European Political Community Summit

Lord Dubs Excerpts
Tuesday 12th December 2023

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I am not the diary manager for the Prime Minister—but you never know with the extension of mandates, roles and briefs. In all seriousness, I can speak quite specifically, as I know that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary is very seized of the importance of strengthening our relationship with our key European partners, and I am sure he will be focused on the agenda issues of artificial intelligence and the war in Ukraine. These are important issues not for our country alone, not just for Europe but for the world as a whole.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister mentioned migration, as did other noble Lords. Can the Minister indicate what tangible result has come from the discussions on migration at these summits?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, they provide an opportunity for agreements to be put in place, such as the UK’s agreements with Albania. Practical suggestions can be shared, and it can be ascertained how successes can be reflected across Europe. It is important when we look at illegal migration to note that there are two sides to the coin. The first is stopping illegal migration, but we also recognise that people migrate to countries for a variety of reasons, including bettering their lives, and some are fleeing persecution. The country that I represent on the world stage has a long tradition of standing up for the rights of the persecuted and that is really where we should be focused. Parties of different colours and different political persuasions have always stood up for that right and it is a proud tradition of our country.

Israel-Hamas War: Diplomacy

Lord Dubs Excerpts
Tuesday 12th December 2023

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I am sure the noble Baroness agrees that it is for Israelis and Palestinians to choose who leads them, but I agree with the sentiments that she expresses. It is important that we have people who recognise, as difficult as peace is, how a sustainable peace can be possible. That is why we have committed ourselves to revitalising and energising the peace process that leads to the delivery, in practical terms, of the two-state solution—not just one in which Israel and a Palestinian state live side by side in peace and security but one in which there is a recognition that real strength comes from the inter- dependency of people and communities.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, have the Government considered, in conjunction with our friends, sending hospital ships to the region to provide emergency medical help to people in Gaza who are not getting it in their own hospitals?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is right to raise that. Our discussions with key Gulf partners and directly with Israel are about opening land routes, which are the most effective routes. That is why I alluded earlier, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, to Kerem Shalom. These are six lanes instead of the one lane from Rafah, and we will continue to implore that. I assure the noble Lord that we are looking at all routes, including maritime routes, to provide support and aid into Gaza. We also recognise that where we can provide support we should, whether through supporting countries that have field hospitals in Gaza or through a specific idea that the French have had and that we are exploring, involving vessels that we have currently deployed for humanitarian support and the flexibility to provide support in the way the noble Lord suggests.

Ukraine and Neighbouring Countries: ODA

Lord Dubs Excerpts
Thursday 16th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Tabled by
Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much money they have allocated from the Official Development Assistance budget to (1) Ukraine, and (2) each of its neighbouring countries, since the Russian invasion in February.

Baroness Smith of Basildon Portrait Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab)
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My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Dubs, and with his permission, I beg leave to ask the Question in his name on the Order Paper.

Iran Detainees

Lord Dubs Excerpts
Thursday 17th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, at a time when the world news is almost always bleak, it is good to have good news today. I think we all felt very cheered when we saw on our television screens yesterday and this morning the release of Nazanin and the other person. This marks an important point. I do not want to be churlish, but in future we may still learn the significance of the part the Prime Minister played when he was Foreign Secretary; some of us felt that some of his comments were a bit unfortunate.

The Statement says that the Foreign Secretary dispatched an elite team of Foreign Office negotiators. I assume that they are always elite; if they are not then you are sending your second team, so that is a slightly odd phrase.

I pay tribute to the Members of Parliament who have worked so hard and with such determination, and above all to Richard Ratcliffe. I have met him several times, including when he was on hunger strike outside the Foreign Office. He did everything possible to show determination, resolution, insight and a very balanced and sensible approach. Goodness me, the Foreign Office could use more people like him; he has played such an important part.

I am puzzled by something. As I say, I do not want to break up the sense of harmony, but the Statement says that the money, nearly £400 million, will be,

“available only for humanitarian purposes.”

It was always clear that that was the only basis on which the money could be returned. However, the Statement also says:

“The terms remain confidential to both parties.”


