The highlight of my week was attending the Court of Appeal to hear the judgement handed down in the case of the Chagossiams, who have been fighting a legal battle to be allowed to return to their homeland for years. The Court declared that the two Orders in Council which evicted the islanders 40 years ago were unlawful, and refused the Government leave to appeal to the House of Lords. But the Government still have the right to petition the House of Lords direct for leave to appeal. At the request of Olivier Bancould, leader of the Chagossians, I asked Lord Triesman whether he would agree to meet Olivier in the hope of reaching an amicable agreement and he answered No! From this it is fairly obvious that the Government had already made up their minds to fight this case to the bitter death, regardless of the fact that now three different courts have said the evictions were unlawful, and their chances of getting the law lords to take a different view must be minimal.
I tabled two questions as follows:
Lord Avebury to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, following the refusal by the Court of Appeal to grant leave to appeal to the House of Lords against the judgment of the Court of Appeal on 23 May dismissing the Government’s appeal against the cancellation by the Divisional Court of two Orders in Council on the right of abode of the Chagossian people in their homeland, they propose to petition the House of Lords for leave to appeal; and whether they accept the decisions of the courts to date. [FCO] HL3981
Lord Avebury to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will take measures to facilitate the return of the Chagos islanders; and create a trust fund to help revive the economy of the Chagos Islands. [FCO] HL3982
Once the petition is lodged, these will be erased from the Order Paper, except in the unlikely event they have already been answered. The sub judice rule is absurd in a case like this, because the media will have commented in detail already, and there has been unanimous condemnation of the government's policy. If the law lords were influenced by what is said outside the court, the damage will have been done already.
Yesterday I chipped in on three questions: Caroline Cox's on further offensives by the Burmese regime against the Karen people inside Karen State and in camps for the displaced in Thailand [www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/
ldhansrd/text/70524-0001.htm#07052466000009]; Peter Blaker's on the election of Zimbabwe to the chair of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development [www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/
ldhansrd/text/70524-0001.htm#07052466000010], and Nasir Ahmed's, on the disappearance of certain United Kingdom citizens in Pakistan [www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/
I have a competition with Dominic Addington to see which of us can contrive to ask supplementaries on all four of the oral questions taken at the start of business.