Sunday, June 26, 2011

Disgraceful behaviour at ICJ meeting

At an ICJ academic meeting on June 23, attempts were made to silence Toby Cadman, and the President of the ICJ decided, without any consultation with the attendees, to strike Mr Cadman's speech from the record.

If there is to be a published account of the proceedings at this meeting, Dr Aggarwala must be overruled, and the ICJ should consider whether it is appropriate to have a President who would censor a speech made at one of the organisation's own meetings at the behest of a small but vociferous section of the audience.

I am drawing this to the attention of Helena Kennedy (Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC) who is head of Justice, the UK section of the ICJ. The statement by Toby Cadman follows:

CENSORING COMMENT ON THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMES TRIBUNAL IN BANGLADESH

Statements Made by Toby Cadman of 9 Bedford Row International “expunged”
by the International Council of Jurists On 21 June 2011 I attended a conference hosted by the International Council of Jurists upon the invitation of its President, Dr. Aggarwala. The conference was on the rule of law and judicial reform
((http://www.internationaljurists.org/schedule.php). I was asked to present a paper. I offered to speak about the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh and international standards as this subject inevitably concerns matters of judicial reform and human rights. I provided the organizers of the conference with full notice of the topic that I intended to address. In the alternative, I offered to speak about three further topics involving defence rights and international criminal justice. No
issue was taken at this stage by the President of the International Council of Jurists of the chosen topic and I was appointed to the Terrorism and Human Rights panel discussion.
The conference was attended by the newly appointed Bangladesh Chief Justice, Muzammel Hossain, and another Justice of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik. I introduced myself to the Honourable Chief Justice in the morning and informed him that I would be speaking about the International Crimes Tribunal.
I started my brief address by congratulating the Honourable Chief Justice on his recent appointment and I applauded him for his presentation earlier in the day. I stated that it was encouraging to hear his strong words on ensuring the judiciary in Bangladesh remained truly independent.

Shortly after commencing my presentation the Honourable Chief Justice left the conference room. As far as I recall neither the Honourable Chief Justice nor Justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik were present during my address.

I spoke for no more than 10 minutes and covered the First Constitutional Amendment, the need for proper definitions of the crimes, the exportation of fundamental rights in the Constitution and the exclusion of the Criminal Procedure Act and the Criminal Evidence Act. I then spoke about the criticisms aimed by various international organizations. The point I made was that the discussions during the conference focused on human rights protection and the rule of law. There were also discussions that focused on bringing an end to impunity. I echoed these concerns and stated that
none of the rights raised by the other speakers were being provided to accused in proceedings before the International Crimes Tribunal. I listed some of the rights that had been systematically removed by the Act and the Constitution. I concluded by stating that it was crucial to ensure the independence of the judiciary was maintained.

At the end of my speech, a member of the audience, whom I now know to be Mr. Anis Rahman OBE, a Bangladeshi barrister based in London, made the point that I should not be making such statements in circumstances where the Government was not in a position to respond and clearly the Chief Justice could not respond. At this point I must state that I never intended to put anything to which the Honourable Chief Justice would be required to respond. Mr. Rahman stated that a number of accusations had been made against the Tribunal. He called for a point of order that my remarks be stricken or expunged from the record. The chair of the session, Justice Hassan B. Jallow, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Chief Prosecutor, after some conferring with the other members of the panel refused to make such a point of order and stated that there was nothing inappropriate with what I presented.

At the end of the panel session, the audience were invited to ask questions. However, Mr. Rahman rather than ask a question directed abuse at me personally and professionally. This was followed by Ms. Sonia Zaman Khan, a British-Bangladeshi solicitor, directing a number of remarks rather than questions. I was told that I should be ashamed of myself as these people “committed genocide, rape, murder, torture” and the small group of about 10-12 Bangladeshi members of the audience
started to chant repeatedly “shame, shame, shame” and bang the table repeatedly. This was all conducted in a very aggressive and provocative manner. I asked to be able to respond and reluctantly, the Chair of the Panel, Justice Jallow, permitted me to respond. I stated in reply that I had not attacked the Tribunal nor had I attacked any individual judge; I had criticized the procedures. Further, I had not opposed the establishment of the Tribunal but I had criticized the manner in which proceedings
were being conducted. I further criticized the fact that despite widespread criticisms being made, including the recommendations by the US Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp, to date no changes had been made to the Act, the Constitution or the Rules of Procedure. I used this opportunity to call the Government to bring the procedures in line with international standards. The small group of antagonists, and I must say this represented a very small segment of the audience, refused to listen to anything further and dismissed my answers out of
hand. They continued to direct unsolicited abuse. Of particular note, Ms. Sonia Zaman Khan defended the legislation by stating that the international community, in particular the Canadian Government.had heralded the legislative framework.

At the end of the session, a number of individuals approached me to commend me on my
presentation and expressed their dismay as to how I was treated. I replied that this is a very emotive subject and therefore emotional statements are to be expected. I expressed some surprise; however, that at a gathering of distinguished jurists, there would be a complete disregard for a judicial process that met recognized fair trial standards. I was also taken aback by the suppression of any form of criticism of what is ostensibly a democratic nation.
Page 2
I left the conference shortly after my address.

The following day I learned of a number of statements that had been made by members of the Bangladeshi community in the audience. In particular it was stated that Justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik explained in detail the procedures of the International Crimes Tribunal and made it clear that all steps had been taken towards ensuring a trial process based on internationally accepted standards. It was also stated that I had made “grave insinuations against the legal process in
Bangladesh but had also chosen the wrong forum to express views on the war crimes trial in the country”.

In response to these statements the following remarks are made. First, I made it quite clear in my presentation that no offence was intended towards any member of the Bangladesh judiciary. Absolutely no accusations were addressed towards any judge or judicial institution of Bangladesh. I openly criticized the Act, the Rules of Procedures and the First Constitutional Amendment. I echoed the concerns of a number of international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, the International Center for Transitional Justice, Amnesty International, and importantly, the
International Bar Association. In relation to Ms. Khan’s statements that the Act is heralded by the international community this is quite simply misleading and not supported by any credible facts.

