9 Ronnie Cowan debates involving the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Humanitarian Situation in Gaza

Ronnie Cowan Excerpts
Wednesday 17th April 2024

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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That is part of our ongoing diplomatic efforts with Israel and our like-minded partners who are committed to providing aid and getting that in. One of the key things that Israel is committed to is that northern route. The hon. Member makes that important point, and that is one of the elements that we continue to urge Israel to stand up and commit to.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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F-35s are reducing Gaza to dust. During Pinochet’s brutal rule in Chile, the workers of Rolls-Royce in East Kilbride refused to manufacture parts for the Chilean air force and were hailed as heroes. Why would the UK Government not follow that humanitarian example and stop exporting the parts for F-35s?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley
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It is because we have got one of the most robust arms export regimes in the world, and, as I have said, we need to recognise Israel’s right to defend itself. The hon. Member probably noticed what happened over the weekend with the attacks from Iran. That situation is not just important for what happens in Israel—vital though that is for those involved in Gaza—but has ripple effects that are destabilising the region, and that has global implications as well.

Israel and Gaza

Ronnie Cowan Excerpts
Tuesday 26th March 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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I thank the hon. Lady for her support for United Nations resolution 2728, which was passed yesterday. She asks whether I have seen any such videos, and I have not. Were such videos to be genuine, and were they to portray what she describes, I am sure that everyone in the House would condemn them without qualification.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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In today’s statement the Minister said that we need to offer a political horizon to the Palestinians, and he is asking that while those whose families, friends and neighbours have not already been killed are being bombed out of the shelters they made after being bombed out of their houses and homes. Surely only an immediate permanent ceasefire will afford the people of Palestine the opportunity to lift their eyes to an optimistic political horizon.

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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The Government have set out a clear vision, together with our partners, which we are seeking to drive forward so that when this catastrophic conflict is over, everyone may focus on that political track. I remind the hon. Gentleman that it was after the second intifada that progress at Oslo was made, and we must hope that that might be possible once again. On what is happening in Gaza, I draw his attention to my earlier remarks that it is absolutely appalling that Hamas are cynically using the good people of Gaza as a human shield, as they continue to incarcerate the hostages who should be released today.

Support for Civilians Fleeing Gaza

Ronnie Cowan Excerpts
Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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We all have a responsibility. All developed nations have a responsibility to ensure that the urgent humanitarian disaster in Gaza is made less severe by our interventions. That is what we are doing.

Right now, it is clear that we need measures to increase the provision of humanitarian aid to help those in desperate need. The Government are therefore focused on these efforts, alongside our efforts to achieve a sustainable ceasefire. That is how we will help those suffering in Gaza.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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The Minister talks about a sustainable ceasefire, but at what point will this Government actually call for a ceasefire?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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I will come to that. We have called for a humanitarian pause and a sustainable ceasefire. I will remark on what that means presently, but colleagues should be aware that we have trebled our aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 7 October, committing £60 million this financial year. This supports crucial partners such as the British Red Cross, the UN and the Egyptian Red Crescent Society to help civilians with food, fuel, water, healthcare and shelter.

Illicit Finance: War in Ukraine

Ronnie Cowan Excerpts
Thursday 13th July 2023

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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I will not take up too much of the House’s time, or repeat the arguments that have been eloquently put forward by previous speakers, but I would like to touch briefly on the finance aspect of the debate. It is a great irony that when we talk about murky finances and the war in Ukraine, we come back to issues of transparency in the UK time and again. The initial flurry of activity and enthusiasm to track down the wealth of sanctioned Russian elites has well and truly ground to a halt.

Where do we stand now? The Foreign Affairs Committee’s report slammed the UK Government for needing a war to galvanise them into action, stating:

“The measures in the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022…do not go far or fast enough”

and fail to

“address the fundamental mismatch between the resources of law enforcement agencies and their targets.”

The report also stated that, while Ministers had

“spoken eloquently…about the need to clamp down on kleptocrats, rhetoric has not been matched by constructive action.”

A year on, it is hard to see what has changed. Corrupt money still flows into the United Kingdom and the UK Government seem to struggle to deal with allegations of corruption closer to home. The sad fact is that the so-called London laundromat was a national security issue long before the war in Ukraine, and it will continue to be one unless Westminster finally acts decisively. The UK sanctions regime should now move from being reactive to being proactive and preventive.

