I am much more concerned, however, about what is happening in the rest of the Middle East. I have spoken on this before. I believe that this is one of the most tragic situations for the Muslim world that we have witnessed in recent years. I think it was the noble Baronesses, Lady Falkner and Lady Nicholson, who mentioned the genocide of the Yazidis. That is indeed a very serious problem. But Muslims are killing Muslims in the highest numbers possible. Sunnis are killing Sunnis, Sunnis are killing Shias and the other way around. It has not just been going on for four years. This Middle East war has been going on for 40 years, more or less since 1973, after the last Arab-Israeli war, which was lost by the Arabs. As the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, said in his brilliant speech, at that stage the Muslims lost their faith in a secular democratic alternative. They decided that they had to abandon secularism, abandon all those stories of socialism and so on, and go back to religion.

The religion they have gone back to has been heavily subsidised by Saudi Arabia, and is a particularly extreme form of Islam: Wahhabism. Then you have Islamism, which has done more to destroy Muslim majority states than it has done harm to us. We are all worried about terrorism coming to our shores, but what Islamists have done to Algeria and other countries, in both the Maghreb and the Middle East, is very serious. From Pakistan to Algeria, Islamism is the enemy of Muslim-majority states.

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There is nothing much we can do but we have to be aware that, because we have gone in—we have been in and out—this war will not be over any time soon. There is no quick solution to the ISIL or ISIS problem. We will have to, if not destroy it, at least de-fang it. We cannot kill an ideology but it will become less harmful than before.

I will say two more things, which I have said before but are worth repeating. The first is we have never had a large international conference on all the problems of the Middle East. Versailles was not a great success but at least everybody got into it. I have said this before. Again and again from the government Benches, I have been told to forget it, but I will say it once more. The problems of Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and even Israel and Palestine are interconnected. They have a common history. We cannot solve one without solving the others. It is at least worth trying, even while the war is going on. We owe ourselves and the Muslim population of the world, something better than what is going on right now.

Lastly, a lot of people have remarked that many of our young people have gone to Syria or Iraq to fight for ISIL. I think we should not call them extremists and we should not threaten them with immediate arrest and prosecution if they come back. These are our children. Some of our other children take to alcohol, take to drugs and join gangs, and we see the effects of that. When we see that, we feel we ought to do something positive to get them out of their addiction and out of their problems. Now some young people—men and women—have taken to believing in extremism. It happens. It is very attractive to believe that you have a higher cause than your daily living in a rich consumer-oriented society. So they have gone there. However, it is up to us to understand why they have gone there and tell them that when they come back we will try to rehabilitate them and help them re-establish their lives, and not immediately threaten them with prosecution. If they are fed up with ISIL, they will want to come back. We ought to welcome them.

2.05 pm

Baroness Tonge (Ind LD): My Lords, I would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Risby, for securing this debate. It has been important that so many other noble Lords have talked about Palestine: not just for the sake of the Palestinians, but for the sake of Israel, too, because that country’s future is being put in jeopardy by its present Government.

As we saw yesterday, the propaganda coming out of the Israeli embassy now is to concentrate on Hamas, the so-called terrorists who of course many people in the Middle East see as freedom fighters—we must remember that. Hamas was helped in its creation by Israel, which did not like Fatah, and Hamas won the European Union-monitored election in 2006. Hamas was then refused permission to lead the Government in Palestine. Hamas had its MPs arrested and put in Israeli prisons. Most of them are still there. Yet since 2009, Hamas has been saying—and this is from Khaled Meshaal—that it will recognise the state of Israel in the 1967 borders. No one likes to publicise that. Hamas deserves the right to defend the people of Gaza against the relentless blockade and helicopter gunships over

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that area, targeting and killing so-called terrorists and, more often, many innocent civilians. The people of Gaza have a right to be defended, too.

I want to discuss what I see as the wider ramifications of failing to deal with the need for the Palestinians to have their own state. Since entering the House of Commons in 1997, I have worked and travelled mainly in the field of international development, working on women's health issues and refugees. I have stayed in the meanest of camps and tents and among the people we are trying to help. One of the things I have heard from the 1990s onwards from refugees and others, especially those who are Muslim, is that Palestine is what the West, through its unquestioning support for Israel, “does” to Muslims. Stories are passed around and film footage is watched avidly over and over. You may say it is propaganda—much of it may be—but it is very effective. I will not take time on personal anecdotes; I have too many.

It is no surprise to me, therefore, that with our continuing support for Israel, more and more extreme Islamic groups have emerged determined to get their own back on the West, through terrorism. It is no surprise either that a recent incident in Canada, and an exposed terrorist plot in Australia, have followed attacks in our country and the USA. Both of these countries have unhesitatingly supported Israel with the USA and the United Kingdom.

Why can our leaders not see what damage we are doing by supporting the unspeakable policies of Israel, which breaks international law and Geneva conventions and totally ignores the human rights of Palestinians? It is time to be honest and ask what the real reason is. Why do we give this rogue Government our support? There are several reasons people will mention: Holocaust guilt—quite right—oil and security. But in my opinion and the opinion of many people who are afraid to say it publicly—but I will—there is none so important as the thing that dare not speak its name. I am talking about the activities of the lobby, in this country and in America, AIPAC in America and BICOM here, plus the groups called Friends of Israel in supporting and cajoling and fundraising and launching websites and letter-writing campaigns and e-mail storms, and not supporting MPs or parties if they refuse to give Israel support. Those of us who challenge the lobby are threatened and disposed of by our leaders as best they can. David Ward, my colleague in the other place, is currently fighting yet another battle against the lobby as I speak.

All lobbies are dangerous and undemocratic; the pro-Israel lobby is not the only one, but it is particularly dangerous in this context. Money and influence win over truth and justice, and the West sinks lower and lower in the world’s esteem because of it. The so-called Islamic State—and it really angers me that we persist in calling it that when it is neither Islamic nor a state—is the latest disgusting manifestation of angst in the Middle East. It marches on, followed by limp bombing campaigns from western alliances and silence over Israel’s atrocities in Gaza and the West Bank. The Middle East descends into hell, and we will follow if we do not do something to stop the slide.

Stopping Israel’s land and water grab and its brutal treatment of Palestinians would not solve everything—of course I am aware of that; it is too late for miracles—but

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it is at the root of the problems. Supporting a secure state of Palestine would be a huge and important gesture to show that we really care about western values, and will apply them equally all over the world where there is injustice—especially in Israel.

2.11 pm

Lord Leigh of Hurley (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Risby for instigating this debate. Although it refers to the current situation in the Middle East, I am not surprised that Israel has attracted a disproportionate amount of interest. I can think of no other country that attracts so much attention in this House. I can also think of no other country that it is so completely misunderstood. I declare my interest now as a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and I suppose I ought to declare my interest as being Jewish. I do not regard myself as part of a lobby. I regard being open, saying what you have on your mind and being principled as something that we are in this House to do, and to suggest otherwise—that we are part of a lobby—is a slur.

Israel is unique in the Middle East. It embodies those values which we in the United Kingdom hold so dear: freedom, democracy, equality and human rights. It stands alone in the region as a true functioning democracy. Israel has a proud history of ensuring that all its citizens enjoy protected freedoms and human rights. Israel’s universal suffrage and democratic political environment has, as a result, produced a strong civil society. Israel is ranked as the only “free” country in the Middle East and north Africa by the independent organisation, Freedom House, which measures these things.

Israel is comprised of people who practise a variety of faiths and no faith, and all enjoy full rights to do so without fear of persecution or unequal treatment under the law, unlike nearly every other country in the Middle East. Notably, Israel is one of the very few places in the Middle East where Christians are not endangered but are flourishing. Since Israel’s foundation in 1948, its Christian communities have expanded by more than 1,000%. Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Nazareth priest, told the United Nations Human Rights Council only a few days ago:

“Christians comprised 20% of the population of the Middle East … Today they comprise only 4% … Christians in the Middle East are marginalised; their rights denied, their property stolen, their honour violated, their men killed, and their children displaced”.

He went on to say that,

“there’s only one safe place where Christians are not persecuted. One place where they are protected, enjoying freedom of worship and expression, living in peace and not subjected to killing and genocide. It is Israel, the country I live in. The Jewish state is the only safe place where the Christians of the Holy Land live in safety”.

This comes at a time when Christians and other religious minorities in neighbouring countries are contending with state-sponsored repression and the brutality of terrorist organisations such as the reprehensible ISIS. Moreover, as my noble friend Lord Palmer said, Jewish people have, over the years, been forcibly expelled from all the Arab countries where they lived peaceably and happily for many centuries. In a region so tragically blighted by totalitarianism and religious fundamentalism, Israel’s remarkable

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democratic success story deserves far greater credit. The story is the same for women, homosexuals and the press. Uniquely, Israel protects the freedoms of them all.

All this is not to say that Israel is perfect. No country is. My noble friend Lady Warsi will be pleased to learn I, too, have deep reservations about the Israeli Government’s current plan for settlements. Recent announcements by the Israeli Government on settlements are concerning. The announcement in August to appropriate 1,000 acres of land in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank just south of Jerusalem rightly elicited a strong response from the international community. Likewise, this week’s news that plans are advancing to construct 1,000 housing units in east Jerusalem is unfortunate. While settlements are unhelpful to the ongoing peace process, it is wrong to suggest that they are an insurmountable obstacle. They are one of the main final status issues to be resolved in direct peace talks.

Additionally, much of the construction takes place in existing settlement blocs along the so-called green line. It is a long-established principle that those settlements along the green line will be retained by Israel as part of a final peace agreement, with the Palestinians compensated by equivalent land swaps. Israel, driven by the policy of “land for peace”, has a track record of removing settlements to help give momentum to peace. Its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 was a major gesture. It now stands as a genuine opportunity missed by the Palestinians to develop Gaza into what could have been a prosperous territory.

Her Majesty’s Government can be proud of their record in supporting Israel and standing by the basic principle that a country has the right to protect itself against rocket attacks on its civilians which have led, and may still lead, to many civilian casualties. Peace talks earlier this year were thrown into disarray when President Abbas violated an agreement to abstain from unilateral action, even after Israel agreed to follow the next steps outlined by Kerry.

A lasting two-state solution requires a negotiated final peace agreement. Unlike Gaza, Israel’s historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are testament to what can be achieved by direct negotiations. Unilateral actions and grandstanding by the Palestinian Authority simply drive a wedge between the two parties and make a peace agreement less likely. Even worse, perhaps, grandstanding in the UK and Europe by otherwise respectable politicians for short-term domestic political objectives is really regrettable.

Fatah’s unity Government with Hamas should sound alarm bells. Hamas, it must not be forgotten, is an internationally recognised terror organisation that displays some of the ghastly characteristics of ISIS. I am amazed that so many fail to see the similarities between ISIS, Hamas and Hezbollah in terms of their tactics, operations and, even more so, their funding. No peace agreement will be able to guarantee peace in the medium to long term if a generation of Palestinians is growing up indoctrinated to hate Israel and Jews. Sadly, evidence of EU-funded schoolbooks encouraging such hatred has been discovered, which is very depressing and worrying.

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In summary, Israel can be described only as a force for good in a region experiencing great transformative turmoil. The UK benefits from its relationship with Israel. UK trade with Israel continues to grow inexorably to more than £2.5 billion. I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will join me in hoping that one day in the near future, Israel can be at peace with a viable and successful state of Palestine, and able to share its borders with newly invigorated and genuinely democratic Arab states.

2.19 pm

Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope (LD): My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this debate. I refer noble Lords to my interests in the register. In the course of my work for a Foreign and Commonwealth Office-sponsored project, I regularly visit Iraq and have been doing so for some time. I am not in any sense an international expert, but I have learnt a lot from this debate and I think it is right that the noble Lord, Lord Risby, has taken the opportunity to give the House a serious, five-hour slot.

I am looking at the Minister when I say that I hope we do not have to rely on party groupings. I pay tribute to the Conservative group for thinking that this is an important enough subject to table it for a five-hour debate but we should not forget that it is the Government’s responsibility to make sure that the House has opportunities to discuss the region as a whole. I hope the Minister will not think that this has now been dealt with for the rest of the Session. There is still important time to be spent on this subject.

I want to make it as easy as I can for the Minister so that she can tick my box very quickly. In the middle of all the high politics and strategy—only a fraction of which I understand—I want to spend a few moments looking at the internal difficulties faced by the new Administration in Iraq. Will the Minister assure the House that she will do everything in her power to assist the new Government? They are at a very critical point and some of the new, major players—Dr Haider al-Abadi and others—are all very well disposed towards the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, and other noble Lords said that soft power is an important player. We may not have the fire power or the economic power that we would like, or have had in the past, but we are listened to with great respect. That is due partly to the excellence of our diplomatic mission and the professionals, particularly the Arabists, who devote their lives to understanding not just the language, but also the internal workings of some of these quite complex cultures and nations. The noble Lord, Lord Wright, knows all about this because he is one of them.

The background to the incoming new Government is seen very differently from Baghdad. On top of everything else, the professional classes are absent. Even if they take the right political decisions and have the money, the implementation of some of these policies is nearly impossible for a unique and understandable set of security reasons; namely, if you can get your family to safety in a European or other country, why would you not take the opportunity to do so? The Iraqi Government have a serious problem in getting done things that they know need to be done even if

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they have the money. There are all sorts of shortages which can be readily seen on the inside, such as lack of utilities. There are also some big issues of desertification and water resources. Having seen it for myself, I am absolutely persuaded that this new Government are on the cusp of being able to get started and exercise their authority. The early signs are good. I am optimistic about what can be done. They are looking at security; they are looking at public utilities; and they are looking at achieving a stable political settlement. They are dealing with the ideology of insurgency as well as difficult military and security issues. It is also worth remembering that, although it was with the assistance of General Petraeus at the time, al-Qaeda and its ideology have been defeated in the past. Therefore, it is not impossible. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Nicholson whose work in this field is indefatigable.

In the time I have left I should like to make some suggestions. The new ambassador needs support. I have not met Mr Baker yet, but he needs support in handling some of the situations that he is facing. I was very pleased that the Foreign Secretary took the trouble to go to Baghdad himself. That visit was extremely successful. I was also pleased that the Foreign Affairs Committee of the other place took the time and trouble to visit. That has made a difference too. I know that the Minister does not have direct responsibility for that part of the world, although she is in charge of everything she surveys—once a Chief Whip, always a Chief Whip—but I am relying on her to rattle a few cages. It is not just Foreign Office Ministers; sometimes it is Education Ministers who need to go to pick up some of the problems and give assistance where it is required. The Minister said previously that there was a real drive for decentralisation in Baghdad. If Dr al-Abadi’s Government can sort some of their other problems and have the trust that they need for devolving power, that would make a huge difference to building the trust which is absent at the moment.

