly, and yes, she played an instrumental part when the JCPOA came to fruition. However, as the Statement outlined, we have seen in recent months—I outlined specific dates—Iran’s continuing non-compliance. On the issue of squaring off and my speaking of “nefarious activities”, it is obvious that the dispute mechanism would only have been invoked because of non-compliance. It is regrettable, but Iran has taken steps which justify the action that we have taken, not alone but in partnership with the E3.

I turn to another issue that the noble Lord raised concerning the Prime Minister’s Statement this morning, which I have just read out. The Prime Minister has been very clear and the E3 statement of 12 January—from Chancellor Merkel, President Macron and our Prime Minister—was also clear about our position and continued commitment to the JCPOA. We have had various debates in your Lordships’ House in which we have all agreed that even at its outset, the JCPOA was limited in certain respects and did not cover the full range of the challenges faced, ballistic missiles being one notable example. Nevertheless, it remains the only deal in town. It is therefore right that we invoke this mechanism, not to end the deal but, I say to both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, to ensure that we can leave that diplomatic channel open. The mechanism was set up for that very reason.

The noble Baroness rightly spoke about de-escalating tensions. I am proud of the role that the United Kingdom has played in what has been a very challenging situation in the region and in Iran specifically, together with our partners, most notably Germany and France. In this respect, I would suggest that we are in a better place today than we were perhaps 24 or 36 hours ago. However, notwithstanding the tensions being de-escalated, when it comes to the JCPOA deal itself, it is of deep regret that the actions of Iran have led to the action we have had to take.

The noble Lord and the noble Baroness both rightly raised the issue of dual nationals. I assure all noble Lords that we will continue to take all action on all consular cases in Iran, in line with what we believe will produce the right outcomes. On 6 January, the Foreign Secretary spoke to Foreign Minister Zarif in Iran and again raised the very serious concerns that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness raised today—and rightly continue to raise—about Iran’s practice of detaining foreign and dual nationals. As noble Lords are aware, Iran does not recognise dual nationality. However, notwithstanding that point, we continue to raise these issues consistently. I cannot give the noble Baroness a specific date for any future meeting between the Prime Minister and Richard Ratcliffe, but I assure her that we continue to engage with and support all families that seek support. I last met Richard Ratcliffe in September, during the UN high-level week. We will continue to support the families and to stress upon Iran the need for their immediate release.

The noble Baroness raised the tragic shooting down of the Ukrainian jet. I am sure I speak for all noble Lords across this House when I say that first and foremost, our prayers and thoughts are with those families. In one particular instance, there was a couple who had just got married. We have not just relayed messages to our partners. The Prime Minister has spoken to President Zelensky of Ukraine and I know the Foreign Minister has engaged with all Foreign Ministers in this respect. I myself earlier this week visited Canada House to pay respects to the Canadian victims of this tragedy. It is important that we work together. We have made it clear to the Ukrainians as well as the Iranians that we stand ready to assist with the expertise that we can provide to ensure a full, transparent and complete investigation of this incident. I assure the noble Baroness that we will continue to make representations in this regard.

I hope I have answered the questions and concerns that have been raised. This is a very serious situation. The JCPOA was negotiated through great compromises that were made. It remains, as I said, the only deal on the table, and we will continue to work to retain it.

Middle East: Security Update

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Tuesday 7th January 2020

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. This is an exceptionally dangerous situation. Soleimani clearly had a terrible reputation. He had blood on his hands and had played a key part in destabilising the region. The Iranian regime has much to answer for. However, Trump’s action has destabilised a tinderbox region even further. What do the Government understand to be the legal basis—in international law, not US domestic law, as the Foreign Secretary mentioned on Sunday—for this drone strike? Are there any circumstances in which the UK considers it legal to use drones to assassinate a perceived threat? The Statement says that the US “asserted” and “is confident” of its position. That is very interesting language. Does the UK share these views, and does it have evidence for that?

The European route has been to seek to bring Iran in, with engagement through the JCPOA. Trump’s actions may have finally destroyed that. The Statement mentions rebooting the JCPOA. How is this to be done? This is the first major test of the Government’s new foreign policy, which is to remove us from the European Union and to draw closer to the US. The Statement says:

“Our challenge now … is to deal with the situation we find ourselves in.”

