Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2021

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Monday 6th September 2021

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2021.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, this instrument was laid on 7 July in accordance with Paragraph 10 of Schedule 1 to the International Organisations Act 1968. It confers privileges and immunities in support of the 26th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: COP 26. That will take place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November this year. This order is required so that the UK can comply fully with the obligations of the host country agreement that we have negotiated with the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

As president of COP 26, we are hosting the biggest event of this kind that the UK has ever seen. It presents us with a unique opportunity to demonstrate our global leadership on the issue of climate, delivering our objectives to accelerate worldwide action to tackle climate change and to deliver a green recovery and sustainable jobs. We are committed to delivering a whole-of-society conference in Glasgow and are working with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure an inclusive and ambitious conference for the whole of the United Kingdom.

During the opening days of COP 26, we will host a world leaders’ summit. We are expecting up to 120 world leaders to accept the Prime Minister’s invitation to attend in person. The summit will set the stage for 12 days of talks. Teams of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens will work together to develop solutions to the challenges that are now global priorities for us all. While interlinked, the world leaders’ summit and COP 26 are separate events in administrative terms. This SI deals with COP 26 only. Separate provisions are being made for participants in the world leaders’ summit.

A core principle of this framework is that functional immunities be accorded to all those performing functions in connection with the conference and all those invited to the conference. Ensuring that all participants feel that they can discharge these functions without fear of official or legal consequences is a fundamental requirement of a successful COP. We expect to welcome more than 25,000 participants to Glasgow and recognise the need for them to be able to perform their functions freely. If we were to accord privileges and immunities to all, however, we would be going far beyond what we would consider functional need. In particular, protections regarding freedom of expression and freedom of assembly already exist under UK domestic law.

Negotiations have taken place with the UN, at the highest levels, to keep the number granted privileges and immunities as small as possible without compromising participants’ freedom to function. We have reassured the secretariat and the UN that the extensive protections that exist in UK domestic law as regards freedom of expression and freedom of assembly negate the requirement for the widespread granting of privileges and immunities.

I am pleased to confirm that we have been successful in reaching agreement that we shall confer privileges and immunities on only three categories: UN officials who do not already enjoy them; the delegations of member and observer states, otherwise known as the parties; and core personnel from the Clean Development Mechanism, the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Fund and the Global Environment Facility. These privileges and immunities include immunity from arrest and detention and from suit and legal process for certain individuals while they are exercising their functions in connection with the conference. It does not grant personal immunity or inviolability, nor will it extend to British nationals, permanent residents or their spouses or partners.

We have carefully considered the effects of the ongoing pandemic and the interplay between privileges and immunities and a COP held in that context. We have agreed with the UN Secretary-General and the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC that a robust Covid management plan will be put in place and that the observance of those provisions will be enforced through a code of conduct which all participants will be required to accept.

Along with our colleagues in the Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council, public health bodies and the UN system, we are continuing to monitor the pandemic and are developing a comprehensive package of measures to help protect participants and the local community from the risk of Covid transmission during COP 26. The measures we have identified include vaccination, quarantine arrangements, bespoke test, trace and isolate procedures, hygiene protocols and enhanced ventilation. We are strongly recommending that participants be vaccinated, and the UK will work with the UN to provide vaccines to COP 26 participants who would otherwise be unable to secure them.

This instrument forms a necessary part of the UK’s compliance with the obligations in the host country agreement to be signed by the UK and the UNFCCC secretariat. It balances, on the one hand, the desire to limit the granting of privileges and immunities to a minimum, and on the other, the COP’s founding principle that all participants should be able to voice their legitimate opinions without fear of legal repercussion. It avoids setting unwelcome precedents for UN conferences held in countries which do not have the level of personal freedoms that we enjoy here in the UK, for instance by limiting freedom of assembly, which can allow the general public to express views through peaceful demonstration. It is a fundamental element of success as we demonstrate to the world that the UK is a global power that respects the rules-based international system and can respond to an ever-changing global environment.

We will continue to join forces with our global counterparts, civil society, the private sector and those on the front line of the fight against climate change to inspire action ahead of COP 26. We are firmly resolved to uphold the principles of freedom of expression, inspire debate and lead a movement towards consensus. In this way, we can achieve our ambitious goals to reduce emissions and rebuild through a green economy.

The UK is clear in what we want to achieve through our COP presidency. This instrument is an important step in welcoming the world to Glasgow so that the international community can agree decisive action to win the fight against climate change. I beg to move.

Lord Oates Portrait Lord Oates (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to this SI, which is obviously necessary in line with our obligations as host nation. He talked about the three categories of people who will be granted immunity. Can he give us an indication of how many in total that will be? Can he also go a little further in explaining the extent of immunity from suit? He said that it related only to actions relating to the duties of these delegation members in connection with the conference. However, if they act illegally while attending the conference outside it are they immune from prosecutions for, for example, being drunk and disorderly?

