Sir Edward Heath: Operation Conifer

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Wednesday 17th January 2024

(5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

It a privilege to take part in this debate and I begin by adding my thanks to those of others to my noble friend Lord Lexden. He has been persistent and tenacious, and time and again he has raised this matter on the Floor of your Lordships’ House. Time and again we have had answers from the Minister on duty at the time, including the present Chief Whip when she was Home Office Minister, refusing to have the sort of inquiry that is being called for today by almost everyone who has spoken—but never has a proper, logical and coherent reason been given for that refusal.

I would compare my noble friend Lord Lexden in some way with another parliamentary hero of recent days, my noble friend Lord Arbuthnot. Yesterday, we had a debate on the Post Office scandal, and of course my noble friend Lord Arbuthnot contributed to that debate. I cannot for the life of me understand why, in light of the things that have been revealed about that appalling miscarriage of justice, we still have these stonewalling, negative answers from Ministers. If only Ministers, at the beginning of the Post Office accusations, had looked at the fact that here was a group of people with a collective reputation for probity, and an individual one in their own local villages and side streets, et cetera, and asked how they had suddenly become a nest of criminal vipers. It is absolutely ludicrous, yet Minister after Minister refused to probe. The whole thing is appalling.

Here we have a different case. We have a great statesman—and he was a great statesman. He was also an awkward cuss in many ways. I did not know him anywhere near as well as my noble friends Lord Waldegrave and Lord Hunt, but he stayed in our house on one or two occasions and did dinners for me in my constituency. He could be the life and soul of the party and then could suddenly clam up. However, the fact is that he was a great statesman who served his country and changed its course—would that we could go back, as my noble friend Lord Waldegrave said, but we cannot. But what we can do is restore the reputation of a man who has been traduced by evil people saying evil things.

The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, quoted Carl Beech, that reptilian character who has caused such anguish to people most of us knew, including Lord Brittan, who died with a dark cloud over him, and his widow. There was Lord Bramall, whose wife died before he did and did not fully understand what was going on; and Sir Edward Heath, a great statesman who served his country, as I said. Collectively and individually, we owe him a lot. Above all, we owe him justice, even if it is posthumous.

I understood the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Parekh; it was an eloquent speech and he tried to make it balanced—but he failed, I think, because I honestly believe that my noble friend Lord Lexden’s call for an inquiry must be answered positively if we are going to give justice to the reputation of a great man.

So I beg my noble friend—I have done so before in Question Time, but I do so now in support of my noble friend Lord Lexden and other noble friends and noble Lords from all over your Lordships’ House. We say that the Government does have a duty to do what the Wiltshire police and crime commissioner in 2019 asked for. He said that the Government can do this. They should do this. I would go much further and say that the Government must do this.

As for the precise form it takes—whether it is appointing a High Court judge to investigate—there are various ways they could approach this. There is a very black stain on government and Parliament’s reputation unless we honour the memory of Sir Edward by making sure that this farrago of lies and nonsense is shown to be precisely that. I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is, and we owe it not only to the memory of Sir Edward Heath but to ourselves to do this and to do it quickly. I beg my noble friend to give a positive reply for once when he winds up the debate.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I did not say that it was a local matter; I said that it was for the local force to decide whether they considered that to be appropriate. I think that is an important distinction. I accept that—

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Hansard - -

Will my noble friend, at the very least, do as the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, requested and give the Home Secretary a copy of this debate, and underline how unanimous the general sentiment in this House was? Will he do one other thing? Will he ask the Home Secretary to receive a deputation of Members of your Lordships’ House who have taken part in this debate?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I say to my noble friend that I am coming to that in a second.

I have to a large degree retraced a lot of old ground, which is perhaps only to be expected when considering a question that we have already discussed many times. I am reconciled to the fact that this will obviously annoy and disappoint my noble friend Lord Lexden—

Rwanda Treaty

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Friday 8th December 2023

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the noble Baroness’s second point, the Government are devoting considerable resources to tackling the criminal gangs, as has been well established from the Dispatch Box in many previous debates. As regards the letter that was sent yesterday, I am sure the noble Baroness will recall that the Permanent Secretary appeared before HASC and the Public Accounts Committee on 29 November and 4 December. They asked about payments that the UK had made and he explained at that point that payments in the 2023-24 financial year would be announced in our annual report and accounts next summer, for reasons of balancing the public interest. Since then, Ministers have agreed that Sir Matthew can now disclose the payments for this financial year. That is what happened.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, we all completely condemn these terrible criminals, but how many have been apprehended?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I do not know the answer to that. Part of the reason that I do not know the answer is that so much of this activity takes place on foreign shores.

UK-Rwanda Partnership

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Thursday 7th December 2023

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, the seventh paragraph of the Statement that was delivered in another place yesterday says that the Government will introduce legislation next week

“to give effect to the judgment of Parliament that Rwanda is a safe country, notwithstanding UK law or any interpretation of international law”.—[Official Report, Commons, 6/12/23; col. 433.]

Can my noble friend explain precisely what that means? Will he also share with the House how we will measure success, and whether we expect to have 100 people sent to Rwanda next year, or 200, or 1,000? Could he give us a rough idea of what figure the Government expect to reach to be able to achieve success?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I point my noble friend to Clause 1(6) of the Bill, which actually outlines what international law means; it is a non-exhaustive list. Regarding how we will judge success, I think we are already seeing some. As the Prime Minister mentioned this morning, a number of crossings have been deterred, and the numbers are down on last year. Success in its entirety will involve putting the criminal gangs out of business once and for all.

