UN General Assembly September 2023

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Wednesday 18th October 2023

(7 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord has wise insights from his time as our permanent representative at the United Nations. I agree with him about the reform that is needed, but I am sure he would agree with me that it has to go beyond words and papers being produced, and that we need practical delivery of the reforms. I want to move away from the division that is sometimes put forward about the global North and the global South. This should be a comprehensive review of understanding the equities, the strengths, the opportunities and also the challenges we have, and how we work in terms of partnership, particularly for developing nations. I talked about climate earlier; let us be quite real there. Climate change matters in certain respects to certain countries. If you are Vanuatu or Tuvalu—countries in the Commonwealth—climate change is an existential threat. It is vital that we look at the global impact of the decisions we make, but that needs fundamental reforms in the international rules-based system.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has today called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Israel. We need the hostages home safely to their people, and we need to stop the unnecessary bombing of innocent men, women and children. Does the Minister agree?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I have been very much engaged and quite heavily involved in the diplomatic efforts since the abhorrent crimes that were committed against the Israeli people and the Israeli nation. Let us be very clear from this House: Hamas itself is a proscribed organisation and its tactics, antics and impact on Israel shook that country to the core. Equally, I assure the noble Lord that we are engaging in all diplomatic efforts. He will have heard the statements of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, and indeed those of the right honourable leader of the Opposition, that we as a country are at one. We do not want to see innocent lives lost, be they Israeli or Palestinian. I assure the noble Lord that we are working all diplomatic channels—bilaterally and collectively in the region—to ensure that this conflict, which has cost so many lives already, can be brought to a halt. We need the hostages back and we need humanitarian aid to enter to help the desperate people in Gaza.

Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the first thing I would say to the noble Lord is that it is not just about money. One of the primary assets we have is our advocacy and diplomacy. The noble Lord himself is an example of diplomacy and advocacy around the world. I am proud of the fact that the United Kingdom leads on this agenda, not just on freedom of religion, standing up for girls’ rights, standing up for development, standing up for human rights defenders through practical initiatives, yes, but support through money as well. We stand by our commitment to ensuring that humanitarian support and the priority given to women and girls remains part and parcel of our development and diplomacy effort.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, at the heart of civil society are the trade unions, the workers’ last line of defence against bad bosses and authoritarian Governments across the world. Yet, unfortunately our own Government have dramatically undermined workers’ rights for the past 12 years and are planning to go further, even against the advice of employers. Can the Minister confirm that he is co-operating with the International TUC and the ILO to stop the abuse of workers such as we have seen in Qatar, with thousands of workers dramatically losing their lives. Is he not embarrassed that the Government claim to be championing human rights while restricting them at home?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, among other things I am the UK Human Rights Minister and, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Collins, would testify, I believe in co-operation and working very closely with the Trades Union Congress and indeed with the CBI. I assure the noble Lord that in our interactions I meet regularly with the ILO and hear the views of the TUC. Indeed, the TUC forms part of the UK delegation in the annual International Labour Conference. I stand by that. Trade unions play an important role in our consultation and, as he said, both in Qatar and elsewhere we take their views very much on board in standing up for the rights of migrant workers. We have a debate later this week on human rights, workers’ rights and migrant rights. It is because of UK support, technical support, diplomatic support and through experience of our CSOs that we are able to help countries, including those in the Gulf, improve migrant rights as we have seen in places such as Bahrain.

Cost of Living: Low Income Families with Children

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Wednesday 13th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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Of course we agree. All young children should have a good start in life, even if their circumstances vary. I pick up on the point about lone-parent families that the noble Baroness raises. I have received a number of documents from Gingerbread, which is a real advocate for this and does a terrific job. One of the ways in which we can help is to make sure that people who should pay child maintenance actually pay it. I know there is a lot of criticism of the Child Maintenance Service, and I for one would not stand here and say it is perfect. But let me tell the noble Baroness that we are using enforcement powers, because that is one way we can get money to children who really need it.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, Loughborough University research shows that the temporary £20 uplift to universal credit helped reduce the number of children in poverty from 3.8 million to 3.6 million. That is a sizeable amount, without a shadow of a doubt. The report warns that the decision to end the uplift threatens to reverse this positive trend, and that in-work poverty has now become a major issue for many families. Does the Minister agree that the Government should be taking every possible step to reduce the scandal of child poverty, starting with restoring the uplift and raising social security by at least the rate of inflation, so that no child has to stare poverty in the face?

