Thursday, December 11, 2008

Week in Westminster

Monday, a brief meeting with the Director of the International Organisation for Migration, William Swing. Among other roles, they help unsuccessful migrants to return totheir home countries and resettle. On a question by Lindsay Northover, asked the Government whether, considering that children with HIV/AIDS are 40 times more likely to contract pneumococcal disease, which kills 1.6 million a year, they would consider integrating pneumococcal disease into their strategy and giving it the same prominence as they do malaria and TB, in consultation with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and its initiative PneumoADIP. The Minister said they would!

Then, a meeting to discuss current problems in Kurdistan, and later, meeting of the LibDem Foreign Affairs Team, at which we had a good discussion with a visiting delegation from the FDP, our German sister party.

Tuesday: In the morning, a meeting with Bolivian MP Rene Martinez, at which the main topic was the Pando massacre in which 19 people were killed, the subject of an inquiry by an international commission chaired by Argentine lawyer Rodolfo Mattarollo. At questions, asked a supplementary on Sue Miller's question about the DNA database. The European Court has declared that its unlawful to retain samples of persons not charged of convicted, and I wanted to know if orders were being given to Special Branch ro destroy samples taken from innocent passengers passing through Heathrow. The Minister replied that nothing would change until the Government comes up with proposals on how they intend to comply with the ruling, by March 2009. It seems to me this compounds the offence.

Wednesday: In the morning, chaired a well-attended meeting in Committee Room 14 to discuss the report 'Outsourcing Abuse', on assaults on asylum seekers in detention and when being returned to their countries of origin. Lunchtime, chaired a meeting in the Moses Room to celebrate the 69th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, organised by Ian Hall of the Bloomsbury Society. Then took part in Peter Blaker's question on the situation in Zimbabwe. In the evening, to the Charity Champions awards, at which I was nominated by the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group - see my kind sponsors with me below. It was a great honour, and I would love to have had the chance to say what splendid work they do to ensure that in asylum cases, the appeal authorities are kept informed of the way gay and lesbian people are viciously persecuted in many countries of origin - but only the winners were invited to speak.

Thursday: A meeting in the morning with the Minister at the Department of Children, Schools and Families, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, at which there was an exchange of views with the Advisory Council on the Education of Romanies and Travellers (of which I'm President) and the National Association of Traveller Teachers. Then at lunchtime to a reception hosted by Lindsay Northover for the Tropical Health Education Trust, with an exhibition on the work they're doing in various parts of the world including Somaliland.

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