Second, I am not in a position to respond to Justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik’s comments due to the fact that none of these comments were made in my presence. However, I will state once again that, in my opinion, which is shared by the vast majority of international observers of the legislative framework at the Tribunal, that the laws and procedures fall woefully short of what is understood to be recognized international standards.

Third, as to the suggestion that my remarks were “expunged” I am not in a position to comment on what may or may not have occurred after I left the conference. What I am able to state with absolute certainty is that when the request was made in my presence, the Chair of the Panel, Justice Jallow, refused to dismiss my remarks. He made it quite clear that my remarks were not inappropriate nor were they directed to cause offence. I have also been subsequently informed that Sir Gavin Lightman, formerly Mr. Justice Lightman of the High Court of England and Wales, in summarizing
the conclusions of the conference, adopted the same position.

The article that appeared in The Daily Star on 22 June 2011 entitled “Judiciary Ensures Rule of Law in Bangladesh” (http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=191143) is quite misleading and does not represent what actually transpired. For example, it conveniently fails to mention that one of the dignitaries attending the conference, Sir Gavin Lightman, made the point that there was no
malice intended in my address. It also fails to address the point above that Justice Jallow refused to expunge my remarks when requested to do so by Mr. Rahman.

Following the publication of the article in The Daily Star I sought to ascertain whether my remarks had in fact been expunged after my departure. Regrettably, I was informed that the President of the International Council of Jurists, Dr. Adish Aggarwala, had expunged my remarks from the proceedings. I immediately made contact with the International Council of Jurists and was informed by Dr. Aggarwala that if I submitted my paper the International Council of Jurists would take a final
Page 3
decision as to whether my controversial statement was relevant. By his own admission, the President of the International Council of Jurists confirmed that he was not present during my speech.

What I now find particularly worrying is that my remarks were expunged by the President of the International Council of Jurists even though he had not heard them. He had concluded that my remarks were controversial again without hearing them. It is clear that my remarks were expunged at the request of those persons who had sought to suppress my criticisms of the legislative framework of the International Crimes Tribunal.

It is also of concern that the conference was organized with the “academic support” of the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales and the reputation of this organization may lend support to a process which now appears to be quite flawed.
It is of course the cornerstone of any democratic process that there is free debate on the issues and that the administration must be called to account for any process it seeks to implement. The rule of law and free speech is what distinguishes a democratic nation. Expunging remarks due to the fact that they are considered to be controversial or against the interest of the State does not represent a
democratic process.

My concluding remarks are as follows. I do not oppose the establishment of the International Crimes Tribunal as the State is under an obligation to bring an end to impunity. I have no desire to criticize the Government of Bangladesh nor do I have any desire to criticize the Tribunal or the Judges. I do consider; however, as I stated in my remarks on 21 June 2011, that the legislative framework of the International Crimes Tribunal requires urgent reform. I do not consider it
sufficient to amend the Rules of Procedure, as has been suggested. In my view the First Constitutional Amendment that removes the protection of fundamental rights must be amended. The Act and the Rules of Procedure must also be brought in line with Bangladesh’s responsibilities under international law. Finally, the legislative framework must be brought in line with Bangladesh’s responsibilities as a State Party to the Rome Statute. It is difficult to see where the controversy lies.
Toby M. Cadman
London, 26 June 2011
 


Courtesy Jo McGuire Photography jo@jomcguirephoto.com
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Caste discrimination

The secret scandal of Britain's caste system

Why isn't the Equality and Human Rights Commission taking action against this prejudice?

Nick Cohen
The Observer, Sunday 26 June 2011

You can tell that speakers are preparing to say something scandalous when they assert that "militant atheists" are the moral equivalents of the religious militants that so afflict humanity. Trevor Phillips, whose flighty management of the Equality and Human Rights Commission is becoming a scandal, was no exception when he announced last week that British believers were "under siege" from "fashionable" atheists.

If his claim that "people who want to drive religion underground are much more active, much more vocal" contained a jot of truth, we would have read the following stories in the days after his intervention.

• Inflamed after reading an acerbic passage by Richard Dawkins, "fashionable" Belfast atheists decide to lay siege to Catholic homes in the Short Strand area of the city. They terrify its residents and attack the police with petrol bombs and fireworks. (As it was, the riots were the work of Belfast Protestants motivated by a hatred of Catholicism. They were met by Republican IRA "dissidents", filled with an equal hatred of Protestantism.)

• "Vocal" Iraqi secularists decide that they want to drive the Shia Muslims in Baghdad underground. They ignite bombs in a Shia market during its busiest time of the week and a mosque, killing 40 in all. (As it was, the murders were the work of al-Qaida in Iraq, which regards Shia Muslims as heretics and was determined to demonstrate again that no one is as murderously "Islamophobic" as Islamists are.

• Free-thinking Americans decide they have had enough of religious leaders laying down the law. They descend on the New York State Senate and heckle and jostle a woman rabbi as she tries to influence a debate on gay marriage. (As it was, the heckling and jostling was done by Orthodox Jews, who said the rabbi had no right to speak for Judaism because she was a lesbian.)

Since the end of communist-inspired persecutions in all the old socialist countries bar China and North Korea, religious hatred has become unique among the prejudices. Overwhelmingly, it is directed by the religious against the religious. Domineering believers threaten members of their own faith when they break taboos by experimenting with new thoughts and ways of living. Or they engage in sectarian conflicts with other religions.

Trevor Phillips's attack on "fashionable" atheists for exercising their right to speak their minds shows he does not begin to understand modern sectarianism. From his ignorance flows a cowardly refusal to face down those who would bully and harass others, as a story that deserves more attention than it has received shows.

British Asians, secularists and Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians have been trying for years to persuade the government to tackle caste discrimination. They have had no success because the treatment of untouchables is one of the great unmentionables of British politics. They are certainly the victims of a form of religious prejudice – the sanction for the oppression of lower castes in a pre-ordained hierarchy comes from Hindu creation myths. Yet caste prejudice does not fit easily into established views of how discrimination works, because caste divisions exist among Sikhs, Muslims and Christians whose families came from the sub-continent, as well as Hindus.