That does not sound like we are leading or in control.

Given that the UK is closely allied to the US in Iraq and the Gulf, what explanation has the US given for not informing the UK? Is it the case that they informed only Israel, even though other countries might also be affected? What evidence is there that the US thought through the short, medium and long-term consequences of its actions? Does the UK agree?

Does the Minister agree that this action benefits the hardliners in Iran and Iraq and that the protesters in both those countries, who were seeking a less corrupt, less sectarian way forward, will now have their voices drowned out?

Does the Minister agree that dual nationals, such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, are now in even more difficult circumstances? What comfort can the Government give to her and her family, as well as to our own troops and those working in the region?

The UK and the US base their operations against Daesh, and in relation to Syria, from Iraq. The Government clearly recognise the risk here. What happens if the Iraqi Government decide to implement the parliament’s decision and ask foreign forces to leave? What does this mean for the battle against Daesh?

Some 30% of the world’s oil supply goes through the Strait of Hormuz, and I note what the Statement says. However, does the Minister think that shipping can be adequately protected, as he describes? What alternative routes are there? He will have seen how targeted the attacks on Saudi Aramco were. What is the result of discussions held with the GCC countries about scaling this crisis down? Iran has significant cyber capabilities and has tested these out in attacks on western countries. Is the Minister aware of the Iranian- linked attempt on Parliament, shortly after the US attack?

President Trump has stated that the US has identified 52 sites in Iran to target in the event of Iranian retaliation. Does the UK know what they are? Is the US discussing this with us? Have we sought reassurance that no Iranian cultural sites will be targeted in any future action?

This is a very dangerous moment, when the dangers of the Trump presidency when dealing with the Middle East tinderbox, are clear for all to see. I look forward to comprehensive answers from the Minister, who I know fully understands the huge risks that we all now face.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for their comments and contributions, particularly the support and words of the noble Lord. They both know—as I am sure all noble Lords do—the importance of restraint and ensuring that we de-escalate this crisis. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that, as was said in the Statement and made clear in statements by my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Secretary of State for Defence, our priority is ensuring that we call on all sides for restraint at this important time.

On ensuring that all multilateral international organisations play a role, when I was preparing to deliver the Statement I noted the statements that were made by the Secretary-Generals of NATO and the United Nations. The noble Baroness referred to the importance of our partners in the Middle East. It is important to stress the need for restraint on all sides: she will have noticed that we continue to work closely with our European partners in the E3 statement that was issued after the meeting. As I said in the Statement, the Prime Minister has spoken to various leaders around the world who are directly involved, including the President of the US and the Iraqi Prime Minister.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned the important role that the United Kingdom has played and continues to play in bringing stability to Iraq and the wider region. When I visited Iraq 18 months or so ago, I saw the important role the UK was playing in this, as well as the importance of the various UN missions. I am assured that, thus far, the important work of UNITAD continues. This is important in ensuring that we bring to justice those who have committed heinous crimes during the Iraq conflict.

The noble Lord asked about other partners. As noble Lords will know, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has travelled to Brussels and intends to travel to the US later this week. We are keeping directly engaged with the US and other key partners on these issues. He raised the issue of NATO. While it makes its own assessment, as a key player in NATO we will continue to liaise with all NATO partners.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised the importance of safety and security of personnel. I have detailed, to the extent I can, some of the changes we have effected on the ground. Our embassies in Tehran and Baghdad remain open; however, we have taken all necessary steps to ensure the security of our personnel operating in those countries. He asked me to keep the House updated, and I shall seek to do so as we move forward. The important point to emphasise here—I totally agree with the noble Lord—is the importance of de-escalation and bringing down tensions.

I say to the noble Baroness, who asked about the JCPOA, that we have reiterated in our various exchanges, including with Foreign Minister Zarif, the importance of returning to the table on the JCPOA. She will be aware that, before the death of General Soleimani, the Iranians had already increased their non-co-operation: their level of co-operation on the JCPOA had decreased, but we have again stressed the importance of keeping that particular diplomatic door very much open.

