Debates between John Howell and Alistair Burt

There have been 11 exchanges between John Howell and Alistair Burt

1 Fri 22nd March 2019 Gaza Border Deaths: UNHRC Inquiry 3 interactions (296 words)
2 Mon 11th March 2019 Syria 3 interactions (417 words)
3 Tue 27th November 2018 Ukraine-Russia Relations
Department for International Development
2 interactions (98 words)
4 Mon 11th June 2018 Yemen
Department for International Development
3 interactions (175 words)
5 Wed 6th June 2018 Hezbollah’s Rocket Arsenal: Southern Lebanon
Department for International Development
3 interactions (852 words)
6 Tue 15th May 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for International Development
3 interactions (169 words)
7 Mon 12th March 2018 Protection of Civilians in Afrin
Department for International Development
3 interactions (575 words)
8 Wed 7th March 2018 UK Relations: Saudi Arabia
Department for International Development
3 interactions (251 words)
9 Thu 7th December 2017 Israel: US Embassy
Department for International Development
3 interactions (152 words)
10 Mon 20th November 2017 Yemen
Department for International Development
3 interactions (407 words)
11 Mon 16th October 2017 Iran
Department for International Development
3 interactions (359 words)

Gaza Border Deaths: UNHRC Inquiry
Debate between John Howell and Alistair Burt
Friday 22nd March 2019

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Mar 2019, 12:11 p.m.

Again, that is another familiar request. Our position—and my position—has not changed. The right to recognise the state of Palestine is something that can and should be exercised at a time that is most advantageous to the peace process, and the United Kingdom does not judge that to be yet. In relation to settlements and everything else, we share the hon. Gentleman’s view. We condemn settlement expansion as one of the barriers to peace. We provide support for those who are being unjustly threatened and evicted, but again, this will be settled only in the overall agreement that we are seeking to see moved forward, and that is essential for the peace and security of Israel and also for justice for the Palestinians.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Mar 2019, 12:11 p.m.

The situation is certainly a tragedy, but should the UN not also have taken into account the flaming kites, the hurling of explosives and the clearly audible cries of “Get closer! Get closer!” that were issued by Hamas officials?

Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Mar 2019, 12:11 p.m.

My hon. Friend is right. Indeed, the commission did refer to those aspects and spoke about the damage done, saying in paragraph 109:

“The police force of the de facto authorities in Gaza bears responsibility for failing to take adequate measures to prevent incendiary kites and balloons from reaching Israel, spreading fear among civilians in Israel and inflicting damage on parks, fields and property. Similarly, the police force failed to prevent or take action against those demonstrators who injured Israeli soldiers.”

Some of that is touched on, but the underlying issue remains that Hamas has a credo of violence against the state of Israel, which is at the heart of its actions and sustains those involved in terror. That has to end, as part of the process that will see peace and security in the region.

Syria
Debate between John Howell and Alistair Burt
Monday 11th March 2019

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Mar 2019, 6:12 p.m.

The hon. Lady’s question covers more than my own portfolio, but my understanding of the refugee programme has always been that it is on track. My hon. Friend the Minister for Africa tells me that something like 7,000 of the 20,000 are already here. My understanding is that the programme for 20,000 is on track to be fulfilled, but it is always kept under review in relation to who the most vulnerable and where the United Kingdom can provide most assistance.

None the less, it remains clear that the policy—I think it has been absolutely right—is to concentrate our support in the areas to which refugees flee most quickly, because that provides the best opportunity for them to return. There is very little prospect of those who have come to Europe returning to Syria. It is much more likely that those who have made their homes in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey will do so, which has got to be the right answer both for them and for Syria. Again, I will bring to the attention of the Home Secretary the question the hon. Lady raised about the refugee programme.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Mar 2019, 6:13 p.m.

The Minister has already mentioned Iran, which has a substantial military presence in and a close relationship with Syria. Is that a force for good or, as is my opinion, is it holding up the normalisation of Syria?

Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Mar 2019, 6:15 p.m.

My hon. Friend asks a good question. Iran will say that its support for the Syrian regime was designed to stop extremist forces taking over Damascus at a crucial stage of the civil war. On the other hand, there is no doubt that support by Iran for the regime has also contributed to a civil war being waged against the Syrian people and has involved support for various atrocities carried out by the Syrian regime.

There is no doubt that Iran’s presence in Syria is a cause of great concern, not least to Israel, with the stationing of sophisticated weaponry in southern Syria that does not appear to be directed at Daesh or anyone else. Iran will have some questions to answer about how it sees its presence in the future of Syria. What we want to see is an independent Syria, free of foreign constraints upon it, but no longer a regime that wages war on its people. Those who have been its partners will need to answer for the part they have played in the past, and it remains open whether they can play any constructive role in the future.

Ukraine-Russia Relations
Debate between John Howell and Alistair Burt
Tuesday 27th November 2018

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for International Development
John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Hansard
27 Nov 2018, 1:22 p.m.

May I urge my right hon. Friend not simply to ignore the Council of Europe when he considers European action? Will he support the work that I and others have been doing to prevent the readmission of Russia to that organisation?

Alistair Burt Hansard
27 Nov 2018, 1:23 p.m.

As my hon. Friend will know, I do not ignore anything related to Europe—either the European Union or the Council of Europe. I welcome the collective action that we take through our friends, and will continue to do so. I value the Council of Europe, and my hon. Friend’s expression of support for it is well made.

Yemen
Debate between John Howell and Alistair Burt
Monday 11th June 2018

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for International Development
Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 3:54 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said about the other side of this conflict, because it refers to why the coalition is engaged in the first place and why the UK should recognise its right to act to defend Yemeni civilians. We will continue to discourage action, and I will of course take the requests of the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) to the Prime Minister.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 3:54 p.m.

Some 22 million people in the Yemen are in need of humanitarian aid. How can we deliver that aid when we are in the middle of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia?

Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 3:55 p.m.

It is difficult, but we have remarkable people who seek to deliver UK aid. On 3 April, we pledged an additional £170 million to Yemen to cover the financial year 2018-19, and we are the fourth largest donor to the UN appeal, but we should all remember the courage and bravery of the aid agencies that are working to deliver aid in difficult circumstances.

Hezbollah’s Rocket Arsenal: Southern Lebanon
Debate between John Howell and Alistair Burt
Wednesday 6th June 2018

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Department for International Development
Alistair Burt Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 4:26 p.m.

I have no need to express our view on terrorism any more forcefully than my hon. Friend has, as what he said is the policy of the United Kingdom. I have already said what we are doing to try to mitigate the effects of Hezbollah, but I have also said I will not be drawn down the line of proscription, because we do not discuss organisations and whether proscription is possible. If he will forgive me, I would like to say what we are doing to strengthen Lebanon and fulfil some of the obligations of those UN Security Council resolutions, which are crucial.

We maintain that the best way for the UK to help to tackle Hezbollah and its weapons and to support Israel is threefold. The first part is to support UNIFIL, which is important, and I will come on to that point later. The second is to support the defence of the state of Israel, and I do not think anyone queries whether the United Kingdom does just that—we do so in a number of different ways. The third is to strengthen and empower the Lebanese state, which should not be seen as a bit-part player; it is crucial, but all too often it is left out of discussions. It is important we do what we can to protect Lebanon from wider instability in the region.

John Howell Portrait John Howell - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 4:26 p.m.

I hear what the Minister is saying, and I would like to concentrate on his third point. I support him in trying to support Lebanon’s many moderates, but does the existence of Hezbollah not make that a difficult thing for us to achieve?

Alistair Burt Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 4:22 p.m.

The region is mostly difficult. Many difficult characters fill Government positions and political positions throughout the region, not all of whom would be elected to our parish and town councils, because of their backgrounds. That is the reality of life. We draw careful distinctions, as we are right to do. It does not make life impossible, because it should not. If I may, I will explain how we try to deal with that.

