Saturday, May 30, 2009

Zermatt 1938

With my parents and sister Livy, in Zermatt 1938. So I was just over 10 at the time.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Visit by Bangladeshi MP

Yesterday Mr Shofiqur Rahman Chowdhury MP called on me, and here he is presenting me with a plaque commemorating the martyrdom of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

We discussed the AL government's intention to update the 1973 war crimes Act to bring it into conformity with the principles of international law, embodied in the rules of the International Criminal Court, and Mr Chowdhury said they would be looking for advice from experts, so that the world could see that scrupulous observance of international norms is being observed.

JW won our last game of ping-pong 2-0 so he's now ahead of me 111-108. Am I losing my touch, or is he improving? He's now left for a holiday in Spain, so I'll have to keep you in suspense. Next week also, the House is in recess, starting again June 1.

The Daily Telegraph continues to dripfeed the scandals of fiddles by MPs every day, and tomorrow one of the Sunday papers turns attention to the Lords. Probably our system of allowances isn't quite so vulnerable to abuse, because a Member can only claim 'overnight subsistence' if s(he) lives outside Greater London and has to stay somewhere in London when attending the House. In 2007-08 the maximum that could be claimed was £165.50 for each day of attendance. One way a peer can bend the rules on this allowance is to say that his country mansion - or cottage - is his main residence, and the place where he lives in London is just for overnight stays when he's attending the House. Our system of financial support for Members will have to be scrutinised closely, too. If anybody wants to look up the amounts paid to peers in 2007-08, the can be found at Mine came to £26,392 for attendance on 146 sitting days.

When (not if) the Tories come to power at the next general election, they will no doubt want at least 50 new peers, as Labour have done, to beef up the talent available for Ministerial posts, and to push through their legislation with minimum hassle. But there are already 750 peers, a far larger number than a reformed House needs to do the job, and that is another problem.

When I entered the Commons in 1962, the salary was £1,750, and I paid my Secretary £750. We had to pay for everything except travel to and from the constituency out of the money that was left, and it would never have crossed my mind that I needed somewhere to stay the night in central London rather than travel back to Orpington when the House rose at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


The House rose this afternoon for the Whitsun recess.

Monday I had a urodynamics test at King's, to measure the performance of my bladder, see for the details. Then to the House to field a question on our immigration controls across the Channel in France and Belgium. Later, had a meeting with campaigners for Dr Binayak Sen, the human rights campaigner who has been held in custody for over two years by the authorities in Chhattisgarh state, India. He had been a vigorous defender of the rights of the adivasis, and made himself unpopular as a result. The Indian High Commissioner doesn't answer letters about him, or meet the campaigners, and they wanted advice on how to step up their activities.

Tuesday my old friend Manjit Singh came to lunch. He is now manager of the Canary Wharf unit of the London Underground, and has won several awards for the efficiency of his operations. At question time I joined in David Alton's Question on Burma. One of the problems in bringing pressure to bear on this psychopathis regime is that the neighbours have always been silent, but now for the first time the ASEAN group has expressedd strong concern about the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Wednesday Ozcan Keles abd Ms Ilkhur Kahraman came to lunch to talk about the work of their Dialogue Society, which underlines the true Muslim emphasis on interfaith and cross-cultural exchanges based on mutual respect and understanding. They hoped that in the process, ideologies based on confrontation between Islam and the rest of the world (Jahiliya, the kingdom of ignorance, as Qutb thought of the infidels and the majority of Muslims who didn't subscribe to his version of Islam) would be sidelined. The Government's strategy for dealing with violent extremism, CONTEST, also involves challenging the ideology behind violent extremism and support for
mainstream voices, so the Dialogue Society ought to be welcomed.

At Questions, I joined in Lindsay Northover's question on the situation in Sri Lanka, well timed in coming just after the final defeat of the LTTE terrorists. The worries now are that the humanitarian agencies like the Red Cross and the ICRC are not being given full access to the former conflict zone and the camps holding the w=quarter of a million people freed from LTTE control, and that there will be a long delay before President Rajapakse brings moderate Tamils to the table to discuss governance of the north and east where they form the majority.

After that, a visit from my friend Tajammul Hussain, for a useful discussion on devekopments in Pakistan and south Asia generally.

