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House of Lords

Thursday, 30 October 2014.

11 am

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield.

Introduction: Lord Rose of Monewden

11.08 am

Sir Stuart Alan Ransom Rose, Knight, having been created Baron Rose of Monewden, of Monewden in the County of Suffolk, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Myners and Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Nigeria: Boko Haram


11.13 am

Asked by Baroness Cox

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of recent developments in Nigeria, with particular reference to the terrorist activities of Boko Haram.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, Nigeria faces a serious threat from Boko Haram. We believe that more than 3,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram this year and more than 1.5 million people have been displaced. We are aware of reports that Nigerian authorities have agreed a ceasefire with Boko Haram and are in ongoing negotiations. We are also aware of reports of Boko Haram attacks since the ceasefire announcement. We monitor events closely.

Baroness Cox (CB): My Lords, I thank the Minister for that sympathetic reply. Is she aware that I have visited areas afflicted by Boko Haram and found that the scale of suffering to which she refers massively exceeds that reported by the media? For example, this year alone 2,000 women and girls have been abducted. In addition to the widely publicised kidnapping of the schoolgirls at Chibok, 173 teachers and hundreds of students, including Muslim students, have been slaughtered, and savage attacks on Christian communities continue to the present day. Despite reports of a peace agreement with Boko Haram, to which the Minister refers, local people do not believe that the federal and state authorities are sufficiently willing or able to stop Boko Haram’s reign of terror. Therefore, will Her Majesty’s Government make the strongest possible representation to the Government of Nigeria to do much more to implement effective policies to protect all its citizens from this escalating terrorism?

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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble Baroness, to whom I pay tribute for her courageous work, not only in Nigeria but around the world. She is right: Boko Haram deliberately targets the weak and vulnerable, causing suffering in communities of differing faiths and ethnicities. It has no regard for human life. We are in continual discussion with the Nigerian authorities to press exactly as the noble Baroness says, and we give as much support as we can in intelligence matters.

Lord Chidgey (LD): My Lords, the Nigerian chief of defence staff, Alex Badeh, announced on 17 October a ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram. A little later, the presidential aide, Hassan Tukur, claimed that there was also an agreement to release the girls taken from Chibok. However, as my noble friend knows, since then all we have seen are many more girls being abducted. What action can the Government take to help galvanise the Nigerian authorities into some action to protect these schoolgirls from organised rape, forced conversion to Islam and mass murder? What specific action to protect the family members of the Nigerian security forces from reprisal acts can the Government help the Nigerians with? So far, some 7,000 have been killed in this manner.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, there were several important questions in there. At the core of what we do is the care we have for what might happen, not only to the Chibok girls but to others who have been seized. We are therefore most cautious in what we say in these matters. What I will say is that it is for the Nigerian authorities to resolve the matter. We will give the strongest support we can. Since the Prime Minister announced on 14 May that the UK would provide surveillance assets and intelligence expertise to help in the search for the Chibok girls, we have deployed Sentinel and Tornado GR4 aircraft with surveillance capabilities, and provided satellite imagery. We will do what we can.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab): My Lords, does the Minister have any further knowledge of the discussions between Abubakar Shekau, the head of Boko Haram, and ISIL, and any further information on the fact that Boko Haram is beginning to occupy and hold territory in the same way as ISIL and call it an Islamic caliphate? Are our intelligence assets able to give us this sort of evidence, bearing in mind that a lot of politicians at federal and local level in Nigeria are helping Boko Haram, as are some in the police force?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The noble Lord refers to some of the instabilities within the Nigerian system. Boko Haram’s affiliation to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb justified the organisation’s inclusion on the UN’s al-Qaeda sanctions list on 22 May. Boko Haram has been proscribed under terrorism legislation in the UK since July 2013. With regard to the negotiations to which he refers, there is, clearly, no resolution yet and we know that there have been some confusing and confused reports in the press.

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Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, the atrocities outlined to your Lordships’ House obviously require vehicles, ammunition, explosives and sophisticated weapons, which all require significant funding. Can my noble friend outline where Her Majesty’s Government believe Boko Haram is getting such funding and what efforts we are making, via the UN or with the Nigerian Government, to cut off its funds?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, as I mentioned earlier, we are in continuous discussion with the Nigerian Government to offer what assistance we can to prevent any further supply of materiel to Boko Haram. It is a very complex matter in an area that is certainly under the kind of attacks that happen without any warning, where whole areas are seized by Boko Haram and the Nigerian forces clearly have come under great stress.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Lab): My Lords, reference has been made to the contents of the excellent Human Rights Watch report, which has described the violence and terror endured by girls and women held in Boko Haram camps. It described the shocking, appalling failure of the Nigerian Government to prevent these brutal abductions. What is the UK doing to press the Nigerian Government at last to: first, secure the release of the girls; secondly, make schools safe for girls; and, thirdly, ensure that there are medical and mental health services for the victims of abductions?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I think I may have addressed the first two questions—rather briefly, it is true. However, the noble Baroness raises a new point at the end with regard to what happens next. Let us focus first on the release, not only of the Chibok girls but of others. One would then need to see what their needs may be, what support needs to be given to them and their families, and which choices the girls may wish to make. I assure the noble Baroness that, through our DfID programme, we provide aid to the area to try to assist the society to grow and survive.

The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: My Lords, what does the Minister make of the claims recently made by journalists that the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram are being held as trophies for various tribal leaders, as is apparently common in these regions, and that they will be released as soon as some way is found to flatter these leaders?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I have read those reports. Anyone who is kidnapped in any situation is a bargaining chip. The difficulty is knowing with whom one strikes the bargain and at what price for all.

Lord St John of Bletso (CB): Does the Minister consider that the forthcoming elections on 14 February next year are a major contributing factor in the approach taken by the Nigerian Government to tackling this problem with Boko Haram?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to refer to the forthcoming elections. We continue to engage regularly with our counterparts in

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Nigeria to convey our expectation that the February presidential elections must be free, fair and peaceful. Security in elections can help to have security in a country.

Bank of England


11.21 am

Asked by Lord Harrison

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will rename the central bank of the United Kingdom, “The Bank of England and of the United Kingdom”.

Lord Newby (LD): My Lords, having begun life in 1694 as a commercial bank, the Bank of England predates the formation of the United Kingdom itself. Of course, the Bank’s role is not limited to England and it acts as the central bank for the whole of the UK. However, to change its name would represent a break from over 300 years’ worth of history and the prestige which it carries as a global brand.

Lord Harrison (Lab): My Lords, given the particular saliency of the currency issue in the recent Scottish referendum, would it not be a wise, inexpensive and inclusive act to extend the title of Britain’s central bank to the “Bank of England and of the United Kingdom”, thereby properly recognising the reach and relevance to all four nations of the United Kingdom of our own central bank?

Lord Newby: A notable feature of the referendum campaign was that Alex Salmond was desperately keen to keep the comfort blanket of the Bank of England. As far as I am aware, he never suggested that its name should change.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, given that the Bank of England has responsibility for ensuring that other banks and financial institutions have proper systems and back-up systems in place, what action has been taken following the failure of the CHAPS system—for which the Bank of England is responsible—that resulted in many people being unable to buy their houses on the day concerned; quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Lord Newby: Quite, my Lords. The Financial Services Act gave the Bank of England new powers in this area. It is conducting an investigation to see what happened in that unfortunate case and what lessons can be learned for the future.

Lord Peston (Lab): I congratulate my noble friend for raising this Question, but I am sorry to say that I disagree with him. Changing the name of the Bank of England would be economically very damaging to our country. Is the Minister aware that there is a lesson to be drawn from this? It is mainly that making constitutional changes on the hoof is not the right way to do this sort of thing. The next time he sees his right honourable

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friend the Prime Minister, will he tell him that the way to go on in this area is to think before you speak and not the other way round?

Lord Newby: My Lords, whatever one can say about the history of constitutional change in the UK, it has not been characterised by great speed. While there is now considerable urgency in dealing with consequential constitutional change in both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, it will require a commitment by many people across all parties to bring that about—which in the past has been conspicuously lacking.

Lord Shutt of Greetland (LD): My Lords, if there is to be any change, would not the name “Bank of Britain” be more solid, simple and straightforward?

Lord Newby: It might be, my Lords, but as I said in my initial Answer, I suspect that there will not be any change.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, Her Majesty’s Opposition are in favour of the retention of the name “Bank of England”. However, the Minister said that there is some urgency about future action, so will he say whether the Treasury has made any progress, and will he give us an update on that progress, in looking at the financial consequences of further devolution of income tax?

Lord Newby: My Lords, as the noble Lord will be aware, the various proposals on the table for the devolution of income tax were set out in the Command Paper that was published earlier in the month. The exact nature of further devolution of income tax is under consideration in the Lord Smith process. As part of that, the financial and political consequences of various possibilities in respect of income tax are being actively considered.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, is there not much to be said for the old adage that if it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change?

Lord Newby: My Lords, that is an extremely sweeping statement and I would need prior notice before I felt that I could absolutely agree with it in every case.

Lord McFall of Alcluith (Lab): My Lords, in 1999, Alex Salmond described the Bank of England as a “millstone round Scotland’s neck”. Fifteen years later, he was pledging his love and fidelity to it. Does that not prompt the question that, if it was good enough for Alex Salmond as the Bank of England, it is good enough for the rest of us?

Lord Newby: I am not sure that that is a general principle that one would wish to apply more widely.

Lord Flight (Con): My Lords, I agree with the Government’s view about retaining the well tested name, but would the Government also consider retaining in full, or restoring, the Bank of England’s lender of last resort powers, which have served this country’s banking system well for 150 years?

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Lord Newby: My Lords, the key thing is the Bank of England’s role to protect and enhance stability of the financial system. I think that the legislation that we have passed in recent years gives the Bank wide powers in almost every respect to enable it to do that.

Iran: Nuclear Programme


11.28 am

Asked by Baroness Deech

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of progress in preventing the development of nuclear weapons by Iran.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, the UK, like other E3+3 members, is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Under the E3+3’s interim deal with Iran, the most concerning elements of Iran’s nuclear programme were frozen. The E3+3 is currently negotiating a comprehensive agreement to address fully its concerns about Iran’s programme. Good progress has been made, but reaching a final agreement with Iran remains challenging.

Baroness Deech (CB): I am grateful to the noble Baroness, but does she know that the centrifuges and the nuclear structure of Iran remain intact? Does she agree that sanctions were lifted too early? The threat remains. Will she ensure that the deal ends all the means of delivery and production and ensures appropriate inspection by IAEA? Will she make representations to the French Government over their co-operation with Iran in uranium enrichment through the joint stock company Sofidif?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The noble Baroness goes to the core of the issue. If there is an agreement, on what basis will it be? We are working towards an agreement by 24 November. There will not be a relaxation of the sanctions unless that agreement is in place. We are not proposing to make a blanket withdrawal of all sanctions on 24 November if there is an agreement then. We want a staged process, to see that the enrichment process is reduced and that Iran cannot move forward to being able to have a nuclear weapon. We are in continual discussions on that matter.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): My Lords, does the Minister agree that we have no interest in turning Iran into yet another failed state in the Middle East? Can she tell us whether the outstanding issues, made in a proposal by some experts in the United States, could be bundled together into what could be described as a cluster of issues, and that an extension for the next period should be invited while those issues are hammered out to the satisfaction of both sides?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My noble friend is right to draw attention to the importance of stability in the region and why these negotiations are so crucial.

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The position of the United Kingdom is that we aim to have an agreement in place by 24 November. If we were to talk about what we might do after that, we would be saying that we have no hope of delivery. We have hope.

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, is it not true that if Israel gave up its nuclear weapons, the Iranians would probably not wish to proceed to develop their own?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I find it difficult to get into the mind of one member of any other Government, let alone the minds of all members, and sometimes my own—I mean my own mind, of course. It is a serious question. Iran is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaties; Israel is not.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): Can the Minister tell the House whether the Government are satisfied that all parties to the interim agreement have implemented it correctly and in a verifiable manner? If her answer is positive—I believe that most observers think that they have—a situation where a final comprehensive agreement eluded the negotiators in November but a continuation of the interim agreement proved possible would be some way short of disastrous.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the noble Lord has a deep understanding of the issue. Certainly, we know that that the progress that has been made so far has been positive and, it is true to say, delicate. We do not wish to predict that a failure to achieve a resolution on 24 November would lead to a complete breakdown. We do not think that that would be the case. We are still hopeful of an agreement by then. After all, the negotiations are being led by the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, and we know that we have confidence in her.

Lord Dykes (LD): Meanwhile, what steps will my noble friend take to persuade her government colleagues and other leaders in the Middle East to restore the balance by insisting that Israel should now consider seriously reducing its nuclear arsenal and also subscribing to the non-proliferation treaty?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, although security in the region is a part of this question, any negotiations with Israel would at the moment not be on an effective basis, because clearly we have not yet resolved the matter of Iran’s position.