Lebanon’s security services have a vital role to play in ensuring the country’s stability, security and sovereignty. That is why we promote their role as Lebanon’s sole guarantors of security. Power must be in the hands of the state, not the hands of non-state actors beholden to external forces. With an accountable and professional military in place, the Lebanese people would have less cause to turn to others for their security. That is why we have been working with the Lebanese armed forces since 2012 on a £61 million project to help secure the Lebanon-Syria border. Once complete, the Lebanese armed forces will have secured the entire Lebanon-Syria border for the first time in Lebanese history.

With our support, and the support of other key donors, the Lebanese armed forces have developed and modernised over the past 10 years, to become a respected, professional army capable of protecting Lebanon. I was pleased to meet them and see some of our work there last autumn when I went to Lebanon. The Lebanese forces demonstrated that progress in August last year by defeating Daesh on the Lebanon-Syria border in an operation involving UK-trained troops and border positions constructed with UK assistance. We want to help maintain that success. That is why, at the Rome II conference, I announced an additional £10 million of security support for Lebanon.

However, that security support from the international community will not be sufficient on its own to ensure a stable and secure Lebanon. It is vital that Lebanon’s next Government make clear political progress to strengthen the Lebanese state. We welcome Lebanon’s first parliamentary elections since 2009. We now hope to see the swift formation of a new Government addressing crucial issues. Lebanon cannot afford to be a factor for conflict in the middle east, because that will attract instability to itself.

The next Lebanese Government will have the important task of protecting Lebanon’s stability and security. They must do so by robustly implementing the policy of disassociation from regional conflict, by abiding by the provisions of all relevant UN Security Council resolutions—in particular 1559 and 1701—and by ensuring that the state’s legitimate security institutions hold the monopoly on the use of force. While the UK wants to continue to support Lebanon, I fear that the international community will find it increasingly difficult to do so if the next Government do not take concrete steps on those crucial issues. It is imperative that we see progress.

To conclude, Hezbollah’s actions and the reported size of its weapons arsenal are deeply concerning to the United Kingdom and a threat to stability in an already fragile region. The best way to tackle both those things is a secure and stable Lebanon with strong institutions, a professional army that inspires the trust of its people, and a Government who protect Lebanon from wider instability. We stand ready to support Lebanon in upholding these values and addressing the challenges it faces and to support those threatened by Hezbollah. We will continue to help them in relation to this difficult situation.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions
Debate between John Howell and Alistair Burt
Tuesday 15th May 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for International Development
Alistair Burt Hansard

In relation to the second part of the question, I have made it clear that the UK supports an independent investigation into what has happened, and I repeat: the move of the United States embassy yesterday was not supported by the United Kingdom. We do not see that as being conducive at present to peace in the region, and the timing, of course, was incredibly difficult.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 May 2018, noon

The Minister has already mentioned the importance of face-to-face negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Would he please say how important that is for the future of the area?

Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
15 May 2018, noon

The events of yesterday were the culmination of many things, but one of things they were the culmination of was the failure of respective leaders over time to grapple with the situation and to realise how urgent and desperate it has become. The situation in Palestine and Gaza and the occupied territories will not simply be managed; it will get worse unless it is grasped and something is done to make it better.

Protection of Civilians in Afrin
Debate between John Howell and Alistair Burt
Monday 12th March 2018

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for International Development
Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2018, 8:10 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman started with a brief description of the horrors of this conflict, and in that he is absolutely right. The greater horror is that we have seen in recent times the shredding of the international norms on which we have tried to work for the best part of 70 years since 1945. If the UN Security Council cannot prevent conflict or bring it to an end, if we have moved away from the norm on the use of chemical weapons and that norm is not adhered to by parties on the UN Security Council and if we have seen the tactics of siege and hunger come back into modern warfare, then we risk losing everything that the international order put together after the horrors of the second world war was designed to prevent. Almost every conflict we now come across in the middle east has echoes of that. Unless we find a way to restore that international order, we will be debating this issue longer and it will give rise to the question what on earth states can do in response that does not go back to the old ways of dealing with conflict, which was a case of, “My stick has to be bigger than yours,” in order to prevent something. We all thought we had moved away from that, but maybe not.