There are other things which we can do more directly ourselves. Why do we not have an Iraqi business group? My noble friend Lady Nicholson is executive chairman of the Iraq-Britain Business Council which does extremely valuable work. Other countries, such as India and China, have dedicated business groups which focus government activity in Whitehall on the problems of the respective countries. Will the Minister consider whether the time is right to do that in Iraq? Will she also reflect with her ministerial team whether it is possible to give our new ambassador more discretion in giving visas to key people? Business people and politicians who are visiting this country still have to go through a very arduous process. Until recently, they had to have a job to get a visa. That is ridiculous. There are other countries, such as China and India, where ambassadors, who know and can speak personally for potential visitors, have more discretion over visas.

Finally, there are three areas where Iraq is seeking help from the United Kingdom because of the connections that already exist. These are in health care, in education—particularly through some of the excellent work done by Universities UK—and in financial services. In all of these areas there are contracts to be won and business to be done. Of course the security is difficult, but it is manageable if proper precautions are taken.

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People watching the television might think that Iraq is a wrecked country. It is nothing of the kind. With a fair wind and with support from friends, it has a future, but it will not be able to do it by itself. It needs help from people like ourselves.

2.27 pm

Lord Wright of Richmond (CB): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Risby for opening this debate and I agree with everything that both he and the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said about recognising the state of Palestine. It is 15 years since the European Union agreed the Palestinian right to self-determination. When the Minister comes to wind up this debate, I hope that she will be able to give us some encouragement to believe that Her Majesty’s Government might now be prepared to follow up that important vote in the other place with formal recognition.

In my brief remarks, I propose nevertheless to concentrate on our attempt to confront the threat of the so-called Islamic State—ISIS, ISIL, or Da’ish as it is now called in an Arabic acronym—in both Iraq and Syria. Let us remember that this is something which not only threatens us in the West but also, ironically, presents a serious threat to those states in the Arabian peninsula from which much of its funding appears to have originated.

Many others, better qualified than I, tell me that air attacks on ISIS-controlled areas are having, or are likely to have, very little significant effect. One wonders whether any western military action can expect to defeat a movement which is now reported to have 60% support among young Jordanians and 90% support among Saudis, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said. I hope the Minister can tell the House whether the Syrian national coalition, described recently in a letter to me from one of her ministerial colleagues as,

“the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people”,

are playing any effective part in confronting this threat.

I believe that there are strong arguments, both security and consular, why we should now be talking to the Government in Damascus, even though, or rather because, they have been involved in appalling breaches of human rights. Yesterday’s report in the press of a 17 year-old Briton, who died as a jihadist in Syria, carried a Foreign Office comment that it was difficult to get confirmation,

“since Britain has no diplomats in Syria”.

Surely, we should be talking to not only the Government in Damascus but also their principal supporters in Moscow and Tehran, who are reported to be trying to co-ordinate their operations in Syria and Iraq. Surely, our diplomats should be talking to all three Governments about how to confront a threat which has not only occupied a significant portion of Syria’s sovereign territory but which also poses a threat, perhaps even more imminent, to Russia’s southern borders and to Iran than it does to us.

I understand the reasons why Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine makes us reluctant to be seen to enter into a dialogue with Russian diplomats on other subjects of interest to both of us. I also understand why our American allies have been reluctant to be seen to be talking to the Iranian Government about subjects other than their nuclear development. As I suggested

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to the Minister at Question Time today in the context of Iran, surely the threat of ISIS to all of us is serious enough to require a reassessment of our diplomacy and of where our interests lie. I hope that the Minister, when she comes to reply, will be able to give the House some reassurance on these points.

2.31 pm

Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, previous speeches have illustrated that this is a region of mixed news. There is good news about the second peaceful elections in Tunisia, where the Islamist party has accepted that it has lost the election. There is also good news about Egypt. Although it has a state of emergency in the Sinai and daily terrorist attacks, it is moving towards democracy again—not perfectly, as the imprisonment of journalists illustrates, but, as the Anglican Bishop Mouneer stated,

“For the first time Egyptians feel that they own their country. Every shortcoming is brought into the light by the people. Indeed the wall of fear of the government has been demolished”.

Of course, there is bad news again in Iraq. Winter is descending and the humanitarian needs are acute. While militarily arming the Kurds is the only option at the moment, it is not without risk, as Turkey with its PKK issue fears. The Iraqi army needs air strikes and the Kurds need modern weaponry, but a ground offensive to remove IS will take many months.

Is not now the time, ironically, to obtain reassurances from the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish regional government to secure a political settlement for the Iraqi minority communities in the east of the Nineveh plain? The Assyrian Christians, Turkmen and Shabak Muslims and the Yezidis are not Arab and are not Kurdish and have been a particular target for IS. There was an initial call by some in the West for a mass exodus, but this would just give IS what it wants. In fact, the leaders I have met want a safe haven so they can remain in the region. This would not be yet more unwelcome international interference, as Article 125 in Iraq’s constitution states:

“This Constitution shall guarantee the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights of the various nationalities, such as Turkomen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and all other constituents”.

In fact, earlier this year, the Assyrian International News Agency reported that the Iraq Council of Ministers had approved a proposal for a new province in the Nineveh plain bordering the Kurdish areas, which has—or had—the largest population of Assyrians in Iraq. This represented a state attempt to curb the exodus of Christians from Iraq and would have given them some political and economic autonomy. I would be grateful to know what representations have been made on this by Her Majesty’s Government to the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish regional government. Otherwise, there is a risk that, once IS is removed from the region, UK weapons could get into the hands of the Kurds and might be used to prevent these people returning to the Nineveh plain—an area rich in natural resources which the Kurds allegedly wish to annex.

IS is in extreme denial of Article 18 rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and states, “You cannot choose your religion, you must choose ours or you die”. I declare an interest as the chair of

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the all-party group looking at Article 18. Recent developments in the region are acute reminders of how deeply religious it is and how deeply religious beliefs interact with issues of governance, conflict and security.

I echo the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Sacks. We should heed the world renowned sociologist, Peter Berger, who was one of the leading sociologists at the forefront of advocating the secularisation thesis in the 1960s. In 1999, he recanted his earlier claims and said:

“The world today, with some exceptions … is as furiously religious as it ever was, and in some places more so than ever. This means that a whole body of literature by historians and social scientists loosely labeled ‘secularization theory’ is essentially mistaken”.

Only yesterday, the Egyptian Foreign Minister told MPs and Peers that what they need to defeat is a religious narrative given to young people—young people who at a pivotal point in their lives are forming their ideas via Twitter and Facebook. And this region is young. Nearly 37% of Iraqis are under the age of 14 and 50% of Egyptians are under the age of 24. Therefore, I very much applaud the welcome focus by Her Majesty’s Government on understanding the place of religion and religious actors in countering violent extremism. The Foreign Office has increased its responses to human rights abuses emerging from denial of freedom of religion or belief by state and non-state actors.

However, there is still a substantial gap in UK responses to issues of ethno-religious conflict not only in the Middle East but across Africa and south Asia. I sense that western Europe has woken up abruptly to religion as an intrinsic aspect of developments in the world. Have the UK Government evaluated whether their structures have the relevant expertise in analysing the dynamic relationship between religion, conflict, democracy, peace and stability so that we are equipped to offer timely policy proposals and guidance to policymakers? The Foreign Office has taken the challenge on board to engage with religion and human rights issues and offers religious literacy training to its staff. Has this model spread across our Government?

The UK’s primary agency in addressing conflicts, peace and state building, DfID, seems to be lagging behind. DfID has substantial resources and a pool of highly educated staff, and there is synergy between the Ministry of Defence, DfID and the FCO in the conflict stabilisation unit. Does this unit have the expertise, training and programming focus on how the UK should understand and respond to increasingly religious-related challenges in today’s world? Developing such a response will not add any substantial burden to either staffing or budget but would be a good step in the right direction by providing relevant training to staff and inviting external experts as advisers.

This is not an optional extra for UK engagement with the world but a grounded response to a world that is deeply religious—more than 80% of the world’s population has a religious affiliation and identity—and where religious actors, organisations, languages and ideas play a major role in preventing conflicts but also creating new ones. This speech may remind your Lordships of debates at university student unions entitled, “Does religion cause war?”, but at our peril we do not ask, or equip ourselves to answer, the converse question, “How do wars affect religions and religious people?”.

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2.38 pm

Lord Turnberg (Lab): My Lords, I, too, very much appreciate the balanced and impressive way in which the noble Lord, Lord Risby, introduced this debate. Just as he said, the Arab spring came as a complete surprise, and the terrible winter that has followed seems to have caught most people unawares, too.

It is not impossible to imagine that we will see the establishment of an extreme fundamentalist Islamic state across a large swathe of the Middle East within a few years; and if you think that this will be dangerous for the West and a severe threat to many countries in the Middle East, then just imagine what it must mean for that 15 or 20 mile-wide narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean coast known as Israel.

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is a burning issue that desperately needs resolving but it is hard to credit the idea of some that this is the cause of all the rest of the problems in the Middle East. But it is undoubtedly the case that the rise of ISIS, the unstable situation in Egypt, and a nuclear Iran all have a marked influence on Israel and the Palestinians as they search for peace. There should be no doubt that Israel wants to live in peace with its neighbours; its future is entirely dependent on it. However, it is negotiation between the two parties that is the key there.

Even though the overall shape of what a two-state solution might look like has been clear for some time, nothing is so simple and there are many sticking points. Israeli Government settlement policies are clearly problematic and win them few friends around the world. However, it is clear that the settlement issue is not the only problem or even the main one, as we saw a couple of years ago when there was a freeze on settlements for 10 months in the vain hope that this would bring Mr Abbas back to the table and when, instead, he raised new pre-conditions. The right of return and the status of Jerusalem remain open for discussion and the inability of Mr. Abbas to recognise Israel as a Jewish state is problematic.

From Israel’s point of view it is always the three problems: security, security and security, which now is even more significant as the fundamentalist threat of ISIS looms large just a few miles away. Israelis are all too aware that withdrawal from Gaza and southern Lebanon was immediately followed by the rise of Hamas and Hezbollah, each posing considerable threats with their rockets and missiles, backed up by repeated threats to remove Israel from the face of the earth. Imagine, then, what would happen after a peace deal if Hamas gains power in the West Bank, as is entirely possible. What, too, if the long, currently peaceful, border with Jordan is changed into a severely dangerous one in which an ISIS-driven fundamentalism sweeps across Jordan? Either case would leave extremely antagonistic forces within a mile of Israel’s Parliament and its international airport.

Furthermore, Israel does not view with any equanimity the unstable position in Egypt, with the Muslim Brotherhood overflowing into the Sinai desert along another long, exposed border with Israel. When some say, therefore, that Israel should not be so concerned with security, they clearly cannot have heard the voices

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of Hamas and others spewing out a rhetoric of death and destruction to Jews in general and Israel in particular. If some suggest that Israel should rely on an international peacekeeping force to act as a buffer, they have not noticed what happened when the UN forces in the Golan were captured recently and had to flee, or the ineffectiveness of the UN in southern Lebanon in preventing the build-up of huge numbers of long-range missiles in the villages there. Nor do international bodies now seem to be capable of preventing the avowed aims of Hamas to rearm and rebuild its tunnels into Israel.

Of course, Israel has its own problems, with many within Israel voicing strong opposition to government policies. But the point here is that it is a democratic, multicultural society, where almost a quarter of its population is Arab and, somewhat surprisingly, there is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood among its Arab-elected Members of Parliament. Opposing views are frequently and vehemently expressed without fear of being shot, as happened recently in Gaza when a dozen citizens were dragged out of a mosque and shot in the head for daring to voice opposition to Hamas. The terrible, tragic loss of civilian life in the recent conflict in Gaza was greeted with distress by many in Israel, but when accusations of “proportionality” are levelled, they wonder why similar accusations are not being levelled against the West when, in our efforts to bomb ISIS, we are killing large numbers of women and children in Syria and Iraq. Where is the proportionality there—or, indeed, in Kosovo a few years ago?

Israeli society is far from uniform and has very mixed views about its conflict with the Palestinians. However, the vast majority believe that the Palestinians should have a state of their own, and that can happen only through negotiation with Israel. After all, each party is most concerned with what their neighbour will look like; where their borders will be; whether they will choose conflict or peace; or what position they will adopt about Jerusalem. Only negotiation with Israel will do it. It is negotiation that we should be pressing on both Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas, not encouraging a vain search for a status from a world that is in no position to grant it.

We in the UK should be seeking allies in the Middle East that Britain sorely needs. What conversations are our Government having with the Jordanians, the Egyptians and the Saudi Arabians about their reactions to the jihadi threats? Qatar seems to be playing a particularly cynical and dangerous role in all this mix and mayhem. What reassurances did the Prime Minister receive in his recent conversations with the Emir of Qatar about the funding of terrorist groups in ISIS, Hamas and Hezbollah?

I hope that the Minister will expand on these questions and on the Government’s position on the Palestine and Israel negotiations.

2.44 pm

Lord Sheikh (Con): My Lords, today I would like to focus particularly on the role of Islam in the conflicts we are seeing in the Middle East. I believe that it is important for the honest, peace-seeking, law-abiding majority of Muslims in this country and overseas to

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speak out against those who commit evil in the name of our religion. The so-called jihadists in Iraq and Syria do not understand the principles of Islam. They are harming women and children, forcibly converting people of other religions to Islam and committing barbaric acts. There are clear rules of engagement in Islam relating to warfare, which were laid down by Prophet Muhammad—peace be upon him—and Caliph Abu Bakr.

Those rules include the following: give diplomacy a chance before battle starts; respect treaties; do not harm women, children, the elderly and religious persons; do not destroy crops and trees; protect all places of worship; treat well all prisoners of war; and allow the bodies of soldiers slain in battle to be buried in dignity. These rules of engagement were laid down well before the Geneva conventions. The acts of the so-called jihadists are totally unIslamic and we utterly condemn what they have done and are doing.