Lord Wright of Richmond (CB): My Lords, in spite of the difficulties of any nuclear negotiations with Iran, does the Minister agree that we and the United States should nevertheless be ready to discuss with Iran the threat of ISIS that we both face?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, we have a common interest with Iran and other actors in the region with regard to ISOL. It was important that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister met

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President Rouhani in New York. We must consider carefully how we may adopt common attitudes on ISOL and other issues in the region.

Lord Bach (Lab): We welcome from this side the meeting that the Prime Minister had with the president. Can the Minister tell us whether we have an ambassador in place in Tehran yet, or whether the British Council is back there yet? The sooner that that happens the better.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I agree entirely with the noble Lord that the sooner it happens, the better. We would like to re-establish the embassy and the visa system there. Clearly, noble Lords will know that the circumstances in which we had to leave the embassy mean that we have to renegotiate literally being able to refurbish the embassy and move back in. We are in active negotiations on that—as he says, the sooner the better for the return.



11.34 am

Asked by Lord Lee of Trafford

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what arrangements they have made to review their continuing support for the promotion of security and development in Afghanistan.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, the National Security Council regularly reviews plans for support to Afghanistan, most recently on 21 October. Our plans focus on countering the terrorist threat, as well as promoting security, stability and prosperity. Our embassy in Kabul and a few hundred military mentors will support the new Afghan Government in furthering these priorities. We also plan to provide £70 million in security funding and £178 million in development funding per annum until at least 2017.

Lord Lee of Trafford (LD): My Lords, the military campaign in Afghanistan cost this country £37 billion, or £2,000 for every household. Sadly, we have lost 453 military personnel. Afghanistan faces a very uncertain and difficult future. Is it not vital that we and our allies give the appropriate level of financial support to Afghanistan? The figures that my noble friend quoted are, frankly, derisory. We give Ethiopia more than that—we give Ethiopia £400 million a year—and, if we do not finance Afghanistan properly, its future is going to be very uncertain, and would that not be a gross betrayal of all those who have given their lives in the cause?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, at the Tokyo conference in 2012, a number of states and international organisations made pledges amounting to £16 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan. On 3 and 4 December we will jointly host a conference in London with the Afghan Government, at which a number of other

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Governments will be invited to recommit themselves to the development of Afghanistan as a collective effort over the next few years.

Lord Craig of Radley (CB): My Lords, a considerable number of the available Tornado GR4s are still deployed in Afghanistan. Now that combat operations have ceased, what future plans do the Government have for that force in Afghanistan?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I will have to write to the noble and gallant Lord about that. I am not entirely up to date on where all the Tornados are.

Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab): My Lords, when we give educational aid to Afghanistan, is it the Government’s policy to insist that a fair portion of it—half of it—is spent on the education of girls? Will the noble Lord tell us about the progress of extending education to girls in Afghanistan?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, there are now 2 million girls in education in Afghanistan, and 4 million boys. That is remarkable progress from where we were 10 years ago. We are very much committed to improving the status of women and girls throughout Afghanistan, and that is part of what our priorities represent.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, in announcing next month’s London conference on Afghanistan, the Prime Minister said:

“We will bring together all our partners to assist this National Unity Government as they embark on vital reforms to revitalise Afghanistan’s economy”.

What steps have been taken to ensure that the voices of civic society, in particular those of women, are heard at this event?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, there will be an associated event for representatives of civil society at the London conference, and another associated event for private sector investors. We are very much aware of how much effort we need to make to strengthen relatively weak civil society organisations in Afghanistan.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, 450 British soldiers dead; thousands of Afghans lying alongside them; probably £100 billion overall spent on this campaign; a “short war” that lasted 13 years, during which we have written the textbook on how not to conduct these kinds of operations—surely my noble friend will agree that the case is made for a proper inquiry into the conduct of the Afghan war and the lessons we should learn from it?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, it may well be the case that we need a proper inquiry, although I am not sure that we need one of the length of the Chilcot inquiry.

The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, I draw the Minister’s attention to the report from the Children’s Commissioner for England, What’s Going to Happen

  30 Oct 2014 : Column 1308 



Unaccompanied Children Refused Asylum

, and its recommendation that we should see the boys and girls who arrive unaccompanied in this country from Afghanistan as a potential asset, who will speak English and can be helped to speak their home language, who can receive a good education from us, for instance in engineering, and who can return to Afghanistan to lead in the rebuilding of that country.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, that is a very complicated question. We are conscious of the extent to which people smuggling and human trafficking are associated with asylum seeking. It is not at all an easy subject.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab): My Lords, in answering a question, the Minister mentioned the possibility of a private sector donors conference, as well as a conference involving civil society. Can he give the House any further information about that? Is it likely to happen in association with the main conference or at a different time? There are many people who are extremely interested in that possibility, so it would be very useful to know about it in good time, in order to gather proper support for it.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I understand that it is already being publicised and it will indeed be in parallel with the London conference at the beginning of December. I think we all understand that it is mainly natural resources and mining that will attract private sector investors to Afghanistan at the present moment, but that at least is a start.

Lord Ahmed (Non-Afl): My Lords, the Pakistan Government and the generals said yesterday that Tehrik-i-Taliban, based in Afghanistan, is launching attacks inside Pakistan and against the Pakistani military. Have Her Majesty’s Government made any representation to the Afghanistan Government to stop Tehrik-i-Taliban from doing that?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The noble Lord knows better than I do the very complicated links between Pakistan and Afghanistan and between the Pakistani military and what happens in Afghanistan. I will not go into that at the present moment; I would welcome a discussion with him about how Pakistan developments and Afghan developments interconnect.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Con): My Lords, can the Minister reassure me that the voices of Afghan women are actually going to be heard at the conference, not just at an associate conference? In all the previous conferences, they have not been allowed to participate fully, so I would like the Minister’s reassurance that this will not happen at this London conference.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I cannot entirely give that assurance. Afghanistan is not the only country in which the voices of women are not easy to get through, particularly when Governments are involved. I can think of a number of other Middle Eastern countries. I would simply remark that, at President Ghani’s

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inauguration, as noble Lords might know, his wife appeared for the first time as part of the inauguration. These are small but useful steps forward.

Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, further to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, what action will my noble friend and the Government take to encourage joint action by the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan against the terrorists, who are a threat to both their countries?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we are in regular and constant touch with the Pakistani Government precisely to encourage a constructive relationship with developments in Afghanistan. I am sure that my noble friend, like me, will be well aware of the very complicated relationships between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is part of the problem that we face.

Lord Dannatt (CB): My Lords, following the end of military operations in Afghanistan, can the Minister give an assurance that we will factor in very carefully that, over the last 20 years or so, the West has let Afghanistan down in a considerably damaging way? Can he confirm that the reassurances that have been given about the amount of inward investment will be taken seriously and that we will not in any way at all run the risk of abandoning Afghanistan for a third time, after all the effort and investment in blood and treasure that has been made over the last 13 years?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I think one has to say that the entire international community has an interest in the future development of Afghanistan. I have not mentioned the complicated Iranian set of interests in western Afghanistan and elsewhere; I have not mentioned the possibility of Chinese private sector investment in north-eastern Afghanistan. Afghanistan, as noble Lords know, has a great many attractive mineral resources. We and others, including the World Bank and a number of other international institutions, will be working to ensure that the Afghan economy develops steadily over the next few years.

Refugees and Migrants: Search and Rescue


11.43 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement given earlier this morning by my right honourable friend James Brokenshire in another place.

“The United Kingdom has a long and proud tradition of providing sanctuary to those who genuinely need it. We work closely with our European neighbours to provide assistance to those fleeing from fear or persecution and deter those whose criminal actions stand in the way of providing effective help.

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The scenes we have witnessed in the Mediterranean in recent months, with people risking their lives to reach Europe, are deeply distressing. The UNHCR estimates that more than 3,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean already this year, compared to some 700 deaths in the whole of last year. When people are risking life and limb—not just their own but those of their loved ones, too—it is clear that they are caught in a desperate situation. No one underestimates the sincerity of their plight. It demands an equally sincere approach from the Governments of the European nations—and that is what it has been getting.

Since Italy launched its Mare Nostrum operation in October 2013, there has been an unprecedented increase in illegal immigration across the Mediterranean and a fourfold increase in the deaths of those making that perilous journey. The operation has been drawn closer and closer to the Libyan shore as traffickers have taken advantage of the situation by placing more vulnerable people in unseaworthy boats on the basis that they will be rescued and taken to Italy. But many are not rescued, which is why we believe that the operation is having the unintended consequence of placing more lives at risk and why EU member states have unanimously agreed that the operation should be promptly phased out.

It is of course vital that this phasing out is well managed and well publicised to mitigate the risk of further deaths. It is vital that we continue to take action to provide real help to those who genuinely need it. We have made clear our view that the sustainable answer to the current situation in the Mediterranean is to enhance operational co-operation within the EU, work with countries of origin and transit to tackle the causes of illegal immigration and the organised gangs that facilitate it, and enhance support for protection in north and east Africa for those in need.

We have agreed to a request from FRONTEX—the EU’s border management agency—to deploy a debriefing expert in support of the FRONTEX Operation Triton, off the southern Italian coast. This operation is not designed to replace Mare Nostrum but will instead patrol closer to EU borders. We stand ready to consider any further request for UK support for the new FRONTEX operation. The UK is among those member states offering substantial numbers of resettlement places for refugees from outside the EU, working closely with UNHCR. There were more than 4,000 places between 2008 and 2013. In close partnership with other member states, we are developing a strong programme of work to tackle the causes of migration from the Horn of Africa, including through investment in regional protection programmes.

It is not in the interests of anyone—most especially those genuinely fleeing persecution—if European countries have an uncontrolled and ineffective approach to immigration and asylum. It is not in the interests of anyone if the criminal gangs who exploit the fear and suffering of vulnerable people, endangering human lives for cold, hard cash, are allowed to continue their despicable work unimpeded. It is not in the interests of anyone if we fail to adapt to a situation which encourages more and more people to make that dangerous journey across the seas. That is why member states across the

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EU have unanimously agreed to act: to defend our borders, crack down on crime, and protect those who so desperately need our protection”.

11.48 am

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating that Answer. He is right to identify that 3,000 people have died this year but he did not identify that 150,000 men, women and children have been rescued and their lives saved. Many of them were misled by unscrupulous criminals. Many others are being trafficked into Europe for slavery and prostitution. It is a serious and terrible humanitarian problem. We understand that it is difficult, but concerted international action is essential to bear down on these criminal gangs and try to stop families undertaking such dangerous journeys.

While the criminals may be aware—as the Minister said—of the phasing in of these changes, there is no evidence that desperate families or trafficked victims will be. Leaving them to drown instead is shocking and inhumane. It is not the British way of doing things. Does the Minister really believe that this needless loss of life will ever act as a deterrent to criminals and desperate people? How many will drown before the Government reconsider this policy?

11.49 am

Lord Bates: I very much understand the passions and sentiments that these horrific reports will arouse in all people who have any sense of humanitarian care or concern. Of course, the reality is that this is for the Italian Government. They are the ones who set up the operation, which started last October, and they are the ones who say that they will now phase it out. It is not something in which the UK Government are involved on a day-to-day basis. The Italian Government introduced this as a deeply humanitarian gesture, and made the point that they would rescue anyone, wherever they were in territorial waters. The number of those making the perilous journey then went up from 60,000 last year to 150,000 this year, and that situation is being exploited by the gangs which we all seek to stop. The Italian Government have therefore taken the decision to phase it out. The decision was not taken by the UK Government.

11.50 am

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, it pains me to say to my noble friends that this is a discreditable policy, whatever words are used to describe it. We do not find it difficult to disagree with the European Union on all sorts of other matters, but do we have to lay our hand to a European policy whose central proposition is that the best way to discourage people from seeking a better life is to leave them to drown in the Mediterranean? This is inhuman, it is discreditable and it may well be contrary to our duties under international law to do everything we can to save those in peril on the sea.

Lord Bates: The noble Lord comes to this with huge experience and understanding. However, those obligations which are there under the laws of the sea, maritime law and humanitarian law will remain as

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obligations on any vessels that actually come across people who are making this journey. The question is how we tackle this increasing trend effectively. This is not for the UK alone; this view was pored over on the basis of evidence, intelligence and information which came to the Justice and Home Affairs Council. All 28 member states agreed—which, as my noble friend suggested, is a pretty rare achievement—that, regrettably, this was having a counterproductive effect.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): My Lords, will the Minister kindly answer a specific question, which I am sure all Members of the House would wish to have answered? If the commander of a British warship is cognisant of the fact that there is a refugee ship within reasonable distance of his vessel which is in peril, does he deviate from his course and pass by on the other side, or does he act in accordance with the law of the sea and the highest tradition of the Royal Navy?

Lord Bates: The answer is that he gives assistance to that vessel. That is the law; that is the rule; and that will continue to happen. The vessel should be escorted to the nearest safe port and the passengers’ needs addressed. There is an overlying responsibility, particularly where those individuals may have genuine asylum claims which need to be investigated, to then take them to a place where they can be assessed.