This morning, my own Question, on the situation in Somalia, where almost a million people are internally displaced or refugees in neighbouring countries, and the Al Shabaab extremists are extending their control into more and more of the country. David Steel pointed out that only Somaliland was peaceful, and he wanted to know if the Government would recognise their independence.

Silbury Hill

I have a frustrating time trying to upload this video:

Do have a look at Pete Glastonbury's remarkable photographs showing the sun setting along the slope of Silbury Hill on May 16. There is a theory that the builders of megalithic monuments designed them so that viewers would see this phenomenon from an observation point that was also part of the site design. But presumably, as the angle of the sun's trajectory as it approaches the horizon varies widely according to the seasons, it wouldn't have mattered what the gradient of the Hill was; there would be many pairs of positions in the vicinity of the monument and days in the year which could provide this extraordinary spectacle. I hope that in a later posting I will be able to give an explanation of the theory.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eritrean Ambassador's visit

Yesterday the Eritrean Ambassador H E Mr T Gerahtu called on me, and we had a wide-ranging discussion. He said that DfID is helping with clean water and sanitation in the suburbs of Asmara, and had sent a mission to Eritrea in March to assess the prospects for other work. Interdepartmental consultation on their report followed, and the time for decisions is approaching.

On the MDGs, he said the World Bank had assessed Eritrea programmes for child health as the best in Africa, and I was pleased to hear they are signing up to the Advance Market Commitment for pneumococcal vaccine. See earlier blog on the report of the All-Party Committee on Pneumococcal Disease of which I was a member.

The Ambassador said it was difficult to understand why the international community wasn't firmer with Ethiopia on accepting the boundary decision by the Lauterpacht Commission, and withdrawing their forces from the border area so that people could return to their homes and land used for agriculture. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea would benefit from an asured peace between the two countries, enabling them to scale down their armed forces and to start up trade, to the advantage of their economies. Eritrea is developing the port of Assab, through which imports could reach parts of Ethiopia more cheaply than through Djibouti.

The Global Environment Fund is helping Eritrea to develop wind energy, a project where UK expertise might be helpful - my thought, not one the Ambassador suggested.

His Excellency told me there was a new Eritrea-Britain Association in Eritrea, and he hoped that a counterpart might be formed in the UK. He also hopes that more interest would be taken in Eritrea by Parliamentarians.

There are of course some problems in the UK's relationship with Eritrea. They attack the transitional federal government of the Islamic Courts Union as 'illicit and externally imposed', whereas we back the UN Security Council's support for Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, and the UN's AMISOM peacekeepers. The Ambassador thought the ICU government was doomed, but that would mean a takeover by Al-Shabaab, an organisation closely allied to terrorists.

There are also human rights problems in Eritrea, particularly the lack of a right of conscientious objection to military service. I raised the systematic persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses, who are deprived of citizenship rights and frequently imprisoned because of their beliefs, and I suggested to the Ambassador that it would enhance international goodwill towards Eritrea if conscientious objectors were released from custody.


Since the last score was recorded, we have had three games: i-1, 1-1, and 2-0 to JW, so he's now ahead 109-108.

John William MA graduation

Letter from Minister Dawn Primarolo MP on HIV+ and MTCT

The week

The headlines of the last few days have been dominated by the expenses scandal in both Houses, so here's my take on it.

People are so disgusted with Labour, and the reverberations will continue for so many weeks, that it would be impossible for them to recover by the next election.

The Tories are just as guilty, but are not likely to suffer defections and abstentions at the polls on the same scale, because they aren't in Government.

The LibDems' offences are few and are peccadilloes by comparison, with no 'flipping' or claims for non-existent mortgages.

The Euro-elections will be a good test of popular reaction to the stream of critical news about individual MPs and their easy milking of a lax expenses system.

At our end of the corridor, there is a weighty report on four peers who were accused of misconduct. The recommendation, to be put to the House next Wednesday, is that two of them should be suspended until the end of the session, the most severe penalty we have power to impose, and the first time the power will have been exercised for some 460 years.

Turning to my work this week, on Monday I gave a lunch for Pamla Morrison, an international expert on breastfeeding and mother-to-child-transmission of HIV. She is recommending a revsion of the guidelines, and I had a reply this week to my letter on the subject to Dawn Primarolo MP at the DH, see next posting.

After lunch I fielded two questions, by Lord Sheikh on child trafficking, and by Lord Cobbold on the United Nations high-level drugs conference in Vienna in March.