In the 7th century when Muslims conquered Jerusalem, Caliph Omar signed the first Jerusalem declaration, which preserved the rights of existence and ensured the well-being of everyone in Jerusalem. Subsequently, when Saladin conquered Jerusalem in 1187, he allowed people of all faiths to live in peace. Before him, when Christians conquered Jerusalem in 1099, they mercilessly massacred all Muslims and Jews. In time of warfare Muslims should follow the examples set by Caliph Omar and Saladin.

The so-called jihadists are forcibly converting people to Islam. That is not allowed in Islam. It is written in the Holy Koran that there is no compulsion in religion. In regard to treatment of non-Muslims by the so-called jihadists and our relationship with other communities, I emphasise that it is written in the Holy Koran that Allah says:

“O mankind! We created you male and female and made you nations and tribes, that you may know one another”.

We live in the United Kingdom, which is very much a multicultural society, and it is important that we maintain and strengthen relationships with everyone in the country. Unfortunately there is a tiny minority of Muslims who have committed acts of terrorism in the United Kingdom and also countries overseas. Islam forbids act of terrorism and suicide bombings. It is written in the Holy Koran:

“If anyone killed a person … it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind”.

In regard to our military involvement in Iraq and Syria we must have a clear plan about what we should do when the conflict is over. Defeating an enemy is not enough; we must have a strategy to win the hearts and minds of people and create peace after the conflict. We invaded Iraq without an effective plan to be put in practice when Saddam Hussein was defeated. What was the result? The result was that a million people have died and we have created fragmentation and division between different communities and religious groups. It has led also to infighting between the Iraqis and the involvement of outsiders. I am pleased that we now have an inclusive Government in Iraq.

In regard to the present military conflict, we need to be careful who we supply the arms to. The situation is complex and the scenario is changing. The arms

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may fall into the hands of people who may create further problems in Syria, Iraq and friendly countries such as Turkey. In regard to Libya, there was no clear strategy after Gaddafi was toppled, and infighting and chaotic conditions prevail at the present time.

A tiny minority of young Muslims in the United Kingdom have chosen to join terrorist groups overseas. These young people have been radicalised. Parents, community and religious leaders have a role to play in ensuring that individuals do not fall prey to extremists’ teachings. We must listen and communicate with the younger generation and gently put them right in order that they can follow the right path. We need to ensure that the imams are appropriately trained and can effectively communicate with the young. In this regard, I commend the courses being started by the University of East London.

A pattern has emerged whereby a growing number of individuals are being radicalised via the internet. Scotland Yard deserves praise for creating an internet referral unit that liaises directly with online companies such as Google in removing extremist material from the web. There also needs to be constructive parental involvement in the education of Muslim children. The students must receive a well rounded education in order to succeed in their future careers in the country.

We must maintain and strengthen the harmonious relationship between the Armed Forces and the Muslim community. I am actively involved in promoting this, both on the ground and at the various meetings that I have addressed. I am committed to this cause; in fact, I am wearing a Royal Navy tie given to me by Commander Richard Moss after a recent talk I gave at HMS “President”. I am also hosting a meeting on this subject in this House in three weeks’ time.

Finally, on a different subject, I should like the British Government to now recognise the statehood of Palestine as a prelude to achieving peace in the region. I ask my noble friend the Minister to comment on this point.

2.52 pm

Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, the misnamed “Arab spring” has not yielded the arrival of democratic government, the rule of law and human rights anywhere in the region. In Palestine, as we know, creeping occupation of the West Bank makes a two-state solution increasingly implausible. In Iraq, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, one sees the legacy of the misguided 2003 invasion by Anglo-US forces. Now the state has lost one-third of its territory to the Daesh. In Egypt, the brief period of Muslim Brotherhood rule was marked by political ineptitude and repression, leading back to domination by a military strongman. The removal of Gaddafi produced anarchy, and now disputed sovereignty between the east and west of the country. Syria was already suffering a devastating civil war when the Daesh erupted onto the scene.

The actual revolutions in the region have led to far worse conditions for ordinary people; peaceful transitions, which may take far longer, are the right way forward. In Tunisia, mentioned earlier, the moderate Islamist Ennahda party of Rached Ghannouchi, who lived here in exile for 20 years, lost the election this week to

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secularists in a peaceful transition. The same could still happen in Algeria and Morocco, where the leaderships talk about reform, although the pace is leaden.

The Gulf states have followed a completely different path. All are ruled by hereditary autocracies, and only in Bahrain has there been an opposition with mass popular support. The response of the ruling family has been to impose long prison sentences on the most effective political and human rights activists, to violently suppress peaceful demonstrations, to deprive people of their citizenship without due process, to recruit a large number of foreign Sunni security personnel and grant them nationality in a medium-term plan to outnumber the native Shia population, and to invite in troops from Saudi Arabia and the UAE in an unsuccessful attempt to cow the people into submission.

Our Government say that they raise human rights violations with the Bahrain authorities, but they do it sotto voce, going along with the fake reforms initiated by the rulers. This is a country where the Prime Minister, who is the King’s uncle, has been in office for more than 40 years, and the King appoints all the Ministers. The judges, too, are appointed by the Government; so the rule of law is absent. There is a rigged Parliament.

Saudi Arabia played a key role in the creation of the Daesh, as Patrick Cockburn demonstrates in his book TheJihadis Return. It tried to stop its citizens from travelling to Syria only in February when it realised that the supreme target of the jihadists was Saudi Arabia itself. If the Daesh could usurp the title, “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques”, its claim to be the successor of the caliphate would be enormously enhanced.

We need to point out that in funding mosques abroad, particularly in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia is promoting an ideology that carries within it the seeds of terrorism. As the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, pointed out, Qatar and Kuwait are joining in the funding of terrorist operations. The Daesh can probably be eradicated so that it no longer has a territorial base, but the organisation and its ideology can and does metastasise; it already has footholds elsewhere in the region and well beyond, particularly in south Asia. It even has tentacles in the UK, as we see from the 500 young people who are said to have abandoned their families here to join the brutal and inhuman heretics in Syria.

The US has woken up to the importance of saving Kobane, recognising. as the New York Times wrote, that the fall of the city would show the fragility of the American plan, and put the Daesh in a position to cross the border and directly threaten a NATO ally. It would also facilitate the flow of terrorists into Europe and, of course, the UK in particular. As a result of the US policy reversal, arms and humanitarian supplies have been airdropped, as I suggested in our debate on October 14.

The first contingent of Peshmergas from Iraq arrived yesterday with artillery and mortars to reinforce Kobane. Ankara is said to have demanded that for any extension of this programme the coalition should also attack Assad. However, because the Syrian armed forces are the only large-scale provider of boots on the ground against the Daesh we need a reappraisal of the attempts

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to change the regime in Damascus, as the noble Lord, Lord Wright, advised. This is not my party’s policy but simply acceptance of the principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

I hope that at the end of this debate we shall hear not only of plans to join the US in supplying humanitarian goods and arms to the heroic defenders of Kobane, but that we have in train a strategy to combat the much wider threat from a false doctrine of murder and religious cleansing that the Daesh espouses. At the same time, we must demonstrate to the Arab people that we are sympathetic to their needs.

I congratulate Sir Alan Duncan MP on his appointment as special envoy to Yemen, an FCO “country of concern” and the poorest state in the Middle East. Yemen is probably not going to meet any of the millennium development goals; it has a weak economy, poor social services, high population growth and internal conflicts that have displaced hundreds of thousands of people. In spite of these challenging conditions, in 2012, with the help of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation—to which the UK is also a major contributor—Yemen introduced vaccination for rotavirus, which causes extreme diarrhoea and accounts for 11% of under-fives’ deaths there. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Child Health and Vaccine Preventable Diseases, of which I am co-chair, suggests that DfID should now assess how the vaccination system in Yemen should be integrated with the WASH agenda—programmes on clean water, sanitation and hygiene—and with the eradication of infant malnutrition as part of its post-2015 development master plan.

3 pm

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Con): My Lords, I would like to thank my noble friend Lord Risby for bringing the attention of the House to this critically important region. The current turmoil sweeping across the Middle East to North Africa is blighting communities across the region, with the resulting insecurity causing terror and chaos to men, women and children everywhere it touches. While clearly the suffering is felt by all, when we watch the news on television, we see and hear almost exclusively from the men in these countries. I would like to draw your Lordships’ attention to the significant and disproportionate impact these events are having on the women in these countries and therefore on the children, too.

Warfare is by its nature a male-dominated activity. But today war is not fought by armies on a battlefield; it is fought in communities where women are more physically vulnerable and thus less able to defend themselves and their children. It is a chilling fact that today nearly 90% of war casualties are civilians, the majority of whom are women and children. When conflict sweeps through a country, it is the women who are left struggling to care for their children amid the danger and the chaos. Of course, the men are victims, too, and many millions of widows and wives of the disappeared have been created in countries like Syria and Iraq, where it is so difficult to survive as a woman on your own. All too often in these places rape is used as a weapon of war. I sit on the steering board of William Hague’s ending sexual violence in conflict initiative and I would like to pay great tribute

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to him for his ground-breaking work on shining a light on this terrible war crime that shatters lives and communities.

Many countries across the region have an embedded patriarchal culture, but over the past decades progress has been made in many places, with more women receiving education and holding down professional jobs. However, the turbulent events of the past few years have caused this progress to stall. Initially, the Arab spring offered so much hope for this momentum of progress for women to be built on, with the central role that women played in these uprisings being viewed as something of a watershed. However, the sad reality is that, since 2011, there have been substantial increases in the security and safety concerns experienced by women across the region.

A report by Saferworld in October 2013 concluded that across Egypt, Libya and Yemen, women are facing targeted violence and encountering harassment, sexual assault and slander, all on a regular basis. Not least, they faced the mass harassment and public rapes that occurred during demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo that were widely reported across the world. These incidents took place while others looked on, and the women were often blamed simply for being there or for what they were wearing. Across the region the presence of women in public spaces has been decreased and their rights are rolling backwards. I was shocked when I met a Tunisian former parliamentarian here in Westminster two weeks ago. Her head was covered—something that would have very rarely been seen in Tunisia before the revolution.

In Syria, many of the women were too frightened to remain alone once their husbands had gone to fight. According to the UNHCR, over the past three years 2.8 million people have had to flee the terrible civil war there. Nearly four in five of them are women and children, many penniless and without support. Visiting Lebanon last year, I met some of these refugees—it was indeed a harrowing experience. In the Shatila Palestinian camp in Beirut one woman wept as she told me that she had had to marry off her very young daughter because she could not afford to feed her. Another told me that her 16 year-old son had head injuries from shrapnel and the hospital would not treat him because she could not pay. I do not think I will ever forget the sight of a woman in the Bekaa Valley struggling to look after her seven children in a makeshift tent, or the mother who approached us, hopeful that one of us was a doctor, as she had a very sick baby and there was no medical care.

Nowhere are these challenges more evident than in the current conflict with ISIS across Iraq and Syria. The United Nations has stated that women are being explicitly targeted in what are obvious war crimes and crimes against humanity. In particular, as has been mentioned before, women from the Yazidi and other minority groups have been subject to barbaric acts of sexual violence, used against them and their families. Iraq’s only Yazidi Member of Parliament has recently reported how IS militants are kidnapping, raping and selling Yazidi women. They are taken away, in some cases across the border to Syria, provided to militants as “brides”, and often raped and sold on

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to fund the terrorist cause. There are even reports of women committing suicide to avoid such sexual enslavement.

The UN has also previously reported that women and girls in Mosul were being ordered to undergo female genital mutilation. There seems to be very little acknowledgement of all this from the international community. When we are deliberating about our strategy for engaging in military action, is consideration being given to the potential impact on women and children?

With specific regard to Iraq, it is crucial that we are proactively talking to the women and civil society on the ground where the air strikes are taking place, to ensure that we are not making life even more difficult for them. I would be grateful for the Minister’s clarification in this respect. Of course the current situation there is extremely complex and difficult, but surely it is important to involve women in negotiations to help find solutions, because security needs to be found for all.

Women can be powerful agents of change in their communities, and this needs to be properly acknowledged and capitalised on. I hope that our Government will lead the way in ensuring that women’s voices will be heard and in setting new, higher standards in accountability with regard to women across the Middle East and North Africa and ultimately embrace them as a pivotal part of resolving the ongoing conflicts, ensuring that they are at the heart of any new political settlements.

3.06 pm

Lord Soley (Lab): My Lords, my interests are declared in the register, most notably a recent visit to Bahrain, funded by the Bahraini Government, from which we produced the report in my hand, which I will happily make available to any Member of this House. It was written by myself and the other four members of the visiting group, from both Houses, and published by the noble Lord, Lord Noon. It is an important item, to which I want to return. Before I do, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Risby, on this debate. I know of his great interest in Syria and the tragedy there. He will, I think, know that Assad was a constituent of mine and I always feel that this is something of a reflection on me, but I am not sure how real that is.

We are debating the Middle East generally. When I have taken part in debates before, we have often talked about the region in terms of gloom and doom. There is a lot of gloom and doom and some of the speeches today have been very powerful, most notably, that of the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, who made an excellent speech and is a great loss to the Front Bench—it probably will not do her any good for me to say so–not least because she always mastered her brief. That is a big plus for any Minister from any political party. None of that reflects on the current holder of the post, I hasten to add.

All is not gloom and doom and I want to focus my remaining comments on two countries: Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, part of the Emirates. I was interested in Bahrain because it had an enormous flair up of trouble in 2011. Bahrain is in what many people would describe as an impossible geopolitical situation. It is joined as an island by a causeway to Saudi Arabia. Just across the gulf is Iran. A very large section of the population

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of Bahrain—some would argue up to 80%—are Shia. The Government, or the royal family, are largely seen as Sunni, although to the king’s great credit, he said to me when I discussed this with him that he saw himself as a Muslim and not as a Sunni or a Shia. I respect that and I know that he is trying to hold a difficult balance. I also know that since the ayatollah took over in Iran in 1979, the gulf between Sunni and Shia, which was always there, has been greatly aggravated and I fear that younger generations identify themselves much more as Sunni and Shia.

Following the riots in 2011, the Bahraini Government set up the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, with some very significant international figures running it. An independent report was produced and the recommendations made in it were all accepted by the Government, although the problem is that of translating them into reality. I think that the Government are doing a good job. If anyone doubts that, I would ask them to read my report and challenge or question it where necessary. What I felt was so positive about it was something that I have been arguing for over the past 10 to 15 years. I began to realise that the rule of law is infinitely more important to many of these countries than democracy. In the past it has been a mistake on the part of the West to think that somehow or other we can hand democracy out on a plate; we cannot. What people in these countries are often looking for, apart from jobs and a decent economy, is justice and fairness. The rule of law is what brings that about. It is important.