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, of course everything must be done to help the countries of origin tackle the criminal gangs which are shipping people across the Mediterranean in dangerous circumstances. However, are we saying that we are happy to be party to a policy which will result in people drowning? Is that not a shameful position for the Government to adopt?

Lord Bates: We are certainly not happy with the situation; we are deeply unhappy with it, as is everybody. But how do the Italians begin to address this particular issue when the numbers are increasing? The number of deaths has gone up from 700 to some 3,000—a fourfold increase. If they go up fourfold again next year, does that justify the present policy? These are hugely difficult issues—I do not dismiss that—but the countries of the European Union and the Italian Government are making the best they can of a terrible humanitarian situation.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, it is clear that we are all deeply worried about this terrible situation. Just last weekend, a family drowned off our own coasts and the horror was felt right across our country. There were serious discussions about whether we needed more people on duty to look after them. There is a deep sense of worry where people put themselves in such danger. I do not think that any of us believe that people are putting their families at risk—sometimes, they are huge, extended families; one was reported earlier this week on television—thinking, “Oh, well, it does not matter if we are likely to drown because we might be saved”. That would seem to me incredible. Surely we need a much more coherent, pan-European strategy underlying the whole question of immigrants and asylum seekers, and we should try

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to get some agreement on how we can address it. However, I would lament us withdrawing from anything that would help people in such dire circumstances.

Lord Bates: I understand the right reverend Prelate’s point. I should make the point again for the benefit of the House that we are not withdrawing from anything; this was something for which the Italian Government had responsibility, and they have decided to phase it out. The right reverend Prelate is absolutely right that more needs to be done to establish a co-ordinated approach, which was indeed the purpose of the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on this specific issue held on 9 and 10 October. One of the outcomes of that meeting was Operation Triton, which we have pledged resources to, in addition to all the other things that we are trying to do to help in the countries from which these people are fleeing for their lives.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords—

Lord Soley (Lab): My Lords, a lot of these problems arise in certain north African towns, of which Alexandria is one—

Noble Lords: Order.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: Perhaps I might pick up the point that my noble friend the Minister has just made. I understand that in Alexandria, Egypt, which is one of the major ports for trafficking, only one trafficker has been prosecuted in the last five years. Will we give specific assistance to the Government of Egypt, and what Government there is in Libya, to train them on arrest, prosecution and internment of the trafficking gangs?

Lord Bates: Indeed. Just this morning, I was with the National Crime Agency, which has teams in particular areas around the world, including in Egypt. They are trying to identify just those types of people, ensuring that they are tackled and that their evil crime is stopped.

Lord Soley: Many of these people are coming from towns such as Alexandria; that is where the organisation is. I say to the Minister that, through the European Union, we can offer aid not only in policing those areas but in policing much closer to their shores. It is possible to work out with some of those north African countries ways of stopping this problem closer to shore.

Lord Bates: We will be willing to look at all those opportunities. On the subject of aid, this Government are in the lead in providing aid to some of those conflict zones, such as Syria, where we have pledged £700 million already. We recognise that there are two parts to this, and we need to work at both.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, does the Minister not agree that the amount of help which the Government are giving to FRONTEX, which he

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announced in his first reply, is miniscule? Would it not be preferable if the Government gave more support to FRONTEX, which one hopes would then ameliorate a bit the results of this decision? Perhaps the Minister could also say what the Government’s position is on the negotiation of mobility partnerships with countries in the southern Mediterranean. There is already one with Tunisia and one with Morocco. What are we doing to press ahead with those? They are part of the solution, as the noble Lord, Lord Soley, said.

Lord Bates: The noble Lord will of course know very well that FRONTEX is part of the Schengen arrangements for border control. We have our own border control. We are talking about additional aid that we are giving to the Schengen area and to FRONTEX at its request. On the other matter that the noble Lord raised, the reciprocal agreements which might exist in the southern Mediterranean area, I will write to him.

Business of the House

Timing of Debates

11.58 am

Moved by Baroness Stowell of Beeston

That the debate on the motion in the name of Lord Risby set down for today shall be limited to five hours.

Motion agreed.

Procedure Committee

Motion to Agree

11.59 am

Moved by The Chairman of Committees

That the 3rd Report from the Select Committee (House of Lords Reform Act 2014: further consequential changes; questions for short debate; Queen’s and Prince of Wales’ consents) (HL Paper 50) be agreed to.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Sewel): My Lords, I shall speak also to the Motion to amend Standing Orders.

The report makes five recommendations. The first three are consequential on the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. The first recommendation is that Members who have given written notice that they will retire from the House under Section 1 of the Act should have the opportunity of making a valedictory speech before the date of their retirement. Such speeches would be afforded the same courtesies as maiden speeches and would be marked in Hansard, as maiden speeches are.

The second recommendation is that the Lord Speaker should inform the House before Oral Questions when a peer ceases to be a member of the House under the Act.

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The third proposal relates to the House’s system of leave of absence. Currently, in certain circumstances, Members who do not reply to the Clerk of the Parliament’s letter regarding leave of absence are given it automatically. This would reverse the position and bring us within the spirit of the Act.

The committee’s fourth recommendation is that Questions for Short Debate on Select Committee reports and topical Questions for Short Debate should not count towards the limit of each Member having one QSD in the House of Lords business at one time. This is because when a Member puts down for a Question for Short Debate as the chair of the Select Committee, he clearly does so as chair of that committee and not in a personal capacity. He should not therefore be penalised.

The committee’s final recommendation is about signifying the consent of the Queen and the Prince of Wales to Bills. At present, consent may be signified at Second Reading in some instances and at Third Reading in others. The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee of the House of Commons recently reported on consents and recommended that consent be signified at Third Reading in all cases. The Commons Procedure Committee indicated to us that it was minded to agree with this recommendation and suggested that the two Houses should move in step. We agree that this is sensible and so recommend that, if the Commons agrees likewise, consent in all cases should be signified at Third Reading. I beg to move.


Lord Berkeley (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the Chairman of Committees for his comments. I have a question for him on the consent to Bills of the Queen and the Prince of Wales, which is referred to in items 12 and 13 in the Procedure Committee’s report.

He will be aware, I think, that the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee made six recommendations about this. I am slightly surprised that the Procedure Committee has not chosen to comment on the other five. The evidence in the Commons report and the recommendations do not always seem to connect. I have talked to the chair of the Commons committee about this; I did not get much of an answer but I had a useful discussion. In particular, nobody has commented on the need for the Prince of Wales to give consent to Bills when they affect his private interests. I take a couple of quotations from the House of Commons committee’s report. Dr Tucker said:

“Any involvement of the Prince of Wales in the legislative process is constitutionally unacceptable”.

That is quite strong. Our own Clerk of the Parliaments, David Beamish, commented:

“So in one sense it is not necessary”,

to have consent at all,

“in that this Committee could recommend its abolition”.

Therefore, I ask the Chairman of Committees whether the Procedure Committee could look at this whole issue again and comment on all the recommendations, possibly after reading the whole of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s report, if it has not already done so, and come back with six recommendations?

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Lord Steel of Aikwood (LD): I have a couple of questions for the Chairman of Committees about the sections of the report dealing with retirement. The proposals he has brought to the House are, I am sure, acceptable. However, they are a bit of a mouse, because the Act, for which I had some responsibility, gave the House the statutory authority to introduce a retirement scheme. The Chairman of Committees’ report is not on a retirement scheme but simply on retirement niceties. Is any other committee of the House at present looking at other options, with a view to getting the numbers in this House down to a reasonable size? In particular, has the report from the director of finance been looked at with regard to how money could be saved if there were a retirement grant of some kind? Has any committee looked at the Labour Party’s proposals, which are quite interesting, for compulsory retirement at the end of each Parliament for those who have reached the age of 80 during that Parliament? All those and others are sensible suggestions which should be examined but I am not sure whether that has yet happened.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, as regards the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, as the Chairman of Committees will know, the current Government have enunciated a new rule, if you like, that the proportion and number of Members of your Lordships’ House should bear direct comparison with the votes cast at the last general election. I should like to ask the Chairman of Committees, if a political party had a catastrophic reduction in the votes cast at the next election, am I right in thinking that we would expect a considerable number of resignations from that party? I am not at liberty to say which party I am thinking about but I assume that we would have to have extra Friday sittings to hear the valedictory speeches.

Lord Trefgarne (Con): I should like to make two points. First, I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Steel about financial inducement to retirement. That would be a very bad precedent and I hope that it will not happen. Secondly, what are the detailed arrangements for giving Royal Assent to Bills? Who is supposed to give that assent? Is it the Minister in charge of the Bill or someone else?

The Chairman of Committees: Let me try to deal with the issues in some sort of order. I am involved in so many committees that sometimes even I get a bit confused about which committee is considering what. First, on retirement, I am not aware of any committee actively considering any retirement scheme as such. However, it is always open to any Member, as well as members of the committees concerned, to write and ask a committee to consider a particular scheme or to bring forward proposals. The matter would then be considered by the appropriate committee.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his intervention on consent, which means that I have won the private office bet that he would do so. We have to realise that this proposal originates from the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee of the House of Commons. That report was considered, quite rightly, by the Commons Procedure Committee, which decided to recommend that consent should be signified at

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Third Reading in both Houses. That was the nature of the correspondence between the chairman of the House of Commons Procedure Committee and me. There is agreement on that. I recognise that it is a modest reform. If there was a desire for any more far-reaching and radical reform, again, if Members write, the Procedure Committee would give it appropriate consideration.

The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, raised assent, not consent. We are not dealing with the business of assent; we are dealing with the consent of Her Majesty and the Prince of Wales to the House acting in their quasi-private function.

Motion agreed.

Standing Orders (Public Business)

Motion to Approve

12.09 pm

Moved by The Chairman of Committees

That the standing orders relating to public business be amended as follows:

In Standing Order 22 (leave of absence), leave out paragraph (5).

Motion agreed.

Middle East and North Africa

Motion to Take Note

12.10 pm

Moved by Lord Risby

To move that that this House takes note of the current situation in the Middle East and North Africa.

Lord Risby (Con): My Lords, some years ago while still in opposition, my right honourable friend William Hague said to a group of us, “Get to know the Middle East because it’s going to be the epicentre of the world’s attention”. Nobody could ever have forecast the sheer tragedy and drama that has overtaken the region in the intervening years. Of course, in our western societies we have had a backwash, with increased radicalisation, increased alienation and also the repellent rise of anti-Semitism.

In the Arab world we are viewed with considerable ambiguity. There are those who believe that we should have no involvement in Muslim countries because of religious belief and that this is unacceptable or simply counterproductive. This is why President Obama made it clear that the US cannot take the place of Arab partners in securing the region. Others believe, on the other hand, that western firepower is absolutely essential to contain and destroy extreme radicalism. But now, at least ultimately, most people believe that there has to be a political track in the end to resolve these extremely difficult problems.

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In Iraq there is a more consensual Government, which has been welcomed both by Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of whom have good, but very separate, reasons to fear ISIS. In the last few years, the Kurdish region has been very stable, but it has had an influx of almost biblical proportions of Syrian Kurds, Christians and Yazidis and others to deal with. It must continue to be supported generously with humanitarian aid and, indeed, armaments. Turkey’s reluctance to be involved in containing ISIL has been disconcerting, as we saw in its reluctance specifically to get involved with Syrian Kurds in the battle in Kobane; however, it did not want to get involved because it believed that they were fighting under a banner of a terrorist organisation. But the Turks have spent $4.5 billion in feeding and housing the enormous influx of people who have come into Turkey. What they greatly fear, of course, is terrorist activity in Turkey itself, which would undermine not only its security but also its immense and hugely important tourist industry. It has called for a security zone and a no-fly zone as well, not only to protect themselves from the security point of view but to stop the potential huge flow of additional people coming into the country. We should note that fragile Lebanon has now said that it cannot and will not take any more refugees; and getting into Jordan is also very difficult too.

Ten million people have been displaced in the region, 3.2 million Syrians have fled their country and 200,000 have been killed. It is a truly, truly terrible modern-day tragedy. Both the Turks and the Saudis explicitly want to see the removal of President Assad. More moderate anti-Assad elements are now being attacked by him even more remorselessly, leaving ISIS, which controls 35% of the country, to be dealt with by the Americans and others, as he seeks to project himself as the enemy of radical terrorism. However, it is absolutely plain that even if they have frustrations with him, the Iranians and Russians will continue to support and sustain him. Yet as Ban Ki-moon warned last week, using only military means to fight the threat of Islamic State in Syria could radicalise even more Sunni armed groups and create greater violence. The long-term strategic objective in Syria remains a political solution, he said. As somebody who has met President Assad on many occasions and attempted to help the opposition, particularly at the early stages, it pains me to agree. There appears to be no other viable alternative on offer, but once again to try to pursue a political track.

We are all products of our own experiences in life. As a young child I went into a shop one day with my mother. It was a hot summer’s day and the man behind the counter had rolled up his sleeves. I was transfixed by some numbers on the inside of his arm. Of course, I extracted an explanation from my mother. It was my first insight into the horror of the Holocaust and what it meant for the Jewish people, and it has never left me.

