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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(9) (European Standing Committees),

Marketing of Foods Derived from Genetically Modified Maize

That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 12197/05, draft Council Decision authorising the placing on the market of foods and food ingredients from genetically modified maize line MON863 as novel foods or novel food ingredients under Regulation (EC) No. 258/97; and supports the Government's view that products derived from this maize meet the necessary requirements for authorisation under Regulation (EC) No. 258/97.—[Mr. Heppell.]

Mr. Speaker: I think the Ayes have it.

Hon. Members: No.

Division deferred till Wednesday 16 November, pursuant to Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions).
15 Nov 2005 : Column 940


IsItFair Campaign

10.14 pm

Mr. Jeremy Browne (Taunton) (LD): I wish to submit a petition on behalf of my constituents who support the IsItFair council tax protest campaign. There is considerable concern and unease in my constituency about rising council tax bills, which particularly penalise people on low and fixed incomes—especially pensioners and people on the typical wages in my constituency.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

Post-16 Education (Funding Inequalities)

10.16 pm

Frank Cook (Stockton, North) (Lab): In April this year, I was visited by two young students, who complained about the inequality of funding between their sixth form school and colleges of further education. They were most anxious to make an impact on what they saw as an inequitable position. On seeking my advice, the best I could give them was that they should start up a petition and secure as many signatures as possible to support their cause. They have done so, but with the general election and summer recess intervening, it has come back to life only now.

The two students were Linzi Cooper and Emma Lavery, students of Bede college, Billingham and the petition relates to the residents of Billingham and others.

The petition states:

The petitioners list five strong bullet points and pray that the Government take account of them and put into action all their claims

To lie upon the Table.

IsItFair Campaign

10.18 pm

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con): My petition from constituents in my Epsom and Ewell constituency is also on behalf of the local IsItFair council tax protest campaign.
15 Nov 2005 : Column 941

My petitioners

To lie upon the Table.

15 Nov 2005 : Column 942

Orhan Pamuk

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Heppell.]

10.19 pm

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): Orhan Pamuk is one of the greatest novelists in Europe, if not the world. He is Turkish, a man of Istanbul, where he has lived since he was born 53 years ago. His novels, which many Members of this House will have read, include "Snow" and "My Name Is Red". We are of course delighted that this year's Nobel prize for literature was awarded to our own Harold Pinter, but it is an open secret that Mr. Pamuk might be on his way to Stockholm as a Nobel laureate, had Harold Pinter not won the votes.

As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am a long-time supporter of Turkey's ambition to enter the European Union. I have debated on French television with the former French President, Valery Giscard D'Estaing, why he is wrong to oppose Turkey's ambition to join the EU. I have written and spoken here, in Germany and in other European countries to make the case for Turkey.

A great writer such as Orhan Pamuk is the perfect ambassador for a Turkey that is looking west to Europe—to the culture of Voltaire, Dickens and the Enlightenment, and to the great tradition of writing and reading that separates so much of European history from other cultures and regions. Yet far from celebrating Orhan Pamuk as an ambassador for Turkey—he was awarded the peace prize at the Frankfurt book fair last month, and his books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies in Turkey and can be found in translation everywhere in the world—we have the tragic spectacle of his going on trial and facing a terrible jail sentence. The trial is scheduled to begin on 16 December—in one month's time. If it begins, it will set back considerably Turkey's ambition to join the EU. It will become a show trial such as we have not seen since the darkest days of the Soviet Union. Mr. Pamuk's trial has caused outrage all over Europe. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Europe have protested against it, and I know that my hon. Friend the Minister responding to this debate will make the Government's position clear tonight.

So why is this great novelist facing trial and a prison sentence next month? The answer is that he gave an interview to a Swiss newspaper earlier this year, in which he said that a

in Turkey in the last century.

That is an historical fact. He did not use the word "genocide" or seek to attribute blame. The Turkish Government have opened their archives on this sad period in Turkish history and have asked the Armenian Government to do the same—a suggestion that Armenia would be well advised to take up, as this matter must be settled by academic, historical and forensic investigation, rather than ideological name-calling in the Parliaments of Europe and the world.

Alas, however, there is a section of fundamentalist nationalist jihadis in Turkish politics, the Turkish media and Turkish state administration who reject any notion of discussing the history of Turkish massacres as
15 Nov 2005 : Column 943
history, rather than as contemporary politics. They called for Orhan Pamuk to be silenced, and he received so many death threats—a Turkish nationalist version of the fatwa pronounced against Salman Rushdie—that he left Turkey earlier this year. I met him then as a Minister, and invited him to the Foreign Office in April. We had lunch that day with the Turkish ambassador here in London, and we had a conversation as between civilised people about the Armenian deaths of 90 years ago. I urged the Turkish Government to do all that they could to protect Mr. Pamuk. But instead of the Turkish judiciary protecting this man against the death threats that he received, and the vituperative abuse that he received from the Turkish tabloid press, we have the sad sight of an Istanbul public prosecutor launching a prosecution against him, charging him with public denigration of Turkish identity.

The prosecutor cited—in effect, hid behind—article 301 of the Turkish penal code. This code is supposed to be reformed to bring it into line with Council of Europe and EU norms, as part of Turkey's preparation for negotiations on future EU membership. Alas, we see that a malign fundamentalist state functionary can take words from the code and use them to launch an attack on free speech and freedom of expression that one might expect in a repressive Ba'athist, Islamicist or other dictatorship, but not in a nation whose culture is long and glorious, whose writers and intellectuals have much to bring to Europe, and whose self-confidence as a Turkish nation secure in its identity is in no way under threat from one of its great novelists.

Let me make it clear that the issue of the Armenian massacres of 90 years ago is not a taboo subject. I was a British delegate at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Copenhagen. This very morning, I heard the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Erdogan, discuss the problem in a calm, sensible and matter-of-fact way.

Last month, a group of scholars in Istanbul held a conference to discuss the Armenian issue. They, too, had to run the gauntlet of court orders trying to ban the event, and were accused in the Turkish equivalent of our tabloid press of being traitors to Turkey. However, the conference had the support of Turkey's Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul.

This morning, when he took questions after his excellent speech, I asked Mr. Erdogan about the Orhan Pamuk case. I asked him to make it clear that the Government of Turkey did not support the prosecution against Orhan Pamuk. Mr. Erdogan talked about the separation of powers between the judiciary and the Executive but, much as I am an admirer of Montesquieu, I know of no Government in the world who cannot find a way of not shooting themselves in the foot. The very great damage that the Orhan Pamuk trial would do to Turkey, if it is allowed to go ahead, should give even the most nationalist Turkish MP, prosecutor or judge pause for thought.

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