Lord Bishop of St Albans debates involving the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 15th June 2021
3 interactions (35 words)
Tue 2nd February 2021
3 interactions (71 words)
Wed 30th September 2020
3 interactions (79 words)

Ethiopia

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Tuesday 15th June 2021

(4 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, we are working with all key partners, including key players in Africa. The Minister for Africa has discussed the situation in Tigray with the AU’s peace and security commissioner. The Foreign Secretary has also discussed the situation with President Kenyatta of Kenya and PM Hamdok of Sudan, and will continue to work with African partners as well as others to bring about a resolution of this conflict peacefully.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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I wonder if the Minister would comment on whether Her Majesty’s Government have been able to validate allegations that white phosphorus was used against civilians in Tigray, despite the categorical denial of the Ethiopian Government.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate raises an important point. We are awaiting, and certainly support, the full investigation. Various UN agencies, including OCHA and the UNHCR, are working to establish the facts of that very incident.

Hong Kong: Pro-Democracy Campaigners

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Monday 19th April 2021

(6 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with my noble and learned friend. Freedom and human rights, including the right to protest, continue to be suppressed in Hong Kong. On the further actions we can take, I believe it resonates with the Chinese authorities when we act in concert with our key partners, not least because they respond accordingly to the statements being made. While the impact of those actions might for the medium to long term, they are noticed not just in Hong Kong but in Beijing.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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Will the Minister tell us what assessment the Government have made of the ability of BNO applicants to safely leave the territory, after it has emerged that the Government of Hong Kong have asked some foreign Governments not to accept BNO for working holiday visas in Europe, North America and parts of Asia?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure the right reverend Prelate that we are looking very closely at the operation of the BNO scheme. No apparent issues have arisen. Many BNO holders also have dual passports so their ability to travel is not limited. We continue to monitor the scheme very closely.

St Vincent: Volcanic Eruption

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Wednesday 14th April 2021

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, our primary contact is through the relief efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross. As for specific liaisons on the ground, we are working directly with CDEMA and the St Vincent and the Grenadines government authorities.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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My Lords, the diocese of the Windward Islands is linked with my diocese here in St Albans and I have been in touch with the bishop, Bishop Leopold Friday, overnight. The churches are already doing a huge amount of work and stand ready to help in any way they can, not least because here in my diocese, in Luton, we also have a large Vincentian population and this matter is affecting people’s families. If there are people who are forced to evacuate from the country, will the Government consider a temporary resettlement scheme for those with family links here in the UK?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I fully acknowledge what the right reverend Prelate says about the important role that church authorities play. Indeed, on the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, about the vaccine rollout, I suggested to the high commissioner this morning how the churches can also assist. On the right reverend Prelate’s wider question about long-term impacts, we will obviously remain engaged with the authorities of St Vincent and the Grenadines about their medium and long-term requirements.

Myanmar: Protesters

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Wednesday 10th March 2021

(7 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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The noble Lord is quite right to draw the House’s attention to the situation and the continuing challenges, including the discrimination towards and persecution of the Rohingya community within Myanmar and the suffering that continues, including for those who have managed to escape to Bangladesh. The support we offer them is a key priority for us and we continue to work with international authorities for their safe and voluntary return. However, the situation in Myanmar is dire at the moment, not just for them but for everyone.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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Is the Minister aware that in addition to the military’s crackdown on protesters, military offensives are taking place in northern Shan, Kachin and Karen states, causing the mass displacement of civilians? What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to ensure the protection of these civilians and to allow for urgent humanitarian assistance to reach them?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the right reverend Prelate again brings the focus on to the humanitarian assistance. I assure your Lordships’ House that we are working—not through government agencies but through international NGOs—to ensure that those corridors of humanitarian assistance can be kept open. But we have seen an uptick in violence being perpetrated against protesters in Myanmar. Particularly worrying are the recent actions taken by the military and security forces during the night.

