15 Daniel Zeichner debates involving the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Oral Answers to Questions

Daniel Zeichner Excerpts
Tuesday 13th December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The hon. Lady is right to raise this matter, which is of immense concern, and we will be raising all the issues she has set out through our high commissioner in Abuja.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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The management of the official development assistance budget has been chaotic, leading to a freeze in so called non-essential spending. Can the Minister tell us what the impacts have been and will he publish any impact assessment that has been done?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The first thing to say is that the pause has now been lifted. I know there is some concern in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency about the R&D spend, and I am very pleased to tell him that, despite the extremely difficult circumstances of the ODA budget, we do not expect there to be a reduction in that level of spend.

Throwline Stations

Daniel Zeichner Excerpts
Monday 24th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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It is a particular pleasure to see you in the Chair today, Ms Ghani. I congratulate the hon. Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher), on behalf of the Petitions Committee, on bringing forward this debate. I was a member of the Committee in the past, and I know how important these debates are.

The hon. Gentleman introduced the subject with a gravity and comprehensiveness that did justice to a serious set of issues. He particularly dealt with the pain that has been represented in all today’s speeches. Most of all, I express my admiration for the campaigning that Mark Allen’s mother, Leeanne, has done. When I was researching this issue, I was struck by the impact that the campaign has had in garnering support. A magnificent number have signed the petition, not just here but in Wales. I hope that all of that will lead to change, and that is the purpose for which we are here today.

We have heard powerful speeches from around the Chamber. What struck me was that every single one reflected a tragedy for families and constituents. The roll-call of names is very sad indeed. I was struck by the comments of the right hon. Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones), who represented his constituent very effectively. I thought his point from the coroner’s report was quite striking. We all think we are bulletproof, do we not? I suspect we can all look back on occasions in our own lives when we have done things that, on reflection, were probably not wise. Mostly, we get away with it, but occasionally we do not. That is the key to trying to find a way to make our fellow citizens’ lives safer.

I was struck by the comments from my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion). It seems almost indescribable that people could be vandalising safety equipment, but that is the world we live in, unfortunately, and I thought she made strong points about the need for action on that. The hon. Member for Dover (Mrs Elphicke) mentioned the sad situation of Lucas, and a strong series of points were made, to which I hope the Minister will listen closely. The hon. Member for Southport (Damien Moore) spoke of Ben. On it goes, it seems. Important points about the RNLI were also made. The hon. Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) can at least come to our rescue as a lifeguard. He made a very positive contribution as well.

I was also struck by the fact that this is not the first time that the issue has been debated in this place. There was a debate last July that was slightly more education focused, but in which more sad cases were recounted and the same points were well made that it is not just about swimming; it is much more about an awareness of the dangers, and the need for that message to be put forward effectively in schools.

I ask the Minister what impact that discussion—I think it was raised by one Member in the debate—has had on the Department for Education? I know that the curriculum is crowded, but what has the Department been doing to ensure that these important issues are raised, because the number of deaths is striking? A number of us have been involved in transport over the years. Of course, we work hard to improve cycle safety and road safety, but to have so many people dying from drowning each year rather makes the point that we need to do more about it.

I contacted the water company in my area, Anglian Water, and was grateful for its guidance on quite a complicated subject in terms of the advice from the National Water Safety Forum and the Visitor Safety Group on when and how to use public rescue equipment. Although I am grateful, I also could not help noticing over the weekend the amount that the water company has paid out in dividends to shareholders over the past few years. Resources could be made available by a number of water companies to help us with this exercise in public education. I think the right hon. Member for Clwyd West asked what advice the Government expect landowners to be taking and what they expect them to be doing. What assessment have the Government made of the effectiveness of the panoply of measures that supposedly ensure safety, and what conclusions have been drawn from it? I also ask the Minister to outline what actions have been taken following last year’s petition and debate.

