Friday, June 30, 2006

Today's pingpong

I beat JW 2-1, so the series is now 10-9 in his favour

Chagos Islands

Statement by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury, on the decision by the Foreign Secretary to appeal against the decision in the Chagos Islands case

This last-minute appeal against the decision of the High Court in favour of the Chagos Islanxders comes after the Government had asked for two extensions of time. The decision to lodge the appeal comes at the 11th hour of the second extension, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when no doubt they hope it will be ignored by the media. If they had a good case, that wouldn’t have been necessary.

The decision to evict the Chagos Islanders from their territory using an Order in Council 40 years ago was inhumane, and a breach of human rights and of international law. There is no precedent for using the ancient powers of the Crown to remove a whole population of British subjects from their homes and place of birth.

When Turkey removed villagers from their homes during the conflict in the Kurdish region, the European Court of Human Rights found that breaches of the Convention had been committed. We rightly expect these violations to be remedied and compensation paid to the victims before Turkey is admitted to the European Union. It is shameful that we are treating the Chagos islanders in the same way, and they are likely to win their case before the European Court, lodged in March 2005.

Is this another example of the Government’s determination to put the judges in their place, and by hook or by crook overturn judgements they don’t like?

Or is it merely an illustration of their subservience to Washington? Has Bush told us to pursue this case to the bitter end, so as to keep the islanders well away from their base on Diego Garcia, given to them by Harold Wilson in 1965?

This is a political case, and Parliament should defend the rights of the islanders, as well as the integrity of the judiciary against a Government case based on lies at the United Nations and an assertion of arbitrary power in our courts.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

We only had time for two games of ping pong before it got dark and honours were even. JW leads 9 games to seven since my operation

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

At the Kurdistan reception, June 26

With Mouloud Swara, UK representative of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran

Monday, June 26, 2006

Yesterday JW beat me 3-1 at ping pong, so he's leading 8-6 on the series since my operation.

Archie and his Dad Alan, at the graduation.

Archie's Graduation

My eldest grandson Archie graduating in computer science at Edinburgh University.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Wedding at Ogbourne St George

Emily Ormond and Spencer Cozens outside the church after their wedding at Ogbourne St George.

Lindsay and me at the wedding

Flavia and John Ormond with the bridesmaids

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lindsay in Mexico, 1981

Speech in the Earl of Sandwich's debate on Nepal

Written question on khat

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Three speeches and two written questions

(I know its boring, but it shows I give the taxpayers their money's worth)

Enterprise Act 2002 (Disqualification from Office: General) Order 2006

Mobile Homes Act (Amendment of Schedule 1) (England) Order 2006

Africa: Corruption

Written questions on British citizenship

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Could it happen again?

With Ben Abbotts in Bromley High Street

Bromley & Chislehurst by-election

Yesterday, to help Ben Abbotts, LibDem candidate in Bromley & Chislehurst. We canvassed an area of smart housing with nice gardens. Most former Labour voters were going to vote for Ben, while Tories were uncertain. None of them mentioned David Cameron.

Chris Mead of the Press Association says the Tories should win this by-election if they can lay a ghost of more than 40 years ago. So there I was, having climbed out of the grave specially for the occasion.

44 years ago, to be exact, we won the next door constituency of Orpington, coming from third place at the previous general election. With a swing that big, we could take Bromley & Chislehurst.

Comparing Orpington in the 1959 general election with Bromley in 2005, we polled less than 1% more. Labour had almost exactly the same, and the Tories in our case had five and a half percent more.

There are other interesting parallels between the two situations. The Tory candidate is an outsider, like the man they had in Orpington. Our Labour candidate also had no links with the constituency. Ben Abbotts is the only local candidate, as I was in 1962.

Ben is a commuter, like a great many of his constituents. He is a local councillor. He has a young family, and knows about the problems they face. Those are all factors that helped me to victory in Orpington.