However, recently, my noble friends Lord Lamont, Lord King, Lady Morris and I wrote an open letter calling for the formal recognition of Palestine by the United Kingdom. Now, of course, this should ideally be part of a comprehensive peace settlement but, frankly, there is none in sight. There is now a unity Government

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under Mahmoud Abbas. However imperfect that is, the Israelis are most unlikely to find a more moderate Palestinian leader—whose position and credibility is constantly being undermined by the continuing construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

However, there is now a new potential opportunity for Israel to be encouraged and to view a more formal two-state solution more concretely. The new Egyptian Government are working with the Israelis to banish terrorism from the Sinai. They are closing down the tunnels and have made it absolutely plain that the wholly dangerous, provocative and counterproductive firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel has to stop.

The Arab peace initiative of 2002 involved a clear pathway to the recognition of Israel by its neighbours. It should be revisited. As President Sisi said at the United Nations last month:

“The continued deprivation of the Palestinian people of their rights is undoubtedly exploited by some to inflame other crises, achieve hidden goals, fragment Arab unity, and impose control on Palestinians under the guise of realising their aspirations”.

If Israel looks ahead, demographic changes in Israel and Palestine point to the necessity of moving this process on to a final acceptance of the Palestinian reality. It is, quite simply, in Israel’s interests to pursue this. As Henry Kissinger wrote in his latest book,

“the Palestinian issue will have to be faced sooner or later as an essential element of regional and, ultimately, world order”.

No country can escape the reality of its own geography.

The whole House will be looking forward to my noble friend the Minister’s response to the two areas of enormous concern to which I have alluded. However, let us cast our eyes towards the Maghreb, specifically Algeria. In the early 1990s, there was an Islamist takeover there and 150,000 people were killed. It was a foretaste of the horror of ISIS. Since then, however, Algeria has been remarkably stable and the memories of that terrible time have become embedded in the collective consciousness of the Algerian people. In 2006, President Bouteflika came on an official visit here and in January 2012 our Prime Minister went to Algeria. In less than three years our commercial exchanges have soared. Algeria is a reliable energy supplier. The country is rapidly expanding its physical infrastructure and upgrading its education and health services, in which we are fully participating.

With its unstable neighbours and a vast and porous border, we now have a strategic security partnership with Algeria. A double taxation agreement will soon be signed, and we look forward to the visit of its Prime Minister to London for a major conference in December, “Algeria: Open for Business”. The demand for the English language is infinite, and we are actively responding through the British Council and our own educational establishments. It has indeed become a remarkable and problem-free partnership, which is welcome to both sides. In conclusion, it is quite simply and unambiguously a good news story for us both.

12.19 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, bid a sad farewell to the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, who was a very good Minister, and congratulate the

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noble Lord, Lord Risby, who is an expert in this area. He spoke wise words about the need for diplomacy. These will be welcomed by the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, who has been saying this, Cassandra-like, for a long time. The noble Lord, Lord Risby, has also given us the opportunity of looking generally at the region, rather than debating particular areas, as we have done in the past.

I reflect first on the speed of change in the region. The so-called Arab spring began less than five years ago with the self-immolation, in December 2010, of Mohamed Bouazizi. Five years ago, all the Arab dictators seemed securely in place. In January 2011, President Ben Ali stepped down after 24 years. Also in 2011, President Mubarak ceased to lead Egypt after 30 years. In the same year, Gaddafi was killed after 42 years in power. In February 2012, President Saleh ceded power in the Yemen after 22 years. The Lebanon remains divided confessionally. Only the monarchies in Morocco and Jordan are relatively safe and unscathed, as are the Gulf states. Five years ago, ISIL did not exist, at least in that name. Dictators have been replaced by a pharaoh and by anarchy. The region now faces further potential destabilisation because of the fall in oil prices. This is good news for western consumers but it is bad news for regimes which rely on high prices to buy off popular discontent.

As for the Arab spring, perhaps “Bliss was it in that dawn” five years ago, but no longer. Why has it failed? It is significant, perhaps, that three of the most stable countries in the region—Turkey, Israel and Iran—are not even Arab. It is no longer credible for regimes to divert discontent by claiming that their troubles are part of a US-Zionist conspiracy. Fundamental to an understanding of the reasons for that failure is a reading and a re-reading of the UNDP’s human development reports of 10 years ago. These showed basic failures in the human infrastructure and in the role of women and inadequate and irrelevant education in the Maghreb and in the Arab world. These have been underpinned by a booming population, youth unrest and Islamic distractions. Who wants to invest given such difficulties?

Pervasive instability begs the question whether it is now time to look again—albeit in the hurricane season—at some of the continuing difficulties and re-examine some of our assumptions. Time permits only to look speedily at three examples. On Turkey, the UK has been one of the strongest supporters of Turkey’s membership of the European Union. Progress has been slow and there has sometimes been the unspoken fear that Turkey is too big, too poor and too Islamic—and not really European. For the United Kingdom, the balance has been the other way: Turkey has been a relative model of democracy in the region, has a booming economy and is a valuable and trusted ally in NATO. Now, perhaps because of the lack of progress, we need to re-examine that traditional policy and look at alternatives.

Domestically in Turkey, there has been a lurch towards more illiberal policies in areas such as the media and the judiciary. Majoritarianism appears to have triumphed over pluralism, which was formerly the policy. Abroad, Turkey has been less than helpful in combating ISIL and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Does

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the European Union wish to move its borders to that volatile region? Given the current sensitivities on immigration, can we seriously look at the free movement of labour from that vast country? Should we not stop and look at some of the alternatives—including the one that Chancellor Merkel put forward years ago of a privileged relationship which might ultimately mature into something more solid? At the moment there is glacial movement in the European Union.

A second re-examination should surely be on Israel and Palestine. Yes, of course Israel is right in saying that it is difficult to find a negotiating partner which can deliver. It is also true that Israel has always ultimately had to rely on itself for its own protection. However, the blunt reality is this: in spite of the Bar-Ilan speech of Premier Netanyahu, there have been no serious moves by the Israeli Government to a two-state solution. Indeed, through the settlement policy, all the moves have been to prevent such a realisation. Perhaps the reality is, alas, that no conceivable Israeli Government would divide Jerusalem and no conceivable Palestinian Government would abandon the right of return. Israel, alas, is increasingly isolated at the UN General Assembly, and shortly Palestine may be a new member of the International Criminal Court. So do we still continue to repeat the mantra of a two-state solution? Is it true that the European Union has threatened Israel with sanctions unless the latest moves on settlements are withdrawn? Where does the UK stand on the latest threat?

Finally—and in one minute—I give at least some good news on the region. The good news, of course, is Tunisia. It is all comparative, but Tunisia had a remarkable election last weekend with a change of leadership from the Islamist party, which had made several compromises on Sharia law and women. The constitution was agreed in January, relying in part on advice from the Venice Commission. The secular party won the election. However, in spite of this political change, which is a model for the rest of the Maghreb and the Arab world, there are vast economic problems. How do we respond? I end with this question: how do we build on this remarkable political achievement by ensuring that it is underpinned by economic success? I look forward to hearing what the Minister says about how we might respond to the good news which is Tunisia.

12.26 pm

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, when we met here just over a month ago to debate our engagement in another air war in Iraq, much was said about the evil of ISIS but not very much about what the alternatives might be for a solution to the Syrian civil war, which is now in its fourth year, with more than 200,000 people dead, more than 3 million refugees and more than 6 million displaced internally. Several noble Lords who spoke that day voiced reservations, which I share, that degrading or destroying ISIL in Iraq alone would not be the end of the matter.

We also know that this war will be a very long haul. We will have to expend a great deal of time and resources in getting the Iraqi army up to scratch. Some Pentagon estimates put it well into 2016 before

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the Iraqis can successfully engage a ground war against ISIL, even within Iraq. We also know that the US, and with it the UK, does not have a credible strategy about what happens next, much less how to exit this mess. Since 9/11, no credible strategy seems to have emerged either in the West or in the Muslim world about what we might do to stem the rise of an ideology of totalitarian political Islam that creates the pull for jihadis around the world.

It seems simplistic to dismiss the call of this ideology as either barbaric and medieval, which we do in the West, or to protest that it is not true Islam, which is where Muslims derive their comfort. As a Muslim who has grown up and lived in these parts of the world, I caution against both narratives. The pull of the caliphate is shared by those who would not necessarily be on the extreme end of the jihadi spectrum either. After all, there was a caliph, and a sense of a unified community under him, until well into the 1920s. In the period since 1979, when the Shia world was transformed by the Iranian revolution, the sense of Sunni victimhood, unjustified though it may be, has been growing and clearly feeds the jihadi political narrative.

Without for one moment justifying ISIL or its supporters, I want to touch upon why young Muslims are attracted to this narrative. They share a sense of collective humiliation and frustration with their corrupt and authoritarian rulers, who are so compromised in their courtship of what is seen as the “unjust” West—unjust because it was instrumental in creating the Israeli and Palestinian situation nearly 100 years ago; unjust because it does not seem to have the will to resolve it; and unjust when its own rulers assist the invasions of Muslim lands without any clear sense of purpose about how anything beneficial will come to the people from those wars and killings.

These same regimes suppress their people and deny rights on the basis of a religious culture that does not allow for the ruler to be challenged, yet flaunt the rules when their own elite interests are at stake. In the name of national security, they spend fortunes on armaments but seem to be able to turn those arms on their own populations more frequently than not. Above all—and this is important in Islam—they seem to do little to fulfil the strong religious requirement to support other Muslims in need.

In the period since 1979, when the first jihadi attack on the Grand Mosque in Mecca took place—an attack that was motivated to secure a purer form of Islam in Saudi Arabia—we have seen the growth of this Salafi-inspired jihadi ideology. It is not new; the only new thing is that our own citizens are now motivated by its call. As we face the years of airstrikes and bombing, with ever greater civilian casualties, the question we have to ask ourselves is whether we will be able to destroy this ideology with force of arms, or whether the struggle for our values will prevail through a more peaceful engagement.

My own preference is for the latter, so let me set out some parameters for what I think is needed. We know that we cannot deal with Iraq without dealing with Syria. We also know that ISIL has proved adept at picking and choosing its opponents. In Kobane it is the Kurds; in other parts it is the Assad regime; and, elsewhere, some version of the Syrian opposition. Its

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tactics are to form alliances with different groups on the ground as it gives up or consolidates its gains. With so many different actors with the ability to shift alliances and with myriad opponents, our opportunity to destroy those we oppose in a sequential manner is degraded, as the militants can regroup and rebound. Moreover, ISIL is starting to go on the offensive in neighbouring countries, too. It is becoming a serious threat in Lebanon, and if it is successful in extending into Syria’s southern border it will sit on Jordan’s northern border, knowing that it has support already from within that country. It has the potential incrementally to expand its territorial rule beyond just Iraq and Syria.

Our tactical considerations must therefore be focused on reducing the threat that is most dangerous, even if it means that our previous enemy now has to become a partner in the endeavour. What would that involve? As the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace points out, we are in a rare situation where it may be possible to engineer a truce in Syria sufficient to buy us time to degrade ISIL, while pulling back from more killing in Syria between those who are not ISIL. Reports indicate that both the regime forces and the Syrian opposition are wearing down and stretched to breaking point. It appears that in July Assad’s losses were about 1,100 killed in operations against ISIL, while another 700 soldiers were lost in the battle for Raqqa. Syrian opposition forces are considered to be unable to hang on to Aleppo, under pressure from the regime, while the northern corridor they hold will fall to Islamic State. Jabhat al-Nusra, the other extremist group armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, continues to clash with the Syrian opposition, Assad forces and others.

All those who are fighting this proxy war would have to be brought in. For Russia and Iran, now ISIL is a greater threat to Assad than the opposition forces. For us and the Saudi and US side of the equation, Assad may be venal, but he has recently indicated that he would support coalition aims to degrade ISIL. We already know that the US is co-operating through intelligence with his regime on airstrikes. We also know that localised truces between the parties on the ground have taken place and sometimes hold as part of the dynamics of the war.

If, simultaneously with all bar ISIL, truces could be negotiated, with intelligence-sharing, humanitarian support and assistance for all communities on all sides, it would allow for civilian life to resume in some form. Protocols would have to be agreed for delivering food, medicine and fuel, for restoring water supplies and electricity and opening up the besieged area so that displaced internal civilians can return to their homes. The thornier issue would involve stopping torture and human rights abuses on all sides, with the release of political prisoners, who run into the tens of thousands. It is those people who would have to be part of the longer-term solution. The international community would have to provide assurances to the Assad regime and the opposition that any future solution would protect their necessary and vital interests, which may well result in Assad’s successor being part of his circle, but compromise is now necessary.

In concluding, there would be risks in bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia onside, but unambiguous Iranian support could clearly break the stalemate as the Assad

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regime seeks more and more financial support from that country. The US would have to ensure that supporters in opposition cannot block through preconditions, which have stymied efforts in the past, and the Saudis and Qatar would have to deliver Jabhat al-Nusra and lesser jihadis. Every attempt at a solution has floundered on undeliverable preconditions. Perhaps if we can merely secure a truce, without a political solution on the table for the moment, we would at least reduce the suffering. That is the least we owe the people of that region.

