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Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab):
I do not want my right hon. Friend to become big-headed, but on behalf of my constituents may I say how proud I
was that he took the time to go to Sri Lanka? That was a really brave decision, and we will be for ever in his debt for doing it. But we always want more of our friends, so may I ask that he does everything he can at the UN Security Council? I do not wish to frighten him, but a number of Members are going round to all the London embassies of the Security Councils members. My right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan) and I have recently come back from the Austrian embassy. We went to see the Costa Ricans last week. We are overwhelmed by their great confidence in the leadership of the UK Government and their willingness to support them in any way they can. We therefore believe that a large number of countries want to support my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in his efforts and are there to back him up. Finally, if he can find the time in his busy day, could he possibly meet a similar delegation of UK young Tamils to talk about his visit to Sri Lanka?
David Miliband: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has shown determination and passion in abundance in standing up for her constituents on this issue. The work done by parliamentarians and civilians around the world is exactly what we want in a democracy, and I applaud the peaceful and diplomatic discussions that she has undertaken. Well, perhaps they are not always diplomatic, but she knows what I meanthe sometimes diplomatic but always passionate discussions that she undertakes. I can certainly confirm that we are in touch with as many countries as we can find, because this important issue requires the coalition that we have been trying to build for some time but that is now beginning to come to fruition.
Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): May I, too, commend my right hon. Friend for the courageous and determined way that he has pursued peace in Sri Lanka? What reasons did the Sri Lankan Government give for not agreeing to an immediate ceasefire, for blocking relief aid into the area and for not allowing transparent, independent access to the media and human rights organisations? Will our Government now consider ensuring that the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in 2011 is not hosted by Sri Lanka, as it wishes?
David Miliband: As I said in my statement, the Sri Lankan Government did not have the same rendition of the facts as the agencies about the delivery of various forms of aid. They denied allegations that they were blocking aid, and it is important that we follow through on that in detail. On the ceasefire, they argue that they need to prosecute their military campaign against the LTTE to its end. They pointrightly, actuallyto the fact that they have made more advances in the past three or four months than anyone expected and that 120,000 citizens have been got out of the conflict zone. While they put forward those arguments we, in return, have emphasised the paramount importance of protecting civilians lives, as we will continue to do.
Adam Price (Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr) (PC):
Given the Sri Lankan Governments stated intent to continue this war without witness, to use the Foreign Secretarys term, will the Government suspend any UK
arms export licences to Sri Lanka with immediate effect? What steps is he taking to prevent the sale of munitions, including artillery shells, to the Sri Lankan military by EU countries? If we did not take such steps, would we not be complicit in any further civilian deaths?
David Miliband: As the hon. Gentleman knows, we, alongside other European countries, have the toughest arms export criteria in the world. There has never been a shred of evidence to suggest that the Sri Lankan Government have used British artillery. We will continue to impose that tough arms control regime in everything that we do.
Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): May I add my thanks to the Foreign Secretary? My constituents in the Milton Keynes Tamil association will be heartened by the seriousness with which he is taking his concerns, as he demonstrated by going to Sri Lanka with Mr. Kouchner. May I focus on one of his five pointsfull access to the IDPs? There is huge concern among the Tamil community about the way in which men are being screened out of the IDPs and assumed to be part of the LTTE, just because they are male Tamils. Will he ensure that that point is not lost as part of all the other issues that he is rightly pursing at the UN and in other places?
David Miliband: This is an important point. Some young Tamil men have been taken for rehabilitation, although not all of them. It is important that I say that I talked to many young men at the IDP camp that I saw yesterday, as well as womenboth younger and older. One reason why we have been emphasising the need for UN access throughout the non-conflict area is precisely to address that concern of my hon. Friend and her constituents, which we will continue to raise.
Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): On behalf of my constituents, I welcome the Foreign Secretarys commitment to end a conflict that has caused such suffering and destruction. Given his statement that this is a war without witness, will he prioritise ensuring that there is proper UN monitoring and freedom of the press so that democratic values and a respect for human rights can be restored to Sri Lanka and, especially, the Tamil people?
Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): On behalf of the Tamil community in my constituency, I thank the Foreign Secretary for his trip and everything that his Ministers are doing to raise my Tamil constituents concerns.
May I press the Foreign Secretary on a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) about seeking legal opinion on whether genocide, under the convention definition, is indeed happening? Has legal advice been sought, and if not, will he do so? Does he agree that only a political process, not a victory on the battlefield, will in the end deliver the justice and peace that people in Sri Lanka deserve?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman is certainly right to say that only a political process can deliver that. I want to give him an accurate reply about the state of our legal advice, or lack of it, so I will write to him about that.
Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): May I say, hopefully by way of encouragement to the Foreign Secretary and all of us, that in response to the strong, united view of the House yesterday and his actions, the last of the hunger strikers in the UK gave up his hunger strike this afternoon? Will the Foreign Secretary continue to concentrate on ensuring not only that we have the ceasefire that is immediately wanted, but that independent people will have the ability to watch what then happens on the ground, because only such presence in the days following any end to conflict will give confidence that there will not be further human rights violations of people in the Tamil community in the north of Sri Lanka?
David Miliband: Too many lives have been lost at other peoples hands for people to take their own lives in the search for change in Sri Lanka. We will certainly continue to make the case for independent access. The central message that we delivered yesterday was that with aid must come access. It is vital for Sri Lankas reputation, as well as the well-being of its people, that there is independent access for people of only good intentin my experience, they are the brave people of the UN, the ICRC and the aid agencies, who want access to do goodso we should do everything possible to encourage it.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has today made a major announcement on internet gambling. You might not be aware of that because the announcement was made not in the Chamber or as a written statement, but on page four of the Financial Times. The Department has now also come out with a press release. Do you agree that such announcements should be made in the Chamber so that we have the opportunity to comment about them?
Mr. Speaker: In accordance with the business of the House order that was agreed yesterday, the six motions on Members allowances, financial interests and Members staff will be debated together in a single debate. At the end of the debate, and no later than 5 oclock, I will put successively the Questions on each motion and any amendments selected that are then moved. My selection of amendments is available in the usual way.
(1) That this House welcomes the Prime Ministers decision of 23 March 2009 to invite the Committee on Standards in Public Life to inquire into Members allowances;
(2) That it is necessary to recognise the additional costs incurred by hon. Members as a result of the need for them to undertake parliamentary duties both in Westminster and their constituency;
(3) That, in the opinion of this House, any new arrangements relating to Members allowances ought to
(a) take account of hon. Members attendance at Westminster,
(b) be transparent and accountable, and
(c) reduce the existing annual limits on the allowances which hon. Members may claim, producing overall cost savings;
(4) That, to resolve this matter urgently and in a way that will command maximum public support, it would be desirable for the House to have an opportunity to consider any recommendations from the Committee as early as possible.
; believes that in order to command maximum public support for change the House should defer its conclusions until after the Committee has reported; and further believes it would be desirable for the House to have an opportunity to consider any recommendations from the Committee as early as possible..
but not permit a per diem allowance..
That, with effect from 1 April 2010, no distinction shall be made for the purposes of the rules governing Members allowances between an hon. Member who represents an inner-London constituency and an hon. Member who represents any other constituency the whole of which falls within 20 miles of the Palace of Westminster.
(1) That, for the purpose of complying with the Resolution of the House of 22 May 1974 relating to Registration of Members Financial Interests, in respect of interests falling within Category 1 (Directorships), Category 2 (Remunerated employment, office, profession, etc) or Category 3 (Clients), hon. Members shall furnish the Registrar with the following particulars
(a) the precise amount of each individual payment made in relation to any interest,
(b) the nature of the work carried out in return for that payment,
(c) the number of hours worked during the period to which the payment relates, and
(d) except where disclosure of the information would be contrary to any legal or established professional duty of privacy or confidentiality, the name and address of the person, organisation or company making the payment;
(2) That such interests shall be registered whether or not their value in any given year exceeds one per cent. of the current Parliamentary salary;
(3) That the provisions of this Resolution shall apply whether or not the interest in question depends essentially upon, or arises out of, the hon. Members position as a Member of Parliament; and
(4) That the provisions of this Resolution shall come into effect on 1 July 2009.