The Bahraini Government are focusing on that and we were all very impressed by the efforts being made both within the prisons and outside with the police and the judiciary to modernise their approach. I do not have the time to do so, but I could give the House the details of a number of things they are doing that make me feel confident that they are moving in the right direction. However, we must recognise that this has to be a slow movement. It is not easy for them because the proposals that the king and other members of the Government have made are not universally accepted throughout Bahrain. There is opposition to them and I was very sorry to see that members of al-Wefaq, the main opposition society but what we would call a political party, have actually resigned and refused to take their seats. Yet this is a country which has introduced universal suffrage for elections to the Council of Representatives for everyone over the age of 20. Obviously there are shortcomings in the structure, but I will say, as I said to members of al-Wefaq who I hope to see again shortly, that if they do not take part, they simply aggravate the position. They do not make it better. That is an important message and we in this House should be doing all we can to help the Bahraini Government with these matters. I hope that at some stage we might be able to offer a bit of help to some of these elected representatives on how to work with Select Committees and so on.

I also want to mention the role of Bahraini women, which brings me neatly on to Abu Dhabi because in both cases the role of women is rapidly improving. I met a number of women judges in Abu Dhabi and often the greater number of people attending classes at the university are women. They are becoming

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increasingly important to the economy and in society. The reason I got involved with Abu Dhabi was because I had a battle with the authorities over what I thought was probably an injustice which should have been resolved by the rule of law, but it was not. As a result, and to their credit, they asked what I would suggest. I said that a postgraduate course should be established in the university and that because the injustice had involved a Palestinian, there should be some outreach to Palestine. I am pleased to say that there is now a course at the University of Zayed being taken by some 26 Palestinians who are being funded in all ways by the Government of Abu Dhabi. I did that with the help of the head of mission for Palestine here and the British Foreign Office, which has been immensely helpful both here and in Palestine.

I hope that the course is continuing, although I have to say that I need to check on it again. However, I am pretty confident that it will do so. I tried to persuade the university to host an annual lecture on the rule of law, but I probably failed on that. There was one lecture but we have not had another. That is because one of the things I want to say—I will end on this note—is that if we can get people over there talking about the importance of the rule of law in order to bring about stability and allow the freedom to expand progressively, we will do a very great deal for the region without sounding too judgmental in how we speak about it.

3.14 pm

Lord Weidenfeld (CB): My Lords, there are serious fissures in the worldwide alliance against ISIS and new hurdles in the sluggish race for peace in Palestine. History repeats itself with terrifying precision. Seventy years ago, the Warsaw rising of Poland’s military elite was brutally suppressed by the SS and the Wehrmacht. It lasted for 63 days and claimed nearly 250,000 victims. Yet in all that time, the Red Army stood idly by just across the Vistula. Anglo-American requests for aerial landing places were gruffly rejected.

Now, 70 years later, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Erdogan, an authoritarian Islamist who all but dismantled the western and secular republic of Kemal Ataturk, at first denied his NATO allies air landing rights and land access, and refused to help the gallant Kurds defend Kobane against the ISIS hordes. Temporary and partial relief at America’s persistent urging was ultimately conceded, and it must be hoped that it is not too late. The Turkish leader apparently disapproves of the Kurdish defenders more than he does the barbarous ISIS, whose ambitious plans for an Islamic caliphate extending over most of the Middle East is of course a thorn in his flesh. But he distrusts the Kurds as he fears that they are on their way to achieving sovereignty. All this bodes rather ill for NATO, where Turkey fields the second largest army, and indeed it bodes ill for Europe.

Nor is the attitude of other Muslim allies towards ISIS quite clear. It can be assumed that the reigning families of oil, gas and cash-rich countries such as Qatar support the American-led alliance, yet hugely rich individuals and groups in those countries are known to finance ISIS quite substantially. We have the absurd and surreal situation in which money flows from Qatar at the same time to pay for cultural

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programmes on American television networks and vivisection on the Mesopotamian battlefields. Reliable sources such as refugee priests relate that some of the female slaves of ISIS from their Christian communities end up in harems or worse in member countries—I repeat: member countries—of the anti-ISIS alliance.

It may be worth mentioning that there is now a Jewish initiative to provide help on a significant scale for persecuted Christian children in the embattled territories of the Middle East. They are to be given shelter in Christian homes in the free world, in the spirit of Pope John Paul Wojtyla’s famous verdict: the Jew is the older brother of the church. I feel that there are indeed links between the war against ISIS and the peace of Palestine. The campaign to recognise a Palestinian state prior to conventional negotiations between the parties, with a definite view to establishing peace and reaching a viable two-state solution, is an extremely dangerous and negative development because, in spite of what the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, said earlier, it puts Hamas, a terrorist organisation, into the limelight, rendering it a decisive factor, when it is indisputably and recently on record as saying that it wishes to destroy the Jewish state of Israel. Its joining of the Cabinet of the more moderate Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has already caused a stiffening of attitude and coarsening of language on his part. Far from bringing the parties closer together, this widens the gulf and encourages intransigence on both sides.

The Gaza campaign was not a routine punitive expedition. To Israelis, it was an existential necessity to prevent the ever-increasing and increasingly effective rocket campaign from burgeoning into a decisive war, endangering major cities and the country’s one main airport. Those of us who lived through the Second World War know what aerial warfare can mean and what it meant to people living in Coventry, Berlin and Dresden; they will understand what has happened in Gaza. That Hamas did not hesitate to practise a policy of human shields cannot be denied. I have been shown the layout of a typical residential house in Gaza where the roof had special facilities for snipers, the ground floor ample space for arms and the cellar extended into tunnels, ready for a breakout of jihadists. In between those were two, or sometimes even three, residential floors housing families with several children. To exculpate Hamas from risking human lives is an absurdity when you consider its constant reliance on suicide bombing, where so often parents send their own children up into the air. There must be other ways of bringing the parties to the conference table than presenting one side with a fait accompli.

Many unsung examples of serious economic and social initiatives between Israelis and Palestinians exist, and could be greatly expanded. There is still much good will, and a majority for a negotiated peace and a two-state solution, among the people of Israel. While today war is raging in large parts of the Middle East, Israel’s military situation is safe. There are also, as we have heard before, signs of serious rethinking in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco about the future of the Middle East. We in Europe, and particularly here in Britain, should support and guide all forms and forces of conciliation.

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3.21 pm

Lord Selsdon (Con): My Lords, I am very privileged to follow the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, and to welcome him back to the House. I have always been in some ways one of his pupils. All that I have known about Israel has come out of his mouth in one form or another.

I suffer from a difficulty here. For many years I was chairman of the Committee for Middle East Trade. I thought that in this great debate we would be talking more about trade. It seems that nobody has mentioned this at all. The Middle East as such is one of our greatest potential markets. As is written in the Koran, it is the duty of every good Muslim to trade. When I was that committee’s chairman, it was long before the Government decided to get rid of the Board of Trade and change the name of everything to a word that I cannot remember—it is called BIS, which is totally inexplicable to many people abroad. We have to look at our balance of payments and our trade with the Middle East, which has been considerable.

We have not really mentioned today oil revenues from the Middle East countries, and their application and use. Turning to Iraq, I have one suggestion that was made to me when I was last there on my own: what could we do to re-establish NIOC, or the equivalent of the National Iranian Oil Company, which could be one of the biggest oil companies and for a brief period was partially owned, I believe, by the United States, BP and others. With the potential production of oil in Iraq, vast funds could be released and applied in an appropriate direction.

The same is true to some extent of the countries of north Africa—even moving right across to Mauritania, which is one of the biggest iron ore-producing countries in the world. We have made no mention today of their oil revenues or purchasing powers. We look too at the co-operation that could exist between Libya, Algeria and, through them, with France.

How can we help develop and finance trade with the Middle East that can produce the revenues that it may need to rebuild various disabled societies? It is not too difficult. With the ability of the ECGD and some of the government grants, there are great opportunities. The difficulty is that when there is fear about personal security, people are reluctant to travel.

The Koran, as I said, says that it is the duty of every good Muslim to trade. Trade therefore is important, but it seems not to be mentioned any more. It is as though trade in this country has gone below the salt. We have organisations that one cannot necessarily understand, such as the one spelt BIS, but for the international world trade becomes more important. It is the lifeblood of the United Kingdom. Our ability to fund things is quite significant. Within the United Kingdom we have resources of finance that are second to none in the world. Our difficulty is how to identify the projects that we need to pursue.

I have one simple example. I got into trouble one day when we had what was called the Salman Rushdie affair. I was asked if I would be willing to go to Iraq. I was chairman of the Committee for Middle East Trade and I assume the Government could not think of anyone who would be allowed to go. I went to see

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the Iraqi ambassador, who did not want to see me. Still, I pressed the buzzer outside and asked, “Ambassador, if you are listening, I have been asked if I could go to Baghdad—do you think that this is a good time?” I waited a moment and got an answer, which was “Your Excellency, the answer is yes”.

I got on a British Airways plane and went off to Baghdad. Half way through the flight the pilot, who was a New Zealander, came down and sat beside me, and said, “Well, sir, we have a bit of a problem. We have just had a message from headquarters that the Prime Minister in his office in the House of Commons is seeing Salman Rushdie. Is this going to cause you any problems? You are the only British subject on board. If you like we could turn the plane round and go back”.

One can be a coward without having to admit it. The plane got in touch with the Foreign Office, and the Foreign Office said that all was quiet there and we found that the ambassador was at the residence, which is outside Iraq. I supposed that I had better go. The plane said that I would be surrounded with British Airways staff when we get there. I asked, “Are they all British?” The answer was that none of them was.

I went out of the plane, rushed through, and was waved through straightaway. They all seemed to know that I was coming. I then met a hooded lady—I would call her a singing nun—who looked me up and down, and she said: “Hello, Malcolm. How nice to see you. How is your sister Gail?” I never knew who she was, but apparently they had been in the same lacrosse team some time before. The next thing that I knew is that I was sent off up to Isfahan in a private plane to sit with the mayor who wanted to know if we could help with the beautification of the city. It did not have any roses, and roses were important. He then introduced a fining system. This was with British technology from London. People were fined a duck if they exceeded the speed limit, or stood upon a tree or a rose bed.

I found that I had a new vision of Iraq. In looking down at the things that they had done, I believed that it could be one of our great partners; there was a certain pro-British feeling about it. The same is true, even these days, in Sudan and in north Africa. The relationship that we have with so many of these countries is something upon which we can play.

I am grateful that this debate has taken place and I hope that action can be taken by the Government.

3.27 pm

Lord Dykes (LD): My Lords, they often say that in history if one avoids taking anecdotal experience and making it a generalisation, one is wise because it is dangerous to do so. There are many occasions when that it is true. But there are some occasions when the reverse is true.

I had the great honour and privilege of being one of the European Community official observers in the South African elections in 1994. I visited township polling stations—this was the first time that they had been set up. I went to posh polling stations in the white suburbs in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The clerk in charge of an important polling station in Weinberg, a wealthy Cape Town suburb that some colleagues in the

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House will know, was hard pressed because the other staff had not got there due to transport difficulties. The phone rang. He was dealing with people who were coming in to get their ballot papers. He asked me if I would answer the phone, and told me that there should be no politics; I should just give them the time of polling and the time that the station closed, and any other technical details.

A very grand, English-sounding voice in Weinberg said in rather a fierce way, “Young man, I do not know who you are, but I am coming down to vote in a general election today, as usual”. This woman had been told what she called a “very funny thing”: someone had told her that her maid could come down and vote as well. I replied, “Yes, madam—bring her down”. The woman asked: “What, in the same car?” I told her to bring her down in the same car if she was coming by car. She then asked: “Do you mean, through the same entrance?” I told her to come through the same entrance with the maid. She asked: “Are you sure?” I replied yes. I had been observing the scene, with voters coming in—black voters as well, registered to vote for the first time—and an hour and a quarter later this lady came in and thanked me for the advice. But she came in through the one entrance, arm-in-arm with her maid. The scales had fallen from her eyes. The anxiety, the fear of apartheid, had left her at that very moment. They went out good friends and they remained good friends afterwards, people who considered themselves equal for the first time—she was quite an elderly lady; it was a remarkable transformation—under the new law of a society that had been transformed by the intelligence, energy and long-range view of de Klerk, who was amazingly brave in that situation, coming together with the wonderful, heroic Nelson Mandela.

How do you achieve breakthroughism in the terrible continuing turmoil of Israel-Palestine, which is one of the main themes of today’s debate, because it is poisoning the atmosphere in both Israel and Palestine? I speak as a long-standing friend of Israel, ever since I first went there in 1970, with many years’ experience; with impeccable credentials, if I may add, as a person getting Soviet Jews out of the Soviet Union to make the Aliyah to Israel—some went to the United States instead; very unwisely, of course, but there it is—and helping them in other things as well. I dealt with the anniversary of the Kindertransport in Harrow, where we had a big commemoration with the Home Office Minister of State in those days, now the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, who is not here today. Such things are wonderful occasions of reminiscence and memorialising all the suffering of the Jewish people and the reason for the existence of the state of Israel.

However, at the same time, there are two states there, two countries—and I call Palestine a country already; its recognition is long overdue. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, for her comments on this matter, and embarrass her by praising her immense courage in leaving the Government because of the dreadful events in Gaza and the killing of large numbers of civilians, including many, many children. Break- throughism is possible if the people in those two great countries—Palestine smaller than Israel, of course, physically and in population—have the courage to seize the moment and come together in a dynamic future.

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The main move has to come from the established state—the state of Israel—because that is more powerful than the weak, ailing semi-state of Palestine, struggling to become a state as soon as possible, with still a lower population if you take out Gaza for the moment. That can be done. I believe sincerely that it will be done. Israel is a wonderful country with a wonderful people but it has a lousy Government. This is the tragedy of the moment. They are not so much a lousy Government on internal matters—although there are some people in Israel on low incomes who complain about the economic situation there as well; so that shows it is a normal country—but the leaders and the foreign policy, in the need to seek reconciliation and friendship with the Palestinians, do not make the necessary moves.