The noble Baroness asked about our contacts with our European partners in a post-Brexit Britain. She will be reassured by the fact that we have shown consistency with our previous approach and have worked with E3 partners, namely Germany and France, in issuing statements, and by the fact that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is visiting Brussels today. That underlines again the importance of that relationship.

The noble Baroness raised concerns, which I share, about the increased influence of hardliners in Iran, as well as the safety and security of dual nationals, which has been a cause of understandable concern in your Lordships’ House. I share her concerns: that is why, to quote the noble Lord, Lord Collins, we are seeking to play a primary and key role in ensuring de-escalation at this crucial stage.

The noble Baroness specifically asked about security for our shipping. I assure her that we have assets in place. I gave a sense or a flavour of the number of assets we have by which we seek to continue to protect the Strait of Hormuz; of course, we are keeping that situation under review.

The issue of cultural sites was raised by both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness. I think we have had a clarification from the US Defense Secretary on this issue, and I am sure that that statement provides reassurance to noble Lords in that respect.

On international co-operation with Arab partners, I again stress that we have seen statements from various Arab leaders, including organisations within the Arab world, which reflect the importance of de-escalation and bringing greater calm to the region.

If there are other specific questions which I have not answered, I will pick up on them and respond to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord in writing.

Brexit: Engagement with EU on Foreign Affairs

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Thursday 31st October 2019

(10 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have made to coordinate joint engagement on foreign affairs with European Union member states if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

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

My Lords, on leaving the European Union the UK will continue to work closely with European partners in our shared interest or to tackle common threats. The United Kingdom is strengthening bilateral relationships in Europe and globally, as well as our multilateral and small-group diplomacy. We are seeking a comprehensive and balanced security relationship with the European Union that will respect the UK’s sovereignty and the EU’s decision-making autonomy.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

Today, we were due to leave the EU, regardless of consequence, so perhaps we will have a little more time to think through the implications of this generational decision. We have maximised our position on foreign affairs through the EU. What chance is there of retaining that influence if we are not at the pre-meetings and the EU meetings, and we are not a member of the EU caucus at gatherings of multilateral organisations—for example, those that address climate change? Does the Minister really think that paying for a few hundred more civil servants across the EU and in the UK will close that gap?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

On the final point, I totally disagree with the noble Baroness. It is not just a few civil servants; it is 1,000, and that is a substantial uplift. If you are going to be on the global stage, you need more diplomats, and we have brought about just that, including in the European Union. On losing influence, I remind her that we are a P5 member of the UN and a member of the G7, the G20, NATO and the OSCE. Far from receding, that provides an opportunity after we leave the European Union to continue our relationship with our European partners, to strengthen our global ambitions and aspirations, and to truly be a global Britain on the world stage.

North-east Syria

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Wednesday 23rd October 2019

(11 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, first, I put on record that I know the right honourable gentleman Alistair Burt very well. I worked with him as a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and I pay tribute to his work across both that department and DfID. The Government have listened carefully and I have read through his exchange with my right honourable friend. As I have stated, it is clear that we have moved forward constructively. I am sure the noble Lord will acknowledge that the situation on the ground is difficult, but we have already committed that we will work with all agencies on the ground to ensure that we can bring minors and unaccompanied children back to the United Kingdom at the earliest opportunity. As to other British citizens, we are, as my right honourable friend said, looking at this on a case-by-case basis. I hear what the noble Lord says about numbers. I do not want to get specifically into the numbers but I can assure him that we are working with agencies on the ground to ensure that we can identify British citizens at the earliest opportunity and act accordingly in their best interests.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and that expressed in the earlier Question. The Minister in the other place yesterday addressed the position of orphans, but Save the Children says that there are probably only three orphans out of 50 to 60 children. That may be why the Minister does not want to talk about numbers. All the children, most of whom are aged under 12, are in this position through no fault of their own. Does he agree that their rights must be protected and that when they are back, they must be fully supported? Does he further agree—we have to press him on this—that their parents, often in this case their mothers, must also come back and, if appropriate, be held to account? Leaving them and their children there is not only an abuse of the rights described earlier but may also foster further radicalisation. It is very short-sighted.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I reiterate, I can go no further on the issue of numbers. The noble Baroness referred to orphans but, as the Statement made clear and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has said, this is not only about orphans but also about unaccompanied minors. The right approach is to prioritise the most vulnerable, which Her Majesty’s Government are doing. On the issue of mothers, I listened to the point the noble Baroness raised, and which her colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, raised in an earlier Question, and we will look carefully at each individual case. On the issue of mothers, children and separation, I share the noble Baroness’s view that we should be mindful not to separate children from their mothers. That is being looked at carefully. However, the situation on the ground is very challenging. We do not have a consular presence on the ground, but we are working with agencies to identify specific cases involving British citizens and to act accordingly.

