Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Tuesday 6th September 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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I completely agree. The Government have been clear that we must build a network of like-minded countries and flexible groupings if we are to protect our interests globally. I was really pleased when last week the Defence Secretary hosted Australian Deputy Prime Minister Marles at the commissioning ceremony for HMS Anson in my hon. Friend’s constituency, demonstrating our deep defence ties, including through AUKUS.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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The Minister’s response makes clear the importance of all of us in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland working together, and we in Northern Ireland want to be part of that, contributing soldiers, sailors and airmen. Can the Minister give some indication of whether our soldiers, be it the Irish Guards or the Royal Irish Regiment, will be part of this new security policy?

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making sure that Northern Ireland has a voice in this. I am sure that my colleagues in the FCDO and the MOD have heard his pitch.

Sri Lanka

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Wednesday 13th July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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I would like to reassure the hon. Lady that we are providing humanitarian support for those in Sri Lanka.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I thank the Minister for her response. What aid can the Government make available to those who rely on tourism for their income and who are now starving? That seems to be the story at the moment. What contact has been made to ascertain whether non-governmental organisations or churches can help? I know of many church groups in my constituency that have the capacity to distribute aid to those who are not involved in the unrest but who are watching their children starve because of what is happening on the streets of Sri Lanka.

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the Minister for South Asia met a number of civil society groups and NGOs earlier in the year, when he visited Sri Lanka.

Women’s Rights to Reproductive Healthcare: United States

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Tuesday 28th June 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I would defend the rights of the woman but especially the rights of the unborn child. Some in this House tend to disregard that. Will the Minister outline whether she has any discussions regarding the provision of healthcare in terms of funded IVF, funded endometriosis treatment and funded access to birth control, or does she consider these to be outside the scope of the FCDO Minister dealing with one of our closest allies? Will she join me in condemning the acts of violence and death threats that have been made in the United States of America?

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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The FCDO’s remit in this regard is international, and we have a very proud record in terms of universal and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we pay a lot of attention to this and raise it in international forums.

India’s Foreign Contribution Law: NGOs

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Wednesday 25th May 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Amanda Milling Portrait The Minister for Asia and the Middle East (Amanda Milling)
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Thank you, Mr Twigg. Fortunately, I wrote down the time that we started, so I have had an eye on what time I need to sit down. It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, and I thank the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) for securing the debate. I also thank hon. Members who have contributed to it. It is always a pleasure to see the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon)—I think we have been in this Chamber several times over the last couple of days—and the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan), and I will address some of the points that have been raised.

It is important to start by saying that the Government firmly believe that a vibrant civil society is central to any democracy. NGOs and civil society organisations in the UK and overseas make huge contributions by holding Governments to account and promoting respect for human rights. The Government support and work with a wide range of NGO partners through our programmes around the world, including in India. India is the world’s largest democracy, and it has a proud democratic tradition and a history of inclusive government. As with all democracies, we look to work with the Government of India to uphold their democratic values, norms and principles.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, which is otherwise known as FCRA for the benefit of brevity, regulates how NGOs and other civil society organisations can receive foreign funding for their programmes and activities in India. Versions of the legislation have been in force since 1976. It was amended by the previous Government of India in 2010, and by the current Government of India in 2020. Any NGO that receives foreign funding now needs to apply for a FCRA registration number and renew its registration every five years. Since the FCRA was last amended, a number of NGOs have had their applications to renew foreign funding licences rejected, and I will talk about the number of cases in a moment. They include organisations with which we work directly, and it has had a significant impact on their ability to operate. As has been mentioned, some organisations, such as Missionaries of Charity, have succeeded in having their registration restored, but others have not. The UK’s strong and growing partnership with the Government of India enables us to discuss concerns where we have them. We continue to believe that NGOs make a vital and positive contribution to society. As with all countries, we will always welcome more progress on these issues.

Through the British high commission in New Delhi, we monitor developments relating to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. In particular, we look out for any impacts on UK Government-funded programmes and the work of British NGOs in India. We talk to the NGOs affected and encourage them to seek recourse, including through the Indian courts, where it is appropriate. We have also raised their cases with the Indian Government directly, at ministerial and senior official levels. That includes the issues faced by Oxfam India, the recent cancellation of the foreign funding licence of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, whose headquarters are in Delhi, and the freezing of Amnesty International India’s bank accounts.