12.35 pm

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, ISIL can be termed the blackest cloud to have appeared in the Middle East for years. If it can first be contained, it can be defeated, not so much by bombs as by better ideas. Repression is not enough, whether in Egypt or the Emirates. The better ideas are needed to attract the minds of a young generation full of grievances, despair and false ideology. Better ideas must be shown to work. This means pilot projects in Muslim states and in Europe. These will involve training and employment. They should be geared to social justice by giving dignity and helping people to escape from poverty. Volunteers will be needed. Can we imagine a peace corps funded by the oil producers? In parallel, jihadis who return to their countries and accept certain conditions should be welcomed with clemency.

I turn now specifically to Israel and Palestine, and to Gaza, which has been described as the Soweto of the Middle East. It is bad news that the post-ceasefire talks in Cairo have been postponed indefinitely. Will our Government use their diplomatic skills to get those talks restarted, if possible under more neutral auspices? The indefinite closure of the Rafah crossing by Egypt is another bad sign, especially for medical cases, students, exports, et cetera. The August ceasefire agreement provided for Israel to open border crossings to allow in humanitarian aid and construction materials, also for widening the coastal fishing zone to six miles. Has either of these points yet been implemented? If not, will the Government make the strongest possible representations?

Meanwhile, some things could be done in advance of longer-term negotiations, which would enormously improve life for 1.6 million people. Turkey has offered a ship equipped with enough generators to supply the whole Gaza Strip with electricity for six months. This would enable the old power station to be repaired, besides helping hospitals to function, food storage and water purification. The benefit to public health makes it urgent to accept and implement this offer. The technology involved is tried and tested. The UNWRA has funds in hand to restore water and sewage plants, repair schools and build new houses. Supplies for these projects must move through Israel. If Israel requires verification of end use, this should be organised. If new crossings are needed, they should be opened. Cement and aggregates should be allowed in, so that ordinary families can rehouse themselves. This is win-win stuff, providing work and employment, and removing temptations to new violence.

The people of Gaza desperately need freedom to move by land. Israel should be pressed to allow a secure route to the West Bank and on to Jordan. This

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could start for priorities, such as medical cases, businessmen, hajj pilgrims and students. If this worked, it could be extended to everybody New transport modes should be examined; for example, a hovercraft service to Egypt and Lebanon, which could use existing beaches. Gaza has much offshore gas. This has lain idle for years, because of the political risks. Surely guarantees could be given and insurance cover arranged so that drilling and pipeline work could start. This asset should contribute to employment and help to achieve regional peace.

Will the Government take up these ideas, refine them and present them to our allies and to all those co-operating against ISIL? Remembering what has been done already in the Emirates, Gaza could be the pilot project, bringing stability and hope to a war-ravaged place. It could do so without bringing in migrant workers, using the existing well-educated labour force. Social justice would be served. Many volunteers might be needed. Those in despair might see that life is worth living. It is not beyond all imagination that rehabilitation and development of Gaza, as a new hub, could contribute to the mental and moral defeat of ISIL.

12.41 pm

Lord Stone of Blackheath (Lab): My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord King, could not stay for the whole debate and kindly sent me a note donating his seven minutes to me.

Last month, I spoke about the regional approach to the Arab-Israel divide and how Egypt was playing a helpful role. In this debate, I will concentrate on Egypt’s own development and on our UK opportunity and responsibility. Trust and inclusion build stability while mistrust and exclusion lead to spiralling instability. We are blessed in this country with a stable democracy and a safe society. We must be generous in supporting both the governance and peoples of partner countries as they seek to grow trust and stability.

We admire the courage of the Egyptian people and their leaders over recent years through some difficult times. First, I would like to offer condolences to the people of Egypt, the army and the President, for those people who died in last Friday’s horrific attack on the army camp by terrorists. We should know that there are many dreadfully injured Egyptian army and police officers being treated here in the UK, and many more in Germany, France and Switzerland.

The UK-Egypt partnership needs to get closer. Some 25% of all the people in the MENA region actually live in Egypt. Together, we can build benefits for the region and each other. It will require bold leadership to take the relationship to a new level and fulfil humanitarian, economic and stabilisation needs. Our Prime Minister should invite President al-Sisi to the UK as soon as possible. A group of experienced parliamentarians on our recent visits to Egypt were convinced that we in the United Kingdom have much to offer Egypt and that we can learn from Egypt’s experiences and expertise.

It is always easier to judge but wiser to understand more deeply. Rather than wringing our hands from the sidelines, we must take the opportunity to serve and

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help shape Egypt’s democratic cause and history. Our APPG on Egypt had a meeting yesterday with the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Tobias Ellwood. Our chairman and members of both Houses called for him urgently to extend an invitation to President al-Sisi to visit the UK in the light of the speed of the changes happening in the area and the rise of terrorism.

In a meeting last Tuesday, the Egyptian Secretary of State gave us assurances that the parliamentary elections are now imminent. He also said that the Government are planning to allow the Nubians, who have been dispossessed of their land for decades, to return to their tribal homes. We could discuss with President al-Sisi how we might continue to assist the Egyptians in following their four-stage road map to develop a first-class secular democracy with improved civil liberties and human rights. We could offer Britain’s experience and support in that endeavour.

The Egyptians have now completed the first two stages of the four-stage road map: first, a new constitution; secondly, an elected president; and now, thirdly, the election of a brand new Parliament with a judicial framework to monitor the election that will start in December and complete next March.

Finally, they plan to create better economic conditions for all of their people. For this they are arranging an investor conference to take place next February so that inward investment will create better lives for all the people of Egypt. We must help them to build the conditions for international business to invest and prepare UK businesses to be first investors. I am pleased that, to this end, the Minister Tobias Ellwood is to lead a trade delegation to Egypt next January. The UK can also continue to build security in the region by acting as a trusted intermediary between Egypt and Israel and facilitating the sharing of technical know-how, which is mutually beneficial to them and good for the UK.

Taking a wider view of the growing conflicts across MENA, the issues being fought over and the characteristics of the combatants are varied, but it seems that the root cause of all of them is similar. Whether it is the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank or the 90 million people in Egypt, whether it is the Syrians and the Kurds, those suffering in Iran and Iraq or those calling themselves Islamic State, it is all about not being allowed to have a say in their own affairs. Individuals and factions in dictatorships are finding no better course of action than to fight and Governments are finding no better credible solution than to clamp down with force on their people. This is where we should be encouraging, engaging, helping and serving. We should have a proactive foreign policy that builds trust and resilience before things get worse, helping to find a pathway from conflict and fragility to stability, investment, development and prosperity, along with helping Governments to listen, build trust and respond, and citizens to reap the benefits of incremental change.

We are paying the price for not proactively building resilience in the past. Foreign policy leadership should create the conditions for good governance, democratic voice and peaceful transition. This is what I suspect UK development and support aims do through the Building Stability Overseas strategy, which brings together

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the Foreign Office, the MoD and the DfID Growth and Resilience Department. They recognise that a day of conflict can cost more than a year of prevention, but it is not clear what the mechanism is. What is the “theory of change” by which our foreign policy will bring peace and stability to the region? We have learnt from engaging with Egypt that there is an opportunity that is not “empire” and is not “aid”; it is to help provide a platform and mechanisms for building democratic fabric and enabling development and trade with partner countries to support processes that rebuild trust in government and interventions that build the trustworthiness of that Government.

In my days as a retailer—I am pleased to note that we have introduced into our House today a great retailer, the noble Lord, Lord Rose of Monewden—we would put our values to work with Egypt and Israel to build understanding and trust through trading with both of them on the same products, benefiting our customers, benefiting the UK and benefiting both Egypt and Israel. Sometimes the best strategy in business is to transform a difficult economic challenge with an entirely new way of thinking. To this end, I have spoken previously about the Middle East Centre for Civic Involvement. Benefiting from the wisdom and experience of noble Lords from all sides of the House and politicians from the other place, it aims to provide a mechanism for democratic fabric, trust building, stabilisation, and for investment and prosperity.

Let us partner with the MENA region for stability, investment, development and democracy. Let us be part of the solution. Let us consider the cost of our military interventions in the region and the cost of further instability and realise that it would be far better, as a distinct feature of UK foreign policy, to put British values to work in a way that meets national, economic, geopolitical and other interests. I ask the Minister to put it to Her Majesty’s Government that we should invest in a bold initiative for peace, stability and prosperity in the region by partnering more closely—and first with Egypt.

12.48 pm

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Risby, for giving us the opportunity to hold this important debate on one of the most troubled regions of the globe. I will focus on Iraq in my remarks. First, perhaps I may give noble Lords the good news, which is the business news. I have the honour to serve as the trade envoy to Iraq on behalf of the Prime Minister, and a secondary honorary position as the executive chairman of the Iraq Britain Business Council. This is an NGO in Iraq which has been working for some five and a half years to enhance inward investment and outward investment between international businesses and the Republic of Iraq. The trade links in Iraq are focused particularly on companies registered in the United Kingdom, and on building up contracts between those companies and companies inside the country.

I am delighted to report that the IBBC today has 63 members, four of which are United Kingdom universities. We have a new stream of universities to enhance student exchanges. Five members are Iraqi chambers of commerce. All 18 Iraqi chambers of

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commerce are scheduled to join and have decided to do so. This opens up the entirety of Iraqi businesses to UK-registered ones. At the same time last year, in comparison, we had 46 members, as opposed to 63. Growth is strong and does not seem to be affected by the recent events in Iraq.

Two more major Iraqi companies, one from the KRG and one from Baghdad, have this week applied for IBBC membership. Last month, one of the best known and largest global engineering companies joined IBBC, and is establishing an office in Basra. At the IBBC autumn conference next week, I am expecting approximately 400 guests over two days, 60 of whom will be joining us from all over Iraq. These will include guests from cities that are under ISIS control: Mosul and Salahadin. Some of these delegates have had to cross the front lines between ISIS and the Peshmerga to obtain documents to support their visa applications for Iraq. One delegate from Mosul, who has temporarily resettled in Erbil, went to Mosul to get bank statements to support his visa application.

Most Iraqis know that the ISIS reign will not last. ISIS is not even in full control of the territories that it claims and the delegates are determined to pursue their business links with Britain. At the conference we will have the chairmen of the Iraqi and Kurdish chambers of commerce address the delegates. We will have major oil and gas producers from the south and north of Iraq giving presentations. We will see Iraqi government and KRG official representatives mingling comfortably with each other. The new Iraqi Government is well set for more inclusion and is making good progress in achieving greater unity in the country. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, one of our vice-presidents, will be addressing the conference. Other vice-presidents, the noble Lords, Lord Robertson and Lord Green, will be available.

UK visa procedures are a constant burden for business ties between the two countries. I congratulate UKTI on the huge amount of work done in an impeccable way on this, but the burden put upon our Iraqi friends seeking to visit the UK for business or on holiday is still very high. I will write to the Minister on this and would welcome her attention to such an important matter, as we are losing high-powered friends because of stringent and completely inflexible policies being in place. We plan to have IBBC conferences in Basra, Baghdad and Erbil next year. I have no doubt that these will happen, as did the recent successful IBBC trade missions in Erbil, Baghdad and Najaf in August and September. My next mission will be in mid-November, when I will be revisiting these cities and Basra.

I turn now to the challenge that Iraq is facing with one third of her territory having been taken over by violent jihadists. I had the honour of participating in a diplomacy and violent jihad debate last Saturday at the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Robert H Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, when we discussed this matter. It was followed by an AMAR foundation meeting. The AMAR foundation is a charity of 23 years’ standing, which I chair, and the biggest British charity in Iraq. The meeting was on the fight of ISIL against girls and women. We will be publishing the full report.

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I hold the view at the moment that there is a case for charges of genocide, especially against the Yazidis. We might reasonably suggest that an inquiry into the possibility of having IS individuals held accountable in The Hague for genocide, for their acts against the Yazidis. Of course, I am aware of IS’s genocidal-type acts against other minorities, but the Yazidis are a discrete group and I believe that they fall within the context of the convention.

As a past honorary member of the American Bar Association, I believe that this is something that Britain, with our slender hard power but very strong soft power, can rightly pursue at this point. Whether a prosecutor, a court or another tribunal would take on the case, and whether the facts as found by such a court or tribunal would warrant a conviction, are of course open to speculation, but that should not limit our initial conversations about motivating the competent authorities to consider the possibility of investigating charges of genocide.

The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide leads me to believe that Articles 2 to 4 cover the scenario that I have in mind, whereby prospective defendants would be members of IS. Under Article 6, such defendants could be prosecuted; for example, in an international penal tribunal created by the UN Security Council. As far as the ICC is concerned, while Iraq is not a party to the Rome Statute governing the court, if individual IS members are nationals of any state party to the Rome Statute—for example, nationals of the UK or a state that otherwise accepts the jurisdiction of the ICC—such individuals could be subject to the jurisdiction of the court, which has jurisdiction to hear charges of crimes against humanity as well as genocide.