Tuesday we had a meeting between Lords and Commons Home Affairs team, to hand over the papers on the Borders etc Bill, now due for Second Reading in the Commons on June 2.

Wednesday morning I played truant from my Select Committee because it was John William's MA graduation ceremony, see later entries.

Friday, May 15, 2009

UN Advisory Group on Forced Evictions

In 2004 UN-HABITAT responded to the problem of evictions of squatters, low-income renters, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups with inadequate or no legal security of tenure by establishing the Advisory Group on Forced Evictions (AGFE) that reports to the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. The Advisory Group’s mandate is to monitor forced evictions and to identify and promote alternatives such as in situ upgrading and negotiated resettlement.

On May 14 I chaired a meeting in Committee Room 3 to hear from a UK group which is reporting to UN-Habitat on the evictions of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups throughout Europe, and has been looking at some instances of threatened evictions in London and the Home Counties. In the picture below, I am with some of the residents from Dale Farm, Basildon, who attended the meeting. The Council wants to evict them, but hasn't offered them anywhere else to live. Fortunately, it will be several years before they can do so lawfully, and in the meanwhile Basildon, with every other local authority, will be obliged to designate enough land to accommodate the Travellers who are now on unauthorised sites. The report by the UN team should give this process a boost.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, on Jaffar Kadhem

Bahrain: Released human rights defender Jaafar Kadhim severely beaten

Bahrain Center for Human Rights - May 10, 2009
The Bahrain Centre for human rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) are gravely concerned upon hearing that human rights defender Mr. Jaafar Kadhim was severely beaten after being abducted by 5-6 men in plain clothes.
Jaafar Kadhim is currently at Salmania Public Hospital where he is being treated for severe injuries in the head; face and back (see photos). He told representatives of BCHR and BYSHR that on May 7, 2009at 20:45, while he was driving close to Jidhafs Medical Centre west of the capital Manama, his car was stopped by two cars, a red Tida and a gray Lancer and before he knew what was happening he was pulled from his car, his eyes were blind folded and he was taken for a 10-15 minutes drive to an unknown area where he was severely beaten until he lost conciseness. He regained conciseness only to find himself back in his car covered in blood. He managed to find his way to the nearby house of Hassan Mushaima where he was transferred to the hospital by ambulance. He was visited the next day by the police and Public Prosecutors Office. The next day the government controlled newspapers reported the event as a robbery!
Jaafar Kadhim has worked for the Committee of Activists and Prisoners of Conscience since December 2007 and has helped to organizing peaceful marches and protests for the rights of detainees. During 2007-2008 he hosted, at his house meetings for relatives of detainees with many visiting foreign journalist and international Human rights organization including an Amnesty international delegation. As a result he was detained from February 4, 2009 (Refer to Front Line releases on March 2, 2009 at and was released.

Since his release, Jaafar Kadhim has been helping the BCHR and BYSHR in documenting recent cases of torture and assisting families of 19 detainees who remain in prison despite the royal pardon on April 12th, 2009 which witnessed the release of 178 activists and human rights defenders.

There have been numerous and inclining numbers of documented cases of physical assault against activists and human rights defenders in the past 7 years. The cases which involve abduction though are few in number but reflect a pattern of a possible policy to harass activists, these cases include: the abduction and physical assault of Jassim Ahmed Salman on June 2002 as after his participation in a demonstration against the America embassy, the abduction and physical assault of Hassan Abdulnabi in May 2005 and abduction, physical assault and sexual abuse of Moosa Abdali in December 2005. Both Messieurs Moosa and Hassan were leading members of the Committee of the Unemployed and Underpaid. Another relevant case is the alleged assault against Ali Jassim Mohammed which took place after his participation in a demonstration to support victims of torture, which lead to his death on December 17th, 2007. All these cases were documented and attracted wide attention however no serious investigation has taken place.