Covid-19: Surplus Vaccine Doses

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Monday 22nd February 2021

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I am all too aware of the strong sentiments about the Government’s announcement on ODA spending. Of course, the Government are working through, and we have previously said we will come back to your Lordships’ House on the provisions we need to make in legislation. On my noble friend’s earlier point, I totally agree with him, but I assure him that it is not just our funding of COVAX and the AMC facility. My noble friend will also be aware of the commitment we have given to Gavi, CEPI and the World Health Organization to ensure equitable access not just in our fight against Covid-19 but in other pandemics as well.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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My Lords, approaches are developing that enable individuals to give into the COVAX fund in gratitude for having received their vaccination against Covid-19. How are Her Majesty’s Government encouraging the development of such initiatives? Will they support such approaches through match funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, our initial funding of the AMC was very much based on match funding. We have seen that coming through and there are valuable contributions that other key partners can make. We are working very closely with the Gates Foundation among others to ensure that support for Gavi, the AMC and, particularly, for those most vulnerable is something not just for Governments but for the private sector as well.

Beijing Winter Olympic Games 2022

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Wednesday 10th February 2021

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on my noble friend’s point about strengthening our global relationships across the world, we have specifically talked about the Indo-Pacific region. My noble friend will be aware of the strengthening relationships we have with key democracies in the world, including India. He is right to raise that wider spectrum of relationships. We are looking for strategic dialogue status within ASEAN. On his point about China, I hear very clearly what he says, but I draw his attention to the announcement that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made on 12 January for businesses operating directly with China, particularly with reference to Xinjiang. We continue to keep the situation of business relationships with China under review.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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My Lords, I am sure none of us wants to see a boycott of the Winter Olympics, yet we are seeing unprecedented human rights abuses and we will be judged by future generations on how we respond. Have Her Majesty’s Government considered what actions they might take against companies that are either official sponsors, suppliers or partners of these Games and that are bidding for public contracts?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I direct the right reverend Prelate to the point I made earlier about the 12 January announcement. We are looking to see how we can further strengthen any action that is required in this sphere. Businesses are also responsible for their own actions, but we are looking specifically at a number of the points that the right reverend Prelate has raised.

Burma: Military Coup

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd February 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness and I have often spoken about these important issues. In light of the coup, the Foreign Secretary has today announced a review of all support, including that sent to the Myanmar Government, with a view to suspend it unless, as the noble Baroness has suggested, there is direct exceptional humanitarian reasons not to do so. We will be working with people and NGOs on the ground to ensure that vital humanitarian access.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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My Lords, many of us have spoken out over recent months for the protection of Rohingya Muslims. There is a deep worry at the moment that the Government of Bangladesh may continue their repatriation of the refugees. Are Her Majesty’s Government talking with Bangladesh? Also, what are the prospects for freedom of religion or belief, not least for the Christian minorities in the country, who are under threat at the moment?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the issue that the right reverend Prelate raises of freedom of religion or belief in Myanmar, the situation is, frankly and very candidly, dire—there is no other word that I can use for that. On the situation with Bangladesh, as I have already alluded to, we are looking to engage directly with the Bangladeshi authorities, but equally they have stated their support for the democratically elected civilian Government.

Ethiopia: Northern Tigray Region

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd December 2020

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes an important point. We too are one of the leading international donors to the country, and I assure her that we are using, in particular, our discussions at the UN in pursuit of that aim.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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Prior to the conflict, Tigray was a safe haven for Eritrean refugees afraid to return home because of fear of persecution. With Eritrea’s rumoured involvement in the conflict against the TPLF, what assessment have Her Majesty’s Government made of the validity of claims that the Eritrean military are forcing refugees into trucks and abducting them back to Eritrea?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate is right to raise those concerns. This too is part of the conversations that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has had with the Eritrean Government. They, of course, refute any such programmes or policy, but we continue to raise our concerns directly with them.

Official Development Assistance

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd December 2020

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I commend the work of the noble Baroness’s campaign to eradicate malaria. We have worked together on this, particularly in relation to the last CHOGM. She asks for quite specific details on the programmes and prioritisation. My right honourable friend has laid out the framework for how we will look at those priorities. I cannot give her a specific commitment on a particular programme on a particular issue, but I can say, where we have given commitments in the past, we will ensure that we look at how we can sustain our support, whether technical or financial. In due course, as decisions are made on how we prioritise our aid spend specifically, I am sure that we will return to these questions. I regret that I cannot give her a specific commitment on the issue of malaria at this time.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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My Lords, I ask the Minister to answer the question from the noble Lord, Lord Collins: will Her Majesty’s Government include a sunset clause in any legislation amending the International Development Act? Secondly, do the Government intend to produce and publish any impact assessment of the reduction in spending on official development assistance?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I cannot go into the details of the legislative proposals that will be coming forward; as I said, I am not party to them yet, but they are being looked at. He asked some specific questions about sunset clauses, as did the noble Lord, Lord Collins, which I have noted, but beyond what I have said about the status of the legislation there is little more that I can add at this juncture.