Yazidis: Attempted Genocide

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Wednesday 23rd October 2019

(11 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I first pay tribute to the work the noble Lord is doing in this respect. He and I have had various conversations on this issue and on the wider issue of stability in Iraq. I am sure that on his visit to Iraq, the noble Lord was pleased to see the contributions we are making in provinces such as Sinjar. Through UNITAD and other programmes, we have contributed extensively to ensuring the return of the Yazidi community to their provinces. There are about 98 projects, of which 56 have been completed.

The noble Lord is right to raise the issue of justice and accountability. He will know that is a priority for the UK Government. We continue to work with the High Judicial Council, and counterterrorism investigative judges, to assess the current capability of the Iraqi judiciary. The noble Lord will be aware that, when it comes to crimes of sexual violence, the best accountability is local accountability. We are lending our support to ensure that there is national accountability. At the PSVI conference, scheduled for 18 to 20 November, we will be exploring other international mechanisms to hold the perpetrators of these crimes to account.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, is the Minister aware that a number of Yazidi villages in northern Syria have been under attack because of the Turkish invasion, and that a number of these people have now fled to Iraq? They are obviously extremely worried about ISIS fighters escaping from camps. What protection are we offering them? What work are we doing with any of our allies to support them?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Baroness is quite right. She and many other noble Lords will recognise the porous nature of the border between Syria and Iraq. That has a posed a challenge, notwithstanding the incursion by Turkey, to the Iraqi Government as they seek to build stability. She is also right to raise the issue of Daesh fighters. Concern has been expressed directly to the United States and Turkey by the United Kingdom, including in conversations that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has had with the President of Turkey on the very issue she raises. We continue to work very closely with the Iraqi Government to ensure that they have the systems of protection and the intelligence available to ensure that those who have perpetrated crimes previously, or who seek to re-establish Daesh in any part of Iraq, can be dealt with constructively, with the Iraqi Government, to ensure that they do not take root again, particularly in Iraq.

Northern Syria: Turkish Incursion

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Tuesday 15th October 2019

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

First, I welcome the noble Lord back to his rightful place; it is good to see him back on his feet. I assure him that we are looking at the situation very closely. We take our arms export control responsibilities very seriously. As I said in repeating the Statement, we will review our situation regarding exports to Turkey and keep it under careful consideration. I also assure the noble Lord that no further export licences will be granted to Turkey for items that might be used in military operations in Syria. This is currently under review; I can give him that reassurance. Of course, the other important thing to bear in mind is that we continue to raise the deep concerns we have bilaterally. As I said in the Statement, the situation has gone from bad to worse, with the plight of 160,000 displaced people adding to what was already a crisis on the ground. This is in dire need of resolution. Turkey really needs to show restraint and we need to ensure support for those refugees who have now been additionally displaced in the region.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, this is indeed an extremely dangerous situation. Following on from the noble Lord, Lord Collins—I am also very pleased to see him back—the Statement says that the Minister’s right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary,

“addressed the issue at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on Saturday”.

However, although his speech mentioned various trouble spots around the world, I find absolutely no mention of Turkey’s incursion into Syria, or even of Syria itself. He makes reference to the,

“relatively minor disputes between us”.