Can the Minister tell us what is the nature of the privileges and immunities relating to personal baggage, which is mentioned specifically, and does that mean that baggage is exempt from searches? If so, how will the Government ensure that these privileges are not abused and what degree of scrutiny, given what I imagine is a fairly large number of individuals, will there be to ensure that such immunities are not provided to individuals who could pose a security risk?

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Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Oates, in saying that the instrument is an essential part of hosting COP 26; it is a long-standing convention with summits held away from the UN headquarters. As the Minister said, we are also implementing a host-country agreement. With COP 26 now only a short time away, the Government must use it as our last and best hope of a global breakthrough to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees.

As we have heard, the order reflects the immunities and privileges instruments that the House has debated in recent months, such as the order on the Bank for International Settlements. In this case, privileges and immunities will be received by representatives of parties and observer states, officials of the specialised agencies of the UN and select other representatives, such as those from the Adaption Fund, the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility. While that is standard practice for the first group—representatives of parties and observer states—I reiterate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Oates: what risk assessment has the department made of the possibility of hostile individuals or states abusing their immunities and privileges while in the UK? Also, in relation to the privileges granted to UN officials, the list in the order includes only specialised agencies. Does that mean that attendees from other UN bodies, including the UN Environment Programme, will not be given immunity? Was that issue raised during negotiations on the host agreement?

The period for which immunities and privileges apply is between 31 October and 12 November, which reflects the slightly extended duration of the summit, which is now set to begin on 31 October rather than 1 November. When the decision was made to extend the summit, the reason given was that it would allow additional time to complete its work. Can the Minister expand on that and explain why the summit was extended? I have no objections, certainly if it means that we reach agreement, but it would be good to have a better understanding of the decision.

I turn to the host agreement which the instrument relates to. In addition to agreeing to the immunities and privileges, which the Minister mentioned, as well as Covid arrangements and all the requirements that we are undertaking to make the summit safe, one of the other commitments made in the host agreement is that we must

“provide facilities that are environmentally sound and in accordance with the ideals provided for under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change … the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.”

Can the Minister explain exactly what steps we have taken, along with the devolved Government in Edinburgh, to meet that objective? Given that the host agreement also refers to a “separate supplementary agreement” for “pre-sessional meetings”, can the Minister confirm whether any further instruments are expected as a result of that agreement? Will we be extending immunities for those particular sessions?

In conclusion, this is a decisive decade in the fight against climate change and environmental breakdown but the world is currently not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Therefore, COP 26 is a critical moment for our planet and our country and we can all hope that the Government will use this event to keep alive the hope of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees centigrade. I look forward to the Minister’s assurance on the questions I have put to him.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Oates and Lord Collins of Highbury, for their questions and points on this statutory instrument. I am grateful too for their recognition that this is in line with the obligations on us as the president of COP and, indeed, with long-standing precedent. I will address the questions that they have posed today, and if I miss any, I hope that they will forgive me for writing with further detail, but I shall attempt to cover all the points that they raised.

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, asked about the extent of the immunity. The UNFCCC requirement is to grant

“immunity from legal process in respect of words spoken or written and any act performed … in connection with”

participation in COP 26 to the registered COP 26 participants under the agreed Article 2 categories. Many participants in COP 26 and associated meetings will already enjoy privileges and immunities by virtue of their function or position if they are a Head of Government or have diplomatic status, for instance. It is standard practice, as the noble Lord recognised, for host Governments to grant appropriate privileges and immunities to UN-associated international conferences, based on the UN general convention of 1946.

The privileges and immunities accorded to participants in COP 26 and associated meetings will apply only when participants are exercising their official functions at the conference and associated meetings. The purpose of the privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure that they are able to perform their official duties smoothly and efficiently. We expect all participants to respect our laws and regulations. I hope that addresses the question on the extent.

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, asked how many people will be combined within the three categories mentioned. Obviously, it depends on those participating in person, but I can give a figure of around 12,000 people. The noble Lord also asked about personal baggage. That will not be immune from search, but official papers and baggage will be protected.

The noble Lords, Lord Oates and Lord Collins, both asked about security risks. We are partnering with the United Nations, and the UK will have the opportunity to vet all participants. Their privileges and immunities granted under this SI are limited to their official acts.

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, asked about visas. Visas for other meetings will depend on the status of the meeting, so if it is part of COP 26, the COP rules will apply. That is primarily a question for the Italians as it will apply from 28 to 30 September but I will certainly follow up the points he raised, particularly on Africa.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, asked about the rationale for the extension of the dates. I cannot speak about the policy extent of COP more broadly today but, from the point of this statutory instrument, the dates cover the dates where we would expect people to be in Glasgow performing those official duties. He asked whether other statutory instruments would be needed for supplementary meetings. We do not think other statutory instruments will be required.

