Debates between David Rutley and Bob Blackman during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 14th Sep 2023
Libya Floods
Commons Chamber
(Urgent Question)
Tue 21st Feb 2023
Wed 16th Nov 2022
Thu 17th Mar 2022
Thu 13th Jan 2022

Libya Floods

Debate between David Rutley and Bob Blackman
Thursday 14th September 2023

(7 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

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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I thank the hon. Member for his support. The action that is being taken in the short term is the top priority right now. He makes important points about how we are working to affect those who are climate-vulnerable. We will continue to do that, but I reassure him that in this moment in time we have found support, we will continue to monitor the situation and we will provide whatever other support we need to provide. Our funding through the UN is pivotal at this time.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend for the update. Clearly, the most important thing right now is humanitarian aid, but there will be a requirement for long-term rebuilding of the structures that have been destroyed. The British people will want to be generous but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) mentioned, there is a risk that funds will be diverted to improper uses. When a fund is set up to which the British people can contribute, will my hon. Friend make sure that the British people know how to contribute to it and that it goes to the people who need it?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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My hon. Friend makes a good point, which has been reiterated by other Members: the money needs to get to the frontline. We will do everything we can, certainly with those funds provided by the UK Government and through the UN; that will be a key focus. The fact that so many colleagues are raising the issue helps us to make that point with conviction.

On his wider point, the primary focus right now is humanitarian need, but going forward, Libya needs to move down a pathway to free and fair elections. That will help the country in the longer term, but humanitarian aid and support is our key focus right now.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Bob Blackman
Tuesday 13th June 2023

(10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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I recognise the hon. Member’s comments; he has taken a keen interest in the case, along with others on both sides of the House. We are working closely with the Brazilian Government on these matters. We have invested £300 million in the Amazonian biome, a huge amount of which is focused on Brazil. That will provide all kinds of support for indigenous communities and help to tackle environmental crime. We want to work within that framework to help protect environmental activists as well.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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3. What recent assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ activities in (a) the middle east and (b) globally.

Raid of BBC Offices in India

Debate between David Rutley and Bob Blackman
Tuesday 21st February 2023

(1 year, 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

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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The hon. Gentleman makes important points. It is because of our broad and deep relationship with India that we are able to discuss a wide range of issues in a constructive manner with its Government. As part of those conversations, this issue has been raised and we continue to monitor the situation. He asks important questions about the BBC staff. The BBC said in its statement that it is supporting its staff; obviously welfare is a priority, and consular support is also available if requested. We continue to monitor the situation. He also raises the importance of media freedom. We absolutely support that, which is why we have agreed a package of funding for the BBC World Service. With that, the FCDO also has additional funding to help with key languages.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. It is important to understand that the BBC is not an arm of the British Government—in fact it is frequently critical of His Majesty’s Government. Clearly that is something that resounds around the world, that people believe the BBC is actually representative of the Government. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that, wherever it operates, the BBC operates within the law and within the appropriate tax rules? Will he confirm that the income tax authorities in India have been investigating the BBC for seven years?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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The BBC does have an independent voice and editorial capability, and that is vital. As I said earlier, and as my hon. Friend can read from the BBC, it continues to be involved in the ongoing investigation. The BBC has said it is not appropriate for it to comment further at this point, but it is an ongoing investigation that the BBC is actively engaged in.

Iran

Debate between David Rutley and Bob Blackman
Wednesday 16th November 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Foreign Secretary to update the House on the current situation in Iran and the treatment of protesters.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (David Rutley)
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The news on Sunday that the Iranian regime had sentenced a protester to death was tragic. It is an act that the UK Government utterly condemn, in the strongest possible terms. Sadly, this is yet another act of desperation on the part of a regime that clearly cares more about its own survival than about the human rights of its own citizens. This is not the first time we have seen the Iranian regime use barbaric methods to clamp down on those standing up for basic freedoms. Following the 2019 fuel protests, more than 300 people were tragically killed.

The latest violence levelled at protesters has been utterly appalling. We have seen over 14,000 people detained so far, and over 300 deaths, of which 43 were children. The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, but it is all the more abhorrent when those sentenced are being arrested for standing up for their rights. My fear—which I am sure my hon. Friend shares—is that the frequency of these death sentences is only likely to increase as the regime processes the thousands of arrests that have been made during the protests. The Iranian judicial system is notorious for its lack of transparency and process, and this barbarism is just one of many threatening and intimidating techniques that the regime has rolled out in response to the protests.