I noticed that there appeared to be a slight delay in responding to the Petitions Committee. I remember that during my time on the Committee we had many complaints about Government replies, but not always delays. I wonder why that was. The response seemed to me to be an account of the current layout, but I am unsure that that quite amounts to a response. I would be grateful if the Minister could produce a response, rather than just an account of the current landscape. Given the roll-call of Mark, Sam, Lucas, Ben and so many others, we need to make some progress, and I hope that the Minister can give us some assurance.

ODA Budget

Daniel Zeichner Excerpts
Monday 26th April 2021

(3 years 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.

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James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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I can assure my hon. Friend that we think carefully about the implications of all the decisions we make and indeed the decisions made by other countries around the world. We remain committed to women, peace and security as an agenda and the education of women and girls in particular. We will absolutely continue to pursue both those agendas.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab) [V]
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We have heard a succession of senior Conservatives condemn this decision as “shameful”. As well as the humanitarian costs, the ODA cuts have a direct impact on UK research and development. The Royal Society tells us that its programmes are being cut by around 70%. Can the Minister tell me whether the Government were aware of those consequences when the decision was made and whether he has seen or carried out any impact assessment?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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It is the normal process of this Department and its predecessor Department to speak regularly with our delivery partners and opinion formers in the sectors with which we work. The decisions we made are difficult, and they are driven by the economic circumstances. As I have said a number of times, we will get back up to the 0.7% to reinforce the sectors that the hon. Member speaks about as soon as the fiscal situation allows.

Arrest of Egyptian Human Rights Advocates

Daniel Zeichner Excerpts
Tuesday 8th December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The strength of our partnership should be judged by the ability to provide constructive criticism to Governments who are responsible for human rights violations, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister what work our Government are doing to ensure that the Egyptian Government, as well as other Governments who have been responsible for significant human rights violations, take action to bring an end to such violations.

Karim’s wife, Jessica Kelly, was instrumental in campaigning for her husband’s release and that of his colleagues. We are all relieved to hear about their release, but there are a number of outstanding issues. What matters now is that the Egyptian Government allow Karim to leave the country to come to the UK where he can be reunited with his wife. I would be grateful if the Minister provided an update on whether that will be possible and what action our embassy is taking to enable Karim to be reunited with his wife in the UK.

The men were also accused of having links to terror organisations and of spreading fake news on social media, but let us be crystal clear that they were arrested for shining the spotlight on the human rights abuses of that regime.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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I wonder whether my hon. Friend is aware of the case of Giulio Regeni, the Cambridge PhD student who was researching trade unions in Cairo. He was brutally murdered five years ago. Does she agree that it is in the interests of everyone, including the Egyptian Government, that, in the end, the truth comes out and justice is done, and is seen to be done?

Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising that case and I could not agree with him more. It is really important that the European Union and the UK work together to ensure that such actions of the Egyptian Government are confronted, and that Giulio’s family get the justice they deserve.

Yet again, we see that repressive regimes—in this case, Egypt—behave far worse if they think the world is not watching and holding them to account. It is critical that we work with our partners to ensure that we hold Governments such as the Egyptian Government to account for human rights violations, and that action is taken to bring an end to such violations. We must ensure that we shine a spotlight—in the most aggressive way possible through diplomatic means and through our relationships—to ensure that these kinds of arbitrary arrest and detention do not happen to people who are fighting for the rights of others.

This regime came to power in 2013 in a military coup, dissolving the constitution and dismissing the opposition. Since then, there has been widespread concern about human rights violations, some of which have been raised this evening. On 14 August 2013, Egyptian security forces, under the command of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, raided two camps of protesters in Cairo. Human Rights Watch described these raids and the subsequent massacres as

“one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history”.

It also pointed to the fact that over 900 people were killed during the massacre.

