16 Viscount Hailsham debates involving the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Israel and Gaza

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Thursday 21st March 2024

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I can give the noble Lord both those assurances. This week my noble friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken directly to hostage families. I also met, for a second time, one of the mothers of the hostage families; he is not in his place, but I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Levy, for arranging that. It is important, and I assure the noble Lord and your Lordships’ House that this is a key priority. That is why we need the fighting to stop now so that we can get the hostages returned and aid in. To his point on remains, I remember a very poignant meeting, together with my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, at which one of the relatives looked at me quite directly and said that irrespective of our faiths—I speak as a Muslim and she was of the Jewish faith—we all recognise the importance of closure, and we need to bring closure to the families of those tragically killed.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, will my noble friend impress on his counterparts in the Israeli Government that, difficult though the two-state, or confederal, solution may be, it is by far the least bad of those that are available—not least because if the political aspirations of the Palestinian people are not met by such an approach, there will be no lasting peace?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I totally agree with my noble friend, and that is why we have impressed, and my noble friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear, that a key component of the key deliverables for a sustainable peace is a political horizon towards the two-state solution, which includes—as the Saudi Foreign Minister rightly said—irreversible steps to that solution. There is a real willingness and recognition of the need—I know that many in your Lordships’ House who know the Palestinians and Israelis would agree—to ensure security, stability and peace between both peoples, and that can be delivered only through a viable two-state solution.

Rules-based International Order

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Tuesday 16th January 2024

(6 months ago)

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Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton Portrait Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)
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I think I am right in saying that a meeting has already been arranged and is in process. I do not know whether the noble Lord will be joining us, but it would be a pleasure to get together after all these years.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, in furtherance of a rules-based society, I suggest to my noble friend that it would be desirable if he could promote a coalition of willing states to reinforce the efforts of the United States and the United Kingdom to ensure safe navigation in international seas. We need a coalition of willing nations to participate.

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton Portrait Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)
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Obviously no one likes a coalition more than I do.

Violence in the West Bank

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Thursday 6th July 2023

(1 year ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Baroness’s first point, I have directly met some of the NGOs, including Medical Aid for Palestinians, in my office in the last 48 hours and we discussed specific measures. Engagement with NGOs is a key part of my priorities. We will be convening a session tomorrow on this issue at the UN Security Council. It is a closed session but will be followed later in our presidency with a more extensive debate on the Middle East peace process. I share all the relevant concerns expressed by the noble Baroness about the need for negotiation and for peace to prevail.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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Will my noble friend say to his counterparts in the Israeli Government that those of us who are strong supporters of the state of Israel are none the less deeply concerned by the building of settlements outside the internationally recognised frontiers of Israel, by the absence of any obvious movement on a peace settlement or agreement with the Palestinians, and by the propensity to use massive force? Does he agree that this is not a stable situation?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I totally agree with my noble friend. For the record, again, the United Kingdom’s position on the settlements is clear: they are an impediment to peace. As my noble friend illustrated, those settlements are of course illegal under international law.

Northern Ireland Protocol Bill

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Lord Judge Portrait Lord Judge (CB)
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My Lords, I shall be very brief and will say nothing about the breadth of the power being sought by Clause 12. I will read Clause 12(3):

“A Minister of the Crown may, by regulations, make any provision which the Minister considers appropriate”.


We all know what that means: a Minister will be empowered to create any regulations as he or she thinks fit. That is not objective: as he or she, sitting down, thinks fit. It is purely subjective. If we allow this piece of legislation to go through, we are saying to the Minister, “At whatever time it may suit you, take a blank sheet of paper and either write with a pen or type on your laptop whatever you think you want”. That will then be put before the Commons and the Lords, and, as they have not rejected anything for an eternity in real terms, it will become law.

Is that really how we think that power should be given to Ministers anywhere within the UK? It surely is not. There are other ways of making regulations. Good heavens, no Minister needs a lesson from me in how to create regulations; we are bombarded with them all time. But I do ask the House: is this really how we expect to be governed? The Minister can do what the Minister likes. The clause uses a different and longer phrase—“considers appropriate”—but it really means no more than whatever he or she wishes. It is not good enough.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, I simply express my very strong support for what the noble and learned Lord has said: there is absolutely no limitation on the power conferred on the Minister to make

“any provision which the Minister considers appropriate”.