As mentioned by the right hon. Member for East Ham, in February the Home Office permanent secretary raised difficulties facing Oxfam India with his Indian counterpart, during our home affairs dialogue.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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This has been a week where we have been regularly in debates, as the Minister knows. The figures are that 12,580 NGOs had their licences revoked. That is reaching almost epidemic proportions. Has the Minister had a chance to oversee that number of organisations? If so, is there a programme of trying to address all those 12,580 NGOs that have had their licences revoked? I do not expect an answer today.

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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The hon. Gentleman is passionate on so many different issues, particularly defending freedom of religion or belief. Regarding the number he referred to, we do raise cases with the Government of India directly. I would happily pick this up after the debate and write to Members.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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All three of us.

Xinjiang Internment Camps: Shoot-to-Kill Policy

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Tuesday 24th May 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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As I said, what we have seen in the latest reports this morning is truly shocking and adds to the existing volume of evidence. We are taking strong action, but we will continue to develop our policy response and introduce further measures to tackle forced labour in UK supply chains.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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May I express just how angry and disgusted I am? I feel a deep abhorrence and a pain in my heart, as everybody else does—I know that you feel the same way, Mr Speaker—as China at the very highest level has the blood of innocents on its hands. Given the overwhelming evidence of the atrocities being committed in Xinjiang, as is apparent from the media today, will Her Majesty’s Government and the Minister make an assessment of whether the actions of the Chinese Communist party in Xinjiang constitute genocide or crimes against humanity? I think they do, Minister—do you?

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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As I said, genocide is a crime and, like any other crimes, the position should be decided after consideration of all the evidence by a competent national or international court. But let me be absolutely clear: the latest reports are truly shocking, and the Foreign Secretary made that very clear in her statement this morning.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Forced Confession

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Tuesday 24th May 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making the point that our officials and diplomats work tirelessly on consular cases to ensure that those who are unfairly detained are released. They are working across the globe to ensure that we support our British nationals.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I thank the Minister for her reply to the urgent question. I also commend the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) for all that she does. She quite inspires us in this Chamber, and we thank her for that. Does the Minister not agree that the media story and confirmation of this forced confession is a serious one, because the confession was seen to be signed under protest? With great respect, the thought that one of our diplomatic officers was present is a sobering one. How can we improve the service and support for citizens of this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland overseas?

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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I think I have answered the questions in relation to the circumstances, but we stand ready to work with Parliament and the Foreign Affairs Committee on its inquiry.

Commonwealth Day

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Tuesday 15th March 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

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Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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I asked the Minister about the persecution of Christians and how they are focused on in the Commonwealth. I also asked about the Republic of Ireland. Will the Minister comment, if she is able to?

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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I was just coming to countries re-joining the Commonwealth. The UK is open to considering new applications for membership on their merits. The interest of potential new members is a sign of the Commonwealth’s vitality. Decisions on membership are made by consensus of all member states. I believe that some of the countries mentioned earlier were members in the past. Whether they want to re-join is up to them, but as I say it is by consensus of member states.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) is a passionate champion of freedom of religion or belief, which is established in the Commonwealth charter. We would like Commonwealth leaders to recommit to promoting and protecting those freedoms at CHOGM. He will be aware that the Prime Minister appointed my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) as his special envoy, and will host an international summit in July. We continue to raise human rights with countries wherever concerns exist. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, my next-door neighbour, mentioned the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy. We hope that all 54 member states will have committed to participate by the time of CHOGM in June.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale mentioned HIV and AIDS. I know that he is a passionate champion of this issue. The UK’s Global Fund and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation are a really important way of supporting international progress on HIV and AIDS. There is strong engagement across Africa, including in many Commonwealth nations, as this issue is exceptionally important. We have a global AIDS strategy, which focuses on addressing those inequalities.