Human rights activists and observers report that the regime has employed arbitrary imprisonment, torture, extrajudicial killings, home demolitions, forced disappearances and sexual violence against its opponents. The families of Egyptians abroad have been detained to stifle criticism of the Government. There are not free and fair elections; al-Sisi won the 2014 election with 97% of the vote. All this evidence of thuggery, intimidation, violence and torture makes the bravery of human rights defenders even more apparent. They are truly courageous and heroic, risking their lives to protect the rights of others. It is right that we offer them whatever support we can, and it is necessary and right that our Government do all they can to provide the support that they need.

Jessica Kelly, her family and I are grateful to the Foreign Secretary for the statement that he made immediately after the arrests, and for the representation that he and his Ministers made to their Egyptian counterparts to help to secure the release of Karim Ennarah and two of his colleagues. As I mentioned, another colleague, Patrick Zaki, remains in detention, and his term has just been extended by another 45 days by the Egyptian courts. I would be grateful if the Minister provided an update on that case and whether further representations have been made to secure his release.

I would also be grateful if the Minister told us what further representations he is making to ensure that the Egyptian Government take seriously our concerns, the UK Government’s concern and the international concerns about human rights abuses and about the wider record of the Egyptian Government on human rights violations and the culture of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and torture of human rights defenders. Will he update the House on what efforts our Government are making, working with our European counterparts and other international partners, to apply diplomatic pressure on the Egyptian Government to ensure that these kinds of human rights violation are brought to an end?

This case was highlighted to me because the husband of a British national—my constituent—was arrested, alongside his colleagues, but for every one of those cases, there are many others that do not get the attention that they should be getting. We are all grateful to Jessica Kelly and her family, and to all those who have campaigned for the release of her husband and his two colleagues, but it is vital that our Government work with our international partners to ensure that all those who are being locked up, tortured and punished for standing up for human rights are protected. I would be grateful if the Minister addressed those concerns.

China

Daniel Zeichner Excerpts
Monday 20th July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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My hon. Friend is right. That is the relationship and the way we want to calibrate the relationship—looking for positives, militating against risk and guided by international obligations, multilateral but also directly bilateral, which, in the case of Hong Kong, China freely assumed and is now in clear and serious violation of.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State will be aware of the important financial contribution that Chinese students make to our universities and research sector in particular. What plans do the Government have should those numbers fall? Perhaps more importantly, what can he do to reassure Chinese students and those of Chinese origin in this country that they are safe and welcome here and what can he do to tackle Sinophobic racism?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this point. I made it clear in my statement that we value the contribution that travelling Chinese make, both touristically and in terms of universities. This is also a timely opportunity to tell the British-Chinese community here, who are among the most hard-working, productive and socially engaged members of our communities, how welcome they are and that we will have no truck in this House—certainly not on the Government Benches—with this descending into jingoism or any racism against them. They are incredibly important members of our community and society.

Amazon Deforestation

Daniel Zeichner Excerpts
Monday 7th October 2019

(4 years, 7 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered e-petition 266638 relating to deforestation in the Amazon.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Moon. I declare at the outset that I have been a member of Greenpeace for many years.

This timely debate focuses on a real and urgent concern for the environment, on a day when so many are standing vigil outside Parliament and across the capital, making their strength of feeling on this critical issue heard peacefully, calmly and, as I can hear from my office, often with gentle, soothing music—although interspersed occasionally by energetic drumming. However, that commendable gentleness should not be misunderstood. Urgent action is needed, as demanded by the many people who signed the petition.

The petition, which currently stands at more than 122,500 signatures, including more than 500 from my Cambridge constituency, reads as follows:

“Demand the EU & UN sanction Brazil to halt increased deforestation of the Amazon. The government of Brazil led by Bolsonaro favour the development of the Amazon rainforest over conservation, escalating deforestation. Deforestation threatens indigenous populations who live in the forest, loss of a precious and complex ecosystem and a vital carbon store that slows global warming. Indigenous people have called for the EU to impose trade sanctions on Brazil to halt the deforestation because they fear genocide. Also, the UK parliament has recognised a climate emergency. Since the Amazon rainforest is an important carbon store, absorbing huge volumes of CO2 each year, its deforestation is of global significance. The intrinsic value of the rainforest should also be recognised. Trade sanctions are used elsewhere for important issues as an effective means to force action.”