The repeated targeting of journalists and systematic constraining of media freedom, including restricting internet use, in Iran, which I know is important to the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous), is yet another sign of the regime’s weakness in the face of grassroots protesters. These threats have extended to journalists residing in the United Kingdom, and on Friday the Foreign Secretary summoned Iran’s most senior representative in the UK to the Foreign Office to make it clear that this would not be tolerated and that the UK would always stand up to threats from other countries.

On Monday we announced a second round of human rights sanctions against 24 Iranian security officials for their part in the violent crackdown on protesters. That is on top of the sanctions we introduced last month on the morality police and seven other individuals, and we continue to keep our sanctions list under review. The Government are also driving efforts in multilateral forums to hold Iran to account. We firmly support a special session of the Human Rights Council that will press to mandate a UN investigation into the protests. We are working closely with the US and other international partners to remove Iran from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

What we are seeing in Iran is a grassroots movement from the people of Iran, who are showing outstanding bravery in the face of a brutal crackdown. Iran needs to stop trying to blame this on everyone but itself, take responsibility for its actions and instigate real change. That is what the Iranian people have been bravely calling for and it is what they rightly deserve.

--- Later in debate ---
Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
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I thank Mr Speaker for granting this urgent question, and I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for presiding over it. I thank the Under-Secretary for his response.

The House will be aware that, since the murder of Mahsa Amini, there have been nationwide protests in Iran over the past six to seven weeks. Contrary to the reports that the Minister mentioned, the reports I have are that more than 60,000 people have been arrested. These are men, women and children just protesting about the murder of one young lady. The individuals who have been arrested have been tortured, they have been denied legal representation, they have been denied medication and in most cases they have been denied bail as well. When bail was first introduced, huge sums were demanded from families who simply did not have the money. We should remember that the President of Iran, President Raisi, was responsible as the prosecutor in Iran for 30,000 executions of political prisoners in 1988, so the direction from the top is very clear. As my hon. Friend has mentioned, journalists in the UK have been threatened, and indeed the Foreign Secretary called in the chargé d’affaires on Friday about those threats. We are also aware that sentencing and executions are beginning in Iran, and that many thousands of people may end up being executed.

I have a series of questions for my hon. Friend the Minister. What representations have been made to Iran directly on the treatment of the protesters? What action has been taken at the United Nations to remove Iran from positions of responsibility? He has mentioned one position but there are many others that Iran shares. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is directly implicated in the torture of individuals in Iran. What more do we have to see before the IRGC in its entirety becomes a proscribed organisation in this country? President Macron has made it clear that progress on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiations is impossible during these events in Iran, so does my hon. Friend agree that making any progress on the so-called nuclear deal with Iran is impossible in these circumstances?

Finally, will my hon. Friend join me in wishing the England team every success in beating Iran on Monday?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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I thank my hon. Friend for his insightful comments, as always, on this vital issue. I join him in wishing every success to the home nations—both England and Wales, of course—in all their matches. We always want to keep sport and foreign policy separate, because our concerns are not with the Iranian people, whom we absolutely support. Our concerns are with the Iranian regime, which my hon. Friend and many others have consistently and rightly called out.

My hon. Friend has made a number of important points. I reiterate that we are utterly appalled by the detention of what we calculate to be about 14,000 people. He has come up with a much bigger number, but whichever number it is, they are most often held without due process, and that is completely wrong when they are really just protesting courageously for basic human rights. He talked about the freedom of journalists. The Foreign Secretary has rightly made sure that the Iranian chargé d’affaires understood that we would not tolerate threats to journalists based in the UK, but we are also calling out and condemning the persecution of BBC Persian staff and will continue to do so.

My hon. Friend made an important point about where things stand with the JCPOA. Quite understandably the situation that we find ourselves in now, following Iran’s recent actions, has made progress even more difficult, but I can assure him that we are actively considering next steps with our international partners. He also asked about the IRGC. He is a dog on a bone with this subject, and I know that it means so much to him. As I have explained to him before in the Chamber, we are very concerned about the IRGC’s destabilising activity. The list of proscribed organisations is kept under constant review, but we do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for proscription.