I am a bit puzzled by that because all along many of us were saying that, when that money is repaid, it would be the key to the release of Nazanin and the others. We were always told by the Government that we should not make any connection between the two. I am rather puzzled by that and particularly as to why we should not know the terms. I can think of only one reason, which is that there may be other people whose release might be prejudiced by releasing those terms. Otherwise, I do not see why we should not know. All along, we felt that the delay in getting these people released was because we had not paid up the money that we promised to pay many years ago. Why can we not know the details? By the way, I am thankful for the nice comments that the Minister made about me.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I reiterate the points that I have made. I am grateful to the noble Lord and recognise his important role in relation to these consular cases and the detainees issue in Iran. He mentioned in relation to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe the role of Richard Ratcliffe, as I have acknowledged, in ensuring that her issue very much seized the minds of those in Parliament here in the UK. It was also an issue that was kept on the front burner. I remember my meetings with Richard, including during his hunger week at the United Nations in New York—his efforts were not just here in London; he was also active internationally. I have already alluded to some of the other detainees.

I have already said that we acknowledged the existence of the IMS debt. This was a complex negotiation. As regards the point made about elite diplomats, the noble Lord is quite right. We want the best of the best in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Their efforts and professionalism are testimony to the two parallel issues—the release of the detainees and the vehicle that allowed for the payment of the IMS debt.

The noble Lord asked specifically about the reasoning behind the terms. The terms remain confidential to both parties and that was part of the agreement. However, I have sought to reassure your Lordships’ House that the payment has been made in full compliance with our international obligations and regulations—those concerning international sanctions, counterterrorism financing and anti-money laundering regulations.

Global Refugee Forum

Lord Dubs Excerpts
Monday 7th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his question. Of course, he is right; the UK is one of the High Commissioner for Refugees’ largest financial supporters. We provided more than £714 million in funding across bilateral and multilateral channels between 2016 and 2020, and the same is true in relation to other refugee and migration-related organisations. We provided the International Organization for Migration with around £89 million in 2020, making us the third-largest donor. We were the second-largest donor to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the second-largest donor to the International Committee of the Red Cross—I could go on. The UK has a proud record of supporting refugees globally.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, does it show leadership by this country when we take a handful of Ukrainian refugees, and when we send those who arrive in Calais to Paris or Brussels to get their papers sorted out? Is that not a miserable response compared with Ireland, which has so far taken nearly 700, has committed to taking 2% of all the refugees and is talking about a figure of 100,000 to avoid another Calais? Should we not be ashamed of ourselves?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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The figure that has been quoted and to which I think the noble Lord is referring—that the UK has so far accepted 50 people—is, in reality, growing very significantly. To quote Minister Cleverly from the other place, he says that we are looking to create something very large-scale very quickly. Initially it will be slower, but that will pick up. There is no doubt from the words spoken by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, today that we have created a new system in record time, precisely to allow a far larger number of refugees into this country.

Refugees: Mass Displacement

Lord Dubs Excerpts
Thursday 6th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, I join in the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, not only on initiating this debate but on his consistent commitment to the cause of refugees and displaced persons. It is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, who is the voice of common sense, reason and insight, and we enjoy listening to his speeches.

I have the privilege of serving on the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, where we have a migration committee and we co-operate with the Council of Europe, but of course we are looking more at migration movements into Europe than we are its root causes. We have to accept, and public opinion needs to be prepared for this, that movements of populations towards this country, towards Europe and indeed all over the world will continue, exacerbated not only by wars, conflict, tension and persecution but by climate change. We have to accept that such movements will be the norm rather than deciding that, like King Canute, we can somehow stop the tide.

I join in the condemnation of our mean, niggardly approach to overseas aid. The 0.7% commitment was good—not enough, but good—but we have moved away from it. For us to be cutting it, at a time when the need for an increased overseas aid budget is paramount, is niggardly. I only hope that the Government will change their mind. Our reputation as a country and, above all, our commitment to tackling root causes surely depend upon a decent overseas aid budget. Instead we are seeing miserable approaches such as pushbacks, whether in Croatia or Bosnia, on the Belarus border or in the Mediterranean—or indeed whether we initiate them, as we saw in yesterday’s debate. Surely that is not the right way to move forward.

We should acknowledge what other countries are doing. We may not be fans of the Turkish Government in all respects, but at least they have 3 million to 4 million refugees while the Lebanese are getting on for a million, as are the Jordanians. When people say to me, “Why don’t Muslim countries do more?”, I point out the millions that there are in those countries whereas we are arguing about a small number of people, albeit an important number, who seek to make their way here, and indeed the small numbers who get to Europe other than to Germany.