Did the Minister just talk about being “candid and clear”? Is the Statement not misleading on this very important matter?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

Not at all. While hearing what the noble Baroness said, I know for a fact—and said so in the Statement—that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken directly to the Turkish Foreign Minister. The noble Baroness will also recall that, after the initial announcement from the US, he spoke to Secretary of State Pompeo. He has dealt with this issue robustly and continues to do so. Turkey is an ally. It is important that we have candid exchanges with it and what I said in the Statement stands.

Syria: Withdrawal of US Troops

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Tuesday 8th October 2019

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, yes, of course we are making that point very clear. Indeed, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday, when the threats of a Turkish military incursion were raised as a serious concern. The noble Lord raised another valid point: the SDF has been a key partner in the defeat of Daesh and now, as we seek to bring stability to the region, we must stand by our coalition partners. We have not defeated Daesh yet—perhaps geographically we have, but the ideological base is very much still present.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for his reply. Will the UK raise this at the UN Security Council? In this incredibly dangerous situation, will the Government provide any assistance, if necessary, to the Syrian Democratic Forces to enable it to maintain security at the seven camps that hold ISIS fighters? What assessment have the Government made of the impact of any further Turkish invasion of north-east Syria on UK military operations against ISIS and the security of British humanitarian organisations in the region?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Baroness and I often discuss this, both within and outside the Chamber. To put it on record and to be absolutely clear, first, we do not support the proposed Turkish action. We are working very closely with international partners. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is seeking a call with the Turkish Foreign Minister in that respect. On support for the global coalition, the SDF continues to receive support. It has been extremely consistent and, indeed, integral to the defeat of Daesh. The gains made should not be lost.

Falkland Islands: Landmines

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Tuesday 8th October 2019

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

First, on the earlier point raised by the noble Lord, and made earlier, I agree with him: the terrain has proved challenging. However, we are confident that, with the Ottawa convention and the timeline set for 2024, we will complete all the demining in the Falkland Islands. On the broader issue, we are very much committed. His Royal Highness’s recent visit reflects our continued commitment and we have allocated a further £100 million to this primary objective of clearing mines around the world.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

I think the Minister was referring to the 1997 Ottawa landmine treaty, which aims to free the world of landmines by 2025. The Minister just mentioned Angola; it is likely to be 2045 before it is clear of landmines. At the end of its civil war in 2002, there were as many landmines in Angola as people. What are we doing internationally to build on what Prince Harry has done in southern Africa—particularly in Zimbabwe and Angola—in that regard? Also, are we ensuring that we are doing all we can to discourage the use of landmines in the conflict in Syria right now, which will cause problems for many years to come?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Baroness is quite right. That is why I mentioned the Ottawa convention. We are abiding by the extension granted by the convention as part of fulfilling our mandate in the Falkland Islands. As for Angola and, indeed, other places, as I have indicated, we are absolutely committed. In 2017, the UK tripled its funding for mine action around the world. As I said in response to the previous question, we have now committed £100 million over three years to tackle the humanitarian and development impact of landmines. This is a scourge that impacts on every conflict zone. I have seen it directly through various visits. The noble Baroness mentioned Syria; of course, that remains a primary concern but we need stability and security in Syria before we can embark on any demining that may be required in that part of the world.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Monday 7th October 2019

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord for his questions and for the consistent support that has been offered on this important issue. It is difficult to predict the specific date on which we will hear the next update on this matter. However, I can assure the noble Lord that we are offering full assistance to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family. I met Richard Ratcliffe when I was at the UN recently and reassured him again of our full support. As I said in the Statement, we are continuing to raise this bilaterally and internationally, to ensure that we get consistent support. Unfortunately, Nazanin’s case is different because the Iranians refuse to recognise dual nationality and regard her as simply Iranian.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating that Answer. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is indeed in a desperate situation. As the Minister mentioned, it is expected that her daughter is about to come home, but her exit has not yet been approved. Can he update us as to what the Government are doing? Of course, Gabriella is not a dual national but a British citizen—but obviously, her departure leaves Nazanin in an even more vulnerable position. She had a medical assessment today, as was just mentioned. Can the noble Lord tell us whether she was seen by an independent doctor? Above all, how is the UK working with other countries to try to end this pattern of hostage taking in Iran—a country that we are actually trying to support as the Americans have pulled out of the nuclear deal? In particular, do the Government regard Nazanin and the others who are being held as hostages under the terms of the UN convention on hostages?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