I think the last point my hon. Friend raised was about the United Nations. As I said earlier, we are pressing for support for a special session of the UN Human Rights Council and for a UN investigation. I know from Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office oral questions that there is concern about Iran’s presence on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and we have joined the US to forcefully seek for it to be removed from that. I hope that he and all hon. Members understand that we are absolutely committed to the task of calling out these acts and taking the required action at this stage.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Bob Blackman
Tuesday 8th November 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (David Rutley)
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The death of Mahsa Amini and of all those who have lost their lives standing up to the authorities is a tragedy that shows the regime’s shocking disregard for the rights of the Iranian people. We have made our views clear to Iran in the strongest possible terms. We have robustly condemned Iran’s actions, including at the UN Human Rights Council, and we have sanctioned the morality police and seven other officials responsible for human rights violations.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
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Thousands of Iranians have been arrested for just demonstrating their support for people who have been murdered. I have been supplied with a long list of people who have been sentenced to death just for protesting. Even worse, British-Iranian reporters who are now sited in the UK have been issued with credible information by the police that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps threatens their lives. What more does the IRGC have to do before we proscribe it in its entirety?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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I know that my hon. Friend feels very strongly about these issues and has raised them at the highest level with FCDO Ministers. We have been clear about our concerns about the IRGC’s continued destabilising activity throughout the region. The UK maintains a range of sanctions that work to constrain that destabilising activity. The list of proscribed organisations is kept under constant review, but we do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for proscription—I know that my hon. Friend understands the reasons.

--- Later in debate ---
Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Benjamin Netanyahu on his recent election victory in Israel and in wishing for Bibi to form a broad-based coalition across Israel, so that there is a proper stable Government for our key ally?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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We congratulate Benjamin Netanyahu on his election victory. As one of Israel’s closest partners, the UK looks forward to working with Israel to ensure that our relationship continues to flourish.

DWP Estate: Office Closures

Debate between David Rutley and Bob Blackman
Thursday 17th March 2022

(2 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.

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

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

On our plans, we have, as I said, been working closely with colleagues and PCS over recent months. Around 12,000 colleagues will be moving from one site to another that is in close proximity—that will involve around 28 sites. Around 1,300 colleagues could be involved at sites where there is no other strategic site nearby. We are looking at what opportunities there are within the DWP and at what other opportunities there might be across other Government Departments. We have seen in other areas how this can work, and we are committed to doing that. Clearly, we will look at any other options that might work for those individuals.

Let me turn to the impact on the local economies. There are not normally too many people involved on each individual site, but, clearly, we have been working very hard to strengthen local economies, with the opening of a large number of new jobcentres. Again, I stress that this is about back-of house roles. This will not impact on jobcentres and the customer-facing interactions within the constituencies.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think that this would have been much better dealt with in a statement rather than requiring an urgent question. I understand that an office in a neighbouring constituency will be closing, so I urge my hon. Friend to make sure that we notify not just MPs in the constituency where the office is closing, but MPs in neighbouring constituencies, such as mine, where, for example, people will be travelling to work in those places and will be affected.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Bob Blackman
Monday 7th February 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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We have a full plan for jobs, which sets out a huge range of initiatives from kickstart for the young through to SWAPs—sector-based work academy programmes—and restart, and even a midlife MOT. Those are incredibly important tools that will help people get their children into a better financial situation. Of course, childcare is also available. We spend about £6 billion a year to support childcare. We need to make sure, as the Secretary of State said, that we make that work better for the families who rely on it.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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I completely agree with my hon. Friend that the best route out of poverty is work. By lowering the taper on universal credit, we are enabling people to get into work and retain their benefits. Does he agree that that combination has to be seen through the prism of encouraging people to work and to earn their own living?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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I strongly agree. I have seen the amazing work my hon. Friend does in his constituency and did previously in Brent and he sets out our clear direction. Through our plan for jobs, and now, in a time of record vacancies, we are putting huge focus on the Way to Work, which I think he will agree provides even more incentives for those getting closer to job readiness to move into a job and then advance their career.

Underpayment of Benefits: Compensation

Debate between David Rutley and Bob Blackman
Thursday 13th 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

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman has made a number of points. Arrears have already been paid to the 118,000, but the team are still in place, so when people are deceased and the surviving parties feel, on the basis of the report, that they could be eligible to receive such arrears, they can do so. I have already explained how those who feel they should receive further compensation can find out more about the process of investigating that. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we need to do more to increase people’s awareness of the pension credits that are available. He also mentioned people with vulnerabilities. We want to help those people, which is why we established the household support fund and made additional funds available in Scotland as well.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

During the period of the inquiry the benefits system was incredibly complicated, involving many mutually exclusive benefits. I well remember talking on the helplines to civil servants who did not know which elements were mutually exclusive and which were not. Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the need to ensure that the system is straightforward, that people can understand it, and that people are paid the compensation and the benefits they are due? We are talking about the most vulnerable members of society.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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My hon. Friend has made some good points. I know that he has a proven track record in this area, given his campaigning work both locally and nationally. The benefits system is indeed complicated. Universal credit has helped to simplify it by putting benefits into a single bundle, but as the new Minister on the welfare delivery block, I am aware that the system is still complex even under the universal credit banner. I shall be working hard to ensure that we can communicate clearly with some of those most vulnerable people in explaining what benefits are available; and, as I have said, we will review the report and see what further lessons can be learnt.