Faced with the prospect of confronting the prejudices of core supporters, the Labour government preferred holding on to seats to living by liberal principles and backed away from extending anti-discrimination law to cover caste. With Labour gone, campaigners for just treatment for tens of thousands of British Asians have a glimmer of hope.

They are trying to persuade the coalition to take seriously a study of bullying and harassment conducted by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. It is a dispiriting read – little more than a list of pointless cruelties. The Indian supervisor of an NHS worker discovers that he is from a lower caste and makes his life such a misery he becomes ill under the pressure and is suspended; a social services care worker refuses to help an elderly woman wash herself because the old lady is from a lower caste and so it goes on through dozens of examples.

The casual observer of British politics might have thought that a voluble quangocrat, who is always willing to fill empty airtime with heart rending cries for greater equality, would have denounced caste prejudice with unembarrassed vigour. For once, however, Phillips is silent. A search of the Equality and Human Rights Commission records shows that it ignores caste discrimination in Britain.

When I phone its press office to ask why, its public relations officers fail to return my calls. Without hearing his side of the story, I can only guess that Phillips does not like admitting that ethnic minorities as well as white people are capable of prejudice. He may worry, too, that an honest stance would require him taking on religious lobbyists, such as Hindu Council UK, which questioned "the existence of caste discrimination in the UK" on Friday and claimed that the issue was being manipulated by Christians eager to convert Hindus from their faith.

In this instance, Phillips not only refuses to campaign for the disadvantaged, but is alleged to hinder those who do. Keith Porteous Wood, of the National Secular Society, said he had been "no help at all. Advances we have made have been despite him, not because of him". The normally mild-mannered Lib Dem peer Lord Avebury said that "Phillips has played an ignoble part in suppressing this issue."

From the leftish point of view there is no good ground for keeping Phillips in post. The liberal left ought to know that caste discrimination is a greater evil than class discrimination because, whatever an individual's accomplishments, he or she can never escape from the hereditary curse. It ought also to feel a tinge of shame that when the victims of prejudice try to start a new life by coming to Britain, they find that the old prejudice follows them here – and that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will do nothing about it.

From a Tory standpoint, the case against Phillips is as easy to make. When the government has had to raise taxes and cut spending, what purpose is served by carrying on spending taxpayers' money on Phillips? With a bit of luck, left and right will soon agree that removing him from an office he is unfit to hold is a "fashionable cause" everyone can support.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

 
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War crime act not conflicting with constitution: CJ
Syed Anas Pasha, London Correspondent
banglanews24.com

LONDON: Bangladesh Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain categorically said that the War Crimes Act of Bangladesh is not repugnant to the constitution, as the question has cropped up in the wake of trial of the wartime crimes.

The CJ came up with the clarification during a courtesy meeting with All Party Parliament Human Rights Group Vice-chairman Lord Avebury at the House of Lords Wednesday at local time 12:00noon.

Supreme Court’s HC division justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and banglanews24.com London Correspondent Pasha were also present during the 45-minute-long meeting where different issues of Bangladesh, including the judicial system, were discussed.

Asked whether it is right that the ‘War Crimes Act cannot be challenged in the Supreme Court’, the Chief Justice replied to Avebury: “This is not right.”

Mentioning that a writ petition had been filed with the High Court bringing allegation that the war crimes act is contradictory to constitution, the Chief Justice told Avebury that the High Court rejected the writ saying that the act is not conflicting with the constitution.

“The writ could not be filed if the war crimes law was not liable to be challenged with the Supreme Court,” the CJ asserted.

Terming the judiciary of Bangladesh independent the CJ also said the appointment of justices is being done after consultation with the CJ. “So justices’ appointment is not now a matter of monopoly decision of anyone.”

He also informed that the SC is also playing role in the appointment of lower-court justices.

The CJ also asked Avebury to know whether students of different countries, including Bangladesh, would face job insecurity for carrying out their studies in the UK following the recent change in immigration laws.

Avebury replied, “It is also a matter of concern…How the foreign students will meet the expenses for their study and accommodation if there is dearth of work opportunity.

“We are negotiating with the government the issue though we are also partner.”

Replying to a question from banglanews whether he wants the trial of crimes committed against humanity during the country’s liberation war in 1971, Avebury said, “Of course I want, but the trial should be fair and international-standard.”

There is an amiable relation between the British judiciary and the House of Lords as 11 justices of the British Supreme Court are members of the House of Lords.


Note: During our conversation, on Wednesday June 22, I did explain to the Chief Justice that students were only allowed to work in very limited circumstances. I also told him that the members of the Supreme Court were no longer members of the House of Lords, but some former members of the judicial committee of the House of Lords had been given life peerages. The situation remains confusing for the time being, particularly as judges in the Supreme Court are addressed as 'My Lord'.

The photograph at the entrance to the House is at the moment of departure of the Chief Justice and Justice Shamsuddin Ahmed Manik.

Platelets

 
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Friday, Lindsay accompanied me to a consultation with Dr P, ast which he outlined the plan of action to decide what needs to be done about whatever is causing the high platelet count, see graph. First, the JAK2 test, which was described in the previous entry under 'Medical', followed by another consultation next Friday week. (Somatic mutations in JAK2, Janus kinase 2, a human protein that has been implicated in polycythemia vera, essential thrombocythemia, and other myeloproliferative disorders, are analysed in this test, which needed 8 ampoules of blood. The technician who took the samples came from Gujerat, where she had her original training. We ought to be able to train some of the unemployed to take blood samples.)

I don't know why its always necessary to take up the time of expensive consultants with face to face interviews when most of the time what they say is quite technical, and more readily understood in writing, when the patient could look up the terms on the web. The JAK2 test narrows down the diagnosis, but then Dr P wants a bone marrow biopsy, and we will no doubt have a further explanation at the next meeting followed by the bone marrow biopsy at some later date.

Just to recap, what Dr P is looking for is information to see whether I have one of the 'Myeloproliferative disorders', some of which are possibly signalled by the high platelet count. The one factor that seems to be common to these disorders is an enlarged spleen, but as there are several, it needs to be narrowed down further.