Asylum Seekers: Deportation from France

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Monday 4th December 2023

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, I agree with both those comments.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, would it not make much more sense if we talked to the French a little more about processing applicants in France, rather than all this rubbish talk about Rwanda?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My noble friend raises this subject fairly frequently. In March, the Prime Minister and President Macron agreed the largest-ever deal with France to tackle small boat crossings, building on our existing co-operation. As a result of this deal, we have seen a significant uplift of personnel deployed to tackle small boats across northern France and the procurement of new, cutting-edge surveillance technologies and equipment to detect and respond to crossing attempts. So far, over the last calendar year, those efforts—as I have said many times from the Dispatch Box—have stopped, I think, 22,000 attempted crossings. It is probably more by now.

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Wednesday 29th November 2023

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a shorter answer, I will certainly give the noble Lord that. The Government keep the list of proscribed organisations under review. We do not comment on whether a specific organisation is or is not being considered for proscription. This position has been informed by several considerations, including to avoid creating an expectation that the Government will proscribe a certain organisation, to reduce the risk of an organisation taking evasive action before the proscription order comes into force, and to manage the risk of any subsequent decision being vulnerable to challenge on procedural grounds. The Government will always consider the full range of powers available to tackle threats on our soil.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, not a single Member of this House, I would think, believes that there is any answer to this question other than “yes”. Can my noble friend please go back to his department and tell the Secretary of State that what we want to hear is that this organisation has been proscribed?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I said earlier, I fully understand the strength of feeling in both this House and the other place, as does the Home Secretary. I am well aware that 67 cross-party parliamentarians wrote to the Prime Minister requesting proscription in early November. The Home Secretary is due to respond to that.

Metropolitan Police Reform

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Monday 27th November 2023

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord makes a good point. I thank all the officers from around the country who have been drafted in to assist with the policing of these protests. I was very pleased to see that, at the weekend, the protest passed largely without too much trouble. As regards morale, that would be for the commissioner to share with us but, as I said, conversations are current, topical and ongoing.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I revert to a point made by my noble friend Lord Lexdon in his admirable Question. Two Members of your Lordships’ House who are now sadly no longer with us, Lord Brittan and Lord Bramall, were traduced in an almost unimaginable way as a result of Operation Midland. I know that noble Lords throughout the House feel very strongly on this. Why can there not be, even at this stage, a proper investigation into Operation Midland, including precisely what went wrong and why?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My noble friend raises an interesting subject. It has been raised with me at this Dispatch Box 14 times over the past two years. I am afraid that my answer is not going to change. It will remain consistent across those 14, now 15, answers: the Government have no plans to interfere in this.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Safe Routes

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd November 2023

(7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the thing with the Pakistan situation is that we are involved in negotiations with the Pakistani authorities about getting these people out. I think the priority has to be to get them out as safely as possible and as quickly as possible, rather than worrying too much, at this point, about exactly how I report the statistics to this House. I will do so, but I want to make sure those people get out safely.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, my noble friend has said he will follow up on the question of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, of a moment or two ago. Would he agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, that that would be by far the better solution?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid that is very much above my pay grade.

Abortion Clinics: Safe Access Zones

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Monday 20th November 2023

(7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree, but I also say that the protesters should stop their intimidation now and leave those women well alone, as the noble Baroness suggests. I have tried to explain the context of the consultation and the reasons for it. There is nothing more to say on that at the moment.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, although no one could defend intimidation or harassment, there are those who quietly pray. This came up when we debated the subject earlier in the year, and considerable concern was expressed in a number of quarters of the House. Can my noble friend assure me that the consultation that will follow will take account of those who merely stand quietly and pray silently?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My noble friend should probably consult some of the providers to find out the precise types of behaviour happening outside their clinics. Plenty of examples are available online. The most recent I saw was on 4 November from BPAS. However, training will have to reflect Article 9 of the ECHR; as the House knows, that is around the freedom of expression and manifestation of religion and belief. I also say that those rights are heavily qualified.

Illegal Immigration

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Monday 20th November 2023

(7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would not try to explain that. I do not know what will be in the new legislation. I do not know how it is worded; I do not know what the intention is for it, so I cannot answer any of those questions, for obvious reasons. I do not know whether it will solve the problem; I sincerely hope it does, for obvious reasons. One thing I would expect to be in a treaty—I am just speculating—is that it will be enforceable in some way. Whether that is through the Rwandan courts or through other international means, I really do not know. But we are going some way to try to address the Supreme Court’s concerns.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, does my noble friend accept that we need a solution that is accepted across the political parties, particularly as there will be a general election within the next 14 months? Is there not an overriding case for saying that if ever a Bill needed pre-legislative scrutiny by a Committee of both Houses, it is this Bill?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord probably makes a good point, but my understanding from reading the likely timetable is that parliamentary time would not allow.

Policing of Marches and Demonstrations

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Monday 13th November 2023

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I cannot answer that question, but I certainly hope the police are investigating.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I revert to the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans. It would be a marvellous beginning for the new Home Secretary if he were to call in leaders of the Jewish community—who have the admiration and respect of us all—together with those responsible Palestinians who have a legitimate cause for concern at the destruction and deaths in Gaza. If he were to do that, using moderate language—which I am sure he would—it would help to ease tension and to bring together people who have a common cause.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am happy to reflect my noble friend’s opinion to the new Home Secretary when I speak to him.