The SNP calls for the establishment of an independent illicit finance commissioner to monitor the presence of assets in the UK linked to human rights abusers. The UK cannot afford to be the weakest link in the western alliance’s struggle against Russia’s illicit finance for a single day longer. While other countries are taking strides to legislate for how frozen Russian assets can be legally seized, the UK Government have yet to make the leap from rhetoric to law making.

The forthcoming King’s Speech should include new legislation to further crack down on illicit finance in the UK financial system. Transparency International has pointed out a number of key failings. The UK Government need to be publicly accountable for the measures they have taken, to get serious about targeting illicit wealth within their borders and to collect and release the data in a more systematic manner, enabling journalists, civil society and the wider public to evaluate their efforts. As one corrupt money flows expert at Transparency International said:

“The intermittently released figures on blocked assets may seem impressive but likely represent a small fraction of all Russian dirty money hidden across the world… Governments need to be honest about the challenges they face in tracing and seizing the assets. They also need to explain what’s preventing them from pursuing further accountability measures—including confiscation—in relation to potentially illicit assets. This can help us better understand what reforms are needed.”

Economic crime has been an afterthought for far too long. The National Crime Agency budget has declined in real terms by 4.5% over the past five years. Approximately 225,000 people work in policing in England and Wales, covering London, right at the centre of this mess, but just 1,700 of them—less than 1%—work on all types of economic crime. The UK Government could follow the lead of the Dutch Parliament and set up a trust fund based on seized money from Russia and Russian oligarchs to fund the Prime Minister’s proposed Marshall plan to help rebuild Ukraine.

In the Republic of Ireland, property is frozen and subsequently forfeited if it appears to the court that a person is in possession or control of property that constitutes, directly or indirectly, proceeds of crime. The success of the Irish system stems partly from the resources provided to its Criminal Assets Bureau—something the UK has not traditionally been willing to do. The war in Ukraine has shown us that we need to close the loopholes, and we need to close them now.

--- Later in debate ---
Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait Anne-Marie Trevelyan
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My right hon. Friend raises such an important point. Of course, discussions with international partners will continue, to ensure that when we reach such a point—we must first help the Ukrainians to win and end this terrible war—those solutions can be put in place and, indeed, whatever the figure is can be reached. However, by bringing through the legislation last week, we have enabled one further step in ensuring that we stop any of the funds that are presently sanctioned from being released.

Importantly, on enforcement, which was raised by a number of colleagues, we have committed £50 million, following through from the integrated review refresh, to improve the enforcement of the sanctions regime. That will help us work with key partners to build both the capacity and capability to ensure that we can and do enforce the sanctions that are in place. The new G7 enforcement co-ordination mechanism, which was announced at the G7 summit just a few weeks ago, will enable the international community to tackle sanctions enforcement more effectively together.

In conclusion, I know that this House will join me in calling on Putin to withdraw Russian forces from Ukrainian territory and end this barbaric war.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan
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I have a small point to make, just before the Minister brings the debate to a conclusion. I fully understand why we are looking at ending the war in Ukraine, freeing it from the yoke of Russia and helping it rebuild itself, but can she please assure me about this? In a global perspective, the same figures we are talking about here could be used to fund the UK’s diplomatic service, foreign embassies and trade deals, which all help us maintain peace globally, but no matter how much money we throw at that, it is a pittance compared with the cost of war, with both the financial and humanitarian costs.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait Anne-Marie Trevelyan
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As the hon. Member rightly says, our focus must be on providing in every way we can, with our international allies, all the tools needed to support the Ukrainians in their incredibly brave battle to win this war. In doing that, we will be able to support them to return to peaceful day-to-day life, so that their young people can see an exciting future as free Ukrainians once again.