In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s three questions, we will continue to talk to our NATO partner about its need for security and how this operation may be assisting it, and about the distinction it is drawing between humanitarian casualties and the need to protect civilians, and those from whom it seeks to protect its population.

In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s second question about diplomatic efforts, we are doing everything we can to support Staffan de Mistura. There have been some efforts recently. The Sochi and Astana process has come to an end, which means that the Geneva process is now the best bet for the political resolution.

On aid, £2.46 billion is the largest support that the United Kingdom has ever given to protect refugees in a conflict situation. There will be no shortage of support for those who need it, but the best way to help them is to bring the conflict to an end.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2018, 8:11 p.m.

My right hon. Friend said that he was pragmatic about how we could move to a negotiated political settlement. Will he set out the milestones he seeks to achieve along that journey?

Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2018, 8:12 p.m.

Several have come about recently. The Syrian negotiation committee, which reformed after meetings in Riyadh, now represents Syrian opposition and has Kurdish representatives, in order to present a united front at the Geneva talks. The failure of a secondary process—the Astana process—means, as I said earlier, that there can be more concentration on Geneva. I understand that the special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, is working on a series of boxes so that people can talk about different things and gradually come back together. Most importantly, we continue, through UN efforts and resolutions, to demand humanitarian access and an end to conflict in conflicted areas. Attention should not be moved from the damage done and horrific circumstances in eastern Ghouta, and we call on all parties with a hand in that to desist from it. We also recognise that the seeds of Daesh have not been extinguished and, if any sense of that is lost, the conflict with them will re-arise as well.

UK Relations: Saudi Arabia
Debate between John Howell and Alistair Burt
Wednesday 7th March 2018

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for International Development
Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2018, 1:25 p.m.

I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that I gave the House a moment ago. The restrictions were imposed because of the Saudis’ quite legitimate concerns that weapons, or weapons parts, that are directed against them are smuggled into Yemen. We wanted to give the assurance that we would do all we could to try to prevent that, and that in the process the restrictions on ships coming in could be eased. We have seen an easing of those restrictions. The ports are now open. Fifty ships have docked since the restrictions were imposed in December, and we shall do all we can.[Official Report, 12 March 2018, Vol. 637, c. 4MC.] The United Kingdom has taken a leading part, both in reassuring the coalition about the direction of missiles towards it, and in making the point about the crucial and urgent need for both commercial and humanitarian aid to enter Yemen.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2018, 1:25 p.m.

In seeking to explore the context for a ceasefire, does the UK believe that Iran has broken any United Nations sanctions?

Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2018, 1:26 p.m.

Yes; I thank my hon. Friend for the question. The UN panel of experts held very clearly, within recent weeks, that Iran had not been able to demonstrate that it had abided by UN resolution 2216, which is about the availability of weapons going to Yemen. That was what caused concern about the breach of UN sanctions. It emphasises again external interest in Yemen. That should also come to an end as part of a comprehensive peace agreement.

Israel: US Embassy
Debate between John Howell and Alistair Burt
Thursday 7th December 2017

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for International Development
Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Dec 2017, 10:54 a.m.

I am sure that the words cited by the hon. Lady will be drawn to the attention of those in the United States. It is our duty to ensure that hopes and promises are not lost in these circumstances.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Dec 2017, 10:55 a.m.

I completely share the Government’s view on this statement by the President of the United States, but I do not believe that it brings the process for a two-state solution to an end. Indeed, I believe it gives greater emphasis to the work that we can carry on to achieve that. Does the Minister agree?

Alistair Burt Hansard
7 Dec 2017, 10:55 a.m.