Israel’s leaders must remove the poison of the settlements. I am very glad that the pro-Israeli speakers in this debate—the noble Lords, Lord Mitchell, Lord Turnberg and Lord Leigh, who is not here now—have referred to that as well. That must be dealt with; otherwise, there will be no movement. Israel is quite rightly an unbeatable state militarily. It has to be to protect its own citizens. But once you are the unbeatable military state, you have the strength to negotiate with the weaker partner and offer concessions. That is the solemn truth facing the Israeli leaders. Are they capable of facing up to it? Will they reach for the challenge as de Klerk and Mandela did in South Africa?

There should not be another comparison between South Africa and Israel-Palestine but there is, and this is my final comment. The Israeli settlement policy started by Sharon as Housing Minister, was a fatal, big mistake and lots of Israelis are upset about it and say so in Haaretz and B’Tselem and all those other very virtuous groups and newspapers in Israel that speak the truth about that country and its future survival and existence. Together they must now reach for the first step to accommodate the Palestinians by saying that the settlements will be removed, or, if some stay, they will be negotiated in free negotiations between the two. The Palestinians cannot respond as the weaker partner unless Israeli leaders do that. I do not think Mr Lieberman is capable of it; I am not sure about Netanyahu. I have my severe doubts. I do not think he is really, but there are others in that coalition grouping in Israel who are capable of these things. It is increasingly what the Israeli people know in their heart of hearts.

In an article I wrote six months ago for the English language quarterly newspaper in Berlin, the Jewish Voice From Germany, I paid tribute to the unique, magisterial contribution of the Jewish community to the welfare and the social, economic and financial development of this country. It is a very small community—only 300,000-plus people now, much smaller than our Muslim population coming from all different countries—but because it did that, it is revered and respected and so will the Israeli Government leaders be revered and respected if they come together with the Palestinians. It can be done, and once they do shake hands and become friends, the two dynamic territories working together to create a near east common market, that transformation will be much quicker than anybody here can imagine.

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3.35 pm

Lord Kalms (Non-Afl): My Lords, for almost two decades, one piece of received wisdom in particular has hovered over the subject we are discussing today. It has been received as wisdom in many departments of state and successive Governments of all political persuasions, as well as the Governments of many of our closest allies and friends. That piece of perceived wisdom is that all the problems of the region, all the troubles and challenges of north Africa and the Middle East, would be solved by a final border arrangement between the Government of Israel and that of the Palestinians.

That idea—that Israel is the key to unlocking all the problems of the region—was always absurd, not least because it ignored all the other terrible problems of the region. Would Yemen’s economy really boom if only Israel and the Palestinians came to a final status agreement? Would Saudi Arabia or Iran immediately become governed by nice, secular democrats? To ask the question is to answer it. The claim was absurd. Desirable though a final status agreement would be, it has nothing to do with the real and deep-seated problems of the region.

If we ever doubted that—and for years very significant figures in authority did—the beginnings of the Arab spring should have answered us. For when that happened, when the people of the region began to rise up against the tyrants of the region, they had many demands. The most potent were that they wanted a say in their own future; they wanted to share in the wealth, including the natural resources of their countries; and they wanted to have opportunities, a future and a say in how they were governed.

Of course, we know how badly much of that went. We know that in many cases those protesters were simply gunned down, imprisoned, tortured, executed or otherwise disappeared. We know that in some cases the revolutions were stolen from the liberals, who were too weak, by the extremists, who were too strong. In other cases, fragile, careful states have emerged. We will see how they do. But of all the crowds that came out, from Tunisia to Yemen and beyond, not one protested about Israel. Not one came out demanding a resolution in East Jerusalem. They came out asking for the rights that we in the West tend to take for granted but which they often seem light years away from achieving.

So what is the problem for the region? What are the solutions? They are not easy. In particular, there is no one key or one lock that will somehow magically address all the problems of a deeply troubled region. But if solutions are thin on the ground, they will at least become easier to comprehend if we accept one of the major factors of the region, which no discussion such as this can truthfully be held without—radical Islam. This year alone has presented an unusual amount of evidence to suggest that one of the overwhelming problems—if not the overwhelming problem—of the region is that presented by Islamic fundamentalism.

Earlier this year, we saw Boko Haram abducting hundreds of Christian girls in northern Nigeria for the crime of going to school and not obeying a fundamentalist Islamist interpretation which demands that girls must

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not undergo anything but an Islamist semi-education. Shortly afterwards, Hamas started the latest phase in its interminable and genocidal war against the world’s only Jewish state. Later in the summer, we watched as ISIS rampaged across Syria and Iraq, massacring, beheading and crucifying people as they went—not just anybody but all Muslims who do not share their fundamentalist worldview, Yazidis who refuse to convert to Islam, and all Christians who refuse to give up their faith and submit to Allah.

Sometimes it is Christians, sometimes Jews, sometimes Yazidis and very often it is other Muslims, but what we are seeing across north Africa, the Middle East and further afield is the same pattern. I do not say that these fundamentalist movements have everything in common: they often have disagreements. For instance, ISIS and Hezbollah are fighting each other in Syria, but they have far more in common than in difference. We cannot even begin to address the problems in the region unless we recognise that what we are dealing with is not simple. It is not about the old paradigms; it is about a region covered in many problems that can be helped on to the right track only if we—and they— admit to what they are up against. If we tackle the dominance of radical Islam, the region about which we are talking at least stands a chance of making a meaningful contribution to the 21st century, rather than retreating to a position more akin to Europe’s situation in the 17th century.

In the mean time, a certain amount of humble pie must be eaten in foreign policy establishments both here and in much of the rest of the world, for recent events have surely shown once and for all that Israel is not the cause of the Middle East's problems. Israel is pluralistic and technically advanced. It is a world leader in medical research and information technology. It is 100% committed to human rights for all its citizens—Christian, Muslim, Arab and Jewish. It extends those rights and advances to its neighbours whenever it has an opportunity to do so. It is a society in which prosperity is shared as much as anywhere else in the world. It is a society with all the complexities of a democratic Government and all the rigours of an independent and powerful supreme court. There is no country in the world that could claim better governance. Yet this is the country in the Middle East that many people have spent recent years trying to defame. So let it be said clearly here, and for all time, that Israel is not the problem for the Middle East. Rather, it is an exemplar and a proof of solutions to those problems.

3.42 pm

Lord Balfe (Con): My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Risby, for initiating this most welcome debate. I also declare a long interest in Turkey, stretching back politically over 30 years, so I will start my speech with a word about that country.

There are many misconceptions. First, there seems to be a misconception that the problems between the Kurds and the Turks are of recent origin; they go back at least to Ataturk. Indeed, the present Government in Turkey have initiated discussions with the Kurdish population that have gone some way to solving at least some of the outstanding problems. We must remember

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that the PKK is still listed as a terrorist organisation by the US, the European Union and NATO as well as by Turkey itself. That therefore adds considerable problems to how Turkey deals with a number of the problems on its border, particularly the problem of Kobane.

Let us be clear: the Turkish Government have spent some $4 billion on aid for refugees in this conflict. They have allowed 200,000 citizens of the Kobane region to come into Turkey to live. Carol Batchelor, the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Turkey, was recently quoted as saying that, when it came to saving lives,

“the UN could not catch up with Turkey”.

They have, in other words, done extremely well with the cards that they have got.

Saving Kobane is part of a much bigger and widespread problem. The present Prime Minister, who was Foreign Minister, and the present President, who was Prime Minister, have both addressed this in great detail. One of the problems that Turkey has is that it seems to have made an enemy of absolutely everybody. It has crucially made an enemy of President Assad. I think that we have to start being realistic about Syria. President Assad presided over a regime that was—shall we say—suboptimal, to be kindest about it. None the less, the country was a damn sight more stable then than it is today. People were not being killed in the streets. It is going to survive because it has the support of Russia and Iran; in the present mix-up in that area of the world, President Assad, I predict, is going to come through in the end. It is in our interests to look at that area and see what we can do to try to help Turkey to get back on good terms with the regime in Syria.

I now turn to another subject in the region, and that is human rights. I know that the Minister has recently received a letter from the TUC—I know because it sent me a copy of it—about the human rights situation in Iran, particularly the rights of trade unionists and workers in Iran. I would be interested to hear from the Minister how the Government propose to respond to that letter, because it seems to me that we have a different view of human rights: it really depends on who is violating them, does it not?

If you look at the British papers, you will see quite rightly the absolute outrage over recent beheadings. We all share that outrage, but somehow the newspapers avoided mentioning—maybe they mentioned it on days I did not read them—that more than 100 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia within the past 12 months. I am told by the Foreign Office that it makes quiet representations to Saudi Arabia about this, but those are not doing much good, are they? The Saudis are not taking much notice of these representations. We need to look a little more clearly at having a consistent view on human rights and the way we put our human rights case forward.

In short, we cannot rest back on applying a Treaty of Westphalia system to the rest of the world—that is, the system where you say, “Well, countries can do what they like within their borders. If we recognise them as a legitimate Government, they can go round beheading people and do what they like. We won’t intervene”. We cannot do that any more. We do not do it in the European Union. Given the amount of attention

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that we pay, quite rightly, to human rights in Turkey, it is ironic how little attention we pay to the same subject in many states not that far to the south.

In closing, I suggest that the situation may change in a way we did not really anticipate. The energy scenario, which has of course driven our relations with that part of the world for the past 100 years, is rapidly changing. Many people have not noticed that the United States is no longer a net importer of energy. Many people have not noticed—or, if they have noticed, they have not tied it together—that new technology and the rising price of energy makes it easier to recover energy. The discovery of new energy fields such as the one off Cyprus, the advent of fracking and the developments in physics—I declare an interest as a governor of the pension fund of CERN, which is the major physics laboratory in the world—will probably put the energy crisis behind us in the next 20 to 30 years. That might sound rather astonishing at a time when we are concentrating on it. Of course, this is not a debate on energy, but from all I have heard and seen the energy scenario is changing faster than we realise. As it changes, the need and dependency on the near and Middle East will change significantly to a point where, maybe, we can have some consistency in our approach on human and civil rights, so that we can look forward to a time when we might be able to stand a little taller because we adopt the same principles in dealing with all countries in that region.

3.49 pm

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, like others, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Risby, for initiating what has been a very interesting debate. I also must say how impressed I was by the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi. Her courage, integrity and commitment to truth are a challenge to us all.

I serve as chairman of the Committee on Middle East Questions of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Its purpose is to try to persuade and encourage Israelis and Palestinians to talk to each other. We recently decided in that committee that we cannot do our work meaningfully without looking at the region as a whole and we are extending our work in that way. Recently in Geneva, we had a very interesting round table. The noble Lord, Lord Risby, spent quite a lot of his rather important speech talking about Syria, as have other noble Lords. The Speaker of the Syrian Parliament was with us at our round table and made a contribution. I will quote from the official report of that—it is better as chairman that I stick to the official report. It said:

“The Speaker of the Syrian Parliament stressed that the Syrian People’s Assembly was the only legitimate body entitled to make statements about the situation in Syria and the Syrian people, who were paying a high price for the terrorist acts committed by ISIL, Al Nusrah Front and the Army of Islam. He added that if the world was serious about effectively combating terrorism, the international community would have to cooperate with Syria and Iraq. The Syrian Government was fighting terrorism but was stymied in its efforts by the support, funds and weapons supplied to terrorist groups by some western and Middle Eastern countries.

He referred to UN Security Council resolution 2170, which called for respecting the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. He emphasized that the Syrian Government rejected any regional intervention in Syria, especially the imposition of a

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buffer zone along its northern border, highlighting that the coalition had been formed outside the framework of the UN Security Council by countries that had contributed to the emergence of ISIL and the proliferation of terrorism.

The Speaker requested IPU support for a political solution to the conflict in Syria and for its national reconciliation efforts. He highlighted that Syria rejected any attempt to violate its sovereignty by forming new armed groups under the banner of a moderate opposition”.

I totally align myself with what the noble Lord, Lord Wright, said. I was one of those who was highly critical of Syria and its appalling human rights action—and, actually, this was reported absolutely outrageously across the world—but I think that we have to listen to what the Syrians themselves say. We must face up to that.

As that same round table—it was a very interesting occasion—the Deputy Speaker of the Jordanian Parliament also contributed. Here is another brief quote from the report:

“The Deputy Speaker … described the increasingly acute consequences of the regional conflict for Jordan. The basic population of 4 million had become 11 million with refugees from Palestine, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. The social and political impact of this was potentially highly destabilizing”.

We have talked a lot about the present situation and what in the past has led up to it, but if we are intelligent then we should be talking about the future. I put it to noble Lords that the refugee problem in this region will make many of the things with which we are grappling at the moment seem like child’s play. The political consequences are incalculably great.

It is fair to ask what I have learnt from my work on the committee. In the past 18 months I have made several visits to the region. I have been able to meet with the speaker of the Knesset, with President Abbas and others, and to have very important conversations which have deeply helped my own understanding. I have learnt that peacebuilding first of all requires—and this is difficult with all the pressures involved—the qualities of patience and persistence.

We must forgo the temptation to think that we can just manage peace, and have deadlines and get people to meet deadlines and enforce a peace. That does not work. A peace has to be grounded, and a peace that is grounded involves talk, negotiation and patience, as I have just said. It has to be inclusive; it is important to be talking to the people with whom it is difficult to talk, because they are key to the solutions. It is no good just picking the friendly, easy people to talk to. Anyone can do that and make agreements. That is why it has been so important to get around eventually to the view that Hamas is part of the solution and not just part of the problem.

It is also important to recognise that in these matters negotiations can too easily become the preserve of the negotiators. There is a sort of institutionalised game of negotiation. Fine work and great commitment go on in those negotiations, but we need wider understanding and wider concern among the wider public about the need for a settlement and for reaching accommodations. That means that we really should be promoting discussions between, for example, Israelis and Palestinians on issues of mutual concern, such as water or the problems and issues faced by women. We on our committee are determined to try to do something in that respect.

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My convictions about the danger of counter- productivity have also been reconfirmed. Of course, so much of Israel’s behaviour is totally counterproductive and cannot possibly contribute to its long-term security. Equally, the firing of rockets into Israel was wrong, irresponsible and totally counterproductive.

I conclude simply with this. We must look at ourselves. It is no good reacting emotionally to young people—however misguided—who go off and fight with the cruel and horrible ISIS. Many of them become disillusioned; they want to come home. We should not stigmatise them and their friends and communities as somehow a threat to our future. The challenge is to win them back into our society, with rehabilitation and understanding. Young people make mistakes; they have always made mistakes. Our job is to win them back and integrate them, not to stigmatise them and thereby aggravate the problems in our own society.