The Bahrain Centre for human rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) believe that Mr. Jaafar Kadhim was subjected to this atrocious act because of his continued work in defense of human rights, specially the rights of detainees and the documentation of torture cases. Hence BCHR and BYSHR call upon all those who are concerned to appeal to the Bahrain Authorities to:
• Conduct prompt, impartial and thorough investigation in the abduction and assault against human rights defender Mr. Jaafar Kadhim, and to the findings public and bring those responsible to trial,
• Investigate previous similar cases in order to examine the existence of a pattern of assault against activists and human rights defenders, in order to reform security institutions and that must include the dismantling of the National Security Apparatus which is accused of such abuses
• Take all necessary steps to provide protection and adequate environment for human rights defenders to conduct their peaceful and legitimate work in accordance to international standards and obligations
 My parents' wedding in 1924, photograph kindly sent to me by cousin Richard Boyle. Its always fascinating whem photographs or letters from the distant past emerge from people's attics or cellars.
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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Victor Spinetti

After the Chinese celebration we called on Victor Spinetti, an old friend of Bhante's who lives in Soho. He had an endless flow of reminiscences, of which the printable ones (and some unprintable ones as well) are in his book Up Front...: His Strictly Confidential Autobiography, which I couldn't resist ordering from Amazon.

Birthday of the Buddha

On a happier note, this afternoon I attended the 2553rd birthday celebration of the Buddha, organised by the London Fo Guang Shan temple, in a specially erected marquee in Leicester Square. There was a procession through the streets of Soho, followed by the chanting of Sutras, and short speeches by the Deputy Lord Mayor od Westminster, Councillor Alexander Nicoll; the Ven Galayaye Piyadassi MBE of the Sri Saddhatissa Internatinal Buddhist Centre; the Ven Ajahn Khemadhammo Mahathera OBE of the Forest Hermitage (who had suggested that I attend, as I was delighted to do); Mr Jon Dai Din, director of the Westminster Interfaith Centre, and the Ben Chueh Ru, Deputy Chief Abbess of the Fo Guang Shan Temple. Then there was the ceremony of 'bathing the Buddha', using little images, and the guests were invited to join in.

I couldn't help thinking about the contrast between the Buddhist objective of countering greed, hatred and delusion, and the surroundings of Leicester Square. I well remember spending a night with the police in the area during the Licencing Bill, and seeing the appalling effects on young people attending the all-night alcohol joints.

Jaffar Kadhem

The photograph below is of the discussion in my office at the House about the vicious attack on Thursday evening by three members of the secret police in Bahrain on Jaffar Kadhem, 32, from Demestan. Mr Kadhem was on his way to the house of my friend Mr Hassan Mushaime, Leader of the Haq movement house, when his car was intercepted by an unmarked car. The three occupants dragged him into the car and drove him to a remote corner of the Town of Jidhafs, where they attacked him with fists, batons and shoes all over his body. He was then dumped at the doorsteps of Mr Mushaime’s house. They told him: “Let Mushaime help you”, before leaving him for dead. Mr Mushaime’, 61, called for aid, and the victim was rushed to Al Salmaniya hospital where he was treated for serious injuries to his eyes, face, head and body, see photographs above.

Following strong national and international pressure, and wanting the Formula 1 race to be held without embarrassing political or security incidents, the regime released the many prisoners who were being held without charge or trial last month.Then on April 30, a young Bahraini was killed when his car was blown to pieces by a bomb. Moosa Jaffar Mull Khalil was at the steering wheel when he was killed, and his companion, Ali Abdulla Sa’ad was seriously injured in the blast, losing both eyes and still fighting for his life. There had been other similar atrocities before: Sheikh Abdul Jalil Al Miqdad’s car was being booby-trapped by three assassins in the early hours of the morning of January 17, 2009 when he came out of his house unexpectedly. The killers fled, and the attempt was foiled.

Thursday evening

Dinner at Lahore 2 with Janmmu Kashmir Liberation Front leaders Zafar Sharif, Malik Latif, Mahmood Hussain, Mahmood Faiz, Sohail Sheikh, and Mohammad Sakhi, one of a series we have had over the years to discuss the situation in Kashmir and how to raise the profile here in the UK. There is a big Kashmiri community in several major towns and cities, and they would like to hear more discussion of Kashmir by mainstream politicians, though it is recognised that in New Delhi they are quick to react adversely to any statement they see as nteference by the former colonial power. Nevertheless it has to be remembered that Kashmiris weren't consulted when the ruler took them into the Indian union, and that after that the United Nations for a while tried to assert the people's right to self-determination. This isn't an issue in Kashmir in the current Indian elections, because candidates have to swear an oath of loyalty to the Indian constitution, which means that anyone who wants to see a change in the status of Kashmir is barred from standing. The JKLF and the Hurriyat Conference - an umbrella organisation for those who do want change - have called for a boycott of the polls, and at a rough guess the turnout in the state is likely to be under 15%.