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to mention Brazil, but I understand that it is responsible for about half the deforestation of the Amazon, and that countries such as Bolivia and Peru are also significantly involved. For accuracy, could he include those countries and all others that are involved in this important issue in his remarks?

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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I will come to the definitions in a little while; the hon. Gentleman has pre-empted me.

Climate change and environmental issues have shot up the political and public agenda this year—we should all be thankful for that—due in no small part to young people, the school climate strikes and Greta Thunberg, and to various campaigns that have led to long-overdue media attention. In my city of Cambridge, some 3,000 people took to the streets a few weeks ago to support the school children, and today thousands are taking part in the Extinction Rebellion protests. Protecting our natural environment has captured the public consciousness and cannot—indeed, must not—be ignored by politicians.

What a natural environment this petition refers to. The Amazon rainforest is 5.5 million sq km of rainforest surrounding the Amazon river. Some 60% of it is contained in Brazil, as the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) indicated. It is home to about one quarter of the world’s species, it accounts for about 15% of terrestrial photosynthesis and it is a major carbon sink. The World Wildlife Fund reports that it is home to perhaps 34 million people, including 385 indigenous groups. It is integral not just to the habitats of the people, plants and animals to which it provides a home, but to the global ecosystem, so it is very precious.

The Amazon rainforest has been under threat from deforestation for some years. Between 2001 and 2018, Brazil lost almost 55 million hectares of tree cover—a staggering amount.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
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Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the word “lost” makes it sound like an accident, like someone losing their specs down the back of the sofa, whereas in actual fact—particularly recently—it is due to the deliberate actions of President Bolsonaro, who wants to open up more of the Amazon rainforest? Does he agree that we should not enter trade talks with Bolsonaro unless and until he upholds strong environmental standards and stops that action in the Amazon?

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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The hon. Lady has provided a short and precise synopsis of my entire speech. I am afraid I will continue with it anyway. She makes an important point: “lost” is perhaps not the right way to put it.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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Did my hon. Friend listen to the Environment Minister from Brazil on the World Service this morning, and did his heart sink, as mine did, at his failure to answer any of the questions that my hon. Friend is addressing to the Bolsonaro regime?

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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I did not hear that exchange, but of course it is not uncommon in the political arena for questions not to be directly answered. The point I will develop in my speech is that the failure to act is devastating and dangerous.

Let me return to the 55 million hectares of tree cover, because not everyone knows what that looks like. I am reliably informed that it translates to a loss of 5.7 football pitches per minute. That is something that I can envisage. It is staggering that so many football pitches have been lost in the time that we have been speaking in this debate.

This is not a new problem. We have known about it for some time. Previous Brazilian Governments have tried to reduce deforestation through a number of measures, which have indeed slowed the rate. In 2012 Brazil recorded its lowest deforestation rate of the past 20 years. However, that has been reversed this year. The New Scientist reported in July that more than 3,700 sq km of forest has been deforested this year alone. According to preliminary satellite data, the losses for the first seven months of 2019 are 16% higher than the high of 3,183 sq km in 2016. There was an 88% increase in deforestation in June 2019, compared with June 2018. Those startling and worrying numbers understandably provoke strong and passionate responses from people across the world.

James Gray Portrait James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con)
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I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this extremely important debate, and I apologise for missing the first few moments of his speech. He is of course right to call attention to the vast increase in deforestation that has occurred this year, but it is also right to put that in the context—he mentioned this in passing—of the very significant reduction in deforestation. As recently as 2004, it was 10,500 square miles a year. Last year, it was 4,000 square miles. This year, as he correctly mentioned, it has gone back up again. It is right to say that the Brazilian Government have been doing their best, albeit this year there seems to have been an extremely worrying reversal.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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The hon. Gentleman makes an important point: there has been progress. The problem is that something has happened. That is what I will come on to.