Apart from the myoproliferative disorders, there are other causes of a hight platelet count, eg malfunctions of the spleen. Dr P asked whether I had had a splenectomy at the time of the operation on my burst colon (after being knocked off my bike on October 4, 2001), which of course I hadn't.

Convert pdf to jpg

If you scan files using the Fujisu Scansnap, it produced pdf files only, and if you then want to upload the image into blogspot, you need a pdf to jpg converter. The online program pdf2jpg.net/convert.php seems to do this efficiently see the scanned inage below.

Land for Gypsy sites?

On the abolition of Regional Development Agencies, the land they own is being handed over to the Housing and Communities Agency. This could be an opportunity for the HCA to make some of the newly acquired land available for Gypsy and Traveller sites, see this question asked last Tuesday:

21 Jun 2011 : Column 1151


Lord Avebury: My Lords, will the Government encourage the HCA to devote some of the land it acquires to the provision of Gipsy sites, which will be in short supply consequent on the abolition of the regional strategies?

Baroness Wilcox: I am afraid I do not have the answer to hand because I was not expecting the question. However, it is a good question and I will go back, see what I can find out, and write to the noble Lord.

Caste discrimination

Question last Monday:

Caste Discrimination

Question
2.36 pm

Asked By Lord Harries of Pentregarth

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the finding of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research concerning the existence of caste-based discrimination in the United Kingdom.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, Ministers have been carefully considering the findings of this report on caste discrimination and the wide range of views expressed by interested parties. The Government's red tape challenge currently has a three-week spotlight on equalities. This presents people with a further opportunity to express their views on the possible need for caste legislation. We will announce our intentions once we have had sufficient opportunity to analyse the comments from this exercise.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I thank the Minister for her Answer. I appreciate that this report is being given very careful attention. In view of the fact that in August 2003 the UK's record on racial discrimination is to be examined by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, will the Government bring the report mentioned in the Question to the attention of that committee and will they respond to its recommendation in 2003 that caste-based discrimination be included in domestic legislation?

Baroness Northover: First, I commend the noble and right reverend Lord for all that he and my noble friend Lord Avebury have done to flag up this matter. Caste discrimination, like any other form of discrimination, should not be tolerated. He refers to the UN committee, which is reporting in August this year. We are aware that that is likely to flag up caste discrimination. At the moment, as I said, the spotlight is on equalities. The report is being given very serious attention. The national institute report states that evidence suggested that such discrimination was found, but it also makes clear that putting this conclusion beyond categorical doubt is difficult, which is why this report, the evidence around it and the submissions are receiving such attention at the moment.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Equalities Minister told me that the Government would be in a better position to announce their findings on whether to activate the section in the Equality Act on caste discrimination once they had assessed the views that

20 Jun 2011 : Column 1036

were expressed by stakeholders as part of the red tape challenge, which the noble Baroness has mentioned. As that exercise is about regulations, does my noble friend agree that stakeholders would not know that it was important for them to respond to the challenge until my honourable friend wrote to them? Many of them, including the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, have not received the letter, so they will have only a week to respond before the period of consultation ends at the end of this month. Does my noble friend also agree that among the Dalit organisations, there is overwhelming support for caste to be made a protected characteristic under the Act? She will remember that from having heard them in the committee room upstairs when they were first consulted.

Baroness Northover: I thank my noble friend for that and for his dogged determination to ensure that anyone who is vulnerable will not be discriminated against. I can assure him that officials wrote to 22 caste stakeholders from the pro and anti-legislation lobbies on 10 June, advising them about the red tape challenge and inviting them to participate in the debate by expressing their views on the possible need for caste legislation. That will add to the submissions that are already in.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, is the Minister aware that one of the disadvantages of not exercising the power given to them by the previous Parliament to include caste discrimination as part of race discrimination is that there might be litigation in this country that relies on, for example, the views of the CERD committee to which she has referred?

Baroness Northover: I hear what my noble friend Lord Lester says, and I should think that anyone hearing that will quake in their boots. If there is indeed caste discrimination, anyone meting that out needs to be wary. That is echoed in what my noble friend says.

Lord Soley: From her general discussions, does the Minister have any idea of the extent to which the relevant community leaders are aware of a problem of caste discrimination? If so, what do they say when asked about it?

Baroness Northover: My Lords, I think that they are aware of that. Given the debate on the Equality Act and all our discussions over the past few years, it would be a miracle if it had passed them by and they were not aware of it. In my view, all the communities seem to be well aware of the discussion over this. It seems to be generally accepted that caste is there. What is disputed is whether there are practices of discrimination. Whether it is declining or maintained is also disputed.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The red tape challenge is especially important for the Government. However, discrimination is discrimination, and I respectfully suggest that only anti-discrimination legislation would provide real redress for victims.



20 Jun 2011 : Column 1037

Baroness Northover: The noble Baroness makes a cogent point. One of the things that the report sought to identify was whether this could most appropriately be addressed by the legislation or whether it fell outside that. Some issues, such as bullying in schools, may well be dealt with by schools being much more alive to this problem. However, evidence is coming through on both sides about how legislation is required, because this kind of discrimination will not be caught by the current legislation. That is the key in this instance.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, can my noble friend say when the problem first arose in this country?

Baroness Northover: Well, there is an interesting one. This is a question that neither the academics nor I can answer. One of the things that is very striking about the issue is how little academic work has yet been done on it. That academic work is increasing and improving, which I welcome.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there are two major Hindu organisations in this country: the Hindu Forum and the Hindu Council? Will she ensure that those organisations are contacted with a view to seeing how the community in the first instance can look at the issues that have arisen and deal with them as part of the community initiative, and, if that does not work, to see what other actions are necessary?