3.57 pm

Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition in this House, I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Risby, for initiating and securing this debate. I also thank all noble Lords who have spoken in what has been a remarkable debate. I do not intend to cover even in broad terms the vast areas—both geographically and in terms of the issues—that this debate covers. No one who has heard the debate could be under any illusions about the many dangers and the many issues of great importance, the various and varied examples of man’s inhumanity to man and—yes—some examples, too, of hope. These issues and where they lead affect us in the UK just as much as they affect the world outside.

On many of these items I say straightaway that we are broadly in agreement with the Government. In this field above all others there can be no point in artificial or pretend disagreements for their own sake. Both for the good of the UK itself and for the way that we appear to the world outside, it is a positive when we do not disagree. However, when we do—and we will do on one important topic at the end of what I have to say—it is essential that we should say so and ask questions and test Ministers. If an Opposition fail to do that in a democracy, we are acting against the spirit of democracy and democratic government that distinguishes us from so many of the countries we have been discussing today.

There are a number of discrete subjects that I intend to address and a number of brief questions that I wish to put to the Minister. The issue of Palestine and Israel has taken up a huge amount of the debate today. It is a sore that has lasted such a long time and it could be argued that it is at the root of so many of the problems, disputes and unresolved issues that we have discussed.

I was very taken by the practical suggestion for helping Gaza made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. We should ask the Government to consider that very seriously. I pay tribute to the many brilliant, powerful and often passionate and committed speeches that we have heard from one side or the other on this issue. Who could not be moved by hearing the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi—who was an excellent Minister in this

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House with large responsibilities for, for example, faith and human rights in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and whom this House much respected as a Minister and much respects today—making her powerful case against government policy and arguing, among other things, for United Nations recognition of Palestine? My party, as she and the House know, voted for recognition in the House of Commons a few weeks ago. That is not an easy decision for a political party to make, but it was the right decision, and we very much hope the Government will follow suit—in a short period of time rather than a longer one.

And who could not be moved by the extremely powerful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, in defence of the idea of Israel, and by his plea for peace? It was a privilege to listen to him. Perhaps I may also mention what a privilege it is for all of us to hear the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld—sitting in his place today—and his words of wisdom.

It is vital for any Government in the UK, of whatever party, to take a balanced view on the Palestine-Israel question, however unpopular it makes them. We on our side feel that Her Majesty’s Government did not criticise Israel early enough or strongly enough during the recent Gaza war—if I can call it that. Hamas was an intolerable provocation to Israel and remains so, of course, but a legitimate question can be asked: did Israel’s reaction result in the unnecessary death of too many innocent citizens?

I turn briefly—not because it is unimportant; it is vital—to the coalition against ISIL, which we debated in this House a month ago. Here, we do support the line that Her Majesty’s Government are taking and I pay tribute today, as others have, to those who have fought to protect Kobane, a medium-sized city, from the ravages of ISIL. We of course wish them success.

I want to concentrate for a moment on Turkey, as have the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, and other noble Lords, and make a couple of points. First, it is obvious that Turkey is in a crucial position in the struggle against ISIL and much more besides. No one underrates the difficulties that Turkey faces in making these decisions, for historical and modern political reasons— I commend an article in the Guardian a few days ago by the new Foreign Secretary of Turkey which set out some of these difficulties. Ankara’s decision to allow the Kurdish Peshmerga to cross through Turkey to support the Kurds fighting ISIL in Kobane is important, demonstrating perhaps that Turkish policy on this issue is in flux and in part reacting to Kurdish protests and unrest. Secondly, as has already been pointed out, Turkey is facing a major refugee crisis, and its impact should not be underestimated. More than 1 million Syrians have crossed the border into Turkey. That is very significant as far as Turkey is concerned.

Turkey is also facing fundamental questions about its role in the region, as its soft power approach appears not to have succeeded. The new Prime Minister was the architect of recent foreign policy as Foreign Minister. It is incumbent on Her Majesty’s Government and on other Governments allied to Turkey, which is of course a long-standing member of NATO, to try to persuade Turkey to play the role that many of us feel it should in facing down ISIL.

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I turn to the Lebanon, which has hardly been mentioned today. I visited it this month. Four million people have over the past 30 years known ghastly civil war, foreign military occupation and now a Government who, because they have to include representatives of different religions and factions, find it difficult to reach the required unanimous decisions. There is pressure, too, from extremist cells that manoeuvre and try to best one another in that small country.

The Lebanon now also has 1.3 million refugees from Syria—a population increase of one-fifth, just like that. These refugees do not live in refugee camps but settle where they can, often side by side with Lebanese citizens who are poor and unemployed. Syrian children have to be brought into the Lebanese education system. The numbers are such that the analogy could be made to all the schools in Birmingham and Manchester closing and all the children in those schools transferring into London schools. How would we cope? That is the position facing the Lebanese Government. I am very pleased that the British Council, with the help of the British embassy, has been absolutely in the forefront of a new programme with the Lebanese authorities to make it easier for teachers to be trained so that Syrian children can be taught. It is something we are doing practically, on the ground, in that country.

I turn briefly to Tunisia, which has already been discussed. The noble Lord, Lord Risby, mentioned it himself. It is one of the gleams of light in the rather dark picture that has been drawn today. We are all delighted that last Sunday’s elections have resulted in what seems to be a peaceful, democratic result with a proper transfer of power from one side to the other. That is not to be underrated. As has also already been stated, the country still faces enormous difficulties, with very high unemployment and the unfortunate fact that of all the countries that send, as it were, young jihadists to Syria, Tunisia sends the largest number.

I conclude, slightly more controversially, with the refugee situation in the Mediterranean. This does affect the debate because those refugees come from the Middle East and north Africa. To their credit, the Italian Government have successfully run the Mare Nostrum search and rescue scheme, saving 150,000 lives in the last year and a bit. The European Union is, as we understand it, to stop search and rescue from the day after tomorrow. This is an agreement that the British Government have signed up to. FRONTEX will operate only within 30 miles of the Italian coast and will not conduct search and rescue missions. This will of course mean that many more men, women and children die in their desperate journey to Europe.

The justification for this change of policy is that it will somehow deter would-be refugees from undertaking the journey in the first place. It seems to me that this justification is spurious and morally repugnant. It is wrong in practical terms because desperate people fleeing their homeland will not be put off taking the risk themselves. I am sorry to have to put it so strongly but, in moral terms, it represents a view that human life is so cheap that it is satisfactory to turn a blind eye to those in danger. Jonathan Swift would have known how to satirise this change of policy.

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In our view, the Government should stand back and ask themselves this question: is this a path that Britain, with its proud record of protecting people in trouble, wants to go down? Of course there is a massive problem for us and the EU to tackle—often with the countries from which these people come. This solution should not be acceptable to this House or the country. I know that the noble Baroness has a lot to answer in her 25 minutes. She is a Minister widely respected in this House. Will Her Majesty’s Government please reconsider this policy as a matter of urgency? It is not worthy of our country.

4.11 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, I of course add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Risby on securing the debate today and on attracting such a significant audience, not only those who have taken part but those who have listened to the debate. It has been wide-ranging and I certainly am grateful for the important contributions from around the House.

North Africa and the Middle East face immense challenges. We have heard that in detail. As has been hinted at by colleagues around the House, a number of those issues merit their own debate: Syria’s horrific war; ISIL’s appalling atrocities and the refugee crisis that it has created; and the need for reconstruction in Gaza and a comprehensive solution to that. My noble friend Lady Hodgson of Abinger was right to remind us of the impact of violence and conflict on women and children. I agree with her that it is vital that we always take them into account in any and all negotiations we enter into to resolve conflict.

The region matters to the UK’s security and prosperity. It is crucial that we counter the threat from terrorist extremism, we build our energy security, as my noble friend Lord Balfe said, and we sustain and grow our bilateral trade, as my noble friend Lord Selsdon stressed. That already is worth about £35 billion annually. As my noble friend Lord Kirkwood said, it is important for us to do business even in difficult areas such as Iraq.

In the long term, our security and the security of the whole region of north Africa and the Middle East depends not only on managing the immediate crises and threats but also on tackling the grievances which the extremists exploit. These grievances—the deficits in political and economic governance—are embedded and well documented. We need to support those in the region who are pursuing political stability based on open, inclusive political systems and economies. This is not only about addressing threats: in the longer term we will need to support a more stable and economically successful region.

On a daily basis, we hear accounts of human rights abuses, including those against religious minorities of all backgrounds. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, reminded us of that in graphic detail. Let me be clear: the UK condemns in the strongest terms possible any instances where individuals are persecuted or made to leave their homes due to their religion or belief. We believe in the importance of fundamental freedoms

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and the need to tackle human rights abuses, not only to help end the cycle of violence but because they are important building blocks for a prosperous and stable society. My noble friend Lord Balfe asked about Iran and a particular letter from the TUC. I will shortly provide a full response to him, but I can say immediately that the UK strongly believes in the right of freedom of association, including the right to form and join trade unions.

We are proud in this country of remaining at the forefront of our humanitarian response in the region. Let me immediately tackle one point raised at the end of the debate—as the noble Lord, Lord Bach, said, controversially—about the Mare Nostrum policy which had been adopted a year ago by Italy with regard to the way in which it sent out a search-and-find operation using its navy across the Mediterranean. We made it clear today—my honourable friend Mr Brokenshire has said—that it is inconceivable to suggest that if a boat were in peril support would not be provided. It is a despicable mark of traffickers that any of this happens.

The people who are evil here are the traffickers who take people’s dignity, their money and their background. They give them false promises, they get them into debt, they hire a rusty bucket that they know cannot make the journey, and they load people at sea. Reports say that they give them a mobile phone so that they can phone the Italian navy. Whether that is true or not, this is a despicable trade and we need to unite in the fight against that and deal with the humanitarian aid, to which I know my Government are absolutely committed.

We remain at the forefront of the humanitarian response in the region. Our total humanitarian funding for Syria and the region is now £700 million, more than three times the size of our response to any other humanitarian crisis. This is making a real difference, providing shelter, blankets, and clothing for more than 300,000 people; water for up 1.5 million; and more than 5 million monthly food rations last year.

My noble friend Lady Berridge asked about refugees—the Yazidis, for example—being able to go back to their homes. She asks a broader question: what is it for all refugees to go home, some of whom are away from what they consider home for decades, and when they go back they have a difficulty recognising it? It is a decision they should be able to make, but a decision against the background of a peace and stability that we try to help to provide.

Efforts to address the region’s challenges have to be led principally by the regions of north Africa and the Middle East. But we do have an important role to play. I was deeply impressed today by the way in which so many Peers, including my noble friend Lady Falkner, the noble Lords, Lord Hylton, Lord Sacks and Lord Desai, and the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, addressed the philosophical background. How do we overcome extremism? Where has it come from? What challenges does it give us as individuals as well as societies? There has been the growth of Salafism—not the peaceful Salafism we see in Saudi Arabia, but the extreme, violent Salafism that has suddenly broken out elsewhere. I shall certainly take away with me the words of the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, that we need to let go of hate.

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We need to support our partners to tackle conflict and better manage the threat that violent extremism poses to their people—and indeed to ours. We need to help them put in place what the Prime Minister has called the building blocks of open and inclusive societies: the rule of law, a free media, parliamentary reform, and the structural economic reforms to create growth and jobs. That is why we are continuing to reform and work on the conflict work with the Arab partnership and the Government’s conflict pool. That is why we are working closely with international partners, including key partners in the region. My noble friend Lady Berridge asked whether we have the skills for that and asked what training we are doing. With regard to staff, the FCO holds a one-day freedom of religion or belief training course every three months. It is open to all government staff. Since January 2013, of the 107 attendees, one-third have come from other government departments, including DfID and MoD.

My noble friend Lord Sheikh was right to describe the historical context in which all this has developed, as indeed was the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld. It is important to hear, from those who have lived it, what that history is. It gives it extra vibrancy. The noble Lords, Lord Bach and Lord Anderson, reminded us that the Arab spring started in Tunisia four years ago. Since then the country has indeed made striking process with the development of the political systems needed to bring longer-term stability. I echo the Foreign Secretary’s congratulations to the Tunisian Government and people on the legislative elections held there last Sunday. However, success is fragile and needs continued support. We will continue to provide that support in a number of ways.

It is important that, throughout this, when we see successes we continue to support those who are still facing severe challenges and finding it difficult to move forward. My noble friend Lord Risby referred to Algeria. He rightly mentioned the work that we are doing in partnership with Algeria on several issues. I pay tribute to his successful work as the Prime Minister’s envoy for economic partnership with Algeria. We want to keep improving our co-operation with Algeria across a range of interests: security, defence, trade, prosperity, English language and higher education.

Libya, of course, continues to have difficulties. We want to continue working with our international partners to support the Libyan people. As an important first step, we need an inclusive political settlement. At the moment it is in great difficulty, but the Prime Minister’s envoy to the Libyan political transition, Jonathan Powell, is working with the UN special representative on this.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Stone of Blackheath, referred to Egypt. I am grateful to him for bringing out the aspects that he did. It remains an important and influential country in the region and we clearly want it to succeed. We continue to provide practical and serious support to help it achieve a more prosperous and democratic future. We are working in partnership with reformers and others to reduce the economic difficulties and to tackle the immediate security threats. We are Egypt’s largest foreign investor. To foster Egypt’s development, we want to continue our support beyond technical reform assistance, to education, research and scholarships.

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However, at the same time, we are urging Egypt’s leaders to implement the rights contained in Egypt’s constitution, including protecting the right to freedom of expression and association, and to lead the country towards more open and democratic governance, underpinned by strong and accountable institutions, as the noble Lord explained in his speech. We will speak up on cases that threaten these principles, whether it is mass death penalties in Minya, the prosecution of journalists, the detention of people engaging in peaceful political expression, or restrictions on NGO freedoms.

I turn to the Gulf, where the UK enjoys deep relationships based on our shared background in the area over the years. More than 160,000 British people currently call the Gulf home. It is one of our largest global export markets, and Gulf states continue to invest heavily in the UK. We work with our allies on a wide range of vital issues, from energy security to defence, with UK assets stationed in the region and providing military training expertise. We value enormously our close work with Gulf partners on many of the challenges that I have mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred to the difficulties in this area. My noble friend Lord Lamont talked about individuals and funding in Qatar. I will come to that shortly. My noble friend Lord Avebury and the noble Lord, Lord Soley, spoke about Bahrain.