I had the opportunity to speak on genocide while giving evidence to the Supreme Court in Baghdad for the victims of the 1991 uprising in Basra and subsequently in the Marsh Arab genocide case. The judgment of that court of crimes against humanity was insufficient in the eyes of most but understandable when the judges’ safety was taken into account. But I believe that IS participants who belong to our nations who have been engaged in these horrific acts against the Yazidis and others could be prosecuted for genocide, specifically against the Yazidis, at the ICC. I would welcome a comment from the Minister on whether Her Majesty’s Government would look warmly on such a route to bringing IS to justice through due process rather than the point of death.

12.56 pm

Baroness Warsi (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Risby for calling this debate at what is a timely moment to assess the situation in the Middle East and north Africa. These debates are an opportunity to highlight the actions of countries and regimes around the world but, more importantly, they present an opportunity to explain, test and challenge our country’s response to those actions. It is that that I will seek to do today.

Our policy in relation to the Middle East peace process, which I am sure my noble friend will repeat today, is simply this: a two-state solution; a negotiated

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settlement; a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps and Jerusalem as the shared capital; and a just and fair settlement for refugees. But I would say that our policy is simply not working; that it is flawed; that different strands of our policy are simply not viable and no longer hold true; that in fact we know our policy is not working yet we continue to stick to it; that our policy is not responding to the reality on the ground yet we fail to change it; and that this approach damages our reputation both at home and abroad, and sadly makes us no longer an honest broker.

In 2012 we asked the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas not to move towards a resolution at the UN General Assembly. We made it clear that this was for the time being and that it would be better to give the US Administration the opportunity to set out a new initiative and move towards a successful Middle East peace process. The Kerry talks were on the horizon, and I commend Secretary Kerry for his efforts and the failure of those talks certainly cannot be laid at his feet. At that time we said that 2013 was going to be a crucial year, and I said so many times at that very Dispatch Box. The then Foreign Secretary said:

“If progress on negotiations is not made next year”—

that is, 2013—

“the two-state solution could become impossible to achieve”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 28/11/12; col. 227.]

He was right. We said at that time that we may have considered supporting the Palestinian resolution at the UN if it supported a negotiated peace process. Israel made it very clear that if the Palestinians went to the UN, it would no longer negotiate. Therefore, if that was the case and we knew that that was the case, by putting that condition in place, we were effectively giving Israel a veto. My question to the Minister, therefore, is: what is our policy now?

I turn now to the issue of illegal settlements. We condemn them. We say that they threaten the very viability of a two-state solution. But what consequences ever follow from that condemnation? The 1967 borders of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem are not lawfully part of the State of Israel. That is agreed. It is the settled policy of successive Governments. A line was drawn in international law which, ever year, is violated by Israel. The settlement building continues apace. Even during the Kerry discussions, new housing start-ups in the West Bank rose by 120%.

In 1993, at the time of the Oslo peace accords and the peace process, the number of settlers in the West Bank, not including Jerusalem, was 110,000; today, the number is 382,000. Israel’s Housing Minister, himself a settler, said earlier this year that he wanted that number to grow by 50% over the next five years. As my right honourable friend Sir Alan Duncan has said, settlements are simply “an act of theft”, initiated and supported by the State of Israel. The strategic planning, including the announcements on the E1 plan and other building programmes, display an even more dangerous intent. They create enclaves of Palestinians cut off from each other; cut off from their future capital and cut off from a viable existence. It is an organised and planned strangulation of what we call the two-state solution.

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Another part of our policy is a just and fair settlement for the refugees. Across all parties in our country, there is a strong consensus and support for international justice and for the ICC. However, we continue to take the position that ICC membership makes negotiations impossible. Why do we say that negotiations would be impossible if the Palestinians went to the ICC? Is it because Israel does not wish to be held accountable for any war crimes that may have been committed; or is it because we, who oppose immunity for such crimes elsewhere, are prepared to make an exception in this particular case?

If we are not prepared to pursue justice for those who are suffering now, how can we be trusted to fulfil our commitment to pursue justice for those who suffered and lost many decades ago? The policy simply no longer holds true. The situation on the ground has so changed—and continues to do so—that what we say we seek is unlikely to be achieved. We say we have a position. We condemn, but the actions in respect of that condemnation are not there to be seen and no consequences follow. We take certain positions—for example, on language during the Gaza crisis and at the Human Rights Council of July 2014, when a commission of inquiry was proposed for human rights violations during the Gaza crisis. We take those positions as a way of preserving and promoting our relationship with Israel because we sincerely believe that we want to influence change. We prefer private to public diplomacy—I agree with that—but I fail to see those tough private conversations.

Therefore I ask the Minister the following questions. In July 2010 my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said that,

“Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp”.

What has changed in Gaza since then? What influence have we been able to exert as a result of not supporting the Palestinians at the United Nations? In the light of the parliamentary vote in the Commons and the lack of any negotiations, will the Government move to a position of recognition? In doing so—with reference to that debate in the House of Commons—will the Government distance themselves from the comments of the Chancellor’s PPS, Robert Halfon, who said that,

“there is already a Palestinian state called Jordan”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 13/10/14; col. 106.]

If we are not prepared to move to a recognition of Palestine, can we lay out the specific conditions that will need to be met? Will the Government set out a pathway in the interests of transparency? What consequences have flowed from the strong condemnation by the Foreign Secretary in September and October of this year of the recent settlement announcements? How have we, since the Gaza conflict, used the so-called influence and capital we built up during that conflict with the Israeli Government to change their position since then?

It was because of the concerns that I have raised today—and not, as some have disturbingly tried to suggest, because I am a Muslim—that, as the then Minister with responsibility for the UN, the ICC and human rights, I concluded that I could no longer defend our policy at that Dispatch Box. Our current position on this issue is morally indefensible. It is not

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in Britain’s national interests and it will have a long-term detrimental impact on our reputation, internationally and domestically. It is time for us to start to be on the right side of history.

1.05 pm

Lord Sacks (CB): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Risby, for initiating this important debate. At the outset I declare an interest: I am a Jew. Israel is therefore for me the place where my people were born almost 4,000 years ago; the place to which Abraham and Sarah travelled; where Amos voiced his vision of social justice and Isaiah dreamt of a world at peace; where David composed thePsalms and Solomon built the Temple. This had consequences not only for Jews but also for Christians and Muslims, who claim Abraham as their ancestor in faith, and whose God they take as their own.

This had tragic repercussions throughout the Middle Ages, because Christians and Muslims claimed, each in their own way, to have replaced Jews as the people of God and thus as heirs to the Holy Land. The otherwise saintly Augustine declared that Jews were cursed with the fate of Cain, destined to be restless wanderers on earth without a home. Islam held that any land that ever came under Muslim rule was henceforth and forever Dar Al Islam: that is, land that rightly belongs to the Umma, the Muslim people, with any other rule being illegitimate. On both of these theologies, Jews had no right to their ancestral home.

A half-century ago, these theologies would have been considered irrelevant. The West had moved on. After a century of religious wars following the Reformation, it recognised the need for the secularisation of power. This allowed the United Nations, in the partition vote of 1947, to grant Jews the right to a nation state of their own after 2,000 years of exile and persecution. Eventually, there were peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan and an intensive process with the Palestinians. When power is secularised, peace is possible.

Today, though, throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia and Africa, a seismic shift is taking place in the opposite direction. People are desecularising. They feel betrayed by secular nationalist Governments who failed to deliver prosperity and national pride. They consider the national boundaries imposed by colonial powers to be artificial and obsolete. They are uninspired by the secular culture of the West, with its maximum of choice and minimum of meaning. They have come to believe that salvation lies in a return to the Islam that bestrode the narrow world like a colossus for the better part of 1,000 years.

Although their faith is hostile to modernity, they sometimes understand modernity better than its own creators in the West. They know that because of the internet, YouTube and the social media, communication —indeed politics—has gone global; they also know that the great monotheisms are the most powerful global communities in the world, far broader and deeper in their reach than any nation state. The religious radicals are offering young people the chance to fight and die for their faith, winning glory on earth and immortality in heaven. They have started recruiting in the West and they have only just begun.

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When ancient theologies are used for modern political ends, they speak a very dangerous language indeed. So, for example, Hamas and Hezbollah, both self-defined as religious movements, refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the state of Israel within any boundaries whatever and seek only its complete destruction.

The Islamists also know that the only way they can win the sympathy of the West is by demonising Israel. They know that you cannot win support for ISIS, Boko Haram or Islamic Jihad, but if you can blame Israel you will gain the support of academics, unions and parts of the media, and you will distract attention from the massacres in Syria and Iraq, the slow descent of other countries into chaos and the ethnic cleansing of Christians throughout the region. They are thus repeating the very failure of the regimes they have risen against, which for 50 years suppressed dissent by demonising Israel as the cause of everything wrong in the Arab or Islamic world. When you blame others for your failures you harm not only those others but yourself and your people. To be free, you have to let go of hate. If you let hate speech infect the West, as has already happened in some of our campuses, prisons and schools, then our freedom, too, will be at risk.

I and the vast majority of the Jewish community care deeply about the future of the Palestinians. We want Palestinian children, no less than Israeli children, to have a future of peace, prosperity, freedom and hope. That is why we oppose those who teach Palestinian children to hate those with whom they will one day have to live. We oppose those who take money given for humanitarian aid and use it to buy weapons and dig tunnels to take the region back to a dark age of barbarism.

More generally, we say in the name of the God of Abraham—the almighty, merciful and compassionate God—that the religion in whose name atrocities are being carried out, innocent people butchered and beheaded, children treated as slaves, civilians turned into human shields and young people into weapons of self-destruction, is not the Islam that once earned the admiration of the world: nor is its God the God of Abraham. It was Nietzsche, not the prophets, who worshipped the will to power. It was Machiavelli, not sacred scripture, who taught that it is better to be feared than to be loved.

Every religion must wrestle with its dark angels, and so today must we: Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. For we are all children of Abraham, and only when we make space for one another as brothers and sisters will we redeem the world from darkness and walk together in the light of God.

1.12 pm

Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con): My Lords, may I first refer to the Register of Lords’ Interests? I have been a director of a number of companies in the Middle East on both sides of the Gulf and I have also been for many years the chairman of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce—a post that I took over from the noble Lord, Lord Temple-Morris, whom I see in his place today.

It is a humbling experience to follow the very moving speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sacks. This has been a remarkable debate and there was a remarkable speech

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from my noble friend Lady Warsi. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Risby on initiating such a remarkable debate and on introducing it with a brilliant tour d’horizon of all the different problems of the region. I very much agree with him that it is extremely difficult to be optimistic about the region.

We seem to have been fighting a never-ending war in the Middle East. The West has indeed been fighting the consequences of our own disastrous policies. In some respects, we have been addressing risks that we ourselves created. After flirting with the Arab spring, we are now back into our old traditional comfort zone of uncritical support of Sunni autocracies. Only now are we waking up belatedly to the fact that many of the citizens—I do not say “Governments”—of our allies have been funding those they are helping us to fight. I pay tribute to the campaign by the Sunday Telegraph highlighting the movement of funds to terrorist groups in the Middle East.

In that paper last Sunday, David Cohen, the US official in charge of financial intelligence, described Qatar and Kuwait as,

“permissive jurisdictions for terrorist financing”.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, also wrote recently that Riyadh, Doha and Kuwait City have all enabled religious foundations to channel funds to radical Sunni elements. He referred to lax anti-money-laundering regulations and regimes. Could the Minister comment on this point? What exactly are the Government doing to raise concerns with the relevant Governments?

Some of the citizens of our allies share with ISIS Wahhabi doctrines that the Shias are idolatrous apostates. A recent opinion poll in the pan-Arab newspaper, Al-Hayat, which I believe is Saudi owned, indicated that 92% of Saudis replied in the affirmative to the question of whether ISIS conformed to their values of Islam and Islamic law. I was rather surprised by that and put it to a Saudi friend of mine. He said that he believed it but thought it referred not to the violence and beheadings but actually to the governance and type of polity that ISIS were introducing. Even so, that was a very revealing and alarming poll result.

Many people have bought into the fantasy that Sunni Muslims—1.3 billion out of 1.6 billion—are somehow a victimised minority. I want to talk about the Shia enfant terrible, Iran, and the nuclear talks. I know that some noble Lords and Baronesses are worried that there will be a successful outcome to those talks. I acknowledge fully the shortcomings and past misdeeds of Iran, its bad human rights record, the unacceptable threats against Israel and the support for rocket attacks through Hamas and Hezbollah. None the less, a nuclear deal is firmly in the interests of both Israel and the wider Middle East.

I did not hear the Question of the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, earlier, but for those noble Lords and Baronesses worried about a deal, I have some good news: I do not think there will be a deal at all. Mr Netanyahu and AIPAC have certainly done their best to make this very difficult. The real mistake has been for the negotiations to concentrate so single-mindedly on just the number of centrifuges, rather than on a

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regime of transparency and openness. It was always going to be extremely difficult to get agreement on the physical destruction of facilities that already exist.