Baroness Northover: I know that there is such dialogue, but I will take back his suggestion and urge that further action is taken.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Religious minorities in Pakistan

Question in the Lords yesterday, June 22:
Pakistan: Religious Minorities
Question
3 pm
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty's Government what advocacy the Foreign Office is undertaking on behalf of persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, we engage regularly with the authorities in Pakistan on issues of religious freedom. Most recently, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my honourable

22 Jun 2011 : Column 1305

friend Mr Burt, discussed religious freedom with the newly appointed Pakistan Prime Minister's Advisor on Interfaith Harmony and Minority Affairs. He also met religious leaders from across Pakistan as part of the Ministry's Interfaith Council. Ministers and our High Commission in Islamabad will continue to maintain regular contact.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, what does the abject failure of the authorities in Pakistan to bring to justice those who were responsible for the brutal murder of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, and of Shahbaz Bhatti, the courageous Minister for Minorities, say about their commitment to uphold the rule of law and to protect minorities? Is not impunity for murder, forced conversion, rape, forced marriage, the denial of civil rights and the failure to protect Ahmadis, Sufis, Shias, Christians, Hindus, and others, directly linked to the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan? Does it not point to the crucial importance of returning to the original vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, who insisted on upholding the rights of minorities, saying that they should have a full place in Pakistan society?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble Lord has set out a grim and very telling catalogue. The events he has described are appalling, particularly the recent murders and the apparent support by some members of the public in Pakistan for those who may even have carried out these atrocities. These are very worrying matters that we raise again and again with our friends and the authorities in Pakistan. We see Pakistan as a country to which we are bound by longstanding ties, but also a country where we must put forward our values in a strong and effective way. I have to say to the noble Lord that no one can be happy about this pattern of affairs, or with the advance in extremism around the country, no doubt encouraged by apparent aspects of impunity. All these matters are constantly in our minds and constantly in the way that we are developing our relationship with Pakistan, a great nation that needs certain help and support at this difficult time.
Lord Elton: My Lords, as the minority groups in Pakistan number some 14 million people, of whom around 3 million are Christian, this is a major problem. Can the Minister confirm that 1.2 million people living in this country are of Pakistani origin, and that this form of violence has now been exported here, particularly in relation to the Ahmadi population? Perhaps it is worth mentioning what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, did not say. In his speech, Jinnah said:
"Minorities ... will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship".
Lord Howell of Guildford: My noble friend is right, as was the noble Lord, Lord Alton, to remind us of the original qualities and values which the founders of the state of Pakistan, and obviously Mr Jinnah himself, put forward. In the present situation we want to try to maintain, deepen and, in some cases, resurrect these

22 Jun 2011 : Column 1306

things. As to our own direct links with Pakistan, I am told that there are 1 million British citizens in this country with family connections in Pakistan. Believe it or not, the number of visits and journeys undertaken between this country and Pakistan each year amounts to 1.4 million. So our ties are close, which puts us in a position where we have responsibility and, I hope, credibility and some authority in dealing with our Pakistani friends.
Lord Ahmed: My Lords, is the Minister aware that Articles 20, 21, 22, 26 and 27 of the Pakistan constitution guarantee rights for all minorities? Does he agree that the rights of all citizens, regardless of their religion or group, should be protected? Pakistan is at war with extremists and terrorists, and since expressing its support for Operation Enduring Freedom, has lost some 34,000 citizens. Is not the right approach that of supporting Pakistan's institutions and its democratic Government, as Her Majesty's Government are already doing? It is better to support friends when they are in difficulties rather than kicking them when they are down.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Lord is correct. No one questions the fact that Pakistan is facing fearful challenges of all kinds, one of which is its contiguity to Afghanistan and the challenges of extremism. Taliban operations are just one example of many pressures on Pakistani society. Of course we must approach these matters in a supportive mood, but we must also uphold our values. The fact is that, for instance, the blasphemy legislation is part of the Pakistan penal code. We have raised the issue of that kind of legislation by pointing to some of the tensions and excitements it generates. We would like to see a pattern where that kind of regulation, along with the attitudes and terms it generates, is less prominent. That might lead to some reduction in the violence and the apparent readiness of some people to commit acts of terrible atrocity, particularly the two murders just mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, can my noble friend say whether the Prime Minister himself has made any representations to President Ali Zardari to provide adequate protection for Ahmadi Muslims, who have been subject to multiple assassinations and incessant persecution fuelled by the Khatme Nabuwat, who openly incite to murder in leaflets and public speeches? Will the Prime Minister take up with Zardari the denial of voting rights to Ahmadis by requiring them to make a sworn statement contradicting an article of their faith in order to be included on the electoral register?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was in Pakistan only a few months ago and certainly made representations on all aspects of human rights and religious persecution in Pakistan, and I think that his views were very well received. Specifically on the Ahmaddiyya, we meet regularly with representatives of the Ahmaddiyya community to listen to their concerns. Most recently Mr Burt, whom I have already mentioned, and my noble friend Lady Warsi met representatives of minority religious groups to discuss freedom in Pakistan. About

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a month ago, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary publicly condemned the Lahore attacks on the Ahmaddiyya community. We are well aware of these pressures and we dislike them, as does my noble friend. We continue to raise these issues as vigorously as we can.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ITMB press release

Irish Traveller Movement in Britan

News Release
23 June 2011:
Immediate release

Government’s Localism Bill could increase Gypsy and Traveller unauthorised sites Irish Traveller Movement in Britain study reveals


A report launched today by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB) has found that only 1 out of a 100 Councils interviewed believe the measures in the Localism Bill will make planning for Gypsies and Travellers easier, while 55 Councils thought it would make provision more difficult. 40 % of councils specifically expressed concerns about increased local opposition to development for Travellers under the Bill’s community based planning system.

These stark findings come at a time when 1 in 5 Gypsies and Travellers living in caravans in England are legally homeless as they have no lawful place to site their caravans. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also found that at the present rate of site provision, it will take up to 27 years to meet the backlog of need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation.

Lord Avebury, Secretary to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers commented:

‘There is nothing in the Localism Bill to oblige local authorities to make provision commensurate with the need, or to cooperate with their neighbours where some are manifestly not pulling their weight…This (ITMB) study demonstrates the consequences of proceeding as if ‘localism’ were an article of faith. There is still time to think again on a matter that is of enormous concern to the most deprived and disadvantaged of all ethnic minorities. Let them at least have somewhere they can live within the law, and let not the Government try to pretend that if they proceed with the Clauses affecting Travellers in the Localism Bill, it will not make their lives even harder.’

