Monday, August 31, 2009


JW was ahead 123-118 at the last count almost a month ago and we've only had 3 rounds since then: 2-0, 2-0 and 0-2 to him, cumulative 129-120.

Damar Thapa is recognised as British - 12 years late

Damar Thapa attended his British citizenship ceremony on August 19, 2009. The ceremony was attended by Tameem Ebrahim who was visiting Hong Kong. This ended a twelve year effort to have his status as a British national recognized by authorities.

Damar became a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies in 1963 by virtue of birth in Hong Kong. In 1997, prior to Hong Kong’s handover to China, he applied for a British National (Overseas) passport which was refused by British authorities on the grounds that they were “not satisfied that there are special circumstances which justify approval of this request”. He was not given any instructions on how to appeal the decision of the British Trade Commission.

In 2006, he was put in touch with Tameem and me by an Editor of the South China Morning Post after he wrote a letter to the paper complaining about the difficulties he was facing exercising his rights. After reviewing his circumstances, we advised him that he had automatically become a British Overseas citizen on the date of the handover to China and that he had entitlement to full British citizenship under the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997.

This started a further two-and-a-half year battle with the Home Office to have his claim to British citizenship recognized. He prepared a properly filled out application form which also stated the reasons why he was solely British and included evidence that he would have lost his Nepalese citizenship in 1984 (copies of diplomatic correspondence between the British and Nepalese authorities).

When Damar went to the Ethnic Minorities Citizenship Unit of the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong to apply in early 2007, staff advised him that he was “not British” and therefore he was not eligible and should not apply. Consular staff refused to take his application unless he would sign a written declaration stating that he was “not British”. As we had suspected that he would be turned away, we had briefed him to insist on applying anyway without making any additional statements other than what was stated on the application form and paying the fees; which he did.

I subsequently wrote to the Minister to complain. After an internal investigation by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, a British Consul wrote to Damar to apologize unreservedly for the unacceptable way he was treated throughout the application process.

But that was not the end of the matter. The application was now in the hands of the Home Office, who promptly refused it on the grounds that they weren’t satisfied that he was not Nepalese. On the relevant dates, Nepal had a total prohibition on dual nationality which is recognized in the Home Office Nationality Instructions.

Nevertheless, Damar’s application had been refused and he was told that “There is no right of appeal against this decision.” Damar threatened a judicial review: in granting his application for permission the Honourable Mr Justice Collins stated “it is clear that this claim is arguable”. Home Office files that we subsequently saw state very clearly that, at the time they made the refusal decision, Home Office officials believed that Damar “lost Nepalese citizenship in 1984” but that his application was still refused simply because he did not have papers to prove his automatic loss of Nepalese citizenship. Despite receiving permission, Damar decided against proceeding with the judicial review and chose to proceed with administrative means to appeal the decision.

With great difficulty, Damar obtained written documentation from the village office where his father resides in Nepal confirming that he was not Nepalese because he was British. It is bewildering that the Home Office prefers to rely on the views of a village official in rural Nepal rather than accepting their own properly considered view of this matter. Home Office officials have even visited Kathmandu to confirm the provisions of Nepalese citizenship law, but the explanations given by the Nepalese Ministry of Home Affairs are apparently insufficient. Based on a letter issued by the Village of Tanahun the Home Office was now able to accept something that was plainly obvious to them in the first place. Damar was now recognized as British Overseas citizen and so was his entitlement to be a British citizen.

The hoops that applicants that Damar like are made to jump through to show that they are British is extraordinary. Authorities are not playing fair. It can be an incredibly frustrating process for applicants to deal with dogmatic officials who insist on having hard-to-provide evidence for something that is obvious and they plainly already know.
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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Drew, Debs, Lindsay, at Myatt's Fields cafe today

Discussion with Muhibur Rahman, convenor of Upazila Forum

Meeting on Friday with Muhibur Rahman, convenor of the national forum of Upazila chairmen and vice-chairmen. (The upazilas are the main tier of local government in Bangladesh).