(1) That, in the opinion of this House, staff who work for an hon. Member should be employed by the House, as a personal appointment and managed by the hon. Member; and
(2) That the House of Commons Commission shall consider this decision and make recommendations for its implementation, including any transitional provisions which may be necessary, by 29 October 2009.
managed by the hon. Member,
, and should be entitled to join the House of Commons Staff Pension Scheme.
managed by the hon. Member
if the hon. Member concerned requests it..
the benefits or otherwise of an arrangement by which staff who work for an hon. Member might be employed by the House, as a personal appointment and managed by the hon. Member, and, if appropriate,.
That, in respect of any claim for payment made by an hon. Member after 1 July 2009 in relation to any allowance or expenditure for which documentary evidence is required, such evidence shall be required regardless of the sum concerned.
That Standing Order No. 152D (House of Commons Members Estimate Committee) shall be amended in line 10 by inserting after House the words and the Guide to Members Allowances known as the Green Book.
Ms Harman: This is an opportunity for the House to debate matters that all hon. Members care about and know to be important. None of us wants a situation in which someone can be an MP only if they have enough money to afford the costs that inevitably come with a constituency that is far away from London. That is why we all agree that we must have financial recognition of the cost of working in London and in a constituency.
We all want to be sure that we can do our work effectively on behalf of our constituents, which is why we agree that it is necessary to have a team of staff so that we can do our work. We all recognise that Parliament has legitimacy because each of us is democratically elected, but we also know that the institution of Parliament
needs to command public confidence, and it is evident that the public do not have confidence in our allowance system. That lack of confidence undermines not only the institution of the House of Commons, but every one of us Members.
We made changes in July last year and January this year. I think that those changes did a great deal to put our allowances on a better footing and to make the audit of our claims fully robust. I pay tribute to hon. Members on both sides of the House who worked hard to shape those changes. However, it is clear that the lack of public confidence is such that we need to go further. The Prime Minister has said this, and the leaders of the major Opposition parties have also called for immediate action. Todays debate and the motions before the House offer us an opportunity to take that action.
The first motion will enable the House to endorse the inquiry that the Committee on Standards in Public Life is conducting at the request of the Prime Minister. It is a major step for the House to endorse a thorough and external review of the structure of our allowance system by an independent body, and we should all be grateful to Sir Chris Kelly and his committee for undertaking it.
Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) (Lab): Will my right hon. and learned Friend help us on something at the outset of our debate? If the House takes a view today that turns out to be contrary to the view that emerges from the Kelly committee, which will prevail?
Ms Harman: I will be able to help my hon. Friend with the answer to that question when I address how I will ask the House to deal with the amendment tabled by members of the Standards and Privileges Committee.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Further to the point made by the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright), the right hon. and learned Lady has said to the House that we should endorse the Christopher Kelly inquiry. I entirely agree with that, so why are we to anticipate and pre-empt it? Surely out of courtesy alone we should allow Sir Christopher and his committee to conduct their investigations and make their recommendations, and then vote on them. We are pre-empting the committee today.
Ms Harman: We are not pre-empting the Kelly inquiry. There are a number of actions that we can take now. If hon. Members will let me get on with my speech, they will hear how I suggest that the House should vote on the motion and the amendments. Hopefully they will then be reassured that there is no question of us wanting to pre-empt the Kelly inquiry, for which the Prime Minister called, and which we hope that the whole House will support. I do think that there are actions that we could take now without having to wait for the Kelly inquiry. That is not about pre-empting it; it is about taking certain actions now.
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