Hong Kong: Legislative Council

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Thursday 12th November 2020

(11 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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As I have already said, we are leading the international response on Hong Kong. An increasing number of countries are joining statements through UN human rights bodies, which underscores the success of this approach. We have no plans to establish an international contact group. The Foreign Secretary is leading the way on this issue as a priority.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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My Lords, the Government have provided a way for citizens holding a BNO passport to take steps to come here. A high proportion of people will miss out on this scheme, particularly those born after 1997. What other immigration measures have the Government considered in the interests of safety for the people of Hong Kong?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right to raise BNO status. It will open for applications at the end of January 2021. On the specifics of people born after a given date, certainly where they are connected to those who qualify for BNO status, our policy is not to separate families—they will also be included in the scheme.

Nagorno-Karabakh: Genocide Emergency Alert

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Monday 2nd November 2020

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the UK is fully committed to the principle that there must be no impunity for the most serious international crimes. We continue to voice our support for this principle and continue to support the work of International Criminal Court and the international tribunals to tackle impunity for these crimes. All allegations of war crimes or other atrocities must be investigated, prosecuted and, if appropriate, punished. We completely condemn any attack on civilians.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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Will the Minister comment on whether Her Majesty’s Government believe that the criteria used to recognise Kosovo and the principle of internal self-determination which protects minority rights equally applies to the Armenians and Nagorno-Karabakh and on whether recognition might, as in Kosovo, prevent the possible ethnic cleansing of Armenians, which has historically characterised territorial border conflicts in that part of the Caucasus?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we support the Minsk principles which ensure that there is an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh and provide guarantees for security and self-governance. However, ultimately, future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh will need to be done through a legally binding expression of will.

Nagorno-Karabakh

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Wednesday 30th September 2020

(1 year ago)

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Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, we are aware of the media reporting and are urgently looking into the situation. I am afraid that I have no further information on that allegation at this time, but these are incredibly worrying reports which underline the desperate need for de-escalation.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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Does the Minister agree with the interventions made by Pope Francis and the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury that call on all parties in the conflict to take concrete steps to resolve this latest clash? Specifically, have Her Majesty’s Government offered to be part of that mediating process? I ask this because we need to find new partners who can offer that mediation if we are to find a way through after so many years of deadlock.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, we support calls from all the parties to help to de-escalate this process. We are working very closely within the OSCE to support the Minsk Group process and we will continue to do so.

China: Uighur Internment Camps

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(1 year ago)

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Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the condition of Uighur internment camps in Xinjiang in China.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, there are reports of torture and overcrowding in detention centres in Xinjiang, where over a million Uighurs are extrajudicially detained. We have repeatedly condemned the abuses of human rights perpetrated against the Uighurs in Xinjiang and again call upon China to immediately allow UN observers unfettered access to the region and to end extrajudicial detention.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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I thank the Minister for his reply. The International Olympic Committee’s charter states that its goal is to

“place sport at the centre of harmonious development … with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

Given that the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of the Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang contravenes the principles of preserving human dignity, will the Government consider holding the IOC to account by pushing for a review of its decision to hold the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in the People’s Republic of China?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as the right reverend Prelate will know, any representation to the IOC would be a matter for the National Olympic Committee. The British Olympic Association operates independently of the Government. However, ensuring human dignity should be the approach of the Olympic committee or, indeed, any Government.

Covid-19: International Response

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Monday 18th May 2020

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Monks Portrait Lord Monks (Lab)
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My Lords, the key question underlying this debate is whether the nations of the developed world will rise to the challenges of tackling Covid-19 globally and not just concentrate on their own country. Will we in the developed world in particular raise the $6.7 billion that the UN is trying to collect? Do the Government think this is a realistic, achievable proposal, or will the outcome be dominated by the nationalist politicians in charge of many countries around the world at the moment, elected on the basis that they will put their own country first?

The UK Government have certainly stumbled in how they have tackled the crisis on the domestic front, but—at least on the international stage—they have been one of the good guys, as we heard very well from the Minister. Can she now assure us that this will continue, as we take the difficult and no doubt self-absorbing path towards ending or easing the current lockdown in the UK? Will we keep our focus global as well as national as we tackle the future?