I want to say two other things. First, it is important that we have public opinion on our side in attempting to explain why tackling the root causes is important, and that it is the best way of dealing with these enormous migration flows. Secondly, we have to be aware of the far right in Europe, who are seeking to exploit the refugee argument for their own miserable political ends. We have, unfortunately, seen how the far right in Europe have achieved electoral successes, some in Germany—in Hungary they are always there—and in Italy, Austria and elsewhere. That is very depressing. I believe the only way to tackle the far right is to make sure that public opinion understands what we are about and we do not have Ministers saying “We don’t want these people here”, because that is exactly the way in which public opinion is not going to be sympathetic to this.

Lastly, there are success stories and Canada is one of them. We should look at Canada and see what it is doing, both internationally and in terms of accepting refugees. Canada is a good example of what can be done, and maybe we should emulate it.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Lord Dubs Excerpts
Thursday 2nd December 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, I express gratitude to my noble friend Lord Collins for initiating the debate and laying out the arguments so clearly. Really, all we need is the Minister’s response to his speech, but the rest of us are here in support. I was talking to a Member of this House who has spoken on this subject on previous occasions but said that he was not disposed to speak again today. I said that I wanted to speak again today to show support for Richard Ratcliffe and Nazanin. We need to show that support.

When we had our debate on this recently, I said to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, that we would keep on going—what other choice do we have? We feel that this is an abuse of human rights and the rights of the family, and that what has happened to Nazanin is totally illegal. We will just keep going. If that sounds repetitive, it is, because we have no other choice—what else can we do? If the Minister could suggest some other course of action to us, we would take it.

I will repeat one or two of the questions that my noble friend put in his opening speech. How is it that the United States has got its nationals released, as have Australia, France and Germany? What have they done that we cannot? What have they conceded? Have they done something that is wrong in principle? They have managed to get their nationals out; surely to goodness we should be looking at what they have done and at why we cannot do the same.

Many of us went to see Richard Ratcliffe when he was on hunger strike outside the Foreign Office. He is a brave man; he is committed; he is principled; he understands the issues—he has a better understanding of the politics of what is going on than most of us, I dare say. His level of commitment and faith that he will eventually get his wife back here is evident. It takes a lot of tenacity for an individual to keep going like that. He stayed on hunger strike a long time; he was very hungry and cold. Someone said he should stop, for the sake of his wife and daughter, because his health could be in danger. Some of his family are doctors and said the same thing, so I am glad that he stopped. But what an effort of principle it was on his part. Perhaps some of us should have joined him on his hunger strike—although that may have been asking too much of parliamentary colleagues. Richard certainly set an example of tenacity of purpose.

Jeremy Hunt, as Foreign Secretary, and the Defence Secretary both said that the money that we owed was not ransom, and an international court supported that. I do not understand two of the comments made by Ministers in earlier debates: that the issue of the money was complicated and that raising it was unhelpful. Will the Minister say what is meant by “complicated” and “unhelpful”? It is a straightforward commitment. The Prime Minister, when he was Foreign Secretary, said that we owed the money; everyone else says that we owe the money. What is unhelpful about saying that we as a country have a debt and we pay our debts? That is our principle. We support the rule of law. It is precisely because the Iranians are not supporting the rule of law that this terrible situation has arisen, and those of the other British nationals held there.

What, therefore, is complicated and unhelpful about raising this issue? If the £400 million is not a ransom, and the present Prime Minister promised that the debt would be paid, what is happening? Why cannot that debt be paid? Everyone who was at the hunger strike supporting Richard asked why the ransom was not being paid. Nobody can understand it. Somewhere in the depths of the Foreign Office there may be some explanation of it, but we have not heard it at all.

The Government used the status of diplomatic protection to try to give Nazanin some help. I wonder how we have used that diplomatic protection. When she was back in court recently and got a further sentence, the British Embassy, as I understand it, did not go to the court to support her. On another recent occasion, officials from the German Embassy went to the court. They were not allowed in to the trial of one of their nationals but they had a chance to talk to the judge—that surely was at least something. Why is our embassy not willing to go there and be supportive? When her daughter, Gabriella, sent presents, no embassy official delivered them—an embassy driver took them to where she was under house arrest. I do not understand why we are being so shabby. Why are we not doing more? Why are we not up front in our support for this wronged woman who has been treated so appallingly badly?