The Government expects Councils to set local targets for additional sites, but the ITMB study found a 52% fall in the targets acknowledged by local authorities, compared with those in the Regional Strategies which Ministers are in the process of abolishing through the Localism Bill. The Government expects Councils to identify new Traveller sites, however, the study found that Councils find it extremely difficult to do so due to often strong local opposition when sites are proposed.

The report, Planning for Gypsies and Travellers: The Impact of Localism concludes that the measures in the Government’s Localism Bill and ‘light touch’ planning policy, Planning for Traveller Sites will make the situation for Gypsies and Travellers even worse in terms of insecurity, homelessness, unauthorised development and evictions whilst at the same time increasing community tensions.

ENDS

Notes to Editor


* The report, Planning for Gypsies and Travellers: The Impact of Localism will be available online from 23 June at www.irishtraveller.org.uk

* The Government is consulting on its draft planning policy statement, which is available at http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/travellersitesconsultation until July 6.

* The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. ITMB is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Armenian Genocide

Discussion with Hasmik Movsisian at her programme Music of Armenia: www.mixcloud.com/musicofarmenia/colours-of-armenia-armenian-genocide-commemoration-day-special/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=auto_news_feed&utm_campaign=link&utm_content=facebook_page

Sunday, June 19, 2011

 



Lindsay and the hydrangeas
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The back garden, through the window
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

 



Lindsay wins two First Prizes at the Myatt's Fields Park Annual Fair cake competitions. With her is Tory, Myatt's Fields Park Development and Education Officer.
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Friday

A good meeting of ACERT (Advisory Council on the Education of Romanies and Travellers) with Christine Gilbert, head of OFSTED, and Sue Gregory, National Director, Inspections Delivery. With me were Margaret Wood and Brian Foster, members of the Executive Committee of ACERT, who had prepared three papers for discussion: Inspection arrangements; Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children Missing Education, and Gypsy Roma and Travellers and Special Education Needs. We got a very good hearing lasting well over the hour that had been allotted to us.

In the evening I was guest of honour at the launch of Laurie Fransman's British Nationality Law, in Garden Court Chambers, Lincoln's Inn Fields. There was a galaxy of lawyers and lots of old friends including Alison Harvey of ILPA, Maureen Connolly retired from UNHCR, Sue Shutter now working for Fiona MacTaggart MP, Habib Rahman of JCWI. Laurie said some very nice things about my work on the problems of nationality law, but some of the conundrums left over from imperial days, like the Malaysian British Overseas Citizens, remain to be solved. Although 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, of which the UK is a sinatory, the Government don't think its necessary to do anything to mark the occasion, either in our own law or in the many instances of statelessness in countries that we have close relationships with, such as the Kuwaiti Bidoons.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Monday to Wednesday

I'm getting this in the wrong order, but events of the earlier part of the week were:

Monday, I ambled into our Whips office five minutes before Questions began at 14.30, and was asked to deal with a Question on the Groceries Code Adjududicator Bill, a piece of legislation I hadn't heard of before that moment. A rapid learning curve on Google solved the problem, see www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/110613-0001.htm#1106136000352.

In the evening I attended and spoke at a meeting of the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain on their report Unheard Voices on Irish Travelers in prison, a very competent and informative piece of work. (Press release irish-chaplaincy-in-britain.org.uk/Events.asp, full report in .pdf format will be on the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain site next week)

Also a meeting with the International Bar Association to discuss the failure of both the IBA, the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, and the US War Crimes Ambassador Rapp to persuade the Bangladesh government to bring their war crimes legislation and procedures into line with modern international norms.

Tuesday,in the Chamber from 15.00 to 22.30 speaking on the Education Bill and listening to 51 other speeches Extract from Hansard:


6.05 pm
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I join in the congratulations which have already been expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, on his powerful and impressive maiden speech. I should also like to congratulate him on the wonderful example that he sets as a successful entrepreneur to others to engage in charitable works, something which I think is less common here than it is in the United States. I share an interest with the noble Lord in wanting to improve the lot of children in Africa, a subject which I look forward to discussing with him in detail, and to hearing him on on many future occasions.
I declare two interests: as chair of the Department for Education's Gypsy, Roma and Traveller stakeholder group and as president of the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and Other Travellers. I am

14 Jun 2011 : Column 708

concerned by what this Bill does and what it does not do for Travellers, who are the most deprived educationally of all communities in England, as the DfE statistics demonstrate. Nine per cent of GRT children achieve good GCSE grades compared with 50 per cent for white British. Less than half of GRT children remain in school beyond primary education. Absence rates are 20 per cent compared with 5 per cent for white British. One in four boys is excluded for fixed periods. These figures help to explain why two out of three Irish Travellers in prison, where they are the second largest ethnic minority, cannot read or write, as a report by the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain demonstrates. The education system has simply let them down.
In spite of these facts, the White Paper's emphasis on local authorities' role as champions of vulnerable pupils is not reflected in the Bill. This is critical for children in families that have become disengaged from the education system through exclusion, racist bullying, high mobility or inability to navigate the admissions process; but there is no definition of vulnerable children in the Bill or, indeed, in the White Paper. It is said to include the disabled, those with special educational needs, looked-after children and those outside mainstream education-categories which include many, although not all, GRT children. Is there to be a new clause defining vulnerable pupils and the relevant duties of local authorities towards them, as the Minister, Nick Gibb, implied at the meeting last Wednesday with colleagues?
I was unable to attend that meeting because I was asking a Question about the eviction of 50 Traveller families from the Dale Farm site at Basildon in Essex. The 100 children in those families will be dispersed all over Essex and beyond on to unauthorised sites where there is no access to water or electricity. The first priority of their parents will not be to find the children places in the local schools but how to avoid further eviction from their emergency stopping place. The children will drop out of mainstream education, becoming the responsibility of a champion local authority that has just kicked them off the site where they had been living peacefully for years. Should not the duty to vulnerable children take priority over the enforcement of planning laws?
The noble Lord, Lord Morris, mentioned the reductions of the right of appeal against exclusion, which has been criticised by the JCHR as contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, mentioned that exclusions apply primarily, but not entirely, to SEN children. It applies also to GRT pupils, who have the highest rates of exclusion of any ethnic group. But the Improving Outcomes research conducted for the DfE last year found that in the respondent schools, the great majority had no exclusions at all. Those and other results of the survey were in marked contrast to the national data, and the authors suggested that the respondent head teachers were those most likely to have an inclusive ethos. Without further research, cutting appeal rights could make a bad situation even worse. Will my noble friend undertake that regulations will not be made under Clause 4 until there has been further research to identify the reasons for the low