If I am right and the deal fails, what happens then? Are we going to bomb Iran? That would spread a huge conflagration throughout the Middle East. Are we going to have more sanctions? That is what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office seems to be indicating. What will Iran do? Will it go back to the previous level of producing more highly enriched uranium and will it stop converting enriched uranium into fuel rods?

If the talks fail, the important point is that on both sides we do not go back to the position we were in before. Even if the talks fail, something will have been gained in terms of understanding each other’s viewpoints and talking about different issues within the region. President Rouhani made some very wise remarks on this issue when he said, referring to the possibility of failure in the talks, “I want to repeat: we will not return to the past and our situation will definitely change. This is what the world wants”.

I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister met President Rouhani—the first meeting with an Iranian president for well over 35 years. I gather that it was a good meeting, but I rather regretted the very aggressive comments that the Prime Minister made after President Rouhani’s studiously moderate speech condemning terrorism at the UNGA. The Prime Minister made quite an aggressive speech, the result of which was to undermine President Rouhani’s position in Iran and to lead to renewed calls in the Majles that the British embassy should definitely not be reopened. I know that the date of the reopening has been put off yet again—indeed, there is no date.

The interests of the West and those of Iran overlap in many areas but, of course, this has happened before. It happened at the time of President Khatami, when he helped with the invasion of Afghanistan by America and offered full diplomatic relations and the reining in of Hamas and Hezbollah. For his trouble, he was labelled part of the “axis of evil”. We must be careful that we do not do the same thing to President Rouhani today. Too often, the West seems to think that Iran is part of the problem and that it does not need to be part of the solution. This is wrong. Iran has been part of the problem, but it definitely also needs to be part of the solution.

1.20 pm

Lord Mitchell (Lab): My Lords, I am a Zionist. I am a Zionist because I believe that, after 2,000 years of exile and 2,000 years of persecution, the Jewish people deserve a homeland of their own and that homeland should be within the biblical land of Israel. I am a Zionist because I believe that in Israel the Jewish people have found fulfilment as a nation. They have turned the desert into orchards, they lead the world in science for the benefit of mankind and they have become one of the world’s centres of 21st-century technology. Most of all, I am a Zionist because Israel today vibrantly maintains its founders’ dream of becoming a fully functioning democracy for all its people, in a region where the rule of law and equality is at a premium. Life for many Israeli Arabs is not all that it should be, but it is undeniable that they have an equal

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opportunity to vote, to go wherever they choose, to study at any university and to work in any capacity. They are fully fledged Israeli citizens. This is not an apartheid state.

I support the state of Israel because history has cruelly demonstrated that, at any time or in any place, Jews live in peril. France today is one example, but so too are countries in eastern Europe and South America. Israel is the final refuge for Jews being persecuted in the outside world. Indeed, if there had been an Israel in the 1930s the story would have been different and infinitely happier. So, come what may, I and most Jews remain proud supporters of Israel.

However, in saying all this, I am not saying “Israel, right or wrong”. The Naqba was a catastrophe for the Palestinian people, and we Jews should admit it. The occupation of the West Bank is a stain. In my view, the building of settlements is wrong. The road blocks, the pass controls and the goading are all intolerable. For me as a supporter of Israel, they are hard to stomach. If history has taught us anything, you humiliate a people at your peril. Many Israelis yearn for a two-state solution but, in truth, some do not. I am sad to say that this includes many members of Israel’s current Government. I certainly support a Palestinian state, but not quite yet. It must be negotiated with both the Palestinians and with Israel.

Pain me though it does to say this, I agree with Maureen Lipman in today’s Times, who says that Labour and Ed Miliband have got it wrong. When Israel was formed its main enemies were its neighbours: Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the other Arab states. Those countries were sworn to its destruction. Today this has changed. There has been an enduring peace with Egypt and with Jordan. Syria is a basket case, and Saudi Arabia in its calmer moments realises that it has more in common with Israel than against it.

Today’s warfare in Israel’s proximity is asymmetric. The rules are different. It is sometimes forgotten that in 2005, Israel unilaterally and surprisingly withdrew from Gaza, but within two years Hamas had routed the PA and begun its reign of terror. Hamas could have built a thriving Gaza. It could have used cement and steel to build a new state within a state, but instead it chose to dig tunnels and build rockets. Hamas has fired rockets at Israel ever since it took control, and never more so than in this most recent terrible summer. Think of it: how would we have reacted if, during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the IRA—based in the Republic of Ireland—had fired tens of thousands of rockets at Belfast, Liverpool, or maybe even at London? Would we have stood back? Of course we would not. We would have retaliated with force of arms and we would not have hesitated to put boots on the ground.

Hamas is a vicious terrorist organisation, and is proscribed not only by ourselves but also by the United States, the EU, Canada, Australia and many Middle Eastern countries. It thrives on terror and hatred. Its charter is quite clear: it seeks to destroy Israel. It is joined at the hip with ISIS. They have the same objectives, the same manic obsession with destroying anything that stands in their way, and the same desire to see an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle

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East. In the recent conflict it was interesting to see who in the Middle East supported Hamas: Turkey did, as did Qatar and Iran. It is even more interesting to see who did not. Egypt hates Hamas, and there was not a word of criticism of Israel from the UAE, with the exception of Qatar, or from Jordan or Saudi Arabia.

So when we see demonstrations in the streets of London which are pro-Hamas with a nasty element of anti-Semitism thrown in, it beggars belief. When I see my good friend the Member of Parliament Luciana Berger receive death threats from anti-Semitic Twitter trolls for her position on Israel, it shows where all this can lead. I ask this question: if the demonstrators are so concerned about countries that commit crimes against humanity, why do they not demonstrate against countries which make no secret of their barbarism?

More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria. Have there been marches in London against the Assad regime, or any protests outside the Syrian embassy? None. This summer the Russians have behaved appallingly. They have grabbed Crimea for their own. We have seen Putin’s goons down a civilian airliner for no other reason than it happened to be in the sky. Has there been an apology? None. Are there protests outside the Russian embassy? None. Around the world atrocities are being committed and we all wring our hands and do precious little, but when Israel alone defends herself, everybody goes ballistic. At best it can be called hypocrisy, and at worst it is called something else.

1.27 pm

Baroness Morris of Bolton (Con): My Lords, the last four months have witnessed some of the most distressing and tragic events in a region which for too long has been scarred by violence and turmoil. From the plight of the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar to the horrors in Gaza, people have been profoundly moved by what has unfolded. I join with other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Risby for securing such an important debate, and for opening it with such knowledge and clarity. I agree with my noble friend Lord Lamont about the force of the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, and my noble friend Lady Warsi.

I will concentrate my remarks today on the situation in Gaza and on recognition of Palestine. I declare my interests as chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to the Palestinian Territories, and president of Medical Aid for Palestinians. In late May this year, in my role as trade envoy, I visited the West Bank and Jerusalem, and I also attempted to visit Gaza. I sat for three and a half hours at the Yad Mordechai café outside Erez—and very nice it was—drinking a lot of coffee while my papers were finalised: but sadly I was not allowed in.

I had a full programme arranged with many people waiting for me, and so I telephoned everyone I was supposed to meet to apologise. They were wonderfully good humoured, and welcomed me to their uncertain world. Everyone I spoke to was hopeful that the unity Government who had just been announced and who had been welcomed by the international community

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would lead quickly to free, full and fair elections, and to the lifting of the siege of Gaza. They said quite rightly that people who are economically active want to live in peace.

How cruelly their dreams were smashed. The kidnap and brutal murder of three Israeli teenagers in June and the horrific death of a 16 year-old Palestinian, burned alive in July, led to the escalation of a situation which was already on a knife edge. Accounts of who did what, when—who fired the first shots or launched the first rockets—will differ from side to side. The only certainty is that too many innocent men, women and children have died, and it has to stop.

In the 51 days of attacks on Gaza, 66 Israeli soldiers and seven civilians, including a baby, were killed. In Gaza, 91 entire families were wiped out, 2,131 people were killed—500 of them children—and 1,500 children were orphaned. Every day, more and more children were rushed to Gaza’s hospitals, with tissue blasted apart, bones shattered and limbs missing. One thousand people, many of them children, will be permanently disabled as a result of their injuries.

During the crisis, around 500,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes, and it is estimated that 100,000 of them remain homeless with winter fast approaching. Last year, it snowed in Gaza; this year, there has already been heavy rain, with streets flooding. The promises from the reconstruction conference in Cairo, welcome as they are, need to be translated quickly into practical solutions that will make a real difference to people’s lives. Here, I would like to place on record my thanks to the Prime Minister and the Government for the lead they took in providing much-needed medical assistance to Gaza and for the commitment to further, generous funding, of which MAP is a significant beneficiary, for the necessary long-term medical work that will be required.

A seven year-old child in Gaza will now have lived through three military incursions. The businesspeople and doctors I spoke to who were so hopeful in May will, for the third time in seven years, have to rebuild their homes, their businesses and their shattered families. In the intervening periods between the violence, the decent ordinary people of Gaza are not free to travel, to trade or to enjoy the freedoms that we take for granted. If we are to break this cycle of death and destruction, the future for Gaza has to lead to an end to the blockade and to economic freedom.

The future must also hold out the hope of freedom for the whole of Palestine. The occupation of the West Bank, now the longest occupation in history, brings with it the daily disruption and humiliation of the Palestinian people and the continued building of settlements—I was very pleased to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, said on that. My right honourable friend Sir Alan Duncan, in a recent searching and brave speech at RUSI, said that the illegal settlements are an offence to democratic principles and the rule of law. In the debate on the recognition of Palestine in another place on 14 July, my right honourable friend Sir Richard Ottaway said very movingly that he had stood by Israel through thick and thin, but that the recent annexation of 950 acres of the West Bank had outraged him more than anything else in his political life. I recommend both speeches to your Lordships.

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The Conservative Middle East Council was set up under Margaret Thatcher in 1980 after the then nine members of the European Economic Community signed the Venice Declaration, which, among other things, stated that the continued building of settlements was a barrier to peace. As my noble friend Lady Warsi said, William Hague warned last year that the prospects for a two-state solution were rapidly running out. With yet another failed peace process, something has to change if we do not want that warning to become a reality. That change should be recognition of Palestine.

We cannot uphold the right of others around the world to stand up for their freedom and self-determination and deny that same right to the Palestinians. Through our shared history, Great Britain has a special responsibility to Palestine, which we should discharge by recognising Palestine as a sovereign state alongside the sovereign state of Israel as an important step to peace.

The Palestinians are for the most part just like anyone else around the world—decent and moderate. But moderate people need hope. The Palestinians and the Israelis have no alternative but to live freely, prosperously, peacefully and securely side by side: but unless there is freedom and prosperity and recognition for all, there will be no lasting peace and security.

1.35 pm

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (LD): My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Risby, on securing time for this debate, and I declare an interest as a vice-president of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel. I intend, as did my noble friend Lady Morris in her very moving speech, to use this opportunity to focus on Israel and the Palestinians. Sometimes in politics, there are points that seem so obvious that nobody ought to make them any more, but some basic points about Israel seem often to be forgotten in the British political arena, so I need to restate some of them today.

First, in the recent war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Israel was not aiming to kill innocent civilians, any more than Turkey was aiming to kill innocent civilians in its recent bombings of the PKK, or the Americans to kill innocent civilians in their attacks on Islamic State, nor any more than NATO ever aimed to kill innocent civilians in Afghanistan. In all four of those examples, and many others, many civilians have been tragically killed in bombings undertaken by a country’s forces against a non-state force, be that Hamas, the PKK, Islamic State or the Taliban. Yet I do not hear anyone accusing Turkey, the Americans or NATO of deliberately killing civilians; it is only Israel that is so accused. Surely this is the worst kind of hypocrisy on the part of world opinion.

However much one might criticise the Government of Israel and their sometimes confrontational policies—I would not vote for Likud, just as I am guessing that Mr Netanyahu would not vote for the Liberal Democrats—what other armed forces in the world would send warnings to civilians living close to military targets that they are about to bomb? Israel does, even at the cost of exposing its own troops to greater danger in the process. The world community’s failure to give Israel credit for that shows just how hard it is

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for Israel to gain a fair hearing on the stage of international opinion. We criticise Israel, but where is the criticism of Hamas for how it puts the lives and property of the people of Gaza at risk by sending more than 4,000 rockets into Israel and using the people of Gaza as the equivalent of human shields? I take all the points made by my noble friend Lady Morris, which were very moving.

Another fact that is completely overlooked is the amount of aid and goods of different types that Israel pumps into Gaza, as well as the amount of aid and goods that Israel allows others to pump in. Need I remind your Lordships that Egypt also has valid security reasons? What makes me despair is the absence of reporting in the media on the support that Israel has consistently given to the people of Gaza. Some formidable forces are lobbying against Israel in the British public arena. It is perhaps the unrelenting campaigns of such formidable forces that drown out the truth about what Israel is doing to help Gaza, even during hostilities.