In 1962, the Tories took six months to move the writ. Today in Bromley, the campaign has been far shorter, and there’s only 11 days to go. It’s a huge challenge, and I hope that hundreds of volunteers will turn out to help Ben Abbots. He would be a superb MP.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Extract from yesterday's Hansard

3.21 pm

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to participate in the meeting of the proposed Somali contact group in New York; and what strategy they consider should now be pursued to ensure that Somalia has a stable Government.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords, we plan to participate in the contact group meeting at official level. Our strategy is to support the Somali transitional federal institutions and an inclusive approach to reconciliation and the restoration of effective governance in Somalia.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is unhelpful of the Americans to convene this meeting in New York at a time when the special envoy of the Secretary-General, Mr Fall, is talking to the key players with a view to making a report to the Security Council next week? In view of the fact that the situation in Somalia is a threat to international peace and security, as declared by the Security Council last month, does the noble Lord agree that, in the absence of any indication that the transitional federal institutions will be able to restore peace, consideration should be given to the formation of a more inclusive Government in Somalia to enable other players to enter the equation? Does he also agree that consideration should be given by the Security Council

14 Jun 2006 : Column 211

next week to the demand that is likely to be made by the Somali Parliament for an international peacekeeping force from the United Nations?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, the position in Somalia has become a great deal more difficult today. The forces that took Mogadishu have advanced to and taken the town of Jowhar and possibly the airport to the north of it—we do not yet know. We also do not yet know whether they intend to march on Baidoa. There are also indications of troops massing on the Ethiopian border. I think that any steps taken in the United Nations by the contact group should be expeditious, and we should not worry unduly about whether we have got the exact composition right today. Our official will make those points in New York.

I make the point in the House today that, for all this peace-seeking work to have any prospect, the parties must stop fighting now. They must spare that country from further bloodshed. They must engage with the transitional Government, and the transitional Government must engage with them, or the prospects are indeed dreadful.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, is it the view of the Government that the Somaliland Government, based in Hargeisa, can play a positive role in this tragic conflict? What contacts, if any, are there between Her Majesty's Government, the international community and the Government of Somaliland?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, there are continuing contacts with the Government of Somaliland. I pay tribute to that Government; although they are not internationally recognised, in the sense of there being a fully fledged state, the stability of Somaliland stands in sharp contrast to the position across most of the rest of Somalia, with the possible exception of Puntland, directly to the east of Somaliland. Anything that can preserve that stability is very important. I believe that that will be the subject of some discussion at the African Union conference in the Gambia in the first few days of July.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, is it correct that the Islamic Courts Union, which is the party that has taken over Mogadishu, has stated repeatedly that it does not wish to be regarded as an enemy of Somalia's future and that it wishes to have friendly talks? If that is correct, will it be included in or consulted by the contact group?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, it has made those statements, which has encouraged the interim president, President Yusuf, to try to make contact with it. I believe that, as we meet, the efforts to make that contact and open a dialogue have started. My own view is that the international community through the contact group and through the United Nations Special Representative must try to speak to all those parties, not least to try to prevent fighting from continuing.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, can I press the noble Lord further about the role of the United States? Does

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he think that the United States can be seen as an honest broker in this situation, given the reports of the US providing funds to the Somali warlords and therefore, as it were, backing one side? Should not the United Nations, rather than the US, take a lead in trying to address the problems of that dangerous area?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, nothing will stop the United Nations addressing the problems. I welcome the fact that all the efforts from the powerful players—the United States, together with a number of others—are now directed at preventing the onset of what could be a very serious conflict. Incidentally, the effort is being co-chaired by Norway, which has a good and extremely powerful record in negotiating peace. Evidence of the actions of the United States is a matter for the United States Government, but the monitoring group at the United Nations has the power to look at any evidence of impropriety, particularly in respect of the arms embargo, and if necessary through the Security Council to act on that. However, we should respect those processes rather than being driven along by what might be alleged in the newspapers from day to day.