I hope that addresses all the questions but, as I say, I will make sure that I consult the official record and provide answers to any that I have not. With gratitude for noble Lords’ support, I commend this order to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Belarus: Roman Protasevich

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Tuesday 25th May 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Kennedy of Shaws Portrait Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am glad to hear the Minister refer to the media freedom project, which Britain has played a core role in. Special visas for journalists at risk, like the journalist who has been arrested here, would be an important step forward. I really want to press the Government on the use of targeted sanctions. There are a number of people who have not been included; for example, Mikhail Gutseriev is a hugely rich oligarch who lives in London, has premises here and is funding Lukashenko up to his ears. We should be doing something about him, and he should be on a list. Are the Government arranging to speak to the leader of the opposition in Belarus, who was due to meet the Foreign Secretary a couple of weeks ago, although the meeting had to be postponed? Is there going to be an urgent meeting in which they might be able to discuss what is taking place? There have been enforced deportations and tortures; are the Government considering a country referral to the International Criminal Court? Has the—

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am afraid time is running out, and there are two further questioners.

Integrated Review: Development Aid

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Wednesday 28th April 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Greengross Portrait Baroness Greengross (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and to the late Lord Judd, who inspired so many of us over the years.

When we discuss development aid, we are not talking solely about an act of charity by the UK for people in less well-off nations. By not investing sufficiently in such aid, especially in the area of public health, we undermine our own national security and, indeed, our public health. At a time when we have participated in such a successful vaccination programme, it is a tragedy to cut development aid funding, which strengthens work on clean water and other public health initiatives. These cuts could impact on poorer countries’ fight against Covid-19 or allow an even more deadly virus to take hold, putting everyone in many countries, including our own, at risk.

I want to highlight another recent change that may also impact on our delivery in this area. In 2020, the Department for International Development was moved into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Also, the Government Equalities Office has recently been moved from the Home Office to the Cabinet Office. The rationale for these changes is not clear. The organisation Widows for Peace through Democracy has raised further concerns that they could weaken this country’s leadership in championing women’s rights, particularly widows’ rights, as previously well-resourced teams run by experienced civil servants will not be funded or supported as well in future. Does the Minister have any more information about this?

I also wish to highlight the Government’s decision last week to cut £143 million from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office research budget. This year, the UK will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference—COP 26. Yesterday, I attended a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group, which I co-chair. We heard about efforts made by the Bank of England to take leadership, both nationally and internationally, to move the climate change agenda forward. It is extremely disappointing that, while we see this sort of leadership from organisations such as the Bank of England, we see this decision regarding FCDO research funding, which is likely to have—

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am sorry to cut the noble Baroness off but this is a time-limited debate and we have to be quite strict with the two-minute speaking limit.

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Lord Garnier Portrait Lord Garnier (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this debate and for the way he introduced it. Since the enactment of the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015, the Secretary of State for International Development—and now the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Secretary—has been under a statutory legal duty to ensure that the United Kingdom hits the 0.7% of gross national income, or GNI, for official development assistance every year. That target is a relative figure, not an absolute one, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, pointed out.

The Secretary of State also has, by law, to make an annual Statement to Parliament reporting on the previous year’s performance. If it turns out that the 0.7% target has been undershot, the Statement must retrospectively explain why, referring if relevant to the effect of changes in economic and fiscal circumstances of any substantial change in GNI and the likely impact of meeting the target on taxation, public spending and public borrowing, or to circumstances arising outside the United Kingdom.

Until Parliament changes that law on the statutory duty, the Government must aim to hit it. They cannot deliberately aim off or fire blanks. They can say they intend to change the law or substitute another target, but until the statute is repealed or amended the Government are subject to that law. They cannot legitimise failure to hit a target by announcing in advance their intention to fail.

The Government, of course, know this. Speaking on the Statement on the recent spending review, my right honourable friend the Chancellor told the other place that, since the Government

“cannot predict with sufficient certainty”—[Official Report, Commons, 25/11/20; col. 870.]

what the “fiscal circumstances” will be, they will have to legislate to change the law. The Foreign Secretary said the same thing from the Dispatch Box the very next day. My noble friend Lord Ahmad recognised those obligations in your Lordships’ House and expressed the Government’s intention to remain within the law.

While accepting that for the Foreign Secretary deliberately to breach his statutory duty to meet the 0.7% target will not lead to his prosecution, it would none the less be unlawful and something for which he would be held accountable by Parliament. It would do neither his reputation as a lawyer nor the Government’s domestic or international standing any good to be seen once again to be flouting a clear legal obligation.