There is no test here of necessity or a requirement that the Minister should be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for thinking that the regulation is necessary. In any event, the regulation is both unamendable—as all regulations are—and subject to the negative procedure, which means in effect that it will never be discussed. So it is thoroughly bad. I have no doubt that it is for that reason that the Joint Committee recommended that this particular power should be removed from the Bill, and if I am given the chance to vote for that view, I shall do so.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, in the spirit of trying to help the Government, I will repeat what I said in relation to an earlier group of amendments: it would help the Committee, as well as the other place, if the Government could give us an indication of the type of regulations that they have in mind, so that we do not have this blanket provision before us today. There is still time to do that.

I will also ask a question of information. I understand that the “provision” to which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, refers in removing it from this particular clause does not apply to agricultural subsidies. So, if it is the case that agricultural subsidies are still going to apply, who is in a position at the moment to decide on that, and within what timeframe would that be?

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and fully acknowledge that there are issues that noble Lords have raised before. In particular, I refer to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who once again, in his usual forensic and specific way, highlighted with great brevity the main issue of concern. I acknowledge that this has been raised by noble Lords during the passage of the Bill. However, I will revert to the specific amendments and seek to provide answers to some of the questions raised. I caveat that by saying that we will review some of the specific technical questions relating to previous debates—and, indeed, to previous Bills and treaties—and ensure that we provide a comprehensive response.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for acknowledging the letter. I hope that having three Ministers on the Front Bench is better than one. It underlines the importance that we attach to your Lordships’ House on the Bill. I also want to say from the outset, on the issue that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, raised about the extent of the EU mandate, that we shall ask it to change from its earlier negotiating position.

My noble friends Lord Dodds, Lord Lilley and Lord Hannan alluded to the essence of why the Bill is necessary. Of course these things are negotiated. Every contract and treaty is made in good faith. The noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, was right to gaze in my direction. We are of course negotiating in good faith. If we were not, it would be a non-starter—it is as simple as that. I mentioned that I was in the last call that we had with the European Commission. We want to pursue a negotiated settlement because we believe it is in the interests of all parties and, in particular, it takes forward the concerns to which my noble friend Lord Dodds alluded. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, that it is important that we hear a broad debate about all the concerns that exist, particularly among all the communities in Northern Ireland.

Turning to Amendment 16 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, the power in Clause 12(3), also referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, is in line with those contained elsewhere in the Bill, but it ensures the proper implementation of the regime set out elsewhere in Clause 12, including taking account of any developments that could arise as a result of changes to the subsidy control landscape.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised the issue of agriculture. To respond to her, my understanding is that Clause 12 applies to agricultural subsidies. The purpose of Article 10(2) was to provide the flexibility needed to avoid Northern Ireland businesses losing out from leaving the common agricultural and fisheries policies. Clause 12 achieves flexibility by disapplying EU state aid law, rendering the carve-outs unnecessary. Agriculture and fisheries will be dealt with under the domestic regime. The new domestic regime provides a single coherent framework for all sectors. The inclusion of agriculture and fisheries will protect competition and investment in these areas across all parts of the UK, as it does for other sectors.

My noble friend Lord Dodds also talked about the detail of the regulations. Of course, I accept the importance of the need for the regulations. There will be opportunities to look at the regulations and for them to be scrutinised through normal parliamentary procedures. However, I note the points that have been made by my noble friends and other Peers in this respect. As I indicated earlier in respect of the information that we will seek to provide—

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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I intervene on a narrow point. Why is my noble friend against the test of necessity being included on the face of the Bill?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I believe that my noble friend is talking about the ministerial powers that exist here. We have had this debate before as well. We believe that a broader nature is necessary, and that is why “appropriate” is being used: to allow the maximum level of flexibility that the Government believe will be required. Of course, I accept there are differing opinions and views on this. Indeed, in conversations I have had, including with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, to which I have alluded previously, there have been various Bills that have gone through your Lordships’ House where this discussion about “appropriate” and “necessary” has taken place, particularly with regard to the powers of Ministers and how those might be exercised. Of course, I note the point my noble friend is making.

The issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, on TCA structures and state aid continues. TCA structures allow disputes to be raised, and the withdrawal agreement also provides structures for consultations as well. That very much remains the case. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, also asked why the Government concluded that they had to remove state aid requirements from the protocol. The Government have been clear about the problems caused in practice by Article 10 of the protocol. This was first raised in our Command Paper in July 2021.

The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, talked about a trigger point. Partly, this has been a culmination of the evidence and the practical experience, as was articulated by my noble friend Lord Dodds. The current system of operating two subsidy control systems within one country has created complexity and uncertainty, which is impacting policy across the UK. Irrespective of how noble Lords are approaching this Bill, either in support of or against what the Government are proposing, we all recognise that what needs to be resolved is the situation in Northern Ireland. Article 10 has also placed considerable administrative and legal burdens on businesses; for example, facing detailed questions about their operations from authorities to establish whether subsidies could be in scope of the protocol itself.

I have already referred to the powers. Noble Lords have been very articulate in making their concerns about the powers known but, again, I have underlined the importance of the necessity of these powers. To demonstrate in detail, in the previous day in Committee, we alluded to what this would require if everything was put into primary legislation.

Turning to Amendments 17 and 19, tabled by my noble friend Lord Leigh of Hurley, I am grateful for my noble friend’s contribution and for his reaching out to officials before this debate. My noble friend has powerfully illustrated the problems arising from Article 10 of the protocol and how they can arise in unexpected places across the United Kingdom and our economy. Article 10 can lead to uncertainty and delays in the delivery of subsidy schemes in Northern Ireland in comparison with Great Britain. They are exactly the sorts of problems that Clause 12 is seeking and intending to resolve, including to unleash further investment, to which my noble friend alluded, across the whole of the United Kingdom. The concurrent operation of two subsidy control regimes is a fundamental challenge for public authorities and beneficiaries across the UK. The solution put forward in the Bill truly addresses the challenges the Government believe exist, and will provide certainty across the UK.

Northern Ireland Protocol

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Tuesday 17th May 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I am glad that a Statement such as this has brought the kind of unity the noble Baroness has referred to. Equally, I agree with her that it is important that at the forefront of this is the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. Many Members of your Lordships’ House were involved with the hard, technical negotiations which brought that forward, and it is also important that we not only sustain it but continue to strengthen it. Ultimately, yes, it is about sovereignty and unity and ensuring that the people of Northern Ireland, who are an integral part of the United Kingdom, enjoy the same benefits.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, in the autumn of 2019, Mr Johnson on many occasions asserted that the Northern Ireland protocol would not create a trade barrier between Northern Ireland and the remainder of the United Kingdom. That is not the case. That was never the case. Why did he say that? Was it because he did not understand what he had agreed, or was it because he did not want the true facts to be known to the electorate? We need an explanation, and we need one before this House is asked to consider further legislation.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister articulated the importance of the principles of the protocol. We wanted to ensure that there were no differences between the opportunities afforded to businesses and people in Northern Ireland and those in the rest of Great Britain. That has not been the case. We have continued to negotiate on finding solutions with our colleagues across the EU in practical and collaborative ways. As I have said already, and I articulate again to my noble friend, that door is very much open for discussions. It is important that we look to address those very issues, which are not just being highlighted by the UK Government; these issues are being highlighted in practice by the communities of Northern Ireland. As the Statement said, every political party in Northern Ireland believes that the protocol needs to be amended. Also, importantly, businesses are making the case very strongly. It is important, as a responsible Government, that we act accordingly.

Middle East: Security Update

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Tuesday 7th January 2020

(4 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord for keeping me updated on various issues during the Christmas break. I expected nothing less in terms of the questions he asked, and I look forward to our more detailed sit-down to discuss some of the issues he has raised.

The noble Lord is quite right to raise the important issue of the situation in northern Syria. He also mentioned the KRI region. First, I will reflect Foreign Office advice. When it comes to the KRI, we are saying that non-essential travel should not be taken up, but, if travel is essential, stability continues to prevail in the KRI and we continue to offer support.