I think I have about one more minute before I must let my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset wind up. I am sorry that I have not been able to cover all the points made, but we have been able to get a snapshot of our co-operation with the Commonwealth and Commonwealth countries. Those partnerships and today’s debate demonstrate how the Commonwealth brings great benefits to diverse communities across the globe. As we hand over the baton of chair- in-office to Rwanda in June, our commitment to the Commonwealth and the shared values of the Commonwealth charter will not dim. The pandemic, the growing impacts of climate change and the rise in global prices make these testing times for all members of the Commonwealth, but as Her Majesty said in her Commonwealth Day message yesterday, we can

“draw strength and inspiration from what we share, as we work together towards a healthy, sustainable and prosperous future for all.”

Executions in Saudi Arabia

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Monday 14th March 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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As I have said, we were shocked by the executions. We have raised our concerns and, through our ministerial and diplomatic channels, we will seek further clarification on the details of those cases.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I thank the Minister for her reply, declare an interest as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for international freedom of religion or belief and express concern over the restrictions on religious beliefs in Saudi Arabia? These executions are deplorable and they shock the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Has the Minister made any representations to her Saudi counterparts to review the rationale behind this mass execution? Can we apply any diplomatic pressure to urge a reconsideration of executions carried out in that way, which makes them appear as a spectacle rather than the murderous, sombre, sober and shocking events they truly are?

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question and I know how passionately he campaigns on all matters of freedom of religion or belief. As I have said, the UK ambassador has raised our strong concerns about the executions at the weekend; through ministerial and diplomatic channels, we will seek further clarification on the details of those cases.

British Council Staff: Afghanistan

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Thursday 20th January 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

As I have said in previous answers, those British Council employees who sought resettlement have arrived in the UK, together with their dependants, and the resettlement of British Council contractors will be based on risk.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for her response to the question. The impacts of the ongoing political situation in Afghanistan are truly devastating. This week, the 100 Afghans who were employed to spread British values and teach English in Helmand province—the same province where many of our brave UK and British troops were murdered and killed—are in hiding because they are terrified of the reprisals they may face. Will the Minister ensure that, through the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme, those people will be given priority to return to the UK, because many are not sure that they will be able to survive the current situation? As the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton), said—and I agree with him—we must move heaven and earth to get them here.

Consular Support for British Citizens

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Thursday 9th December 2021

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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I am grateful to the hon. Member for making that point. I should have said at the start of the debate that I was grateful to have had the opportunity to meet her to discuss a range of issues, and I look forward to working with her and the all-party parliamentary group. As I have said, in this instance, there are things that remain the responsibility of the local authorities, but I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the APPG.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister has outlined the position of the Department, but my constituent would have liked, following the death of his father, to have had a contact—someone to give him advice. We could not get that. This is not a criticism, but the advice just was not there. Is it possible to ensure that such advice is available for our constituents?

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
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We always seek to hear feedback from those who have to use the FCDO’s services, and I would be more than happy to discuss the particular case to which the hon. Gentleman is referring after the debate at another point.

We have to be clear about what levels of service the FCDO can and cannot provide. We are not funded to pay for legal, medical or translation costs, but the consular staff will signpost sources of help.

Ukrainian NATO Membership

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Wednesday 8th December 2021

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Amanda Milling Portrait The Minister for Asia (Amanda Milling)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Dowd, and to be a part of this interesting and insightful debate, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) on securing it. Normally the Minister for Europe and the Americas would respond, but I am delighted to take part while she is travelling on ministerial duties. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for securing this debate and for the real wisdom and insight he brings to it. I am also grateful to other Members who have contributed today. As has been mentioned, the debate follows an urgent question on the Floor of the House yesterday.

Our debate takes place in the shadow of a build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border and against the backdrop of the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Riga last week, which has been mentioned. At that meeting, the Foreign Secretary, alongside our allies, made crystal clear to her Ukrainian counterpart our commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. We have repeated that support many times in the House, as the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), mentioned.

I should state that the current relationship with Russia is not the one we want. As we made clear in the integrated review, Russia’s actions pose an acute and direct threat to the national security of the UK and its allies, and we have shown in recent years that we take that threat seriously. As well as responding to and calling out Russian aggression wherever it occurs, we have been clear that serious criminals, corrupt elites and individuals who seek to threaten the security of the UK and our allies are not welcome in the United Kingdom. That is why we are also tackling elicit finance entering our country through groundbreaking legislation and our ambitious economic crime plan.