The threat of natural loss as a consequence of these changes is very real and is under way, but the political situation that underpins this issue deserves careful and considered attention because, as the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (James Gray) pointed out, something has changed. It is hard not to conclude that the environmental damage is a direct consequence of a change in policy direction and political attitudes.

That brings me to President Bolsonaro—clearly a controversial figure, although by no means the only controversial figure on the world stage at the moment—whose attitude to climate change is worth highlighting. Back in December 2018, at the 24th conference of the parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change, the Brazilian Government promised that their carbon emissions would decrease by 37% by 2025, and by 43% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. However, since President Bolsonaro took office in January there has been a clear change. He is widely considered to be sceptical of actions to curb climate change, and in his election campaign he said he would take Brazil out of the Paris climate change accord—a note, I fear, from the Trump playbook. He has back-peddled a little and has argued that he may not do that so long as Brazil’s control over the Amazon remains intact. I have to say that I do not think these are issues to be negotiated. We should all be working to preserve such an important part of our environment.

This summer the world watched on with huge anxiety as forest fires burned in the Amazon, with many attributing blame to forest clearance policies. The Rainforest Alliance says that satellite data show an 84% increase in fires compared with the same period in 2018. The Brazilian Government deny a causal link, but the disagreement has led to fierce international controversy. It was recently reported that at the UN

“Bolsonaro…launched a cantankerous and conspiratorial defence of his environmental record, blaming Emmanuel Macron and the ‘deceitful’ media for hyping this year’s fires in the Amazon. In a combative 30-minute address to the UN general assembly, Bolsonaro denied—contrary to the evidence—that the world’s largest rainforest was ‘being devastated or consumed by fire, as the media deceitfully says’.”

Similarly, The Guardian has reported that

“Bolsonaro is set to unveil draft legislation that would allow commercial mining in indigenous territories, something currently outlawed, despite overwhelming opposition from voters.”

Clearly there are differences of view, but I find it hard not to conclude that the Brazilian President’s pro-development agenda is having a clear and dangerous impact, and that the clearing of the rainforest will be used to allow further development of mining and agriculture.

If we conclude that we all have an interest in this issue because of the impact on the global climate, the question becomes, “What do we do?” The petition calls for trade sanctions, a measure that the Government have not adopted or advocated so far. The Government state in their response to the petition:

“The United Kingdom shares concerns about deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, and the severe impact on the climate, biodiversity and livelihoods. However, key to tackling these issues is to work with Brazil to find solutions rather than imposing sanctions.”

I am afraid that I must characterise that as a “do nothing” response, or rather a “do a tiny little bit to maybe give us some cover” response, because the Government also stated:

“In response to the recent forest fires, the Prime Minister pledged a further £10 million at the G7 summit on 25 August. This contribution is an expansion of an existing project: Partnerships for Forests.”

The rainforest is burning and the Prime Minister has offered a water pistol—maybe he could have sent an unused water cannon.

Remember the scale of the challenge that we face. The Government’s actions hardly equate to the “rapid”, “unprecedented” and “far-reaching” transitions that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called for in its report last year.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op)
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My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does he think that the UK has a critical and special responsibility in this matter? Non-governmental organisations such as Global Witness have shown that much of the deforestation has been backed by companies that often have operations in the City of London, so we should really take more responsibility rather than pretending that it just affects a country many miles away.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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My hon. Friend makes an important point on the wider context of Britain’s role on the global stage. I would argue that although we are shamefully withdrawing from our positions of influence on the global stage, we remain important through many of our major companies and should use that influence and position of authority.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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Does my hon. Friend agree that we are approaching a very dangerous tipping point in the context of climate change and that the wider world faces catastrophic climate change if urgent action is not taken? That action must include an end to deforestation, radical action to reduce the consumption of meat in the western world, and Government intervention in markets.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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That is the important point: the sense of urgency. Of course, this Parliament has declared a climate emergency, not that one would necessarily guess that from the Government’s actions, and actions are what count.