The Forum claims that the Upazila Parishad Act 2009, passed in April, transfers most of the powers of the upazilas to MPs, contrary to the principle that government should be as close to the people as possible. They want a dialogue with the government, to see if there is any scope for amendments to the Act, and they say that otherwise the elected members of the upazilas will have nothing to do. They were elected on pledges to work for local development, but the Act gives them no role in deciding how funds available from central government are to be spent.

There may also be another problem, in that the power to raise local taxes is virtually non-existent. Bangladesh people aren't used to the idea that, for example, taxes should be levied on the value of property to fund local services.
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Eric's memorial

The stone one third scale model of a Sopwith Camel, pictured below, was commissioned by my grandmother Alice Avebury, and was in the family graveyard at High Elms until after my mother died in 1981. The London Borough of Bromley then resumed possession of the site. They transferred some of the monuments into the graveyard of St Giles Church, Farnborough, 100 m up the hill of Churchfields Plantations, but the memorials to Uncle Eric and his brother Uncle Harold, killed in action in the Grenadier Guards April 4, 1918, were not accepted by the then rector. Uncle Eric's aeroplane somehow came into the possession of Lloyd of Bedwyn, stonemason, of Great Bedwyn, Marlborough, Wilts. The monuments in the yard are now being sold off by Mr John Lloyd at an auction on September 19.
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Captain Eric Fox Pitt Lubbock RFC MC
Son of John Baron Avebury and Alice his wife
Born 16 May 1893
Killed in action 11 Mar 1917
Buried at Poperinghe Belgium

Memorial to Captain Eric Fox Pitt Lubbock MC
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More shots from the picnic

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Daily Star, Dhaka

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Lord Eric lauds role of Ahmadiyyas
Metro Desk
Lord Eric Avebury in his speech at a reception on Monday praised Ahmadiyya Muslim chapters worldwide for their efforts and contributions to establishing inter-religious harmony, peace and various humanitarian activities at different countries of the world, says a press release.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at, Bangladesh organised the reception in honour of Lord Eric, a senior member of the House of Lords in the UK and a world-famous human rights defender, at its national headquarters at Bakshibazar in the city on Monday.
Lord Eric thanked Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at, Bangladesh for hosting such a reception.
The aim of the reception was to greet Lord Eric on his being awarded the Ahmadiyya Muslim International Peace Award for Advancement of World Peace in London recently.
Lord Eric was awarded the peace prize for his commendable achievements and contribution to the advancement of world peace, especially his stand against violations of human rights and religious freedom in different countries, Bangladesh campaign for trial of war criminals where he advised the lawmakers how to proceed with this legitimate trial, and for his continuous efforts for the release of the democracy leader of Myanmar Aung Sung Suu Ki.
Presided over by National Ameer of Ahmadiyya Muslim Mobasher ur Rahman, the programme was addressed by Naib National Ameer Prof Meer Mubashsher Ali and Naib National Ameer Maj Gen (retd) AM Mahmuduzzaman read out the credentials of the guest of honour.
The reception was also attended by lawmakers, representatives of civil society, diplomatic corps and people from all walks of life.

Family picnic

Not as many as we sometimes get, but it was a lovely afternoon
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Family picnic August 24

Adding to Lyulph's family tree
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Friday, August 21, 2009

Daily Star article

CHT Peace Accord
Implement to ensure justice for all
Lord Avebury stresses need for strategic framework so none can reverse the process
Lord Eric AveburyStaff Correspondent

The government should have a strategic framework to implement the CHT Peace Accord and should implement it in such a way that ensures justice for all so that none can reverse the process, said Lord Eric Avebury.

Avebury, co-chair of the International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, said this while talking to The Daily Star after a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club on the CHT Commission's recent six-day visit to the three hill districts.

"The government [Awami League-led] in their earlier tenure signed the Peace Accord, and now initiated its implementation. So it should have a timeframe, say four years, for its completion so that the next government, even with different ideology cannot reverse it," he said when asked about BNP's opposition of the CHT Peace Accord implementation.

Different political parties have different ideologies and a democratic government will do what it thinks best, he said.