The UK remains firmly committed to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. We want Ukraine to be secure, stable and prosperous, and we want Ukrainians to be able to define their own future. Any military incursion would be a terrible miscalculation, and the Russian Government should expect significant strategic consequences, including severe economic sanctions.

The UK does not stand alone. We are at the heart of the international community’s support for Ukraine, deepening its partnership with NATO. Together, we stand ready to continue and build our support for Ukraine across all areas, including energy, reform and defence. Last summer, we backed Ukraine to become an enhanced opportunity partner to increase political consultations, co-operation and joint training and exercises with NATO. We stand firm in our support for Ukraine’s membership aspirations, in line with the 2008 Bucharest summit declaration, which saw NATO allies agree that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance. Allies have reiterated this commitment at every summit since—most recently in June 2021—and that is as it should be.

The route towards membership requires Ukraine’s continued commitment to strengthen its institutions and to deliver the defence and security reforms agreed with NATO in its annual national programme. Ukraine needs to persevere with defence and security reforms as the route to membership. As mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, it is a decision between all 30 allies to grant MAP. That does not prevent NATO and Ukraine from developing their interoperability. As I say, Ukraine achieved enhanced opportunity partner status last year. That is the closest level of partnership with NATO and offers valuable opportunity for engagement with the alliance as Ukraine moves forward with its reforms. I encourage Ukraine to make full use of its enhanced opportunity partner status, which allows for regular information sharing and co-operation.

In the meantime, it is vital that NATO allies continue to stand in solidarity with Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression and provocations and that we work to bolster Kiev’s defences and broader security in the region. That includes Ukraine’s energy security, which is one of the reasons why the UK remains opposed to Nord Stream 2. We are concerned about its implications for the interests of Ukraine and for European energy security, and we stand firm in defending our common interests. I want to make it clear that this support is fundamentally defensive in nature, because Ukraine poses no threat to Russia, and nor does NATO. It is a defensive alliance, which strives for peace, security and stability in the whole Euro- Atlantic area.

The UK remains a key and active member of the NATO alliance. UK military support for Ukraine covers many areas and has been expanded and extended. That includes training delivered through Operation Orbital, which has trained more than 20,000 Ukrainian troops. The training is defensive, is designed to save lives, focusing on the skills for which the Ukrainians have sought our assistance, and is delivered at the point of need.

We will continue to demonstrate our commitment to maintain regional security and freedom of navigation. We take part in periodic deployments, including under a NATO banner, such as Exercise Sea Breeze in the Black sea, and Exercise Joint Endeavour, where we tested and evaluated new techniques, alongside Ukraine. Those deployments have helped to maintain regional security, check Russian aggression and demonstrate NATO’s political support for Ukraine and other allies and partners in the region. In addition, in conjunction with our Canadian allies, we are the NATO contact point embassy for 2021-22. That provides further opportunities to strengthen NATO’s relationship with Ukraine, explain the responsibilities and benefits of the alliance and tackle false narratives.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the Foreign Secretary took part in the NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting at Riga last week, where she discussed the current situation with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister. She reassured him of our unwavering support for Ukraine, including through NATO’s comprehensive assistance package. That package includes assistance on capacity building for cyber and logistics expertise, as well as developing Ukraine’s training programmes. The two are meeting again today at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, during the inaugural UK-Ukraine strategic dialogue.

Tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border, and on the border with the illegally annexed Crimea—

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for her response. With reference to my contribution and those of others, does the Minister know what happened between Biden and Putin? Can she update us on that?

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
- Hansard - -

The hon. Member has pre-empted me. I will come to that before I wind up, and give my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham a few minutes to conclude.

With our allies, we are closely monitoring the situation. It is critical that all sides avoid miscalculation. We are unequivocal in our message to Vladimir Putin to see reason and return to diplomatic channels. We have called on the Russian Government to abide by their international commitments, to provide transparency and see reason. NATO remains open to dialogue with Russia.

We will continue to work with our allies and partners to uphold the rules-based international system in relation to Ukraine and the institutions that underpin it. The Prime Minister has spoken to President Zelensky on a number of occasions to reiterate the UK’s support. He raised the issue of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine directly with President Putin when they spoke ahead of COP26.