I would like to give some examples. On 25 August this year, in the middle of a war in which a bombardment of Hamas missiles was forcing many thousands of Israeli men, women and children to run for cover whenever an air raid siren sounded—even in the middle of such a bombardment—111 trucks entered Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel carrying 2,190 tonnes of food. On that same day, three trucks entered Gaza through the same crossing from Israel, carrying 8 tonnes of humanitarian supplies.

On 24 August, one day earlier, three Israeli taxi drivers were waiting to pick up some residents of Gaza to bring them into hospital in Israel from Gaza through the Erez crossing. And what happened? Mortar shells fired by Palestinian groups wounded the taxi drivers, with two of them being seriously hurt. Israeli soldiers had to evacuate the wounded under Palestinian fire, as Palestinian mortars continued to fall on the Israeli crossing specifically designated for the passage of Palestinians in need of medical and humanitarian assistance. These three Israeli taxi drivers, who were doing their job taking sick people to hospital, were not Jewish, but Arab citizens of Israel—Israeli Arabs being bombed by Palestinian terrorists while attempting to take Palestinians to hospital in Israel.

To paraphrase Tom Lehrer’s reaction to the news that Henry Kissinger had won the Nobel Peace Prize, the world is now so satirical that it is impossible to satirise it any more. Medical aid for the people of Gaza is rarely mentioned. It was revealed this month that the daughter of Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh was recently treated at a Tel Aviv hospital. In June, Haniyeh’s mother-in-law was treated in Israel for cancer and his daughter was also transferred to an Israeli hospital last year. However, these are only examples. Ichilov hospital said she is one of more than 1,000 patients from Gaza and the West Bank who are treated every year. This is a nation that cares.

Her Majesty’s coalition Government have made it clear that they will recognise a Palestinian state when one has been created through a process of negotiations between the Palestinians and the state of Israel. I see no ambiguity on that score and I see that as the way forward rather than the one proposed by my noble friend Lady Warsi.

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To conclude, if the problems of the Israeli people are ever to be solved, there is no alternative to the difficult, painful and direct negotiations that will bring peace, justice and security to Israelis and Palestinians alike. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that peace will include two states living side by side in peace and, hopefully, co-operation? It will only be achieved by Israel and the Palestinians sitting down to negotiate without preconditions. It will include the removal of many, if not most, of the settlements on the West Bank. It will mean a cessation of rockets fired at Israel. It will mean abandonment of Hamas’s claim to obliterate the state of Israel. It will mean that refugees in the West Bank and Gaza will be given citizenship of the Palestinian state—just as, for example, Israel gave citizenship to 600,000 of the 800,000 Jews who fled Arab lands.

1.42 pm

Baroness Deech (CB): My Lords, where is the Muslim peace movement campaigning for an end to violence in Muslim countries? Where is their Gandhi? Where is their Mandela? We are talking today about the failure of the nation state in Islam, and the failure in the region to overcome the demonisation of others.

We have failed to perceive the core of the current conflicts. What is taking place in Iraq and Syria is a single cross-border sectarian war: Shia with its allies, Sunni with theirs. Iraq and Syria were carved out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire by Britain and France, who were also responsible for many artificial new states in the area. They all contain incompatible populations inside artificial borders. Most are marked by instability and poverty, despite the oil revenue flowing into the region. They were held together as states by brutal and powerful dictators. Once those dictators were removed, conflict broke out again along the old fault lines of sectarian identity, which is far stronger than nationality. There are echoes of the former Yugoslavia.

The Islamic State wants to establish a new caliphate, spelling the end of the nation state. What can the West do, except point out the truth, mobilise its few allies and keep the extremism and the demonisation at bay and out of our country? We have to spread the ideas that will end hate. One day, I am sure, the scales will fall from the eyes of the Israel haters, as they did in relation to our views about communism when that came to an end after decades of death. Sixty years ago, who would have imagined that there would be a black president of the United States, that South Africa would be free and that communism would come to an end? We should not give up hope.

But there is a lack of human rights and deficient legal systems in the area. Any criticism of human rights law in this country is barely tolerated, yet in the Middle East we see daily, and have done for years, massacres and hangings, such as in Iran where nearly 1,000 have been hanged since Rouhani came to power. We see stonings for adultery, beheadings, amputation and the persecution of Christians—except in Israel. It is the demonisation and intolerance of minorities and refugees that are the source of much of the conflict. The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are barred from

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working in certain professions and cannot register property. Their situation is equally bad in Egypt, and they are banned from acquiring citizenship in Arab League states. Thousands have died and been starved in Syria. Even in Turkey there is interference with the judiciary and there are bans on social media. Yet, as others have said, we do not see the same level of protest here—only against Israel. Will there be protests against the Egyptian removal of 10,000 people in order to create a trench barrier against Gaza?

In Israel, we know that the Christian population is flourishing. It is a land of human rights, the only place where this is the case in the Middle East. There is equality and universal suffrage. Gay rights are tolerated—again, uniquely in the area. One-third of the students at Haifa University are Arabs. There is collaboration between Palestinians and Israelis over water research at Ben-Gurion University. I think that we can see that this is not exclusively a territorial dispute. Is it not because they are Jewish? The Israel conflict is rooted in demonisation, in dismay at the Arab failure to take advantage of, or contribute to, modern developments—hence, the fear and jealousy.

We should also be very wary of the many millions of dollars being poured into some of our universities by Gulf states. They are the largest source of donors to higher education. Beware Qataris bearing gifts. The funds are almost invariably in support of Islamic studies and Arabic, rather than for general purposes, which raises the suspicion that it is being done in order to change perceptions and gain influence. We have not got peace in exchange, simply a breeding ground for extremism in our student bodies.

It strains credulity that speakers in this debate should perceive the Israel-Palestine conflict as a major issue in comparison with what else is going on. A great deal of time has been spent on the recognition of Palestine as a state. The Palestinians could have had a state in 1947 and on many occasions since. I now wonder whether the demands for statehood, as an end to occupation and refugees, are genuine. Is it, as its leaders have stated, designed to be merely one more step in the ultimate goal, in keeping with caliphate ideology, of overrunning Israel—where, conveniently, 6 million Jews are gathered?

I say this because of the quite extraordinary statement by Palestinian leaders that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of a Palestinian state, whether they reside there or outside, and that they would continue to be supported by UNRWA. So we are not talking about a two-state solution, or even a one-state solution, but a three-state aim: the occupation of Jordan, the originally intended home, now with a half–Palestinian population; Gaza and the West Bank— a second state; and Israel itself.

Palestine, if recognised now, would be just one more failed state in the area, an area not currently wedded to national states. Its leaders have declared that it would be forbidden for any Jews to live there, and one can well imagine how any religious minority would be treated there. It would be a state with no minorities, no income, no support services and, unbelievably, no citizens or returned expatriates. So what would it be for, other than as a launching pad for attacks on territory and in the ICC?

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I am sorry that in her resignation letter the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, blamed our policies for radicalisation here. No government can shape its policy for fear that its own citizens will bomb and behead others within its own territories as a result. Given our indecision over Syria, our vacillations over human rights and our failure to acknowledge the territorial and sectarian dimensions, the noble Baroness’s resignation and the lack of UK strategy have not helped to promote peace. Indeed, the UK has less influence than ever before in recent history in the region. It would be wilful to pretend that we could be a major player or a deliverer of peace. All we can do is emphasise human rights and tolerance in the area, and side with our true allies. As a footnote, if our dependence on oil were reduced, self-interest would be less important than moral principles and the achievement of peace.

1.50 pm

Lord Cope of Berkeley (Con): My Lords, my interest in the Middle East also centres on Palestine-Israel. Like others, I have come to the opinion that Britain should now recognise Palestine. My interest stems from the fact that my wife was born there and, indeed, was the third generation to be born in Jerusalem of western Christian families who went to the Holy Land in the 19th century. Her family, with others, still owns a hotel there and is involved in a children’s charity. I am a trustee of the UK friends of the Palestine music conservatory.

I have therefore been visiting occupied Palestine, primarily east Jerusalem, for more than 45 years. I was last there in August during the latest blitz on Gaza. My visits are for family and charity reasons. I meet friends, businessmen, clergy and so on but rarely politicians. For that reason, I have rarely spoken about the subject in your Lordships’ House. But when you are there you cannot help seeing the politics.

I have seen the settlements grow and grow over the 45 years. My noble friend Lady Warsi gave some figures. I was interested and pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, and the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, withheld their support from the settlements policy of the Israeli Government. I have seen the razor wire, the wall and the checkpoints. You only have to go by bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to know how appallingly the Palestinians are routinely treated at the checkpoints.

The two-state solution, which I believe is the only hope of lasting peace for Israel and Palestine, is evaporating before our eyes. Huge new illegal building projects have been announced recently. Another 1,000 homes in Har Homa have been announced this week. This is more modern subsidised housing for Jewish immigrants but no building permits, even for a home extension, are allowed to native Palestinians. On Tuesday, I read in the newspaper that Palestinians are to be barred from using public buses in the West Bank. They are already forbidden from using many of the main roads in their own country.

The noble Lord, Lord Sacks, who has just left, made a moving speech but I say to him that it is these actions of the Israelis which make them hated, stoke up violence and act as recruiting sergeants for Hamas. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, objected to the use of the word “apartheid” in respect of Israel, but “apartheid”

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is not too strong a word to describe Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories. Archbishop Tutu used the word after he had been to see it for himself.

On Tuesday, in another place, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said:

“The settlements are illegal and building them is intended to undermine the prospects of the peace process. We must not allow that to happen”.—[Official Report, Commons, 28/10/14; col. 171.]

I agree with that but have we any influence left? It still is happening.

The late General Matti Peled was one of the toughest Israeli soldiers in the 1948 and 1967 wars. After retiring, he became a professor of Arabic literature. Just after the 1967 war, when the Israeli army captured the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan, he told his fellow generals that Israel should offer the Palestinians a state of their own. He forecast that if it kept those lands it would turn Israel into an increasingly brutal occupying power. He was right in his forecast.

Some time ago, Her Majesty’s Government concluded that the Palestinian Authority fulfils the criteria for statehood and UN membership. We were told that recognition was a tactical matter and should wait until there is progress on negotiations. In other words, as has already been said, Israel should have a veto. We know that they will use the time for their extremists to build far more homes over the occupied land, to oppress the people and to drive them out.

If we are to influence it, we need a dramatic gesture from this country to shake the peace process out of the mothballs. I believe, with Sir Vincent Fean, until recently our consul-general, that recognition would advance the peace process by giving hope to Palestinians and by helping the moderates on both sides: that is, the Palestinians who believe in peace and work for peace in co-operation with Israel; and the Israelis who hate what is done in their name—the separation wall, the house demolitions and the imprisonment of thousands without trial—who think about the long-term future and who do not think it inevitable that they should for ever live behind walls in a permanent state of war with their neighbours.

I also believe that recognition could start the sort of process, about which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, spoke, as regards development in Gaza and elsewhere. If we believe, as I do, that the two-state solution can bring lasting peace to the Holy Land, we should act on that basis and recognise Palestine as the second state, just as we recognised Israel all those years ago. Sometimes it seems as if we British are bystanders who can have no influence on what happens. But we helped to create the situation and we have a special responsibility in all this. My father was a soldier in Palestine under General Allenby in 1918. In 1920, we—the British—undertook the mandate to guide Palestine to independence. Recognition is our last duty under the mandate.

1.57 pm

Lord Desai (Lab): My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. Of all 35 speakers, I am the only one who is not a child of Abraham, which at least relieves me of a lot of responsibility for the situation in the Middle East. I see the Middle Eastern situation as an unsolved problem

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caused by the First World War. Lots of problems were posed by the First World War and solving them has occupied much of the 20th century. For example, I do not think that the problem of Germany was solved until 1991, when it became a united democratic country and part of the liberal democratic order. The repercussions of the Bolshevik revolution took until 1991 to sort out; eastern Europe was finally freed at that time. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, referred to the Middle East and the problem of the Ottoman Empire.

As a principal ally in the First World War, we knew that the Ottoman Empire would lose the war and decline, and that we would demolish it. As part of that, there was the Sykes-Picot treaty, which I have mentioned before in this House, and the Balfour Declaration. The Sykes-Picot treaty drew arbitrary boundaries and all that ISIS has shown is how arbitrary those boundaries are as to where nations can be formed.

My own view is a very pessimistic one. I do not think there will ever be a two-state solution. I do not think the two-state solution was ever the best thing to do. I remember in Labour Party discussions back in the 1970s, we thought a single multi-faith state was the only solution to the Palestine-Israel problem and that is not going to happen. The single multi-faith state is not going to happen; the two-state solution is not going to happen; there is going to be occupation; there will be things built on occupied territory; and there will be a continual war. It is somewhat like Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films, in which two sides fight and fight until they have both destroyed each other— and that is when peace prevails. Maybe I am being too pessimistic but, realistically, after all these years, I do not see why it should be solved.