The noble Lord knows the importance of bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Therefore, during conversations between my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Iraqi Prime Minister, we emphasised again that, while we respect the Iraqi Parliament’s decision, we want to ensure both that there is no withdrawal of either US or UK troops, as limited as UK troop numbers are, and that, in a wider respect, the positive impact on the ground of the measures we have taken—in beginning to see accountability and justice for the victims of crimes, particularly those committed by Daesh—is not lost because of these particular actions. I assure noble Lords that we are doing all we can through all necessary channels to keep that very much on the table.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend will know that President Trump and his Secretary of State, Mr Pompeo, justified the drone attack by reference to the principle of self-defence in international law. Will my noble friend tell the House whether the Government have seen any material that justifies that assertion? Furthermore, does my noble friend agree that, if Mr Trump or the American Government were deliberately to use disproportionate force—or deliberately target sites of cultural importance, for that matter—they would be in clear breach of international law?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My Lords, on the second point made by my noble friend, again I am sure that he has seen the statement made, I believe, yesterday by Secretary of State Pompeo in which he emphasised how important it was that the actions of the US will adhere to international law. On the issue of taking action in self-defence, as I have said, this was a matter very much for the US and I am not going to second guess from the Dispatch Box that assessment. However, it is certainly our view that, while we do not doubt that there were plans for imminent attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, I should reiterate that, rather than speculate about what has happened, our focus should be on seeking to ensure that we de-escalate at this time.

Jamal Khashoggi

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Tuesday 23rd October 2018

(5 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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I thank both noble Lords for their statements. I appreciate that Members of this House, and of the other place, stand together in solidarity to ensure that the tragic victim of this murder ultimately sees true justice, and in condolence and support for his family and friends. Noble Lords will appreciate that recent events are moving very quickly. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, referred to the statement made earlier today by President Erdogan of Turkey, in which he revealed some further information about their investigation. The full report has yet to be released, but I assure the noble Lord and your Lordships’ House that we fully support the Turkish investigation into this case. In the representations made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, our ambassador to Riyadh and others, we have consistently reminded the Saudi administration—at the highest level—of the need for their full co-operation with the investigation by the Turkish authorities. We continue to follow that very closely.

Having heard and read the statement this morning, I share the deep concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Collins—and, I am sure, felt by every Member of your Lordships’ House—about the detail of what is unravelling. There has to be credibility in the Saudi statement. Looking back at the accounts over recent weeks, what started as a denial translated into an accidental attack when a fight ensued. The Saudi Foreign Minister has now admitted that it was a “murder”—that is his word. It is appropriate that we see the Turkish investigation present its full results.

In response to the points made about the UK’s position, I reiterate the point made by the Foreign Secretary. We are looking carefully at the full outcomes and there will be consequences once the report is released. The noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Wallace, rightly raised the issue of arms sales. In my capacity as Human Rights Minister, I have spoken from the Dispatch Box about the situation in Yemen. I am taking a close look at arms sales generally and drawing the attention of colleagues in the Foreign Office to the issue. The United Kingdom Government will look at all the response options currently available. Members in the other place raised the issue of the Magnitsky clauses in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill. Noble Lords will know why we cannot enact these mechanisms until we leave the European Union. Both noble Lords mentioned sanctions policy and working with our European partners. I assure them that this is under discussion.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, raised the issue of working with EU partners. I reiterate the point made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. Practical progress is being made with our EU partners on our leaving the EU, but it is important to underline the importance of that relationship. Notwithstanding our differences in certain parts of the negotiation, we have stood firm when it matters. The noble Lord—and all noble Lords—will recall the time of the Iran nuclear deal, when Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister May and President Macron issued a joint statement. It was entirely appropriate on the grave matter of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and we have again stood firm with Germany and France and issued a joint statement. That underlines the strength of our relationship with our European Union partners, notwithstanding our withdrawal from the EU.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, also rightly raised the issue of strategic partnership. We share much with Saudi Arabia: trade, defence and security, and intelligence. Much of that has also helped us to maintain a level of safety and security on our streets. However, the UK takes great pride in human rights, particularly the defence of journalists and their right to report freely and to criticise Governments and individuals within Governments. It is right that we stand up for those rights wherever they may be usurped. I assure noble Lords that that remains a key priority in my portfolio as Minister for Human Rights.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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Will my noble friend press the Saudi Government to produce the body for independent examination? They must know where it is, and once it has been inspected, we will all have a much clearer view as to how he died.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My noble friend raises an important point. I talked earlier about the situation of Jamal Khashoggi’s family, who for several weeks did not know what his fate was. I assure my noble friend that, with Turkey, we continue to press on this important issue. Indeed, President Erdogan also made this point during his statement earlier today. It is important now to ensure that the full facts of the murder can be brought to the fore. But equally, for the family’s sake more than anyone else’s, we appeal to whoever knows so that good common sense will prevail in this terrible affair and at least some closure can be brought to the family by the body being presented, so that Jamal Khashoggi can at least be given an appropriate funeral.