Turning to the call between Presidents Biden and Putin this week, President Biden voiced deep concerns about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine and made it clear that we would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation. President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They also discussed the US-Russia dialogue on strategic stability, a separate dialogue on ransomware, as well as joint work on regional issues, such as Iran. After the call, President Biden called the French, German, Italian and British leaders to debrief them on the call and consult on the way forward.

To conclude, the UK will continue to stand by Ukraine’s side as an honest friend and close partner. Our support for Ukraine, alongside our allies, is crystal clear. Together, we can and must co-ordinate greater economic support, including energy support, to Ukraine. Similarly, we must be clear to Russia that an incursion into Ukraine would incur a high cost and result in massive strategic consequences. Russia should understand that the support we provide to Ukraine is to help Ukraine defend itself. Nothing in our support could be construed as a threat to Russia. NATO poses no threat to Russia. That is why Putin needs to see reason, return to the negotiating table and understand this: our support for Ukraine is unwavering. The United Kingdom will continue to build Ukraine’s resilience and stand up for its right to determine its own future.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Tuesday 26th October 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

May I first offer my deepest sympathies to my hon. Friend’s constituents following the deaths of their loved ones? Officials continue to support Mr and Mrs Cooper’s family and are working with Her Majesty’s Coroner and Egyptian authorities to enable the inquest to take place as soon as possible. My officials are also supporting Ms Devlin’s family, and will assist them in reporting their concerns surrounding this tragic case to the police in Pakistan. I would also like to offer to meet my hon. Friend to discuss these two cases.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister agree that although charities such as the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust in Northern Ireland do a tremendous job in assisting with complex repatriation, there is a greater role and need for a Government-led repatriation section to be established?

Human Rights: Kashmir

Debate between Amanda Milling and Jim Shannon
Thursday 23rd September 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Amanda Milling Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Amanda Milling)
- Hansard - -

I congratulate the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Kashmir, and the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) on securing this debate. I am grateful to Members across the House for their insightful, passionate and very personal contributions. The sheer number of speakers we have had is incredible. It shows how much interest there is in Kashmir. I will try, as far as possible, to cover some of the points that have been raised, but time is pretty limited. I also thank the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth for giving up her time so that Back Benchers and I could have a bit more time.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that the Indo-Pacific region is a priority for the UK, as global Britain tilts towards growth opportunities of the future. Our integrated review provides a strategic framework for us to deliver our ambitions. We are working with our partners in the region to strengthen mutual prosperity and support regional stability. The UK Government also committed in the integrated review to be a force for good in the world, and to drive global efforts to increase people’s freedoms, security, and living standards. As a force for good, we promote open societies, the rule of law and respect for human rights and media freedoms.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I commend the Minister and look forward to working with her. The citizens of Kashmir are denied access to local civilian courts to prosecute security forces for their involvement in human rights abuses. It would not happen in the United Kingdom; it should not happen in Kashmir. What can she do to make it right?

Amanda Milling Portrait Amanda Milling
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention; no debate, particularly on human rights, would be the same without his comments. I am sorry that he did not get to make a speech this afternoon. I will come on to specific points about human rights in Kashmir shortly.

We fund and promote girls’ education and humanitarian responses in places in need around the world. India and Pakistan are long-standing and important friends of the UK. We have significant links, particularly through the diaspora communities on both continents; hon. Members across the House have mentioned the communities in their constituencies. We are lucky to have approximately 1.6 million British citizens of Indian heritage living here in the UK, and a similar number with Pakistani heritage.

We have a strong and growing relationship with India. In May, our Prime Ministers launched the 2030 road map for India-UK future relations. The road map sets out our joint vision to re-energise trade and investment and the technological links between our people, improving their lives and livelihoods. It demonstrates our commitment to enhance regional defence and security co-operation across the Indo-Pacific region and highlights how we bring our strength to bear to advance clean energy and health.

Through the ambitious road map, we have elevated the India-UK relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership. In June, at the G7 summit, our Prime Ministers highlighted our countries’ shared belief in the importance of human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law.