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans
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My Lords, Covid-19 is no respecter of persons. It affects equally the villager in the Amazon and the Prime Minister of the UK. However, the effects of Covid-19 are not experienced equally. The poorest in our world are being hit hardest. Many Christians across the world are working together to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. For example, Christian Aid, the Anglican Community Fund and many other aid agencies have stepped up their charitable efforts in response to the pandemic.

Will Her Majesty’s Government ensure that government initiatives link with the voluntary sector to co-ordinate our response? In places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the churches are running hospitals and public health information campaigns to confront the Ebola outbreak. Indeed, in war zones, where NGOs have had to withdraw their staff because it is too dangerous or where Governments are not functioning, it is often local church leaders who are able to run health education programmes and change behaviours. Will Her Majesty’s Government ensure that local community leaders in those places, including church leaders, are consulted and trained, as in some areas it is the most effective way to prevent further deaths?

Displaced people, such as Syrians in refugee camps and the Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh, are especially vulnerable. Without decisive action and medical aid, Covid-19 is likely to sweep through those camps rapidly. Will the Minister tell your Lordships’ House what is being done to provide emergency medical aid to the most vulnerable refugee communities?

Baroness Falkner of Margravine Portrait Baroness Falkner of Margravine (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I was part of a Lords Select Committee inquiry into international organisations in 2008 which looked specifically at the World Health Organization. We noted that global pandemics occur about three times a century. I shall quote from the then Government’s evidence to the committee:

“Estimates are that the next pandemic will kill between 2 million and 50 million people worldwide and between 50,000 and 750,000 in the UK. Socio-economic disruption will be massive.”

So the situation today was not entirely unforeseen. I wonder whether the Minister or her colleagues in the Cabinet Office have read that report. It may provide them with some useful insights and lessons that might have been learned.

My second point is to do with the WHO’s international health regulations, introduced in 2005 to improve reporting of public health emergencies of international concern. The innovation in them was that, for the first time, non-governmental sources of information were to be made part of the public health surveillance system. This allowed the WHO to collect and use information from multiple sources, including the media and NGOs, rather than relying on responsible behaviour from member states. They were deemed particularly relevant to those states where there was a culture of secrecy. It seems that these surveillance capabilities were not adequately employed in this instance in China, a country that should have been on the WHO’s radar due to previous animal-to-human transmitted diseases.

That brings me to my final point. The WHO’s World Health Assembly is meeting today but has excluded Taiwan from the meeting. It is clearly a political decision to exclude a country that has not only been a model for fighting Covid-19 but is at the forefront of other public health measures to conduct surveillance of it as we go forward. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government have an explanation for why Taiwan has been excluded and what the UK Government’s position overall on Taiwan is?

Sexual Violence Overseas: Treatment of Victims

Lord Bishop of St Albans Excerpts
Thursday 9th January 2020

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the treatment of British victims of alleged sexual violence in foreign countries, following the recent case in Cyprus.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, we take any report of rape or sexual assault seriously. Our staff explain local policing and legal procedures. We can attend the police station with and support victims and ensure that they can access medical care. We also work with specialist support organisations, such as our funded partners, and fund bespoke projects to improve the treatment of victims by authorities in other countries.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans
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I thank the Minister for his reply. The media reports of this young British woman convicted in Cyprus have caused alarm in many circles. What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to ensure that this does not deter victims in this country coming forward to the police when they need to report something? Secondly, and more specifically on the case of the Cyprus woman, we were in touch with her lawyers yesterday. They are positive about the support given by Her Majesty’s Government but there is the question of what support she will now be given for her appeal to clear her name. What can Her Majesty’s Government do to help her with that?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My Lords, on the second question asked by the right reverend Prelate, obviously I cannot go into specific details because it is ongoing. He raised the important issue of ensuring that, because of the experience we have seen from this case, no victim of sexual violence—be it at home or abroad—feels that there is a barrier or, indeed, feels reluctant to come forward. It is clear that if someone is sexually assaulted or raped, they should come forward. Abroad, we will offer full support, as we have done in this case; here in the United Kingdom, I know that my colleagues at the Home Office will take the issue very seriously. If you have been assaulted, come forward and report it.