In February, I think, Canada led an initiative, which we backed, against the arbitrary detention of foreign nationals. What are our Government doing about that? If ever there was a case of arbitrary detention of foreign nationals, it is the British nationals in Iran, including Nazanin. Did not Dominic Raab, when he was Foreign Secretary, acknowledge that she was being tortured—that the way in which she was being detained was tantamount to torture? Torture is surely one of the worst things. Every international convention is against torture; as a Government we are totally against it. It is appalling and abhorrent. Why are we not saying more about that?

Lastly, in terms of action, my noble friend talked about Magnitsky sanctions. We have to do something. If the Government are not willing to act, we have to do something, and Magnitsky sanctions at least offer some way forward.

May I put a question to the Minister that I have asked him before? I believe that there is something else going on. I do not know what it is but there is some reason, in the depths of the Foreign Office, why we cannot move and pay the money. There is something holding us back. We cannot be afraid of US sanctions, because the Americans have breached their own sanctions, so what are we afraid of? What are we apprehensive about? How will our status in the world be undermined? Surely to goodness, we are entitled to know what the argument is. The Minister can play a very dead bat; he has a wide respect in the House for the person he is, and I know he is trying to be helpful. I do not blame him for this, but he is the only person we can shout at here, so I am shouting at him. There is some reason why this is not moving forward, and I would dearly like to know what it is. One day, in 30 years’ time, when the books are open, we will find out, but we would like to know now why this is not happening. I urge the Government to move quickly for the sake of a decent woman, a little girl and a husband who has been battling for her release.

Gender Pay Gap

Lord Dubs Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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My noble friend has been a long-term campaigner on the gender pensions gap and the net pay issue, and I am glad that we have some good news on the horizon. It was a Conservative Government who introduced mandatory gender pay gap reporting, in 2017, which means that all large employers—those of more than 10,000 employees—have to calculate it publicly. This has placed the gender pay gap at the top of the agenda and prompted conversations with business. Employers are now focused on understanding and tackling the causes of the gaps in their own organisations.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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Does the Minister agree—and I ask her to be bold in this instance—that complete transparency of income is the best way of dealing with the gender pay gap and discrimination on the grounds of race and disability? Surely the only answer is that we should have all incomes in the public domain through the tax system; that way we would know who is earning what and where discrimination takes place, and we would also see who is on the fiddle.

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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You cannot argue with that. On transparency, I am absolutely with the noble Lord, but the issue of publishing everything on tax and salary is well beyond my pay grade. I will talk to my friends in the Treasury.

Charities: Landmines

Lord Dubs Excerpts
Monday 15th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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The noble Lord is right that the funding has currently been reduced in relation to demining. The Global Mine Action Programme, which I mentioned earlier, will begin next year. We are reviewing funding and country allocations and hope to be able to share our plans for the programme in due course.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, further to the last question, is not the truth that the cut in our support for clearing landmines, cluster bombs and cluster munitions will result in thousands of people either being killed or having their legs blown off? How can we justify such a cut?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, the UK has invested really significant sums; it is one of the most generous countries in the world when it comes to funding demining. We have saved, as a consequence of taxpayers’ contributions to programmes backed by the Foreign Office, the lives of many, many hundreds of thousands of people. As I said, the FCDO recognises how critical this work is. That is why we are reviewing the decisions that were made: we are reviewing funding and country allocations and we will come back with details as soon as possible.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Lord Dubs Excerpts
Monday 15th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, I do not accept, and the Government cannot accept, that we have a responsibility for the incarceration and appalling treatment of Nazanin. This is a decision made by the Government of Iran, and one that they can reverse. Of course, we will, and we continue to, do as much as we possibly can to secure her release. That is why this issue—this appalling case—has been escalated to the highest level, not least in the form of diplomatic protection, which means that it becomes a case between states as opposed to the prior situation.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, many people still do not understand the issue of the £400 million that we owe to Iran; it keeps getting raised. The Americans have paid money to the Iranian Government despite their sanctions. Can the Minister please explain clearly what is going on? Many of us who have met Richard Ratcliffe on his hunger strike outside the Foreign Office have given him an undertaking that we shall continue to press the Government. This will go on and on until the Government do something.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are doing something. We are engaging at the highest possible level; whether it is the Prime Minister or the previous or current Foreign Secretary, engagement happens on a very regular basis. I do not accept the idea that the Government are doing nothing. However, were the Government to pay hundreds of millions of pounds to the Iranian Government, that would undoubtedly be seen as payment for a hostage situation.