What a marked contrast there is between our Government’s feeble response and the responses of other Governments. Our European partners have called for trade sanctions, with Austrian MPs demanding that their Government veto the EU’s proposed trade deal with South America’s economic bloc, which is currently composed of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. That was due to concerns over workers’ rights, which is absolutely correct, but the environmental reasons are paramount. Similar concerns have been voiced by countries such as France, Ireland and Luxembourg.

Although I have been critical of the Government, I will add a rider, because as a country with an imperial and colonising past, criticism can always be levelled at the UK that, because we industrialised and polluted, it is hypocritical to blame others for doing the same. Brazil could argue that, as a post-colonial industrial country, it should have the chance to develop its economy, as the UK and other European countries did in the past, and it can point to our lack of environmental concerns during that industrialisation. Those sympathetic to Bolsonaro’s argument could point to data indicating that Brazil has historically contributed to around only 1% of global emissions since the start of the industrial age.

To criticise other countries for pursuing industrial development by saying, “We benefited from that kind of approach but now we know more so you should not put your economy first” is a poor argument. However, it is possible to develop the economy in a much more sustainable way if it is not driven just by short-term profit maximisation—that is the answer to the conundrum. The way forward is through international agreements, ratified by the countries involved, to secure a better future approach. Economic avenues could be pursued more sustainably to future-proof Brazil’s industry while maintaining environmental protections and regulations.

Many would argue that there is no need for self-inflicted harm. Greenpeace tells us that indigenous groups across Brazil are calling for global support to protect their rights in their struggle to safeguard the forests that they have inhabited for centuries. Greenpeace argues that environmental governance bodies in Brazil have been dismantled and weakened. For instance, the Climate Change and Forests Office and the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change have been closed, which has impacted policies and deforestation prevention, as well as resourcing. Minister Salles has slashed the budget and staffing of the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, or IBAMA. Highly trained units have reportedly been grounded, and the value of fines imposed for environmental offences has dropped by 43%. In August, the director of Brazil’s National Space Research Institute was forced out of office after the President refuted data on rising deforestation.

Of course, the Brazilian Government have a different account and reject the notion that

“Brazil does not take care of the Amazon, does not take care of the environment.”

People will make their own judgment, but at the centre of the issue is the fact that we are in a climate crisis. If Brazil rejects the chance to reform its practice, recommit to stopping the fires and return to anti-deforestation policies, and if the Brazilian President continues to take Brazil down such an environmentally damaging path, it is right that the international community thinks hard about how to proceed to best protect the environmental jewel that is the Amazon rainforest.

That is hard because it touches on the most basic issues of national sovereignty. Brazil has reaffirmed many times that this is indeed an issue of sovereignty, and it believes that its approach to the Amazon is one of domestic policy, but we cannot look at this issue in a vacuum. As was mentioned earlier, the Amazon spans not just Brazil, but Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. It is an internationally revered natural treasure, and parts of it that are lost, including some species that are found nowhere else on earth, will not be recovered. That is a global loss.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
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The hon. Gentleman has touched on something so important in our current political debate: nationalism is completely the wrong answer to a global crisis. We can solve these things only if we think globally rather than just in our own national interest.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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The hon. Lady is right. If only we could find a way of achieving that consensual approach.

This is a global loss, and many would conclude that that risk creates a global responsibility to respond. How do we solve this dilemma? Greenpeace has asked that

“all trade talks with Brazil be suspended until the Bolsonaro government changes tack and guarantees the necessary protections”.