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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I think it was said by our previous Chancellor and many others that the Government cannot solve every problem. That does not mean that we reduce our efforts to do so. The £20 uplift was, at the risk of boring everybody, a temporary measure and has been stopped, but we will have the annual uprating of benefits and the Secretary of State will look at it in September this year.

Shortage of Workers

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Wednesday 6th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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I note the point the noble Baroness makes about shortages in the aviation sector, and there have in fact been problems in road haulage and other sectors. But the Government and the DWP have been working closely with trade bodies and employers to try to work things through. All I can say is that I am sorry we were not quick enough.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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We all know—indeed, the last speaker just pointed it out—that one of the main reasons for the shortage of labour is Brexit. As the CEO of Ryanair said, that is the single biggest problem, but it is not helped either by Covid. However, there is a solution the Government unfortunately will not consider, even though it builds on their tremendous work to fast-track Ukrainians with relatives in the UK. What is stopping the Minister from doing the same for refugees from other countries, with relatives who are prepared to sponsor them? Let them work; let them live; let them contribute to British society.

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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Immigration policy is not in the DWP’s gift. I suggest the noble Lord takes that up with the Home Office, although I am happy to help by diverting his question to the Home Office. The noble Lord is correct about Ukrainian refugees: we have done a lot to get them into the benefits system and get them national insurance numbers. I am pleased to say that a lot of them are highly skilled and qualified, and we look forward to integrating them into the workforce.

Cost of Living: Pensioners

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Thursday 26th May 2022

(1 year, 12 months ago)

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Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords—

Lord Ashton of Hyde Portrait Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con)
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My Lords, there is plenty of time. We can have the Cross Benches and then Labour.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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I confirm to the noble Baroness and the whole House that the Chancellor and his team are cognisant of the issues that the most vulnerable are facing—those who cannot work and those who are in work but wish to do better. He is clear that, as this situation evolves, his response will evolve too. The most vulnerable are at the heart of what the Government want to do, so please be patient.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, Age UK said that, before the pandemic, 1.3 million pensioners in England were suffering from the “risk of malnutrition”. It adds that

“1.4 million older people … have been eating less since the start of the pandemic”

and are

“at a greater risk of becoming malnourished”.

What estimate have the Government made of the risk of malnutrition among pensioners and what are we doing about it?

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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We have sought to help pensioners at this very difficult time. On the noble Lord’s specific point about malnutrition, if he accepts, I will need to write and place a copy in the Library for all noble Lords.

Fishing Industry

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Wednesday 16th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement, covering the whole of the United Kingdom, provides a significant uplift in quota for UK fishers, which is estimated to be worth around £146 million for the whole UK fleet. That is equal to just over 25% of the value of the average annual EU catch from UK waters and is being phased in over five years, with the majority of that value being transferred this year. That applies to the whole of the United Kingdom.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, the sustainability of the fishing industry in the UK is of course a critical matter, as noble Lords will all agree. Does the Minister agree that the sustainability of the car industry is also crucial to the economy of our country and join me in welcoming the Prime Minister’s statement that the Government—in fact, both Houses—will do whatever is necessary to make sure that the car plant in Ellesmere Port, my home town, is sustained? Will he join me in wishing every success to the ongoing negotiations?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I certainly join the noble Lord and, no doubt, the whole House in wishing the greatest luck to our negotiators. On sustainability generally, I think the UK can say that we are world leaders. We have 372 marine protected areas, protecting nearly 40% of our waters; we have created a new £500 million Blue Planet Fund; we have been one of the most active members of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative; and, for UK waters, including our overseas territories, we now protect an area of water larger than India.