Importantly—and we always hope Mr Putin is listening to understand just how seriously we see this—when he launched this war he genuinely gambled that our resolve would somehow falter, but he was wrong then and he is wrong now. For instance, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) mentioned the wonderful young people who support the incredible positive work of Siobhan’s Trust, with the simplicity of saying, “We will bring you a pizza while you are on the frontline, just to give you the moral support to keep you going while doing that hardest of jobs in defending your families and your territory.” The positivity from our young people and so many others from across the world going into supporting Ukrainians makes it as clear as it can be that we will all stand alongside those incredibly brave Ukrainians until such time as they win. We will not waver because they will not waver. Their bravery is absolutely extraordinary. NATO is not to be divided. We will not tire, and we will continue until justice is seen for Ukraine.

Sudan

Ronnie Cowan Excerpts
Monday 24th April 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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I do not think there is a particular comparison with the covid pandemic. This is a very different situation; indeed, it is very different from the situation in Afghanistan, as I explained to the House a little earlier.

The hon. Gentleman outlines what he will understand is an exceedingly complex and difficult situation. On the issue of staffing, the ambassador was indeed out of the country, and the deputy head of mission was not the second most senior person in the embassy; that was the development director, as I explained in answer to an earlier question.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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To echo the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald), I have been contacted by a constituent of mine who is gravely concerned for her family members who are stuck in Khartoum, including her great-grandchildren, the youngest of whom is approaching three years of age. As the Minister said in his statement, food and water are becoming increasingly scarce. I get the complexity of the situation, but what are we doing specifically to get food and water to those people who are doing as they were requested to do and staying in their houses?

Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell
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Once again, I hope that the “Dear colleague” letter will be of assistance in informing the hon. Gentleman’s constituents on these matters. On food and water, the position is deteriorating even more because the humanitarian workers are not able to carry out their normal activities, but the hon. Gentleman will understand that we are operating within the art of the possible. Therefore, what we have to do is to make sure that all options are explored as rapidly as possible, so that we can bring help to those people who are caught up in the dreadful jeopardy that he has so eloquently described.

UK Telecommunications

Ronnie Cowan Excerpts
Tuesday 28th January 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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I am not quite sure what clandestine services my hon. Friend is referring to, but I can reassure him that there is nothing further than the investment that would be accepted, as laid out in the statement I have made.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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After 35 years of working in IT and writing and reading many tenders for telecommunications systems, I would never in my life consider a vendor that I judged to be high risk. Why are the Government doing this? Does the Secretary of State really think that the resilience and integrity of UK telecoms is safe? He has said in his statement that

“risk cannot be eliminated in telecoms”,

but we could at least try to mitigate it.

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab
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That is precisely what I set out in my statement.

Imprisonment of Catalan Leaders

Ronnie Cowan Excerpts
Tuesday 15th October 2019

(4 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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Of course the British Government deplore any form of oppression, but we also deplore any form of riotous behaviour that undermines the rule of law and threatens public property or public safety. I would encourage all sides to desist, to calm down and to make sure that they address this question, which is a question for Spain, quietly, soberly and peaceably. As far as any support goes, of course the British Government support that.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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I have had the incredible privilege of visiting Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez and Raül Romeva in their prison cells, and they are intelligent, humble and proud men. Everything they have done was peaceful and appropriate. Dr Martin Luther King once said:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

I refuse to be silent because this matters, while the UK Government’s silence has been deafening. The UK Government like to talk themselves up as a force in the world who think they sit at the top table with the big boys and girls. Well, here is a chance to prove it. Will the Minister—here, today—defend democracy and denounce these prison terms?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I will defend and support the rule of law. I have no doubt that the gentlemen to whom he refers are humble; I have no doubt that they are articulate; I have no doubt that they can make powerful cases in their own defence and in the promulgation of the matters that concern them—

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan
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Peaceably!

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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And peaceably so. I have no doubt of that, but they must always act and operate within the law. The Spanish legal system, as I have said and will say again, is open, robust and transparent, and it has handed down sentences that, whether we like them or not, we must accept.

I will make the further observation, if I may, that constitutionally Spain cannot of course have a secessionist plebiscite without a change to the constitution. That is in keeping with the constitutions of France and Italy. They are all built in the same way and they are all meant to achieve the same ends, and we have to support them as long as they are in place.

Oral Answers to Questions

Ronnie Cowan Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd January 2019

(5 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Mr Hunt
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If the right hon. Lady is worried about no deal, there is a very easy way to stop it, and that is to talk to the Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition talks without preconditions to Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA, but not to the British Prime Minister. The reason is that Labour’s objective is not to have a deal but to have a crisis—and what a betrayal of ordinary families that is.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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4. What recent assessment he has made of the political situation in Catalonia.