It says that should include effective support for urgent action by the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources and other agencies responsible for monitoring and enforcement, to tackle environmental crimes and implement forest protections, with guarantees of necessary funding as well as other measures to improve environmental protections. That is the tough approach.

Our Government seem to hope for the best outcome. The Minister of State has previously told Parliament:

“If we help to ensure that these sensible trade arrangements are made, those fires can be put out and they will stay out”.—[Official Report, 3 September 2019; Vol. 664, c. 7.]

That seems to be over-optimistic at best and complacent at worst, but we will await the Minister’s response. If the situation remains as difficult as it currently appears to be, I have to say, I am with Greenpeace. The Amazon rainforest is sometimes said to provide 20% of our terrestrial oxygen, or one in five of each of our breaths. Most of us now recognise that we are in a climate crisis, and that it is time for action and urgency in our approach to both domestic and international policy.

I hope that the Minister will be able to reflect a hitherto undetected ambition and urgency to do what is needed. He could start today by supporting the petitioners in their ambition to secure global action to protect the precious rainforest.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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--- Later in debate ---
Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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Thank you, Sir Roger, for chairing the debate. We have had a full debate, during the course of which we have heard from, I think, five political parties. For much of the debate, I was greatly enthused and encouraged, because there was seemingly a lot of common ground. Some thorny issues, such as sovereignty, were raised by a number of people, including the hon. Members for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) and for Winchester (Steve Brine). I think the emerging conclusion was that this is a global crisis and a global responsibility, in which we all have a role to play. Both Front-Bench spokespeople made powerful speeches with which I strongly agreed.

I was hoping that I would hear a positive, civilised and courteous response from the Minister, but I have to say that in policy terms, for me and I suspect for others, it was profoundly disappointing, not least because when invited to suggest that in future trade deals environmental considerations would be a key part, there was a stunning silence. The Minister said only that there would be trade deals. Well, they will not be very quick—we know that for sure—and we also know that there is an urgency about everything.

I did not hear even a suggestion of criticism of the Brazilian Government, which would not be very hard to do given their record. Of course, they will watch the debate and hear what we say, so it is important that our contributions are measured and constructive. However, we must also say very clearly to people on the global stage who are damaging our climate and planet that that will not go unchallenged. Frankly, I am deeply disappointed, as the petitioners and the people outside surely are, to hear that our Government are so weak in their response. The conclusion I have come to is that the Government are not part of the solution; frankly, they are part of the problem.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered e-petition 266638 relating to deforestation in the Amazon.

Oral Answers to Questions

Daniel Zeichner Excerpts
Tuesday 3rd September 2019

(4 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Law Portrait Chris Law (Dundee West) (SNP)
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2. What recent discussions he has had with his Brazilian counterpart on the forest fires in the Amazon rain forest.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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5. What diplomatic steps his Department is taking to help tackle the fires in the Amazon rain forest.

Hannah Bardell Portrait Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP)
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15. What recent discussions he has had with his Brazilian counterpart on the forest fires in the Amazon rain forest.

--- Later in debate ---
Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s passion for the issue. I can confirm that we spend £120 million through our international climate finance programme. That goes to help to tackle deforestation and to help sustainable farming, and it complements the trading activities that we have with Brazil, which ensure that the Brazilian economy grows and prospers, including for those farmers, who are part and parcel of the problem, burning some of the rain forest.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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Over 120,000 people have already petitioned this Parliament, urging trade sanctions to be used against Brazil to put pressure on it. Given that a Minister was in Brazil recently, what pressure was put on by this Government?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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The Minister of State, Department for International Trade, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns), was there as part of our international trade obligations, to ensure that we build trade with our strategic partners, such as Brazil. I will be seeing the Brazilian ambassador tomorrow and making clear that we want to help Brazil with its difficulties in these terrible fires, but also that we want to trade with it, because that is a way of building its economy and ensuring that the sorts of fires that are currently raging are put out and stay out.