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, the Minister mentioned in one of his earlier replies his concern that the international community and the African Union should take an interest in this development, particularly with the meeting coming up in the Gambia. Have Her Majesty's Government made any contact or had any discussion with our counterparts in the European Union about giving the AU as much support as possible in order to prevent the conflict spreading throughout the northern zones of Africa?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, we have had discussions with the European Union, the African Union and the regional bodies throughout Africa.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the occupation of Jowhar by the forces of the Islamic Courts Union mean that there is one fewer warlord with whom negotiations need to be held? As the Islamic Courts Union has declared that it has no intention of attacking Baidoa and the Government of President Abdullahi Yusuf have declared that they would like to engage in conversations with the Islamic Courts Union, is that not the next step that should be encouraged by the United Nations and by the UK in particular? Will the Minister undertake to put that on the table for discussion at next week's meeting of the Security Council?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Me in the garden yesterday

Extract from yesterday's Hansard

13 Jun 2006 : Column 116


Lord Avebury: My Lords, while the Serious Organised Crime Agency rightly concentrates on fraud committed in this country, will it also have a remit to deal with the many criminals who seek asylum or refuge in this country, having defrauded the taxpayers in their countries of origin? I am thinking particularly of Nigeria, from where many public servants who have defrauded the Nigerian taxpayer of large sums of money have sought to settle in this country. I know that they have been pursued by the British police and that some of them have been returned to Nigeria, but is the Minister satisfied that robust arrangements exist between our authorities and those in Nigeria for detecting this particular kind of crime and returning the assets to those who own them?

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, the noble Lord raises a very important point and more generally the question of the efforts that we can make not just in helping to return stolen assets from foreign countries, particularly in Africa, but in helping to deal with corruption in those countries. That is important. I do not think that that is so much a responsibility of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, but it is something that certainly the Government look at and are taking steps to deal with. As for international crime more generally, SOCA most certainly will be looking at the international effects of crime on this country. Its primary approach will be to look at what causes the greatest harm to this country, which includes things that happen overseas, and to seek in different ways to deal with that.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Eleanor Paston, b bef 1496, d 1550

Eleanor Paston, my 13 G Grandmother, m Thomas Manners 1st Earl of Rutland February 21 1512/13, Lady of the Bedchamber to Anne of Cleves. She died at Shoreditch, but her tomb (and his), of which this is a detail, is at the church of St Mary the Virgin, Bottesford, Leics. Photograph by kind permission of NIMBUS CONSERVATION of Frome, Somerset.

Eleanor's mother was Bridget Heydon, whose marriage to Sir William Paston 'decisively consigned to history' the feud between their families [Helen Castor, Blood and Roses, Faber & Faber, 2004]

Friday, June 09, 2006

Maurice Lubbock in his Bugatti, c 1936

Maurice Lubbock lecture

Yesterday Tordie returned to Canada after a whirlwind visit, far too short as usual.

In the afternoon, to Oxford for the Maurice Lubbock Memorial lecture at the Said Business School, delivered by Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian [,,1793964,00.html]. The contrast between the dilapidated and modest Victorian building from which Craigslist operates, and its zero charge to users on the one hand [], and the 52-storey glass tower the New York Times is building [], with its $500 for a small ad, was a striking illustration of the threat to print media's advertising revenues, while the existence of a huge variety of web-based information sources undermined their circulation. The Guardian had invested heavily in its website, and that was the only way to survive.

Friday, June 02, 2006


JW has a cup of tea before leaving for Nottingham. He still has a lot of stuff in the house he rented with three other students, and we hope he's going to be able to move it into the new house so we don't have to drive up there and ferry it all back here.
Today Tordie went to stay with her friend Brennie in Sussex till Sunday, and JW went back to Nottingham in the late afternoon, so we are deserted! I won the ping-pong 2-1 earlier on, making it 5 games all since the op. So it doesn't seem to have made any difference to my coordination, though after 3 games I've had enough.

Aunt Victoria, Philip, Lyulph, Edwina