My noble friend Lord Lamont asked about the funding of extremist groups in the Gulf states and what the Governments are doing. I can say that we welcome the steps that the Gulf Governments are taking to address the threat, but we are encouraging much greater progress on that to prevent terrorist financing from the individuals. I know that my noble friend is not saying that the Governments are doing the funding; the difficulty is preventing the individuals. It is important that legislative vehicles are put in place to prevent those transfers of funds. We have what is called an “honest and robust” conversation; I have taken part in one, and I can say that it is both honest and, certainly, robust.

On international affairs, yesterday my right honourable friend the Prime Minister met the Emir of Qatar. They discussed the role that both countries are playing in the coalition to tackle ISIL. In particular, the Prime Minister welcomed the recent legislation passed in Qatar to prevent terrorist funding and looked forward to the swift implementation of these new measures. They also agreed that both countries should do more to share information on matters of concern. The noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, also raised that.

My noble friend Lord Avebury and the noble Lord, Lord Soley, raised the issue of Bahrain where human rights defenders have played a brave role. I welcome the announcement by His Majesty of the legislative elections on 22 November. It is unfortunate that the opposition al-Wefaq has decided not to participate. We are certainly supportive of the reforms under way in Bahrain. We commend the steps taken by the Government there to implement the recommendations set out in the independent commission of inquiry. As outlined in our recent human rights case study report

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on Bahrain, progress has been made in a number of areas, but there is more to be done. We shall keep up the pressure.

Two areas attracted the most attention of noble Lords—for natural reasons of security and interest of this House. First, I turn to the situation we face across Iraq and Syria. We know from the past few months how desperate the situation has been for those living there as they face an enemy which knows no shame, no morality and no religion in the way in which it indiscriminately murders, beheads and crucifies people in its way. My noble friend Lady Falkner tried to give a background as to why it is not Islam we should blame for this. I appreciate the thoughtful way in which she presents her views; they are always a pleasure to hear.

ISIL fighters have carried out appalling atrocities. They have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and they operate freely in much of Syria and Iraq, posing a threat to the UK and to the stability of the wider region. My noble friend Lady Nicholson said that they should not be able to have impunity—they should not get away with it. Yesterday, I gave a speech at a meeting at which we were talking about international humanitarian law. I agree with her that impunity is not something we should have as a resource so that, if there is a difficulty, we can let people get away with it. Where there is potential genocide of the Yazidis, we have a long-standing commitment to the importance of accountability. We welcome the commitment of Prime Minister al-Abadi to holding to account those responsible for any atrocities. We look forward to supporting any work which sees those commitments translated into action. We are a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court but any decision to involve the ICC must be made on the basis of whether the court would prove to be an effective means of bringing the perpetrators of those atrocities to justice.

Throughout the difficulties in Syria and Iraq, we have made it clear that air strikes alone will not defeat ISIL but they—and other actions that we have been taking—show our resolve to degrade and ultimately to defeat ISIL. We will proceed carefully, working in lockstep with our partners to deliver a comprehensive plan. We are taking military action in Iraq and, along with other noble Lords, I pay tribute to our superb Armed Forces who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe. We support air strikes in Syria conducted by the United States and our Gulf allies. We heard from several noble Lords, including my noble friends Lady Nicholson and Lord Kirkwood, and the noble Lords, Lord Kalms and Lord Judd, about these matters. I was intrigued that my noble friend Lord Kirkwood made it clear that we need to concentrate on commercial engagement as part of the solution to the problem of stability. He asked why we do not have an Iraqi business group to lead commercial engagement with Iraq. British business is engaging in Iraq and there is some notable success despite the difficult environment. As my noble friend knows, earlier this year the Prime Minister appointed my noble friend Lady Nicholson as trade envoy to Iraq. I have never doubted either her courage or her determination to achieve success.

My noble friend Lord Kirkwood also asked about visas, which were referred to obliquely by one or two other noble Lords. We opened a visa application centre

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in Baghdad in 2013 and have opened mobile centres in Erbil and Basra, which means that applicants no longer have to travel to Oman to obtain those visas. However, I appreciate that some individuals still face considerable security problems and difficulties in getting the relevant documents.

My noble friend Lord Kirkwood asked whether we agreed with his analysis of the new Iraqi Government of al-Abadi being more inclusive, and said that we should support that. I absolutely agree with him. Al-Abadi has shown his willingness to include significant appointments from the country’s main Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities. That is most welcome. He has committed to reforms, including decentralising power, reforming and restructuring the security forces and improving relations with Iraq’s neighbours. However, I have no illusions. This is an encouraging start but we have a great struggle ahead in which we need to maintain the good will of the British public. When we had a Statement on this matter a couple of weeks ago, I spoke of a time when the red-top newspapers no longer have this issue at the top of their reports and when the news bulletins about it on the radio and on Twitter start to decline. We do not need to give publicity to ISIL but we do need to strengthen the resolve of our colleagues around our country that we are doing the right thing in undermining ISIL and, ultimately, defeating it for the security of that area and for that of our own country.

I wish to refer briefly to Turkey as the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Bach, and my noble friend Lord Balfe mentioned very properly the role that Turkey has played and can play. We are very grateful to Turkey for its humanitarian effort. Over the past 48 hours it has been working out in a helpful way how to adjust that. Clearly, it is a crucial partner for all of us in our counterterrorism work. I know that Turkey has difficulties with the Kurdish region because of the PPK issue but it is working as hard as it can to be a very effective partner in the degrading and defeat of ISIL. The noble Lord has been to Lebanon and he was right to remind us of that country, which has borne so much of the brunt of the humanitarian aid. What a brave country. It has absorbed people who now form a great proportion of its population. We stand firmly by Lebanon’s side and offer full support, assistance and training to the Lebanese armed forces in their struggle.

My noble friend Lord Avebury mentioned Yemen. I pay tribute to our embassy staff and FCO staff who travel there on a regular basis to give assistance in that country. They face great personal danger and we are grateful for all that they do. My noble friend is right to point out the danger to human rights.

Noble Lords have referred to Iran. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, reminded us that we should not forget about Iran when we are concentrating on ISIL. My noble friend Lord Lamont asked what would happen if a deal with Iran fails? We will not let it fail. I suggest that he looks in detail at the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Deech.

Obviously, we have discussed the Middle East peace process in detail before. We had contributions today from my noble friends Lord Risby, Lady Warsi,

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Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, Lord Cope of Berkeley, Lady Tonge, Lord Leigh of Hurley and Lord Dykes, and from the noble Lords, Lord Sacks, Lord Mitchell, Lord Turnberg, Lord Weidenfeld, Lord Kalms and Lord Bach. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, provided us with a list of practical suggestions about how to rebuild Gaza. I would like to reflect on that further.

Noble Lords asked whether our policy on Gaza and Palestine has changed. Our policy is clear: we support a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel, living alongside a viable sovereign Palestinian state. We are urging both parties to show leadership and a commitment to return to dialogue. I realise of course that the dialogue has broken down; the terrorist attacks in Sinai on 24 October have prevented that dialogue. However, we are making every effort to ensure that that is recommenced as soon as possible. The process has not failed; it will continue.

We are also urging both parties to avoid all actions that undermine the prospect of peace. That is why we were particularly disturbed when Israel brought forward advanced plans for 1,060 new housing units in east Jerusalem. We consider that to be an ill judged and ill timed decision, which makes it harder to achieve a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital. Such announcements make it more difficult for Israel’s friends to defend it against accusations that it is not serious about peace.

The EU sanctions remain in place. I was asked about those by my noble friend Lady Warsi. We have consistently made it clear through the EU that there will be consequences to further announcements on settlement. Discussions are under way in Brussels at this moment on what further measures the EU could take to discourage any further settlement expansion, including in Givat Hamatos, E1 and Har Homa. The EU is working closely with other member states to that end.

A one-off recognition of the state of Palestine is not something that we wish to pursue at this stage. We are saying clearly—as I did last week and the week before—that negotiation is the way forward. We want to recognise Palestine, but we want to do so when there has been an agreement with both sides that we end up with two states that can live alongside each other. In the mean time, it is important that the agreements reached so far in Egypt are being put in place. I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Hilton, that the fishing limit is indeed in place.

I know that we will return to this subject in depth again and again. I will be debating it with many colleagues off the Floor of the House in another venue next Tuesday morning and I am looking forward to that.

4.37 pm

Lord Risby: My Lords, I say in all humility that it was the greatest privilege for me to be able to introduce this debate because of the quality of the contributions we have heard today, which have reflected such astonishing knowledge, interest and passion about the region, to which we are all committed. As I listened to the speeches, I wondered how many parliamentary Chambers in the world could have held a debate in this way and so effectively. It was remarkable.

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In terms of expertise, we heard contributions about Iran, Egypt, Iraq and other countries which reflect this so admirably. I pay tribute also to our diplomats, who have to work in very difficult circumstances sometimes, and to those engaged in humanitarian relief in different countries in the region. Our history dictates, whether it was the Balfour Declaration, Sykes-Picot or our colonial experience, that we will continue to have involvement, because this is such an important part of the world.

On the Israel and Palestine situation, wherever we come from, all we want is for the security of the Jewish people in Israel to be assured and the dignity of Palestinians to be recognised. Once again, I thank noble Lords for their magnificent contributions, not least the Minister, who summed up so brilliantly and comprehensively and is destined richly to contribute to all our debates on foreign affairs in the months to come.

Motion agreed.

Sport: Football Clubs

Question for Short Debate

4.38 pm

Asked by Baroness Taylor of Bolton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to giving football fans a greater say in the running of clubs.

Baroness Taylor of Bolton (Lab): My Lords, I am very pleased to have the chance to open this debate on giving football fans a greater say in the running of their clubs. In doing so, I declare my interests because I have for a long time been a season ticket holder at Bolton Wanderers Football Club; I should also mention that I receive hospitality from that club or, as the chairman said in the summer, “You can suffer with the rest of us”, which sometimes is the case for all football fans. I want also to mention that I am president of the parliamentary football club, a group that has done much to raise funds for charities and awareness for groups such as Prostate Cancer UK. The club also has a great interest in these issues.

Football is important to me and my family. We are all somewhat addicted, we are all regular match-goers and, like many others in this House and on these Benches, the results at the weekend will determine our mood for the rest of the week. We tend to look forward to the very end of the football season and the relief from the tension that that brings, and then immediately get withdrawal symptoms and realise that summer Saturdays are just not the same. This is because football is more than just a business or a sport. Anyone who does not realise this just does not understand the importance of our national game.

It is true that football is tribal. My husband actually believes that when you register a child’s birth, you should also register the team that they support and that this should not be a matter of choice. Football

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being tribal can and has brought some difficulties and problems, although I am glad to say that that is less the case today. By and large, this is a positive factor, giving fans a sense of community and belonging. Good clubs and their players recognise this by giving back to their communities, as indeed does Bolton Wanderers.

However, that is not always the case. There are owners of football clubs who are genuine fans and who suffer defeats with the rest of us. But there are owners—and this seems to be an increasing problem—who regard their clubs as just another business and who forget or ignore the essence of the club, the fans and their community. Some owners have no links and little loyalty to their club. They think that you can change club colours on a whim. Some even want to change the name of the team. As we have seen recently from the BBC’s Price of Football survey, average ticket prices have increased almost twice as much as the cost of living since 2011—all without any reference to the core supporters, local communities and fans. These owners are treating the club as a commodity and nothing more.

This is why my colleague in another place, Clive Efford, the shadow Sports Minister, has put forward on behalf of the Labour Party plans to give football fans a greater stake in their clubs. Put simply, the idea, which has been drawn up after considerable consultation, is that supporters should come together and form an accredited trust along the lines of industrial and provident societies, with their own governance standards. Then those trusts should get the right in the first place to appoint and remove up to a quarter, and not less than two, directors of the club’s board. Supporters would also get the right to purchase, if they wished, up to 10% of shares when a club changes hands. This would allow fans a say at the top level and help to hold owners to account for issues such as ticket pricing, shirt sponsorship, strip colours and even the name. My honourable friend in another place is now undertaking further consultations, and I hope that all those in authority in football will look at these details carefully.

I understand that the Government have been promising action on this issue for quite some time. Indeed, there was reference to this in the coalition agreement, which stated that it would encourage,

“co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters”.

I know that recent pressure is eventually leading to the establishment of what has been called an expert group of supporters who are going to consider all these issues. That sounds like the long grass to me. It does not give great prospect of action and that is not good enough at this stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has a Private Member’s Bill on the governance of sport. It is quite a substantial Bill—very substantial for a Private Member’s Bill—but I would like to see it go further in this direction. The noble Lord has asked me to apologise for his absence in this debate; he is inevitably abroad today. However, he has said:

“The principle of representation by supporters on the boards of the professional clubs seems to me essential.”

I welcome that, but we have to find the mechanisms to deliver that representation.

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I also welcome the Premier League’s statement that it,

“welcomes the invitation to discuss with Labour their ideas on football governance”.

The Premier League has pointed out its work to get clubs to engage with supporters, which we welcome, and its funding for the Football Supporters’ Federation and for Supporters Direct, an organisation that we can all be proud of because of the work that it has done in recent years. I hope that the Premier League will look carefully to see the benefits of these proposals, because they are really positive for football in the future.

We have examples of supporters’ trusts up and down the country making a positive contribution to football. At present, eight of the 92 trusts own more than 10% of the shares of their clubs and some—Exeter City, Portsmouth, Wimbledon and Wycombe Wanderers —are wholly owned by supporters. A premiership club, Swansea, has the Swansea City Supporters’ Trust holding 20% of the shares. They may be at the centre of what happens to their club in the future. Two days ago it was reported that there was a new potential bid for the club. To have supporters there at that time is extremely good for football.

We can also remember the remarkable developments at Heart of Midlothian, when the club’s foreign owner refused to sell to the fans. The club then went into administration. However, it was rescued by the fans with the establishment of the Foundation of Hearts, with help from Ian Murray MP and my noble friend Lord Foulkes. This group managed to get 8,000 supporters —they only get 14,000 for a match against Hibs—to sign up to a regular direct debit to purchase the club out of administration. They have had support from a local fan and businesswoman, Ann Budge, and the club is now literally on the way up: it is top of the Scottish championship. That was a remarkable achievement.

