Saturday, December 19, 2009

Maurice and Olivia

Oh dear, over a week since my last post! Maurice arrived from New Zealand on December 12, and survived the journey with only a bit of jetlag, so we've been keeping him and Olivia fairly busy since then. This evening they've gone to a carol concert at the Albert Hall with Sue and Lyulph; earlier I took them to the Imperial War Museum where we looked through the Holocaust exhibition. Its difficult to comprehend how an advanced society can be led into such inhuman behaviour, though I always think of Milgram's 1974 work on 'The Perils of Obedience' as a partial explanation. No people is immune from the extreme forms of racism, given the conditions.

Maurice & Olivia are certainly getting a broad programme - yesterday we went to the Bloomsbury Theatre for the Atheists Christmas show, some of which was brilliant. I particularly enjoyed Brian Cox's ten minute on the creation of the universe, (an earlier version of which is at was disappointed this wasn't one of the evenings with Richard Dawkins.

Olivia, who is going to do law at Auckland University, accompanied me to a meeting with prison officials to hear about their proposed Belief in Change programme, in which prisoners coming to the end of a long sentence will be guided towards a crime-free existence after their discharge, using mentors of their own faith, but also through mentored discussions among themselves based on common faith-based values. It may sound like a good idea, but I'm afraid there are serious practical difficulties with it.

Maurice came with me to the annual Martyrs Day seminar I chair in a committee room at the House, on human rights in Bahrain, where the government is an hereditary dictatorship. He also sat in on the Equality Bill second reading. I'm tabling amendments to bring discrimination on caste grounds within the scope of the Bill, to which the Government response is that there's no evidence of a problem. It would be miraculous if somehow, the deeply ingrained prejudice on caste in south Asia was somehow jettisoned by migrants to the UK from that part of the world.

Friday, December 11, 2009

From my postbag

David Ritter of Greenpeace told a meeting in the Palace of Westminster that cattle rancing was responsible for 80% of Amazonian rainforest destruction. We could eat less beef.

Eleven Ahmadis have been murdered in Pakistan this year so far because of their faith. In most cases local mullahs have incited hatred against the Ahmadis. Many of these mullahs have armed guards paid for out of public funds, but no protection is afforded to the victims, and the murderers are hardly ever caught and punished. Extremist organisations such as the Khatme Nabuwwat freely incite hated against the Ahmadis and call on people to attack them.

The UN General Assembly's Third Committee has condemned the Iranian crackdown on protests against the sham elections held in June. The regime tortured and executed hundreds of demonstrators but was unable to prevent huge gatherings.

The Gatwich Detainees Welfare Group draws attention to the increasing number of detainees being held for months or even years, because there is no realistic prospect of their removal The Group also draws attention to the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse in detention centres, on which Alan West gave me a complacent and uninformative reply:

3 Dec 2009 : Column WA73

Immigration: Detention Centres


Asked by Lord Avebury

    To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the warnings they have received of the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse in immigration detention centres; and what assessment they have made of whether contractors managing these centres provide adequate staff to monitor the use of these substances, and take action when evidence of abuse comes to their attention. [HL129]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Each immigration removal centre (IRC) has a security department responsible for identifying threats, including drugs, and for developing strategies, responses and actions to counter these and to manage the risk.

For security reasons, we are unable to reveal the detail of the strategies. However, they are designed to minimise illegal entry to the centre of prohibited items including drugs and alcohol.

All removal centres are adequately staffed to provide a safe and secure environment for staff, detainees and visitors alike. Detention custody officers are all trained in searching techniques and substance awareness. All drug finds and incidents of trafficking are reported to the police and, where appropriate, detainee visits are monitored or visitors banned.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Olivia's visit is flitting past, and tomorrow she stays with Kina overnight before they go to Paris for a few days. Maurice arrives on Saturday for Christmas and the few days up to the new year. I've hardly been to the House at all, but as my strength is improving, the goal is a return full time from the beginning of 2010. Its said to be 6-8 weeks for broken bones to heal, and tomorrow will be 7 weeks since the accident.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Olivia arrived this afternoon after her long flight from Auckland, and Lindsay went with Kina to pick her up from the airport. She did get some sleep on the flight, but quite understandably went to bed early after an hour or so.

I've got to the stage of walking the whole way round the park, about half a mile, which is OK if I take it slowly. The leg doesn't hurt except at night when its just uncomfortable enough to stop me going to sleep. I'm still having to sleep on my back, and it doesn't feel natural.