First, I thank the noble Baroness for her comments and I very much share the sentiments she expressed. She raised the important issue of the return of Gabriella. I am sure that she will understand that I am not going to go into specific details, but I assure her that we are working directly with the family to ensure that Gabriella can come back to the UK at the earliest opportunity. We will continue to work directly in support of that. On her other questions, of course we are working with other countries. The recent release of the dual British-Australian national was very welcome and we will continue to ensure that we share information in this respect.

The noble Baroness rightly raised the issue of the JCPOA. We are also making it very clear to the Iranians that the British Government, along with our colleagues in Europe, are absolutely committed to keeping the JCPOA alive. I assure her that, in our bilateral exchanges with the Iranian Government, this point is reiterated time and again. The continuing taking of hostages, as we have seen, and the holding of detainees in Iran is not helpful to the situation; it works against Iran and against the Iranian people. I assure the noble Baroness that we will continue to ensure that in every case, not all of which receive the publicity that this case has, we will continue to work directly with the families to ensure that when we can agree consular access, we gain that, and, where we do not, we continue to raise the issues of those detainees directly, bilaterally and internationally.

Break in Debate

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

On the return of Gabriella, speaking as a parent I know that the hardest choice that a parent has to make is sometimes separation. That applies to any parent, father or mother, if they need to make a sacrifice for their child. I am sure that that sentiment is very relevant to anyone who has experienced parenthood: their first thought would be for their child. I cannot speak for either Richard or Nazanin, but having met Richard, I know where he stands on these issues.

On the other point, I very much welcome the noble Baroness’s suggestion. We seek the return of Nazanin at the earliest opportunity and she will be afforded every support when she returns to the UK. The sad reality is, however, that this issue does not hold with the Iranians. They are preventing a mother being reunited with her daughter and a family reuniting altogether. That is why we implore the Iranian authorities, and we will continue to do so, leaving no stone unturned, to ensure that we eventually see the safe return of Nazanin Radcliffe to her family here in the United Kingdom.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover - Hansard

May I press the Minister further? He did not answer my question on whether the Government regard Nazanin and others being held in Iran as hostages under the terms of the UN hostages convention.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I know that she has the status of a detainee. I cannot say anything more specifically because I do not want to speak inappropriately and I want to ensure that I get the right answer to the noble Baroness, so I will write to her specifically on that issue.

Hong Kong: Emergency Powers

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Monday 7th October 2019

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice.

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

My Lords, we have regular discussions with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government about their response to the protest, including their most recent measures. We are, of course, monitoring the situation closely, including the implementation of a ban on face masks under the emergency regulations ordinance. We believe political dialogue is the only way to resolve the situation. While Governments need to ensure the security and safety of their people, they must avoid aggravating and, instead, seek to reduce tensions.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he agree that the very worrying use of emergency powers is a breach of the Sino-British joint declaration, which guaranteed rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, including the freedom of assembly and the right to protest? If not, why not? Does he agree with his noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Patten, who said on the “Today” programme this morning that what is happening in Hong Kong is “the destruction of a great international city created by Chinese people” and that the UK Government must urge China to give the Hong Kong Government the scope to resolve the conflict through the political means he mentioned?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I totally agree with the noble Baroness about the importance of reaching political agreement. I share her deep concern and that of my noble friend about the situation unfolding in Hong Kong. To call it disturbing would be an understatement. We have seen a real increase not just in tensions, but in the attitude shown towards the protesters. Indeed, the new law has caused deep concern. I reassure the noble Baroness that we are fully committed to upholding Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and its rights and freedoms as enshrined in the “one country, two systems” framework, which is also enshrined in Hong Kong’s basic law. On specific actions, we are in almost daily contact with the Hong Kong Government through our consul general on the ground and I know that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will seek an early call with the Foreign Minister, State Councillor Wang Yi, at the earliest opportunity.

Hurricane Dorian

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Baroness Northover
Monday 9th September 2019

(1 year ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon -