Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 12th March 2024

(1 month 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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These enrichment levels have no credible civilian justification. We are working with partners to ensure that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon, are prepared to use all diplomatic options, including triggering UN snapback if necessary, and will continue to monitor the situation very closely.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Venezuela: Threat to Guyana

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 14th December 2023

(4 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

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We dare not ask where.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (David Rutley)
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I will not ask where either, Mr Speaker, but it is good to see my hon. Friend here right now.

We are deeply concerned about the recent steps taken by Venezuela with respect to the Essequibo region in Guyana. I know that will be a key concern to the shadow Foreign Secretary and Members across the House, and we share those concerns. We believe Venezuela’s actions are clearly unjustified and should cease. We are clear that the border was settled in 1899 through international arbitration. The Foreign Secretary has made that clear in a recent meeting and calls with President Ali of Guyana.

The UK, countries in the region and the international community have been swift to respond. I have been in close contact with partners in the region to urge de-escalation, and earlier this week the Minister of State for Development and Africa, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), attended an emergency meeting of the Commonwealth ministerial group on Guyana, which issued a clear statement rejecting the use of threat of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Guyana.

Brazil and other countries in the region have expressed their deep concern at the situation and warned against unilateral actions that threaten the peace and stability of the region. The UN Security Council met in closed session last Friday, at Guyana’s request, to discuss the situation. We note that a meeting will take place later today between President Maduro and President Ali under the auspices of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC, and hope that that will reaffirm the importance of a peaceful resolution to this important matter.

We will continue to work with allies and partners in the region and through international bodies such as the UN Security Council, the Commonwealth and the Organisation of American States to ensure that the territorial integrity of Guyana is respected. I plan to visit Guyana in the coming days to further show our support for the Guyanese people on this vital issue. It is imperative that regional partners and friends across the House, in the region and around the world continue to press the Maduro regime to respect Guyana’s integrity and to avoid escalation.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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The Government completely agree that the current situation is not acceptable. We are deeply concerned by the unilateral move by Venezuela over this region. Our position is absolutely clear and has not changed: the border was settled in 1899 through international arbitration. Venezuela must desist from its action. It has deliberately and unacceptably escalated the situation, and the people of Guyana deserve to be free from the threats to their country.

We work closely with our friends in the region. My hon. Friend mentioned Brazil. Of course, we have been in conversations with Brazil, which has taken a robust stance. I know that my Opposition counterpart with responsibility for Latin American affairs feels the same way. We are, across the House, completely opposed to this sort of action. We want peace and stability in Latin America to continue for decades to come.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We come to the shadow Foreign Secretary.

David Lammy Portrait Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)
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I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) for securing the question on this important matter.

The actions of Venezuela over the past few weeks have been provocative and dangerous. President Maduro has shown a determination to stoke historical grievances, attack recognised international borders and seek aggressive confrontation instead of good neighbourly relations. All that sounds worryingly familiar, because it is the playbook of President Putin. We have challenged it in Ukraine, and we must do the same in Guyana. We often talk in abstract terms about the importance of a rules-based international order, but this is its essence: that disputes are settled peacefully through proper legal and diplomatic processes, not through threats or intimidation; that settled and recognised borders are not subject to change through threat or force; and that the big cannot bully the small. We must be resolute in standing up to those with imperialist ambitions.

I welcome that there will be talks between the leaders of Guyana and Venezuela in St Vincent. I put on record my thanks to Brazil for its leadership on this matter, including the deployment of troops along its border. Those talks should be a mechanism to reduce the tensions brought about by Venezuela’s actions, not a discussion about settled borders or a reward for threats. The Essequibo border was settled more than 100 years ago in 1899. Has the Minister spoken directly to Brazilian or American counterparts, or to key regional bodies such as CARICOM—the Caribbean Community—and the Organisation of American States, about responding to Maduro’s actions?

Guyana is a diverse, beautiful and proud country with close ties of history, friendship and family with the UK. As the child of parents who came from Guyana as part of the Windrush generation, I am living proof of our shared history. For my relatives, and for all the people of Guyana, this is a deeply troubling time. I am grateful that the Minister has indicated that he will go to Guyana shortly, and that the UK’s support for Guyana’s sovereignty is unwavering. What specific actions are the Government taking to ensure that, if the threat is followed through, Guyana’s sovereignty is protected?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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It is good to see strong cross-party support on this vital issue. I certainly recognise the right hon. Gentleman’s interest in this matter from his personal perspective and from a geopolitical perspective. He is absolutely right: this is from the playbook of Putin and other dictators around the world, and it needs to be called out and stopped. We are grateful for the work that Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, is doing to facilitate those conversations. They need to be about de-escalation; the border is a settled issue as far as we are concerned.

The right hon. Gentleman asks what action we are taking. I can assure him that there have been multiple conversations. The Foreign Secretary is absolutely concerned about this. I have held conversations with interlocutors in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and many other places. I was in Argentina for the inauguration at the weekend, and I met many interlocutors there who all share the concern. We will work with CARICOM, the OAS, the UN, and, of course, the Commonwealth, which is vital, to call this out and take whatever steps are required.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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I am glad to follow the Opposition foreign and Commonwealth affairs spokesman in reminding the House and the Minister that when the United States persuaded the United Kingdom to go to international arbitration, the determination in 1899 was to leave that region as part of what is now Guyana, which became independent in 1966. The dispute with Suriname was settled some time ago by agreement. This should be as well, and Venezuela should go back to solving its own problems and exploiting its own hydrocarbons, if it chooses to do so, as it moves towards a more eco-friendly economy and preferably a better kind of politics as well.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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The Father of the House makes a very important point. This is a settled matter, and Venezuela needs to sort out its own issues. There have been steps taken by partners in the region to try to help open the door to Maduro, and he has responded in this way. It is unacceptable.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to the SNP spokesperson.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 12th December 2023

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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I have recently been appointed as the FCDO Minister responsible for the overseas territories. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has made it clear that every Department should have a Minister whose portfolio covers responsibilities to the OTs. The UK has no doubt about its sovereignty over the overseas territories. Any decision to end British sovereignty should be on the basis of a clear constitutionally expressed wish of the territory’s people.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
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As you know, Mr Speaker, our global British family in the UK overseas territories contains 94% of all the unique species that the UK is responsible for. These huge marine areas throughout the world’s oceans are hugely vulnerable to climate change, yet are negligible contributors to it. It has been great to see more OTs sign up to the blue belt initiative, work with groups such as Great British Oceans and attend the recent COP. What is the Minister doing to encourage more overseas territories to join the blue belt and to assist overseas territories to get access to strategic international funding for conservation, adaptation and resilience?

Libya Floods

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
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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My hon. Friend make important points, which I hope are listened to by those involved in the situation in Libya. The support absolutely needs to get to the frontline. If nothing else, we hope that this moment of severe crisis in that country will bring sometimes warring factions and groups who have different opinions together in common cause—that is vital. There comes a point where human interest and humanitarian concern is the most important factor, as is the case right now.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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Of course, we join both Front Benchers in sending our deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones in these devastating floods. The scale of the destruction is utterly unimaginable, and Libya needs international solidarity as it moves from the search and rescue phase to the recovery phase. As climate change bites harder and we see more fierce natural disasters, it will so often be the case that those least able to cope with the effects of climate change are impacted to the greatest extent. So will the UK Government invest much more in international loss and damage funding, as the Scottish Government have championed worldwide? Of course, we will support the Government in any support they offer Libya. However, given the drastic cut of 30% in the international aid budget and the catastrophic impact it has had on our ability to be a global player and react to the needs of countries hit by climate change disasters such as we see in Libya right now, what more support can the Libyans expect from the Government?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 18th July 2023

(8 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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We welcome all steps to help move forward with the middle east peace process and follow those particular points with interest.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Secretary of State.

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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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As always, the hon. Gentleman makes important points. He can be assured that the work we are doing is not only about education, but about providing reassurance and support for these children and young people who are going through extraordinarily challenging times.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Fabian Hamilton Portrait Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East) (Lab)
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As we know, the British Council has been a force for good in Ukraine and across the world for decades. Given what we have just heard about the Government’s support for its vital work in Ukraine, will the same energy and commitment now be used to support safe passage for those former British Council teachers and contractors who are stranded in Afghanistan, despite having cleared all the security checks required to come to this country through the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme?

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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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I recognise the hon. Lady’s concern and sincere commitment to this important case, and I am pleased that she has raised it today. The Government continue to make every effort in our engagement with the Egyptian authorities on Mr El-Fattah’s case. We remain concerned about his welfare, and are pressing for consular access and his release. We continue to provide consular support to Mr El-Fattah and to his family, whom Lord Ahmad most recently met on 6 July. The Foreign Secretary has raised Mr El-Fattah’s case on several occasions with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, most recently on 2 March. Since then, Ministers have raised his case at every opportunity.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
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Jagtar Singh Johal, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, Morad Tahbaz, Mehran Raoof and Jimmy Lai are all high-profile British citizens detained abroad, whose families have severely criticised the Government’s weak, complacent and inconsistent record in supporting them. Does the Minister agree with us that consular assistance should be a right of British citizens, not based on the whims of Ministers?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 13th June 2023

(10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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I thank the hon. Member for his question. I offer my sincere condolences and the condolences of all on the Government Front Bench and, I am sure, of the whole House, to the families of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, particularly considering the first anniversary that the hon. Member highlights. I know that the Foreign Secretary had meetings with the police and with Ministers to discuss the case, and I have had similar conversations. We want to make sure that those who committed that heinous crime are called to account and face justice. We continue to have active dialogue with the Brazilian Government to find ways that we can tackle environmental crime and deforestation.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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Well, that is an interesting question, to which I say that we have a very clear economic strategy, and the Atlantic declaration is a very important element in strengthening our partnership with the US. The beginning of the negotiations on critical minerals will make sure UK companies are eligible for tax credits under the US Inflation Reduction Act; this is a hugely important and positive step forward.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Foreign Secretary.

David Lammy Portrait Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)
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Our allies in the United States, the European Union, Australia and Germany have all entered the global race to reach net zero and create the jobs of the future with massive public investment, but the Government’s Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero described the United States Inflation Reduction Act as “dangerous” and the Chancellor described it as “distortive” and “not the British way.” Does the Foreign Secretary agree with his colleagues in Cabinet or our allies in the United States? It will be interesting to see whether the Foreign Secretary answers.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 14th March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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As I said, we strongly oppose the death penalty in all countries and circumstances. On the al-Kheir situation, Lord Ahmad has raised that case with the Saudi ambassador, the Saudi vice-Foreign Minister and the president of the Saudi human rights commission on multiple occasions since November, including during his visit to the kingdom in February.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 31st January 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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We work very closely with Norway, not through the report that we are talking about but through other bodies, and we will continue to do so because, as the hon. Member says—it is a very important point—Russia is increasingly militarising its Arctic territory. We expect Russia to comply with international law, and we will collaborate with our partners and allies to protect our interests and theirs.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith (Stirling) (SNP)
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I am glad to hear that the report is forthcoming, and I hope it takes good note of the Scottish Government’s 2019 Arctic strategy. For the reasons we have heard from Members on both sides of the House—there is a lot of agreement on this—the Scottish Government recognise the significance of the High North and the Arctic to us; it is our backyard, and we are a willing partner to work with the UK. We have different views on Scotland’s best constitutional future, but it is our High North, it is our backyard, and it needs a lot more attention. The Scottish Government are working on it, and I urge the Minister to redouble his efforts.

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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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I thank the hon. Member for her follow-up question, and I know through my conversations with her that she feels very strongly about this. We have been providing regular consular support to Mr El-Fattah’s family and recognise that they are here today, but my noble Friend Lord Ahmad, the Minister for the Middle East, has met family members previously. He will continue to closely engage with the family, keep them informed of developments and work with the Egyptian authorities on this case. It is an important case for us, absolutely.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Wednesday 30th November 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. These are topical questions—I call the Minister.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (David Rutley)
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Qatar has repeatedly committed that everybody is welcome at the tournament. As colleagues are aware, the Minister with responsibility for sports and equalities—my right hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew)—is in Qatar, and I fully respect his decision to wear the One Love armband.

Anti-lockdown Protest in Shanghai: Arrest and Assault of Edward Lawrence

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 29th November 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. He is a long-standing campaigner on these issues, and I listen keenly to what he says, as does the Foreign Secretary. What the Prime Minister set out yesterday was a co-ordinated and coherent approach in which we do more to adapt to China’s growing impact. As he knows, we will revise and update the integrated review, which will help us to invest in our alliances and in the serious capabilities that we need to counter the actions that we see in China’s foreign policy.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to the shadow Minister.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
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I congratulate the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) on securing his first urgent question in the House—who would have known that it was the first?

I turn to the serious matter of the arrest and detention of journalists, which is deeply shocking and, in this particular case, concerns our own BBC. Sadly, this is the approach and tone that we have come to expect from an increasingly authoritarian Chinese regime. That has been further demonstrated this week by the case in Hong Kong of the independent media outlet, Apple Daily, whose founder, Jimmy Lai, faces court cases in Hong King on basic freedom of expression for local people. We must show solidarity in that terrible situation, not just in Hong Kong but across the People’s Republic of China.

I welcome the fact that the Foreign Secretary has summoned the Chinese ambassador, as well as the consular support that has been provided for Mr Lawrence. The robust response is a welcome change to the Government’s previous handling of Chinese overreach in Manchester, which the House thought did not match the severity of the violence outside the Chinese consulate. Our support for the work of the press must be unified, and we stand squarely behind the Government in making it clear to Chinese officials that their treatment of journalists doing their job is not and never will be acceptable. The Opposition have made it clear that the BBC must be protected in its crucial work abroad, tackling disinformation and providing reliable, accurate reporting—I am sure the Minister agrees with that.

I have one question for the Minister. We are in the middle of profound cuts to the BBC World Service, including of Chinese journalists. Will the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office say on the record today that it will not defund Mandarin-speaking journalists, because, particularly in covid lockdown, it is crucial that individuals can listen to good journalism on our BBC World Service?

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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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My hon. Friend makes a good point: the case against the BBC journalist was thin to say the least, and we will raise that with the ambassador today. He raises an important point about Manchester, about which an investigation is ongoing. Unlike the Chinese, we will see that process through before we take action—and we will. On his broader point about the action that we will take, we have put sanctions in place in relation to the atrocities in Xinjiang, so action is being taken. We are also refreshing our integrated review, which will help us to create the framework in which further action can be taken as appropriate.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to SNP spokesperson, Alyn Smith.

Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith (Stirling) (SNP)
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I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) on securing this urgent question and I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting it. It is important for the House to take account of the issue. Journalists deserve a special status anywhere: they tell the truth, they shed a light and they do a public service. They need support, so we express our support for Edward Lawrence. I am glad to hear that the ambassador will be summoned to the FCDO, but, frankly, I would like to hear about more consequences. Bluntly, the Manchester investigation also seems to be taking longer than it needs to; I think the House would support consequences on that.

There is a wider issue at play. I am deeply concerned about the pressure that is building within China. The Communist party has boxed itself into a zero covid strategy that has been coupled with a terrifyingly low vaccine uptake, particularly among the elderly. That huge pressure could tend towards greater authoritarianism and a more violent crackdown. What assessment has the FCDO made of the risk to UK nationals in China? Does the advice need to change? On a humanitarian level, is there scope for assisting the Chinese state, for all its faults, with a catch-up vaccine roll-out? That might go some way to alleviating the humanitarian pressure that could tend towards worse consequences for the people of China.

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Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)
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I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) on obtaining this urgent question, but I must warn you, Mr Speaker, that I think you have set him on a new trend. He was always concerned as to why he was the last person to be called in questions, but now he has found a method to be called first, so just beware, Mr Speaker, because I think you are going to get a tsunami of requests from him.

Is the Minister not concerned that increasingly autocratic regimes seem to think they can kill our citizens, attack people on our own territory, tear up agreements made with us, and affect our vital interests by their behaviour? Does he not have some concern that the message being sent out by the Prime Minister that we will be pragmatically robust—whatever that means—will not scare the Chinese and will not stop them doing what they are doing at present? Given the vital interests we have in the China sea, where China is expanding, and in Taiwan, where China is increasingly aggressive, and given the stranglehold China is seeking on resources across the world through colonialism, the pragmatic—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Mr Wilson, I granted the UQ to Mr Shannon, not you. I call the Minister.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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rose

Saudi Arabia: Death Penalty and Spike in Executions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Monday 28th November 2022

(1 year, 4 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 my right hon. Friend for raising these issues and for doing so with his characteristic passion and conviction. His record on civil liberties and human rights is well known, and I want to reassure him once again that Lord Ahmad raised the case of the Jordanian national Mr al-Kheir with the Saudi ambassador on 24 November—so just last week he requested that meeting and had the conversation—and earlier in the year, on 25 January, Lord Ahmad raised the same case with the Saudi Justice Minister during the Minister’s visit to the UK. Our embassy in Riyadh has raised this case with relevant authorities and we will continue to monitor it and raise it at the highest levels.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)
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Labour unequivocally condemns the recent executions in Saudi Arabia and the use of the death penalty anywhere in the world. In the last two weeks, executions have been taking place on almost a daily basis in Saudi Arabia. In total, according to the UN, 144 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia this year alone, which is a record high for the kingdom, and more than double the number last year. The recent executions have been for alleged drugs and contraband offences following the Saudi authorities ending a 21-month moratorium on the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences. That is deeply concerning, especially after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s public assurances that the kingdom would minimise use of the death penalty altogether.

The UK should join the international community in condemning these executions in the strongest terms. What steps have the UK Government taken to raise our concerns about the resumption of executions and the wider crackdown on freedom of expression and activism with the Minister’s Saudi counterparts? I note the Minister’s comments about the meeting with Lord Ahmad, but this needs to be an ongoing process. How do the Government intend to use the close relationship between our countries to press for a change in Saudi Arabia’s approach? I join my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) in calling on the Government to do everything in their power to prevent the imminent execution of Hussein Abo al-Kheir. What steps have they taken so far to secure that goal?

We must oppose the death penalty in all countries and in all circumstances. Will the Minister confirm whether the Prime Minister raised the importance of standing up for human rights, which should be at the heart of British diplomacy, when he met the Crown Prince earlier this month at the G20?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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It speaks volumes when we have condemnation coming from both sides of the House. I am grateful to the hon. Member for his contribution and for joining us in condemning this spike in use of the death penalty. We are seeking further clarification of its cause at the highest level. That was part of the conversation that Lord Ahmad had, because, as the hon. Member said, that does not sit comfortably with what was previously said by the Saudi Government. We are seeking that clarification as a key priority. As I said, we are raising this matter at the highest possible levels.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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The Father of the House makes important points. As he is aware, the UK has always been clear that Khashoggi’s murder was a terrible crime. We called for a thorough, credible and transparent investigation to hold those responsible to account and imposed sanctions against 20 Saudis involved. I cannot speculate about future designations or sanctions as that would reduce their impact, but he can be assured that we will speak up clearly and call out any confessions secured under torture, which are abhorrent and against all that we stand for.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith (Stirling) (SNP)
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The SNP is a party of international law, and we condemn the death penalty wherever it occurs. We think it is a barbaric punishment that never fits the crime. I must say to the House that, in Saudi’s case, it is personal for me: I grew up in Riyadh in the late ’70s and ’80s and know the Saudis well, so forgive me, but I am immune to the flannel and hypocrisy that we are used to hearing when talking about Saudi in this place.