As I said earlier, the peace process towards a two-state solution will come to an end only when the parties themselves feel that it cannot go any further. It is vital that we and all our partners—including the United States—reaffirm that commitment to the two-state solution, and do our level best to ensure that it is not lost.

Yemen
Debate between John Howell and Alistair Burt
Monday 20th November 2017

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for International Development
Alistair Burt Hansard
20 Nov 2017, 5:13 p.m.

Part of the problem, as I alluded a moment ago, is that some parties have become comfortable with the conflict, and some parties in Yemen have been able to make a living with the conflict going on. There have to be incentives to people to make sure that a peace can be reached. To most of us, it is horrendous that anyone should be in that position, but the realities after a couple of years of conflict in the region have to be understood, and we only have to talk to Yemenis themselves to understand their despair and frustration. Accordingly, that is where the will of states must come in, in order to make sure that they can enforce a negotiated peace, but above all to make sure that those responsible for others realise that the only future for the people of Yemen is not in a continual state of conflict, but is in having government with the consent of the people, which can take a wonderful country, which is full of culture, music, architecture and all the good things we rarely talk about, and give its people the chance of the future they richly deserve.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Nov 2017, 5:13 p.m.

UNICEF has praised the UK for the aid it has already contributed to the country. Will the Minister say a little more about what pressure he feels can be brought on Iran to end its supply to the Houthis, who are still indulging in things like forced marriage and the use of children as soldiers?

Alistair Burt Hansard

Our relationship with Iran is changing: since going to the inauguration of President Rouhani we have made it clear that, although there are many differences between us—not least Iran’s support for what we consider to be insurgencies and terrorist action—it sees the world differently from others in the region, but the logical consequence of that not being addressed is dire. Accordingly, if there are pathways to encourage people to see their region differently and to try to create relationships that at present seem difficult, the UK’s role these days is to encourage that. There are already relationships between certain states in the region that 50 years ago we would not have expected, so who knows what can happen in the future, but we will continue to work with those in the region, including Iran, to encourage them towards a regional situation that no longer relies on confrontation, but relies instead on consensual support for their peoples.

Iran
Debate between John Howell and Alistair Burt
Monday 16th October 2017

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for International Development
Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Oct 2017, 4:11 p.m.

Most of our friends and partners in the middle east recognise that the non-proliferation treaty has prevented the acquisition of nuclear weapons, which would have been easy. Many states possess the wealth to equip themselves with nuclear weapons, but they have not done so because they accepted the terms of the treaty and other international agreements. The importance of continuing with the JCPOA is about ensuring that the signatories remain convinced that parties and powers that sign such agreements will abide by them. I have heard no suggestion that the President’s decision marks a change in that attitude among neighbouring powers, who realise how destabilising a change in Iran’s position on the non-proliferation treaty would be. I have also received no suggestion that Iran’s seeking nuclear weapons is likely to be an outcome of what we heard last week.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Hansard
16 Oct 2017, 4:12 p.m.

If the agreement will not in itself control Iran’s financing of terrorist groups, will the Minister say a word about how it is acting as a springboard? That would give people more confidence in the deal.

Alistair Burt Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Oct 2017, 4:13 p.m.

My hon. Friend goes into other aspects of Iran’s activity in the region over which a veil cannot and should not be drawn. I will again make the point that the JCPOA was not meant in any way to draw a line under or cover up Iran’s activities. It is not the case that if Iran stuck to this element of the deal, everything else would no longer need to be considered. Other measures are in place to deal with such things. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is covered by EU sanctions, for example, and sanctions are available against those who finance terrorist activity, which would include some in Iran. EU sanctions are already in place in relation to Iranian individuals who have been suspected of human rights abuses, for example. Other leverage is available to deal with our concerns about Iran, and sanctions remain available to us, but we want to use the agreement as an opportunity to deal with the things on which Iran could and should do more. We will continue to do that by developing a bilateral relationship with Iran.