Friday, May 08, 2009

My health

And speaking of health, its always nice to get a letter saying that there is no sign of a recurrence of a lung tumour (see earliest posts on this blog for the operation) and that the aortic aneurysm isn't getting any larger.

Alcohol harm

This letter from the DH Minister Dawn Primarolo MP says that the cost of alcohol harm to the NHS in England alone rose from £.3-£1.7 billion in 2001-02, the year to which the Cabinet Office's Interim Analytical Analysis of Alcohol Harm 2003 related, to £2.7 billion in 2007-08, and that now 2.9 billion bed-days are occupied in NHS hospitals by people who are there because of alcohol. One would think that the Treasury and the DH would be getting together to see how further increases in the taxation of alcohol could be used to discourage consumption, but apparently there are Chinese walls between the two Departments. At a time of severe financial stringency, here is an opportunity of raising extra revenue and reducing spending at the same time.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

With Alirio Uribe

This morning I chaired a meeting to launch the report of the international lawyers' human rights delegation to Colombia, in Committee Room 6 of the Commons. Alirio Uribe is President of the Lawyers' Collective in Colombia, and a former vice president of the FIDH. Other speakers were Sarah Chandler, a member of the Law Society International Human Rights Committee; Ole Hanson, a member of the Law Society's Access to Justice Committee, and Gillian Merron MP, the FCO Minister who deals with Colombia and is visiting the country in a couple of weeks' time.

Although the Colombian authorities are relatively open to scrutiny by international NGOs and the UN Special Procedures, nothing seems to change. There have been 1,500 extrajudicial killings during the lifetime of this government, for instance, and not one of the culprits has been brought to justice. Alirio said that since 1991, 400 lawyers had been murdered. It has been announced that a Special Unit has been established to investigate attacks on lawyers, and the Minister said she would pursue this on her visit.
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Saudi Arabia

Yesterday afternoon I met a delegation from the Khaddam Almahdi Organisation (KMO), see below, comprising Sheikh Yasser Al Habib; Sheikh Ali Maash; Mr Mohammed Salah; Mr Hamid Rabie, and Sayyed Ali Al Nawab, for a discussion about the violence by the religious and local police against Shi’a pilgrims at the site of the Holy Prophet’s burial on February 26 and the days after that. The religious police, motivated by the Wahhabi ideology which forbids the veneration of holy sites, have destroyed the Prophet’s tomb and other sacred monuments , not only in Medina but in other parts of Saudi Arabia, and they have increasingly sought to deny the Shi’a, who constitute 15-20% of the population of Saudi Arabia, the right to worship at any of the holy places.

This year they attacked women pilgrims, and when the men tried to protect them, police used extreme violence including firearms, which led to the victims' serious injury and hospitalisation. Many people were arrested and barriers were erected to prevent pilgrims having access to the site.

The first request of the KMO is that the international community should ask Saudi Arabia to allow pilgrims freedom of access to pay their respects to the holy sites and to pray there.

Second, they ask that the ancient an historic buildings which have been demolished should be reconstructed.

Third, they ask that the United Nations should extend protection to the holy sites in Mecca and Medina, and for pilgrims visiting them. Its a pity that the opportunity of raising these matters at the UN's Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia in February was missed, even in the Stakeholders’ Report (

I have written to FCO Minister Lord Malloch-Brown, and will be writing separately to the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom, Ms. Asma Jehangir, asking her to take these issues up with the government of Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Over the weekend we had two games of ping-pong, 1-1 and 2-0 to me, so I've edged ahead again at 106-105. This morning JW started his course at the Alliance Francaise, which he said will get him going again. I'm trying to persuade him to read Anatole France's novels, of which I now have several in both English abd French.

In the House today I asked a supplementary to Caroline Cox's question on violence against the Christian minority in northern Nigeria. It was estimated that about 300 were killed and 50,000 displaced, mainly in Jos, but this wasn't a one off. The UN Rapporteur on Religious Freedom, Asma Jehangir, reports that over a few years, thousands have been killed and tens of thousands displaced in religious conflicts. There are two commissions of inquiry into the latest events, at state and federal level, but with no news about the timescale of their reports five months after it all happened. Nor is there any indication of what the Nigerian government is doing about the recommendation by the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review, that Nigeria should monitor and protect the rights of religious minorities, and make promotion of the culture of religious tolerance the priority of the Federal, State and Local Governments.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Thursday evening

Thursday evening I spoke at a very successful and well-attended pizza and politics event organised by Lewisham West and Penge LibDems, chaired by Councillor Alex Feakes, the energetic and popular LibDem parliamentary spokesman for the constituency. The theme of the evening's discussion was the interaction between foreign policy issues and the impact of diasporas living in the UK and particularly in south London. There are sizeable minorities including West Africans, Tamils and Vietnamese in the constituency, and we need to think hard about how to communicate with them better than we have in the past.