We are united in our condemnation of the spike in judicial murder. I think we need to see some consequence to what is happening. We have seen 138 individuals executed this year, which must be sending a signal internally on the part of the regime to potential dissidents or somebody else. What is causing the spike now? I would be curious to hear the Minister’s assessment of that. If there have been this many judicial murders in a key partner of the UK, does he really think that it is a suitable partner to be receiving billions in arms exports from this country?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 8th November 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Welcome back, Minister.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (David Rutley)
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There are no plans to move the UK embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv. Israel is a close friend and a key strategic partner, built on decades of co-operation. We will continue to strengthen our relationship with Israel through our embassy in Tel Aviv.

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. This is not acceptable—I am saying it now, and I mean it. Other Back Benchers have waited and waited, and this is selfish and unfair. I expect better treatment. I have to represent the Back Benchers, and I expect the Front Benchers to show the same respect.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (David Rutley)
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. I look forward to working with the hon. Member for Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton), who raises an important point. We also welcome and congratulate President-elect Lula, and we will be working strongly with him on formal partnerships on not only trade, but climate change. I look forward to meeting the hon. Gentleman to discuss this more fully.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Monday 6th June 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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As we have highlighted, we have just set out a really significant increase in benefits payments as part of the package that is now worth £37 billion. As a result of the work we are doing not just to provide support but to enable people to get into work, there are now 200,000 fewer children in the UK who are in absolute poverty before housing costs.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister, Karen Buck.

Karen Buck Portrait Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab)
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The Government have been scrabbling to catch up with the escalating cost of living crisis. Any and all help for lower-income families is very welcome, but the fact is that the protection of those on universal credit and other benefits from the worst impacts of inflation depends on their having adequate and predictable levels of income. How is it acceptable, then, that 42% of universal credit claimants face deductions of, on average, £61 a month? What is the Minister going to do about that?

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David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (David Rutley)
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The Department is promoting the generous universal credit childcare costs offer as part of a wider national advertising campaign, and it is also working across Government to promote the full range of childcare support through the “Childcare Choices” website and by putting new guidance in place for our work coaches.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Secretary of State.

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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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As I said earlier, we put forward policies that have reduced deductions from 40% to 30% and now to 25%. Those policies and the support available for families are designed to help tackle child poverty, along with enabling people to get into work and to progress in employment.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Sir Stephen Timms.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Monday 21st March 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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We take seriously the points that the hon. Member makes. Each interaction is key. We want to make sure that people get the support that they need, and we can achieve that through vehicles such as the household support fund, but I will take away her specific point and write back to her with a full response.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

DWP Estate: Office Closures

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
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

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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That is not what I asked. We will leave it for now. We had better move on.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (David Rutley)
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At the Department for Work and Pensions, we constantly look at ways to improve our services. I wish to say up-front that we know it is important to communicate changes to all relevant stakeholders so that everyone understands our plans and why we are making changes.

This seems to be an unusual situation, Mr Speaker. It is very disappointing that the embargo agreed with the Public and Commercial Services Union does not seem to have been respected. Clearly, our staff should be the top priority at this time. I hope colleagues will understand that I am not able to go into all the detail this morning as we are briefing affected colleagues as we speak. In fact, the delivery of the first stage of the strategy is being announced to affected colleagues at 10.30 today—right now. The Minister for Employment will write to MPs with an affected site in their constituency after 1 pm today, and there will be a written statement to Parliament tomorrow morning. The letter to MPs will include notification of a virtual surgery that the Minister for Employment will hold on Wednesday 23 March.

The change is to back-of-house offices and will support the delivery of the Government priorities to get more people back into employment, to deliver long-term savings for the taxpayer and to meet Government commitments to modernise public services. The Department has developed a strategy that will, over the next 10 years, reshape and improve how, where and when it delivers services to claimants. The Department is transitioning to an estate that is smaller, greener and better. This will deliver substantial benefits by increasingly developing modern, secure, resilient, sustainable and automated systems to drive better experiences for our customers, colleagues and taxpayers.

The plans for the next three-year period affect the future delivery of back-of-house services—that is, services that are delivered remotely via telephone and online, without the need to see customers face to face. I assure the House that the plans do not affect Jobcentre Plus and customer-facing roles. We have been engaging fully with PCS union representatives at the sites affected since January, and PCS union representatives will be present at sites for the announcements today, as the House would expect. Our focus today is, of course, on supporting staff through the changes.