If the Government disagree with Prime Ministers May, Cameron, Brown and Blair and are not concerned about: sacrificing the United Kingdom’s moral authority; breaking a promise we do not need to break; presiding over the G7 while breaking one promise to meet another; or whether the 0.7% target is enlightened self-interest, the way forward is clear. I agree with my noble friend Lord Bellingham; the Government should change the law through Parliament and not break it out of convenience. I respectfully disagree with my noble friend Lord Balfe and the late Sir Edward Heath. We not only need to ask these questions, but to be—

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble and learned friend, but we must again be strict with the time limit.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Finlay of Llandaff) (CB)
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I call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Desai. Lord Desai?

For a third time, I will try to call the noble Lord, Lord Desai. Perhaps the noble Lord needs to unmute? If he is not here, I will move on to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby.

Russia: Alexei Navalny

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Thursday 22nd April 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Deputy Speaker (The Earl of Kinnoull) (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, all supplementary questions have been asked.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am afraid we must wait until the time shown on the Order Paper for the next business. I beg to move that the House do now adjourn for two minutes.

Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Thursday 22nd April 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab)
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Before I call the next speaker—the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe—the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, the Chief Whip, will say a little about speaking times.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, as this is a time-limited debate with a large number of speakers, I remind noble Lords in advance of the four- minute speaking limit for Back-Bench speeches.

Yemen: Aid Funding

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd March 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My noble friend will be aware that 80% of the population of Yemen rely on humanitarian support, and that a child dies every 10 minutes from diarrhoea, malnutrition or other preventable causes. The situation in Yemen today is as dire as it has ever been since the conflict started in March 2015. What consideration has been given to this dire situation—[Inaudible.] I ask the Government to reconsider—[Inaudible.]

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I fear there was a difficulty, and we did not catch all of that question. If the noble Baroness is able to repeat the end of her question, that would assist us.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Faulkner of Worcester) (Lab)
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Does the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, want to repeat the last part of her question?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I fear we have lost the connection with the noble Baroness, so the Minister will write in response to her.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Faulkner of Worcester) (Lab)
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My Lords, I regret that the time allowed for this Question has elapsed, and I apologise to the noble Baroness and other Peers who were unable to get in.

Hong Kong: National Security Law

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Thursday 7th January 2021

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Kennedy of Shaws Portrait Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I entirely support all that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said about the concerning situation in Hong Kong. I am glad to hear of the Minister’s deep concerns about what has been taking place. On Monday I met Ted Hui, one of the lawmakers who has fled from Hong Kong, concerned about his safety if he remained. He has had his assets frozen by HSBC, as have his wife and parents, who fled with him into exile. Is the Minister aware of any private meetings that have taken place between his ministerial colleagues and HSBC since the bank announced its support for the national security law? Are we concerned that Beijing is co-opting banks and international companies that have strong positions here in Britain into supporting the security law and freezing the assets of people who have been arrested? What can be done with our allies—

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness is taking time in this limited opportunity for other noble Lords.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we are acting in conjunction with our allies and have led international action in condemnation of the actions not just in Hong Kong but in mainland China. We regularly meet financial services organisations and remind them of their obligations to all their clients, but it would be inappropriate for me to comment on one specific case.

Hong Kong: Human Rights

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Thursday 4th June 2020

(2 years ago)

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Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Faulkner of Worcester) (Lab)
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Before I call the next speaker, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, the Government Whip, to say a word about timekeeping.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, given the large number of noble Lords who wish to speak in this time-limited debate, perhaps I may underline the importance of keeping remarks to no longer than a minute so that the Minister has time to respond to the important points that your Lordships will raise.

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Baroness Goudie Portrait Baroness Goudie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for this debate. Nothing is more fundamental to human rights in Hong Kong and elsewhere than an independent, impartial judiciary. Hong Kong has that; mainland China has not. An important feature of the judicial system in Hong Kong is that, since handover, its local Court of Final Appeal has replaced appeals to the Privy Council. This was authorised by the Hong Kong Basic Law in London. The judges in the Court of Final Appeal are mostly from Hong Kong, but very senior judges or retired judges are from the United Kingdom, Australia or Canada and do participate. A clear violation of human rights in Hong Kong would be interference by China in the composition of the Court of Final Appeal for cases or categories of case, or interference in the filling of vacancies. There is no doubt that the independence of the Hong Kong judiciary is under attack, and this is a grave danger for the rule of law in Hong Kong. Hong Kong judges have been threatened—

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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My Lords, I am sorry but we are running very tight.

Baroness Goudie Portrait Baroness Goudie
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Okay. Can I continue or not?

Israel and Palestine: United States’ Proposals for Peace

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Thursday 27th February 2020

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I gently remind noble Lords of the five-minute advisory limit.