14 Jun 2011 : Column 709

rates of exclusion in the respondent schools and to let other head teachers know how those results were achieved?
Vocational education is valued highly by GRT parents and its availability has encouraged many young people from these communities to remain in education beyond school. But many local authorities had abolished the Connexions service and privatised careers advice, and that process continues to the point of extinction. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that young people need personalised face-to-face advice, and with the reference by my noble friend Lady Sharp to the collapse of all the help given to young people in career planning.
The offer of an apprenticeship to any suitably qualified young person who applied for one has been replaced, as remarked, by what Ministers claim is a more robust deal-a duty placed on the chief executive of Skills Funding to,
"prioritise funding for apprenticeship training for the same people who were covered by the apprenticeship offer and who have secured an apprenticeship".-[Official Report, 21/12/10; col. WS171.]
That means that applicants have to thread their own way through the choices available, get through the process of applying, and then go through the hoops of being funded, without the help and encouragement that would formerly have been available from Connexions and the Traveller Education Service. The Government say that they will ensure that vulnerable and disadvantaged young people have equal access to the redefined offer, but that again is not in the Bill but in regulations. Will my noble friend at least say in general terms how this is to be realised?
Clause 28 repeals the entitlement of key stage 4 pupils to follow a course of study in an area specified by the Secretary of State, which would have led to the proposed 14 to 19 diplomas. These pupils are now merely to be entitled to study the subjects listed in an obscure reference but not in the Explanatory Memorandum. It would be useful if my noble friend would publish consolidated versions of the earlier legislation referred to in the Bill so that we could understand what it means.
All these changes, exacerbated by the withdrawal of the EMA, are likely to undermine the commitment to proper vocational education by the Secretary of State that must have found a response in the homes of many GRT families.
Finally, as my noble friend Lady Sharp said, Part 5 abolishes various duties that schools currently have to co-operate with local authorities. The aim is to reduce the bureaucratic burden on schools, but there could be a loss of joined-up working that would affect vulnerable children. How can these provisions square with the Every Child Matters approach and with local authority oversight of school improvement?
My fear is that over this and the whole range of issues dealt with in the Bill, and in the face also of cuts having to be made in the voluntary sector, the axe will fall most heavily on the most vulnerable children, particularly those who are mobile and disengaged from the education system. Good intentions have done little for GRT children in the 50 years that I have been concerned with these problems, and the coalition, like all its predecessors, has yet to match its deeds to its words.

Wednesday, lunch with old friend Yvonne Terlingen, Head of Amnesty International in New York for the last 10 years, now in London. Then 16.00, meting with Sarah Wootton, head of the NGO Dignity in Dying, who want the lat changed so that terminally ill patients suffering untreatable pain, and of full mental capacity, can end their lives here in their own homes rather than having the trauma - and expense - of having to go to Switzerland.

15.15 meeting with Sandrine Tiller, Programmes Adviser, Humanitarian Issues, and her colleague who had just returned from Bahrain, about the arrest and trial of 47 doctors in Bahrain, and what more can be done to focus international attention on this unique case of doctors being penalised for observing the Hippocratic Oath to treat all patients who need medical care.

Then 17.00. a well attended meeting of the All-Party Group on Immigration Detention. The UKBA fills up all the places available in the detention estate, though something like a third of all detainees are subsequently released.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Planning for Gypsies and Travellers

Thursday evening I chaired the launch meeting of the Irish Traveller Movement's report Planning for Gypsies and Travellers: the Impact of Localism, the Principal Authors of which are Michael Hargreaves and Matthew Brindley. (See www.irishtraveller.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/ITMB-Planning-for-Gypsies-and-Travellers-Executive-Summary1.pdf) They got 100 responses to their survey of local authorities in England in three different regions and found that the number of residential pitches for which planning permission would be granted has fallen from 2,919 in the Regional Strategies now being abolished, to 1,395 in current plans. This is because the Coalition Government has torn up the laboriously constructed system of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments followed by public inquiries, and limited redistribution of the numbers to take into account the fact that some local authorities hadn't pulled their weight. There is nothing in the Localism Bill to oblige local authorities to cooperate with their neighbours, and as they have a totally free hand to decide for themselves whether to grant planning permission for Traveller sited, and if so for hos many pitches, there was bound to be a catastrophic fall in provision. The Bill contains no fall-back powers for the Secretary of State to correct any shortfall, such as there was in the Act of 1968, repealed by the Tories in 1994 just when it was beginning to work. This is a case of déja vu.

I really do wonder how Ministers are going to react when confronted with proof that the Localism Bill means that 20% of the Gypsy and Traveller population will remain homeless for another generation.

Medical

From the Consultant Haemato-Oncologist at King’s to my GP

Dear Dr M

I reviewed Lord Avebury in the clinic today with his wife. He was well in himself and I note that he had pulmonary angiogram carried out by Dr MacCarthy recently on 3rd February 2011 which showed no evidence of pulmonary embolus with some evidence of emphysema, but no evidence of lymphoma. He is otherwise reasonably well and his haemoglobin has slowly increased and is now back to the levels in early 2010 prior to his EVAR procedure.

The only other thing of note is that his platelet count has been elevated above the normal range ever since his diagnosis in 2006, normally ranging between 500 and 650. However, today his platelet count was 937 and it is unclear to me why this has elevated so much. In view of his previous TIAs, I would like to see Lord Avebury back in clinic in one month rather than six months, so that we can repeat the full blood count and carry out a JAK2 screen to ensure that he does not have an underlying myeloproliferative disorder to account for his raised platelet count.