Oral Answers to Questions

Daniel Zeichner Excerpts
Tuesday 25th June 2019

(4 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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5. What recent discussions he has had with his Iranian counterpart on the political and security situation in the middle east.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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13. What recent assessment he has made of the potential risk of military conflict between the US and Iran.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Jeremy Hunt)
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We are very concerned about the situation in the middle east and the risks of an accidental war. We have made serious efforts to de-escalate tension, including the visit by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East to Tehran at the end of last week.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Mr Hunt
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The US is our closest ally. We talk to it the whole time. We consider any requests that it makes carefully, but I cannot envisage any situation in which it requests, or we agree to, any moves to go to war.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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I think the whole House appreciates the efforts that were made by the Minister for the Middle East at the weekend to de-escalate this crisis, but can the Secretary of State tell us what work is being done with the UN to make further progress?

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Mr Hunt
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The hon. Gentleman is right to ask that question. We have been doing extensive work. The message that we are sending with our partners in the European Union, particularly the French and the Germans, is that, with respect to Iran’s nuclear programme, this is a crucial week. Iran has said that it will reach the limits of what it is allowed for low-enriched uranium by 27 June, which is later on this week. It is absolutely essential that it sticks to that deal in its entirety for it to be preserved and for us to have a nuclear-free middle east.

Oral Answers to Questions

Daniel Zeichner Excerpts
Tuesday 14th May 2019

(5 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Murrison
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We need to understand what is happening in Syria and the fact that so many proxies of one sort or another are active and engaged in it—it is a maelstrom of such activity, and we need to deal with that. I think we know which countries are behind support for this in Syria, and all we can do is do what we can to maintain good relationships, as far as we possibly can, with those countries in the hope that our good counsel will prevail and that we will be able to curtail some of these unpleasant groups.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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8. What his diplomatic priorities are for the upcoming state visit to the UK of President Trump.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Jeremy Hunt)
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The Prime Minister and I are delighted that the President of the United States will come to the UK for a state visit in June. It will be an opportunity to celebrate our close and special relationship in areas such as trade, investment, security and defence, and Venezuela.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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Many would say that the President should not be getting a state visit at all. In this country, when a bully elbows their way to the front of the queue, we might remonstrate in a politely British way, but we certainly do not reward that bad behaviour by inviting them back for tea. Could the Government perhaps be tactful and polite about this and say that we are all going to be rather busy in June—especially the Foreign Secretary, perhaps—and say that it might be better to reschedule for a later date, preferably long after the President is slung out?

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Mr Hunt
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Can we just deal with this ridiculous anti-Americanism on the Opposition Benches? One million jobs in this country depend on US inward investment, more than 400,000 American troops died in the second world war, and the President is coming here to mark the anniversary of D-day. We should honour that relationship, which goes far beyond differences in partisan politics.

Oral Answers to Questions

Daniel Zeichner Excerpts
Tuesday 26th June 2018

(5 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mark Field Portrait Mark Field
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I thank my right hon. Friend for her question. She is very assiduous on the Iranian issue. Yes, we are obviously looking towards getting reform within that country. A huge amount of work goes on both in the Foreign Office, in relation to the global Britain agenda, and in that region. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East spends a considerable amount of his time on this, and I am sure he will take it up.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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24. It is almost two and a half years since the Cambridge student Giulio Regeni was brutally murdered in Cairo, and the truth has had to be extracted from the Egyptian authorities. Can the Minister tell us what pressure he is putting on colleagues to try to get the truth for Giulio?

Mark Field Portrait Mark Field
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I understand. I have worked with the hon. Gentleman, who works extremely hard on behalf of his constituents, on a number of consular matters, including some in Asia. In relation to this desperate case—I understand the distress of Giulio’s family—we are keeping regular contact at consular level. I know these things can be very frustrating, but keeping regular contact sometimes makes a real difference.