Alan Duncan Portrait The Minister for Europe and the Americas (Sir Alan Duncan)
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As I have made clear to the House previously, the situation in Catalonia is a matter for Spain. The UK strongly supports the rule of law and is of the view that questions related to the issue of Catalan independence should be resolved within the proper constitutional and legal channels of Spain.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan
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Carme Forcadell was the presiding officer in the Catalan Parliament—a position we would call “the Speaker”. Carme has been in prison without trial for over nine months because she facilitated a debate in a debating chamber. When she is tried, she faces over 16 years in prison. When will the UK Government condemn this outrage and stand up for the process of democracy?

Alan Duncan Portrait Sir Alan Duncan
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This is a matter for the Spanish courts. Every democracy has its own rules, laws and procedures. We fully support the proper implementation of the rule of law in Spain, and it is not for us to interfere in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Report of the Iraq Inquiry

Ronnie Cowan Excerpts
Wednesday 13th July 2016

(7 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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We now know that the decision to go to war in Iraq was wrong—not just flawed but utterly wrong. This place was misled; not everyone was fooled, but sufficient to sway the vote. Meanwhile, across the UK, 1.5 million people marched in protest against the war. Their cumulative voice was drowned out by a single voice and its abuse of power. Tony Blair said that those who marched against the war would have “blood on their hands.” I do not know one single person who marched against this war who regrets their action, while apparently Mr Blair now regrets his. One hundred and seventy-nine British servicemen and women, along with 24 British civilians, were killed; and let us never forget the tens of thousands—hundreds of thousands—of civilians in Iraq who were killed, the 1.25 million orphans this war created, and the destruction of buildings and decimation of communities. The outcome was to radicalise a generation of angry, grieving Iraqis whose lives we turned upside down.

All based on what? There was no evidence of WMD. There was no evidence of Iraq having links to al-Qaeda. Evidence of contact between Iraq and Osama bin Laden was “fragmentary and uncorroborated”. However, Tony Blair still felt fine telling his pal, George W. Bush,

“I will be with you, whatever.”

How did we wage this war? We did as we always do—we sent in our troops with “wholly inadequate military equipment”. This was not new. We had known for years that we had poor vehicles and a lack of body armour. Equipment was identified in 2001 to

“not work well in hot and dusty conditions…The MoD had insufficient desert combat suits and desert boots for all personnel…Standard issue boots were unsuitable for the task; 4 Armoured Brigade’s post-exercise report cited melting boots and foot rot as ‘a major issue’.”

What do we do for those who lost loved ones? We make them wait 13 years for answers. How well do we look after the welfare of those who returned? Appallingly.

On Monday, we will vote to spend hundreds of billions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction while campaign veterans are sleeping rough in towns and cities across the UK. Many more are physically or psychologically damaged, left by us without the support network they require. When will we put in place a package for our service personnel that looks after their long-term welfare? When will we ensure that everyone leaving the armed forces does so with a qualification or skill that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives?

In truth, so many mistakes were made that 2.6 million words are probably not enough. I will finish with a quote from a father who lost a son—a quote that is intelligent, informed, and dignified. Roger Bacon, whose 34-year-old son Matthew was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in 2005, said:

“Never again must so many mistakes be allowed to sacrifice British lives and lead to the destruction of a country for no positive end.

We were proud when our husbands, sons and daughters signed up to serve our country. But we cannot be proud of the way our government has treated them.

We must use this report to make sure that all parts of the Iraq War fiasco are never repeated again. Neither in a theatre of war, nor in the theatre of Whitehall.

We call on the British Government immediately to follow up Sir John's findings to ensure that the political process by which our country decides to go to war is never again twisted and confused with no liability for such actions.”

John Bercow Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Before I put the Question, I thank colleagues for their stoicism and their succinctness. I would like particularly to thank the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) for his typical understanding and good grace. He was not heard today, by way of a speech, but he will be heard tomorrow, and of that he can rest assured.

Ordered, That the debate be now adjourned.—(George Hollingbery.)

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.