Of course, not everyone welcomed Labour’s initiative, but most did and I had to look hard to find any criticism. I found an article in the Daily Telegraphthat described this as “effectively nationalisation”. Either the journalist did not understand our proposals or he did not understand nationalisation, which was strange, as the same journalist praised Swansea as one of the most successful clubs of the last few years.

I venture to suggest that harnessing the support and wisdom of fans will strengthen football clubs all ways round, in business terms as well as in community terms. I believe that there is widespread support for these proposals and that it is time for action. I look forward to real progress for football fans.

4.49 pm

Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con): My Lords, some people think that football is a matter of life and death, but I can assure them that it is far more serious than that. The late great Bill Shankly knew of what he spoke. Like it or like it not, there is only one majority sport in Great Britain, and it is Association Football. I love swimming; the Olympic and Paralympic Games were awesome; golf, cricket, rugby and Formula One are all excellent; but only one sport dominates in Britain and that is the sport of soccer.

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To go to any of the grounds, many of them now long gone, to walk through the small side streets that lead to Upton Park, to Filbert Street or to my home club at Molineux, the golden palace that is the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers, is to get a true sense of why football currently has this place. It grew up out of the communities that surround the grounds. You can feel it in the streets and in the hearts of the local people who have committed to their clubs since their initiation in Victorian times. There is now an undoubted divide—some may say it is a seismic chasm—between fan and club. It is a divide which has to be narrowed if not eradicated. Anything that we can do to draw the fan, the player, the manager and the club closer together has to be a positive thing and worth striving for.

I want to focus on two areas: safety and inclusion. The Sports Grounds Safety Authority has done excellent work for the last 20 years. It was born out of the tragic events at Hillsborough in 1989. One of the authority’s key recommendations has been to have fans involved in the local authority safety advisory group. There are two important points to make. First, this demonstrates that fans should be involved in every element of football, not just with the governance of the club but in every element of the spectator experience. Secondly, and crucially, sport is nothing without safety.

On inclusion, it is great if we can have champions for inclusion on the board of directors of Premiership and Football League clubs. Spectators should be involved and connected in key positions so that they can give their own personal perspective on how to make football a truly inclusive sport: a sport for everybody. When I was part of the leadership team at LOCOG, we could quite easily have ignored, avoided or minimised inclusion, but we believed that it was the way to make London 2012 the most inclusive and, through that, the most successful Olympic and Paralympic Games ever. Disabled people were involved in key leadership positions, along with people from black and minority ethnic groups, and women, through all the strata of the company. We set up a built environment access panel to focus on the accessible and inclusive build of all the stadia. We had an access, diversity and inclusion board to ensure that everything we did at LOCOG would be truly inclusive. Football is no different.

Now, as a non-executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, I have the privilege of leading our sports inclusion programme. Working with the professional sports of cricket, rugby union and football, over the next 18 months we aim to make these sports more inclusive by some considerable measure for decades to come. Yes, we want to get more girls playing sport, yes, we want to get more BME people involved across the three sports, and yes, we want to get disabled people involved to ensure that stadia are physically and culturally accessible to everybody.

Football is at the heart of the community. One key way to reconnect and ensure that it holds that place by right and respect is by making the game, the club and the experience truly inclusive. We are working to have access reviews of all grounds, with spectators involved in the process. If we can make rugby, cricket and football accessible and inclusive, it will not just make for better sport, it will make for better Britain.

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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, for initiating this most significant and important debate. There is also in the Labour Party paper that sits behind it a very interesting contribution that is surely worthy of keeping this discussion going for much longer than this evening.

I have one final caveat. When the left gets involved in sport, caution is required. I refer to an article in the Guardian in 2003 involving my club, Wolverhampton Wanderers. In the corrections column—it is unusual, I know, for there to be a typo in the Guardian—it said:

“In our interview with Sir Jack Hayward, the chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers, page 20, Sport, yesterday, we mistakenly attributed to him the following comment: ‘Our team was the worst in the First Division and I’m sure it’ll be the worst in the Premier League.’ Sir Jack had just declined the offer of a hot drink. What he actually said was ‘Our tea was the worst in the First Division and I’m sure it’ll be the worst in the Premier League.’ Profuse apologies”.

4.56 pm

Lord Knight of Weymouth (Lab): My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my friend the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, even though he plays in blue.

I declare an interest as a lifelong supporter and current season ticket holder at Arsenal Football Club. I know only too well the unique bond that exists between a supporter and a club. Often it brings frustration and despair, but also the greatest moments, such as winning the Cup at Wembley. This bond is a commitment for life and the power of football in people’s lives can bring many positive things, including a focal point for community pride. But we must remember that without fans football is nothing. Most cynically put, fans are vital wallpaper and ambient sound for lucrative TV coverage.

Until recently I was a director of the Arsenal fan-share scheme. This is a pioneering scheme that enabled Arsenal fans to buy a part share in Arsenal. As the price of one share is now £15,000, the scheme allowed fans to come together to own an affordable part of a share—called a fan-share. The FSA-regulated scheme was successful at its launch and hailed by many, including the FA, the Premier League, Michel Platini of UEFA, and Jeremy Hunt and Hugh Robertson, who were Secretary of State and Minister for Sport respectively at the time, spoke positively of the scheme as a model for football clubs to follow in terms of supporter ownership-engagement.

The scheme quickly secured almost 2,000 members and collectively they held 120 shares in Arsenal. That meant that 2,000 more fans had a small share in the club’s ownership and there were 120 places to attend the AGM and hold the club’s directors to account. Holders of fan-shares received the club’s report and accounts, and all the information that chief executive Ivan Gazidis sent to Arsenal’s supporters.

Arsenal has benefited greatly over many decades from maintaining stability in its ownership structure, and from having supporters who own shares and are actively involved in this structure. Plurality of ownership has served Arsenal well, and is the best way to ensure that the necessary checks and balances are in place to protect the club’s long-term future.

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Sadly for the fan-share scheme there was a takeover of Arsenal Football Club by Stan Kroenke during the scheme’s early days. This changed everything. Despite many attempts to engage him, Mr Kroenke has refused to meet anyone from the scheme and to support its development. With him buying up all the shares during the takeover, the scheme has struggled to find new shares to buy and was unable to market itself to new members. It is now facing closure. A final plea for Mr Kroenke to issue new shares to the scheme has been refused.

In this regard it is a great pity that the DCMS has taken so long to establish its expert group on football ownership, as recommended to it by the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust. If it had done so, it might have found ways to provide more support to schemes such as fan-share. While Ministers spoke highly of it, they regrettably offered no tangible support when it mattered. As the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust advised the DCMS Select Committee, there are legislative barriers, such as those contained in the Financial Markets and Services Act, that make it more difficult to promote the scheme. I welcome that there is now finally a group to look at these barriers.

We need to go further. We need to discuss how supporters are given a greater say in the way that clubs are run. That is why I welcome the proposals put forward by my honourable friend Clive Efford in the other place and by my party to have fans elected to the boards of football clubs. In my opinion, and that of many other fans I meet, clubs such as Arsenal are too important to be controlled by just one person, and these measures would address that.

It could be achieved by legislation. It could also be achieved by the Premier League and the Football League making changes to their rulebook. The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust has argued that the rules should require supporters at all clubs to be treated in the way they would be if they held equity in the club, even in cases where they do not, and to be offered things such as financial reporting in a format similar to that required under the Companies Act and twice-yearly meetings between representatives of supporters and directors and executives of the club.

In conclusion, I hope that the Government can make progress on these issues with the recently announced expert working group. I also hope that they will correct their omission of not including any representatives from Premier League clubs that face these engagement barriers. But their track record to date is not encouraging. For real change, we have the proposals from Labour and that is why my advice would always be to support the team in red.

5 pm

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, although it is interesting that he has just revealed to us that he is so rich he can afford a season ticket at Arsenal. I am not in that league, I am afraid. I support the football club I used to watch when I was a kid, in the Third Division North, the Fourth Division and the Third Division; unfortunately, it was unceremoniously dumped out of the Football League in 1970 and is now slowly and erratically making its way up the

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non-league pyramid. The club is Bradford Football Club, which people will know as Bradford Park Avenue. It is currently in the second non-league tier, the Conference North—or Vanarama, as we have to call it this year.

I make a serious point here that professional football extends below the bottom of the Football League—what is now known as League Two—certainly into the Conference Premier, where I think about half the clubs are full-time professional clubs and the others are part-time. Certainly, 12 of the 24 clubs have been in the Football League, most of them quite recently, so there is a continuous spectrum from the very top down to the very low levels of the non-league pyramid. These are important clubs. To all intents and purposes, the Conference Premier is now a Fifth Division, and is recognised as that.

The rest of the pyramid is largely composed of part-time professionals; towards the bottom, some of the players are not even paid. It is all part of the richness of the British football system. Although most people who watch football watch the Premier League, for obvious reasons, most people who play football do not play in any of those leagues. They play in Sunday leagues or in boys’ or girls’ leagues. One of the most important aspects of any review of the governance and finance of football must be that more of the enormous amount of money being paid at the top has to filter down through the system. It has to filter down through the leagues and the non-league tiers to the grass roots. Any reform of governance that does not achieve that will not be fundamental in its results.

My party, the Liberal Democrats, being one of the few democratic parties left in British politics—I do not know why the Labour Party people are laughing; if I was in the Labour Party, I would be ashamed of the way that party is now run, but that is not the subject of this debate—had a debate on football and we passed a resolution and some amendments to it. Certain key parts of that resolution do not differ a great deal from what the Labour Party is now saying. There is a developing consensus, certainly outside the Conservatives, that a great deal needs to be done to reform football.

First of all, we called for an independent review of governance. This might sound like the long grass, as the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, said. It is really quite disgraceful that the Conservatives have blocked a policy that was in the coalition agreement four years ago. Anybody who thinks that running a struggling football club is difficult should try going into coalition with the Conservatives. Nevertheless, something is now coming out of it and progress is being made.

Secondly, the fundamental proposal that we put forward was that all professional clubs should have a supporters’ trust by law. That trust should have certain basic rights to block or influence essential things about the football club, such as the location of the club—we all saw what happened with Wimbledon, which was ridiculous—and the colours, name and essential nature of the football club in relation to its local community and supporters.

I am running out of time. I could read out the whole of this resolution, but it is three pages long so I will not do so—it is bound to be three pages long if it is a Liberal Democrat resolution. I urge Members on

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the Labour benches to have a look at it, because there is a huge amount of common ground and we can go forward together to develop a consensus on how to change the very unsatisfactory structure of British football at the moment.

5.06 pm

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, I join other noble Lords in paying tribute to my noble friend Lady Taylor of Bolton for putting this Question down for debate today. Football is a great part of our national life and of our local communities, and we need to have further debates in your Lordships’ House on these issues. At the outset, I should say that I have supported Millwall all my life, I am proud to be a season ticket holder and I declare an interest as such.

I very much agree with the other noble Lords who have spoken about improving the governance of football and giving the fans—the people who turn out loyally to support their teams every week during the season—a greater say in running their football clubs. Without the fans and without their loyalty, there would be no football clubs.

Like Supporters Direct, as my noble friends Lady Taylor of Bolton and Lord Knight of Weymouth said, I very much welcome the announcement by my friend and fellow Millwall supporter Clive Efford MP, detailing Labour’s plans for a shake-up of football governance. These plans will deliver on the objective of ensuring that fans have a real role in the ownership and running of their clubs. They will give supporters’ trusts the power to appoint or remove up to a quarter of the football club’s board of directors and create a formal relationship between the supporters’ trusts and their clubs. The importance of having a seat for fans at the boardroom table where decisions are made cannot be overstated. I am proud that Millwall is one of the clubs that has delivered on this. Mr Peter Garston was elected by all season ticket holders and Millwall Supporters Club members to the board of the club. I also welcome the proposal for a right to buy 10% of the shares on offer during a change of ownership.

As I said earlier, I have been a supporter of Millwall all my life; it is the local team in the part of south London where I grew up and where I live. It is situated inside the London Borough of Lewisham, just yards from the London Borough of Southwark. It is a great community-focused club with a proud history. Our songs from the terraces with lines like “No one likes us, we don’t care” and “Let ’em all come down to the Den” are known by many; some of the other things that the club does may not be.

Local residents will always be grateful for the support the club gave to the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. The players supported the campaign on the pitch; they wore it on their shirts; they came on the marches; they brought the bus to the rallies and they brought the team mascot along so that the children and a few adults could have their photographs taken with him. They helped raise money that was used in the judicial review that proved so successful. The club understood how important the hospital’s survival was to the local community.

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Various charities are supported by the club, including Prostate Cancer UK, Help for Heroes, the Jimmy Mizen Foundation and many others, including the London Taxi Benevolent Association for War Disabled, which raises money to send World War II veterans back to mainland Europe for commemorative events. In addition, local charities can write in to ask permission to hold bucket collections at the ground on match days. Collections are also held for the Peckham food bank on match days.

The club has refused to have anything to do with payday lenders; you will not find a single advert for them anywhere in the ground, in a match programme or on the club website. I congratulate the club for that and hope very much that, one day, no clubs will have anything to do with payday lenders.

In conclusion, I thank my noble friend for putting down this Question for Short Debate today. I wish we had more time to discuss it.

5.09 pm

Baroness McDonagh (Lab): I am sorry not to be following the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney. He did a really good job chairing the Football League and I would have been interested in what he had to say. I declare my interest as a trustee of the AFC Wimbledon Foundation and a proud fan-owner of one of the most successful fan-owned clubs in the UK today: AFC Wimbledon.

Our history is one of two halves. It was born not out of a dream but out of adversity and the terrible governance by our own club and the FA. I know that that is something that my noble friend Lady Taylor seeks to improve. Let me tell our story. Our owner thought he could make more money from property than football so he sold the ground from under us. We blinked, and we were sharing a ground with Crystal Palace. We blinked again, and the FA had agreed a franchise and for our club to move to Milton Keynes. However, unlike the Bruce Springsteen song, our glory days were not behind us. Unsung heroes took two jumpers to Wimbledon Common and, nine years later, we appeared in the professional league again. That was despite being knocked for 18 points—later reduced to three—and kicked out of two FA competitions by the FA when one of our volunteers failed to complete an international transfer form for a player who used to play in Wales. The FA would not have done that to one of our rich clubs—but, as we know, in football money talks.