Changes to DWP estates are not unusual. Like most public services, we are always looking to meet our customers’ changing needs, reflecting developments in technology and the approaches of successive Governments. We value our staff and are working with them now to support those who will be affected by the changes as we seek to deliver the best possible services to our customers at all times.

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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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My hon. Friend makes a very important point. We will, of course, make sure that those communications are made. We will also make sure that the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Mims Davies), has those conversations with MPs. If any MP needs to contact her, they should do so, and she will be willing to talk to them. She will also proactively get out to speak to colleagues. Please be sensitive to the fact that she is currently recovering from covid at home, so I am fulfilling her role today. If any colleagues wish to speak to me after this urgent question, I will gladly meet them.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)
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It looks as though the Department for Work and Pensions does not believe in levelling up, does not believe in its own rhetoric on jobs, and does not believe in keeping people in work. We hear that offices will be closed in Stoke, Southend, Peterborough, Chesterfield, Aberdeen, Kirkcaldy, Barrow, Bishop Auckland, Doncaster and Burnley, taking jobs out of these communities. Can the Minister answer these questions for the Members in Stoke, in Wellingborough and in Stockton whose communities and constituents will be concerned about the news today? We have heard that up to 12,000 jobs might be affected, but how many of the workers will be able to find new jobs locally within the Department? Can the Minister guarantee that there will no compulsory redundancies?

I appreciate that staff are being informed only this morning, but this is the correct forum for the Minister to answer these important questions. The PSC Union has said that its members are facing spiralling workloads. Is it not the case that the Department actually needs more staff, not fewer? If these closures are allowed to go ahead, we will face the absurd prospect of making staff redundant in one area, while recruiting new staff in another to do exactly the same job. That will be both costly and inefficient, so can the Minister confirm that that will not be allowed to happen?

If these closures go ahead, local communities will be faced with the loss of hundreds of good jobs potentially. Many of the closures are in areas of economic deprivation that can hardly afford to lose good-quality public sector jobs. Will there be a plan to help those communities attract well-paid jobs back to their local areas? This all comes at a time when families and working people are being hit hard by the cost of living crisis made by this Government. The price of petrol, food and energy is still soaring and people are worried about the future. Has there been any assessment of the impact that these job losses will have on the local economy? I think the Minister indicated in his previous answer that there had not been, but I would be grateful if he could confirm that. Has any consideration been given to the effect that this will have on the high streets of the affected towns? Will we see yet more boarded-up buildings? This is the opposite of levelling up; this is levelling down and it is closing down.

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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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As my right hon. Friend highlights, we are doing a huge amount of work to help claimants to find work and to help people to progress in work. I am delighted that he has those facilities in Harlow and I or the Minister for employment will gladly come and visit in the very near future.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Select Committee, Stephen Timms.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Monday 13th December 2021

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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Throughout our job network, our employer partnership teams and employment advisers are working closely with local employers to ensure that they help claimants understand how best to benefit from the recent positive changes to universal credit taper rates and work allowances. I am sure that my hon. Friend, with his fantastic shirt, will assist with his characteristic energy with this important task.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I think you need to go to Specsavers, Minister.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between David Rutley and Lindsay Hoyle
Monday 8th November 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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Absolutely. I credit my right hon. Friend: I know that he has been a champion of improving the taper rate over many years, and it was a pleasure to work with him as a Parliamentary Private Secretary when he was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Now is the time for us to take forward opportunities for people, given the Budget measures that have been put in place, and help long-term unemployed people into work through the sector-based work academy programme and the restart programme, which the employment Minister—the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Mims Davies)—is taking forward with her characteristic verve and enthusiasm.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Select Committee on Work and Pensions.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab)
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Unemployment support is now at the lowest level in real terms for more than 30 years, even though the economy has grown by more than 50% in real terms over that period. As a proportion of average earnings, it is the lowest ever—lower than when Lloyd George introduced unemployment benefit 110 years ago. Why has unemployment support been set at this historically extremely low level?