Syria

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Tuesday 15th May 2018

(6 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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The noble Baroness is quite right: Turkey is also a key player in Syria, as we have seen through its engagement in Syria. Wide-ranging talks between the President of Turkey and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will be under way shortly and Syria will be discussed. The noble Baroness raises an important point about engaging with Russia. As I have said previously from the Dispatch Box, we continue to do so at the United Nations, because they remain an important player. On the engagement of Iran and Israel in Syria, we implore all sides to show restraint. As the noble Baroness knows, we remain committed to the nuclear deal because we believe that to be the best way of ensuring Iran’s continued engagement and of finding a resolution further afield.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord West, when he says that President Assad is clearly going to be party to the negotiated settlement. I hope that we can avoid saying that individuals should be “held to account”. Although that may be morally and ethically right, it does encourage them to hang on.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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We, and the international community, certainly do not want to encourage anyone we feel is not right for the process. Most importantly, anyone whom the Syrian civilians themselves feel cannot lead their country—it is, ultimately, their decision—should not hang on and we should not encourage him. As I have already said, we are not against the engagement of the Syrian regime, led by Bashar Assad, in the UN process, which all parties are signed up to. However, the fact is that they are not engaging in that process. We implore them, and anyone who has influence over the regime, to do so.

Iran Nuclear Deal

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Wednesday 9th May 2018

(6 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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The noble Lord makes important points. The robustness and application of and adherence to UN Security Council resolutions are part of ensuring the vital international rules-based system that we all subscribe to. That is a point that we continue to make to our colleagues, our friends and our allies—that is, the United States. I think that we continue to have a very deep, meaningful and strong partnership with the United States on a raft of different issues, and we continue to wish to see direct engagement from the United States. That is important, not just for our bilateral relationship but for the security and stability of various regions in the world. Therefore we will continue to engage in a very positive vein on this issue.

In the same context, we look towards the United States, our strong ally. We will work constructively and co-operatively with it to address the wider concerns, be it on the issue of ballistic missiles or sunset clauses, ensuring that the nuclear deal stays live.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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Would my noble friend assist the House in this regard? If the United States seeks to impose sanctions on UK firms trading with Iran after it has reactivated the sanctions regime, would the United States then be in breach of any international treaty, law or rule? If so, what does the United Kingdom propose to do about that?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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Again, my noble friend raises an important and pertinent point. As I have already alluded to, our immediate advice to UK companies impacted as such has been to take specific legal advice on their individual cases. The full implications of how these sanctions will translate is still being evaluated. Once more detail is available we will share that with the companies, as appropriate; but I cannot stress enough that any company in the United Kingdom that feels or believes it is impacted should take legal advice now.

Israel-Palestine Conflict

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Tuesday 27th March 2018

(6 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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The one point on which I will agree with the noble Baroness is that it is important to find a resolution to this long-standing issue. The Palestinians, as the Jewish communities of Israel before them, have suffered for too long from being disassociated and removed from the holy lands. We need to find a lasting solution that is fair for both the Palestinian people and of course Israel.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, I say to my noble friend that achieving the right of return is going to be extraordinarily difficult and probably impractical. What we can do is to urge upon the Government of Israel the importance of desisting from building settlements around Jerusalem. That could make a substantial contribution to a resolution of the conflict in the Middle East.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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I agree with my noble friend. The issue of return in any refugee crisis that we have seen since time immemorial has always been challenging. I agree with him totally on the issue of settlements. Our position is clear: any settlement that is built in the Occupied Territories is illegal and against UN resolutions.