Susan and Brian's 63rd wedding anniversary!

Sunday we were at the fantastic celebration of Susan and Brian Taylor's 63rd wedding anniversary, and Susan's 90th birthday. Their wonderful family were there including great-grandaughter Sophie. Susan and Brian have been tremendous pillars of the Liberal Party, and now the Liberal Democrats, and Brian was the first Liberal Councillor in Greater London at the beginning of the revival, in 1957, and he and Susan have produced a great dynasty of Liberal activists.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Borders Bill

The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill has now left us and will be starting its progress through the Commons in a couple of weeks time. We have made quite a few changes in it, as follows:

References are to the Bill as introduced in the Commons (Bill 86, printed 23rd April)

1. Clause 1 – General customs functions of the Secretary of State
Clause 7 – Customs revenue functions of the Director

The Government tabled amendments at Report to meet concerns expressed at Committee about the lack of clarity in the functions exercisable by UKBA officers. The wording of the clause is still obscure.

2. Clause 22 – Application of the PACE orders
Clause 23 – Investigations and detentions: England and Wales and Northern Ireland

Clause 22, inserted by a Government amendment on Committee with LibDem agreement, enables transfer of HMRC officers to UKBA while keeping all existing powers. Consequential amendments inserted into clause 23.

3. Clause 25 – Short-term holding facilities

Clause 25 inserted by Government amendment on Committee, provides UKBA and HMRC with flexibility on the use of short-term holding facilities for detainees. Amendment to the Schedule is consequential. LibDems agreed to these amendments.

4. Clause 30 – Complaints and misconducts

An amendment, moved by the Government at Committee, gives the IPCC the same oversight role in respect of contractors who carry out immigration and asylum enforcement functions on behalf of the UKBA exercises in England and Wales. LibDems agreed, but wanted the amendment to extend to the juxtaposed controls at the Channel ports as well.

5. Clause 36 – Power to make supplementary etc. provision
Clause 37 – Subordinate legislation

Government amendments left out provisions relating to Scotland, and the LibDems agreed.

6. Clause 39 – Exceptions to application of Part 1

This clause, inserted by a Conservative amendment with LibDem support at Report stage provides that a person who submits an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the 12 months after the commencement of Part 2 of the Bill, can have the claims decided under the current citizenship arrangements. The Government will try to remove this in the Commons.

7. Clause 40 – Application requirements: general
Clause 41 – Application requirements: family members etc.
Clause 49 – Meaning of references to being in breach of immigration laws

There were various government amendments moved at Committee to these clauses to ensure that a person with an acceptable form of immigration status has a qualifying common travel area entitlement. The LibDems agreed to this.

8. Clause 40 – Application requirements: general
Clause 41 – Application requirements: family members etc.

The Government tabled amendments at Report to provide a discretion to waive the requirement to have had a qualified immigration status for the whole of the qualifying period in relation to applications made under Section 6 of BNA 1981. In the case of refugees the discretion would be exercised where ‘undue delay’ has occurred in determining an asylum application or where the delay was not attributable to the applicant, though ‘undue delay was not defined. These represent a partial concession to Lord Hylton and to the LibDems. Whilst we welcomed the amendments they didn’t go quite far enough for us.

9. Clause 44 – Minors
Clause 48 – Good character requirement
The Schedule

Clause 44 inserted into the Bill. Consequential amendments to clause 48 and the Schedule.

The amendments are government concessions to the LibDems, tabled at Report stage. Section 3(2) of BNA 1981 enables a child born to certain parents outside the UK to be registered as a British citizen within 12 months of birth. The amendment removes the 12 month deadline and provides that a child should be under 18 on date of application.

10. Clause 45 – British Nationals (Overseas) without other citizenship
The Schedule

Clause 45 inserted into the Bill. Consequential amendment to the Schedule.