"Therefore, the present government should have a strategic framework, and set appropriate rules to settle the land disputes based on justice," Avebury said.

CHT Commission co-chairs Ida Nicolaisen and Sultana Kamal. The Sami Parliament President Lars Ander Baer of Sweden, Hideaki Uemura of Japan, Shapan Adnan and Sara Hossain are also included in the commission's tour.

Members of the commission, which was formed in Copenhagen in the 90's to create pressure on the then Bangladesh government to stop human rights violations in CHT, also met the prime minister, foreign minister, finance minister, cultural affairs minister and the CHT affairs minister.

The commission members at the press conference said during their visit they talked to army personnel, police, local authorities and the people, both Bangalees and indigenous people who saw no security risks in the army pull out.

They praised setting up of the National Committee for Implementation of the CHT Accord, re-establishment of the Land Commission, the Taskforce for CHT Refugee Rehabilitation Affairs, cancellation of leased out land for plantation and the withdrawal of temporary military camps.

"This has generated a sense of momentum," said Lord Avebury.

He, however, said the commission was disappointed with the pace of progress towards activation of the Land Commission, its lack of progress in solving disputes over land claims, its apparent decision to depend on the cadastral survey to resolve land disputes and the absence of proposals for electing the Hill District Councils.

Settling the land disputes will be a major issue, Avebury said, adding that because of the complexity of overlapping titles, granted in different circumstances, a definite set of rules should be developed by the Land Commission to rank priority of different kinds of land titles.

For those whose claims on land are disallowed, the government should draft rehabilitation measures for discussion with community leaders, he said.

The commission suggested that the Land Commission establishes a database of all disputes over land and provides claimants with forms on which they can supply the information required for this purpose.

Asked if the CHT Commission wants the Bangalees who have settled in that region in the 80s to move out, commission member Shapan Adnan said more important question than that is who originally owns the land, Bangalee settlers or the indigenous people.

"Under the traditional land systems, the indigenous people do not have any records, other than some for paying taxes. But in the 1979-80s, several lakh Bangalees with the state instigation settled on the land of the hill people. Bangalees were also provided with documents," he said.

Adnan said this way the hill people were made refugees.

"We have to make a policy decision on the traditional land systems of the hill people," he said, adding that if precedence is given to original owners in settling land issues then the settlers will be dispossessed of the land.

Stating that the settlement of the Bangalees was an "artificial problem", the commission member said those who are losing land must be rehabilitated by the state.

"We want each and every part of the dispute resolved in a transparent way where no family is deprived of justice," said Ida Nicolaisen.

Asked how the government can rehabilitate several lakhs of people, Lord Avebury said the finance minister during their meeting gave assurance of financial assistance in implementing the CHT Peace Accord.

"Of course, the international community has to come forward in this regard because they want peace in the region. Bangladesh has to approach the international community for it," he said.

The major challenge in implementing the accord will be logistics. "The government has to calculate what it requires and go forward accordingly," Avebury told The Daily Star.

Visit to Bangladesh.

10 days in Dhaka and the CHT, as co-chair of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission. Between us we visited all three districts - Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachuri -where we called on the Brigade Commanders, met civil society, and talked to people in the villages, both Adivasi and Bengali.

Then in Dhaka we were received by the Prime Minister, Finance Minister, chairman of the Land Commission etc, and met MPs, NGOs, the diplomatic community and many others.

Some progress is being made with the creation of institutions that are necessary if the Peace Accord is to be fully implemented. The Land Commission is critical because it has the task of acting in a judicial capacity to determine the rightful occupiers of land, and there are literally thousands of cases to unscramble. The Commission hasn't started to recruit the legally qualified staff they will need, or to consider what premises they will require for the hearing of evidence. All of the steps that have to be taken, including the formulation of rules for deciding on the relative weight to be given to customary titles, where there is no documentary evidence, and grants by the District Commissioner of the same piece of land from the late 70s onward, have to be fitted into a timed strategic plan which is not yet even being considered.

Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission

International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission
Bangladesh Secretariat: 10/11, Iqbal Road, Mohammadpur, Dhaka 1207
Embargoed till 3pm, 18 August 2009


Press statement

The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) appreciates that after 12 years since the signing of the CHT Accord some important measures have been taken to implement the Accord. These include specifically the setting up of the National Committee for Implementation of the CHT Accord, re-establishment of the Land Commission and the Task Force for CHT Refugee Rehabilitation Affairs, the cancellation of plantation leases that have not been properly developed, and the withdrawal of temporary military camps. This has generated a sense of momentum which the CHTC appreciates and encourages. The CHTC congratulates the Prime Minister on her statement on the occasion of the International Indigenous Peoples’ Day in support of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This statement encourages not only the indigenous peoples in Bangladesh, but also all over the world.

Between 11-16 August members of the CHTC visited all three districts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Commission members met with government representatives, the three brigade commanders and their zone commanders, senior police officers, politicians and civil society leaders, including both Pahari and Bengali representatives.

During meetings with the brigade commanders and their staff the CHTC members were informed that they saw no security risks with compliance to the government policy on the withdrawal of the camps. This view was confirmed by the police and local authorities.
In meetings with all parties the land issue was presented as the main concern. The CHTC therefore considers it of utmost importance that the Land Commission becomes fully activated and funded, including its function as a tribunal to settle land disputes, which should be disposed of before the cadastal survey is undertaken.

The CHTC is disappointed, however, at the rate of progress towards activation of the Land Commission; the Commission’s lack of progress on the determination of disputed land claims; its apparent decision to hold the cadastral survey beforehand and the absence of proposals for electing the Hill District Councils.

The CHT Commission hopes that the Land Commission will establish a database of all disputed land claims, providing the claimants with forms on which they can supply the information required for this purpose. This might be the subject of an approach to international agencies such as UNDP for financial and technical assistance. Because of the complexity of overlapping titles on the same land plots granted in different circumstances, a definitive set of rules should be developed by the Land Commission to rank the relative priority of different kinds of land titles. For those whose claims to land are disallowed, the government should draft rehabilitation measures for discussion with community leaders.

The CHTC was alerted to the necessity of activating and properly funding the Task Force for CHT Refugee Rehabilitation Affairs. Moreover, there is a need for a speedy development of government guidelines for the interaction and division of labour between the Task Force and the Land Commission.

The CHTC further urges continuing measures to enhance access to justice within the CHT, including the activation of legal aid committees.

It is imperative that elections are held for the CHT Regional Council and Hill District Councils and the CHT Commission recommends that alternative electoral methods are explored promptly.

The CHTC has collected a large amount of information including documents given to us by Bengalis and Paharis which remains to be analysed, and as usual will be producing a report on this visit utilising these data We have a further international visit planned for the coming year.

We are convinced that the vast majority of the people of all communities in the CHT are determined to maintain the peace and harmony of the region, and that they will cooperate with the processes that are essential for the purpose. Peace is an essential human right, and all the efforts of both government and people should be devoted to its achievement.

List of meetings

Civil society in Bandarban
Tribal Muslim Welfare Association
Hill District Council Chairman, Bandarban
Deputy Commissioner, Bandarban
Brigade Commander, Bandarban
Civil society in Rangamati
CHT Regional Council Chairman
Jana Sanghaty Samity (JSS)
United Peoples Democratic Front (UPDF)
CHT Forest and Land Committee
Hill District Council Chairman, Rangamati
Deputy Commissioner, Rangamati
Brigade Commander, Rangamati
Civil society in Khagrachori
Brigade Commander, Khagrachori
Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina
Finance Minister, Abul Mal Abdul Muhith
Foreign Minister, Dipu Moni
CHT Land Commission Chairman, Khademul Islam Chowdhury
Parliamentary Standing Committee on CHT and Cultural Minister, Promod Mankin
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh
CHT Minister, Dipankar Talukder
Law Commission, Justice Mohammad Abdur Rashid
European Commission
Donor de-briefing meeting

Sunday, August 09, 2009

My remarks at the Bahrain seminar

Bahrain seminar August 6, 2009

Over the many years that we have been holding these twice a year seminars, we have discussed the whole catalogue of human rights abuses that have been inflicted on the people of Bahrain, for which there has always been the same basic cause: the requirement by a widely unpopular hereditary dictatorship to maintain itself in power.