Note: Myoproliferative disorders refers to a group of slow growing blood cancers, including chronic myelogenous leukemia, in which large numbers of abnormal red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets grow and spread in the bone marrow and the peripheral blood.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Wednesday

EU Select Committee in the morning. Lunchtime at Caroline Cox's meeting on Shari'a in the UK. Party meeting at 14.00. Question at 15.30. Debate on migrant domestic workers at 16.45. Mort Sklar and Sarah arrived to stay for a few days in the evening.

Tuesday, to Oxford for meeting of the Maurice Lubbock Memorial Fund Trustees, followed by a tour by the trustees of Balliol's new archive centre in the redundant St Cross Church, Holywell Manor, given by Dr John Jones, who was the driving force behind the creation of the centre.

Then to the Engineering Department for their Open Day, see www.soue.org.uk/events/open2011.html, and for the Maurice Lubbock Memorial Lecture, given by Professor Thomas Hofmann, see below.

With my grandson Archie

 
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Thanking the Lecturer

 
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Professor Thomas Hofmann

 
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Maurice Lubbock Memorial Lecture

 
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An overview of the Lubbock Day at the Engineering School and a brief summary of the Lecture is at www.eng.ox.ac.uk/public-relations/news/lubbock-day-2011-2013-tuesday-
7th-june

Dale Farm

My question yesterday is at www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/110608-0001.htm#11060854000379

Andrew Stunell's statement:

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council: 19 May 2011
Communities and Local Government
Written answers and statements, 8 June 2011
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Andrew Stunell (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Communities and Local Government; Hazel Grove, Liberal Democrat)
The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 19 May 2011 in Brussels. The United Kingdom was represented by the UK deputy permanent representative to the EU, Andy Lebrecht.

This was a single-issue Council on the subject of Roma integration. On 5 April, the European Commission published a communication on an EU framework for national Roma integration strategies up to 2020. Based

on this, the presidency invited the Council to hold an exchange of views and adopt a set of Council conclusions and an opinion from the Social Protection Committee.

The presidency stressed the importance of member states taking effective action to tackle Roma exclusion, while emphasising the added value of EU-level action. The presidency noted that the situation of the Roma differed considerably between member states and so the conclusions provided latitude to member states to tailor their approaches to national needs by committing them to preparing either national strategies or sets of policy measures. The chair of the Social Protection Committee underlined the Social Protection Committee’s willingness to continue work on this issue.

The European Commission emphasised the need to step up efforts against discrimination. They said that strong commitment was needed by all member states, but acknowledged that member states’ efforts to promote Roma inclusion should be proportionate to the size and situation of the Roma population on their territory. The Commission also emphasised the link with the EU2020 strategy and underlined the importance of member states’ strategies or policy approaches, focusing on the four priority areas identified in the Commission’s communication—health, housing, education and employment. They called on member states to submit their strategies or policy approaches by end of 2011. The Commission would then report annually to the European Parliament and Council on progress made.

The UK outlined the fact that in this country we have a strong and well-established legal framework to combat discrimination and hate crime and that this protects all individuals, including Roma, Gypsies and Travellers, from racial and other forms of discrimination, and racially motivated crime. We also acknowledged that the UK’s Gypsies and Travellers none the less experience inequalities. We summarised the policy approaches being undertaken in the different parts of the UK to deal with this, including, in England, the ministerial working group on reducing Gypsy and Traveller inequalities, chaired by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

We also acknowledged the importance of co-ordination between member states to tackle organised crime, particularly the issue of human trafficking, which can affect Roma, especially Roma children, and we noted the opportunity that EU funds provide to member states to add value to their policies to improve the situation of Roma and other disadvantaged people.

Other member states welcomed the conclusions and highlighted the need for concerted action to improve the situation of the Roma. Some said they already had national or regional Roma strategies or programmes; others said they tackled Roma issues through mainstreaming into wider social inclusion programmes; while others had specific initiatives designed to address particular issues. Though most member states focused exclusively on socio-economic issues, some also made specific reference to the problem of human trafficking. Several member states, including the UK, highlighted the fact that different member states faced different situations both in terms of the size and situation of their Roma populations. Closing the debate, the presidency noted, among other things, that some member states

had developed national Roma strategies while others were dealing with the issue through general inclusion policies.

Following the debate, the Council adopted conclusions on an EU framework for national Roma integration strategies. It also endorsed the opinion of the Social Protection Committee on an EU framework for national Roma integration strategies. The presidency will now seek endorsement of a Roma presidency progress report at the June European Council.


This statement omits mention of:

1. the Government's scrapping of Regional Strategies, making it certain that more Gypsies & Travellers have nowhere to live;

2. Their legislation making it easier for local authorities to kick Gypsies and Travellers off sites they occupy in breach of the planning laws because there is nowhere else for them to go, and

3. The subsidisation of Basildon to the tune of millions of £ to facilitate the eviction of GRT families from a site they have occupied peacefully for many years.

How best to ensure that the European Council are aware of these omissions?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Subcommittee F reports on EU internal security

Our Committee's report on the EU's internal security strategy is published today, see www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/eu-home-affairs-sub-committee-f-/news/eu-can-help-make-the-uk-secure/

Visit of President Obama

www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/sets/72157626810359864/with/5761907124/

We didn't get to meet the President, not having had the foresight to sit on the aisle in Westminster Hall

Visakha Puja, & Lindsay's birthday

Parliament has been in recess since my last post, and returns next Monday, June 6.

Last Sunday I travelled up to the Forest Hermitage from Marylebone in a bus hired by Thai supporters, for the celebration of Visakha Puja (Buddha Day). It was an impressive feat of organisation and all went off smoothly, including a Thai meal provided by the supporters. I chatted to some of the students from Warwick University including two from China.

It was Lindsay's birthday last Thursday, and JW accompanied us to a fairly new tapas restaurant in Camberwell. She got 12 birthday cards; are people more inclined to post a message on Facebook wall than go to the trouble of picking a suitable card and taking it to a postbox?