The amendments are government concessions to the LibDems, tabled at Report stage, providing that an otherwise stateless British National (Overseas) can register as a full British citizen.

11 Clause 46 Descent through the female line

This Clause, inserted by Government amendment, was the culmination of a campaign lasting many years by LibDems to give the child born overseas to a British mother and a foreign father the right to British citizenship that has always been enjoyed by the child of a British father and a foreign mother.

12. What was Clause 48 – Common Travel Area
Clause 51 – Entry otherwise than by sea or air: immigration control
Clause 60 - Commencement

What was clause 48 (entitled “Common Travel Area”) was removed by a government defeat at Report stage in the Lords. This was a Conservative amendment which we supported. Clause 51 was inserted on a division by a Lib Dem amendment which the Tories supported. Clause 48 effectively ended the Common Travel Area. Clause 51 protects travel across the land border. The amendments to clause 60 were consequential amendments moved at Third Reading without a division.

13. Clause 55 – Fresh claim applications
Clause 59 - Extent

This clause was inserted by a Government defeat at report stage. It also removed what was clause 52, entitled “Transfer of immigration or nationality judicial review applications”. This was a joint Conservative and Lib Dem amendment which we worked on and drafted together. The amendments to clause 59 were consequential amendments added at Third Reading without a division

14. Clause 56 – Trafficking people for exploitation
Clause 59 – Extent
Clause 60 – Commencement

Clause 55 inserted into the Bill. Consequential amendments to clauses 59 and 60.

These amendments are government concessions, mainly to the Conservatives, but to members from all benches in the Lords too. It widens the definition of the offence of human trafficking to capture the mischief usually referred to as “trafficking of children for benefit fraud”. LibDems welcomed the amendments.

15. Clause 59 – Extent

There were Government amendments at Committee to clarify that the new clause on PACE extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland only. The LibDems agreed to the amendments.

Apart from the changes to the Bill itself, we also had a promise from the Minister, Lord West, to put the correspondence arising out of our debates on the web. They aren't easy to find, but the references are,, DEP2009-1047.pdf, DEP2009-1003.pdf, DEP2009-0947.pdf, DEP2009-0924.pdf, and DEP2009-0898.pdf.

In my experience, this fairly short Bill has generated an unprecedented volume of correspondence. We know that Ministers are anxious to get the Bill through by the summer recess, and that may give us some bargaining power when the Government knock out the modest transitional provision that was inserted by a combination of ourselves and the Tories, to allow thise who had already spent several years on the road to citizenship, to continue along the same path, without having to jump the new hurdles of 'active citizenship' and examinations to test their knowledge of English, and of British society.

This week


Attended a very useful meeting at the Foreign Office with Mark Malloch-Brown to discuss the persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, organised by Justine Greening, the MP who represents Putney where the world headquarters of the Ahmadis is based. The situation is getting even worse, as the extremists become ever bolder, and the forces of law and order are unable or unwilling to cope.

Then, a visit from journalist Masooda Bhatti to talk about Bangladesh.


Shadia Syed to lunch, discussion on Bangladesh.

Baroness Ward had a question about polygamous marriage in the UK (not lawful). I asked what the rule would be if a person who was granted asylum had a polyhamous marriage in his country of origin. Would all the wives and their chilfren be eligible to join the refugee in the UK? The Minister didn't know the answer and promised to write to me.

In the evening, to Jeremy Thorpe's 80th birthday party at the National Liberal Club. Many of the old faithful were there, but we were specially delighted to see his son Rupert, who is my godson, together with his wife and little boy.


Morning, almost three hours in Select Committee, taking evidence from two sets of witnesses, the last to give evidence in our current inquiry into money laudering and the financing of terrorism.

PM, meeting with the Ven Khemadhammo Mahathera, to discuss (a) the arrangements for providing Buddhist chaplaincy services to the armed forces, and (b) the Counter-Terrorism Check procedures for Buddhist chaplains in the prisons.


Parliamentary Human Rights Group seminar on the work of human rights defenders, then to City Hall for a meeting on the provision of acommodation for Gypsies and Travellers in Greater London. The Accommodation Needs Assessment reveals a shortage of 770 pitches by 2012, and the most optimistic estimate is that half of these will be provided. All the London Boroughs are waiting to see how the 770 pitches are going to be translated into allocations to the Boroughs, and in the meanwhile there are no sites under construction.