And to do that, the al-Khalifa family has used every technique in the book, plus one extra that isn’t even in the list covered by the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. There has been extrajudicial execution; arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, clampdowns on freedom of expression, and the large-scale demographic engineering, which has been successful to the extent that Bahrainis may now be a minority in their own country.

But up to now, we have been looking at these events as phenomena affecting people six hours flight time away, not in the heart of London. We never imagined that they would spill over and have a direct effect on us, and on those who came here to escape from the al-Khalifa tyranny. Some of the contributors to this seminar are exiles who will give first-hand accounts of attacks and intimidation they have experienced while going about their normal lives in our midst. It is significant that both the present Ambassador and his predecessor are closely connected with the national security apparatus, and that the Minister of the Interior, yet another member of the al-Khalifa family, had called our Ambassador in Manama in to protest about the activities of exiles who were using Britain as a platform to ‘orchestrate unrest at home’.

Our Ambassador told Sheikh Rashid that we apply the same laws to exiles as natives, and incitement to commit a criminal offence would be treated the same whoever did it. This becomes important, because speeches made by opponents of the regime, for example recently by our friend Abdulhaji al-Khawaja, are said to be incitement. I want to submit this to your judgement, and to the judgement of lawyers who may have some advice to offer.

I’m going to read you what he said, translated from a video of the speech and with two alteration. I have substituted the words ‘the ruling Labour clique’ for ‘al-Khalifa’, and ‘the Party’ for ‘the clan’.

“In regard to a slogan such as ‘Death to the ruling Labour clique’, this slogan is full of outrage and seems powerful, but it is negative, unrealistic and unspecific. It focuses on the Party’s name and not their action and role. It is not dynamic since it doesn’t reflect our role and responsibility. If we only keep chanting ‘Death to the ruling Labour clique’, will they die? No they won’t. However, if the slogan is ‘Lets overthrow this ruling gang’, it would focus on those who are in power, it portrays them as a gang, because of their policies and method, it gives us a clear goal, which is the overthrowing of the gang and it focuses on our role and responsibility’.

If I were to say this at Speakers’ Corner, wouldn’t it be treated as legitimate political rhetoric, and if it were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, would they need five minutes to throw it out? In Bahrain it may be another matter, because nobody can ever change the government, but surely we should defend the right of anybody to advocate the replacement of a dictatorship by a government that is democratically elected.

Nearly four weeks ago I asked the new Foreign Office Minister responsible for Bahrain, Ivan Lewis MP, to confirm this analysis, and I am still waiting for an answer. One detects a lack of enthusiasm among Ministers for upholding the principle of freedom of expression in Bahrain, and this is perhaps one of the problems. The regime knows that we and others treat them with kid gloves, so they don’t need to try very hard. But when their attempts to silence their opponents lead to physical attacks and arson on our own doorsteps, its time to adopt a more robust policy, and that’s what I hope we shall be calling for this morning.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Meeting on Bahrain yesterday

Bahraini agents assault opponents in London street

The house of a prominent Bahraini opposition activist was subjected to an arson attack and two opponents of the Bahraini regime were assaulted in King's Cross, a London meeting heard today.

At a seminar: Bahrain: state terrorism against opponents at home and in exile hosted by Lord Eric Avebury, the Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group , Dr Saeed Shehabi described how a fire destroyed the front of his house and his daughter's car. Abbas Al-Omran a board member of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Ali Mushaima an adminsitrative member of the Committee of Unemployed and Low Income Earners were atacked and beaten in King's Cross by three peopole in their mid-twenties of African origin.m All three opposition members had received warnings of reprisals if they did not desist from criticising the government of Bahrain for its gross violations of human rights.

The seminar was also addressed by Maitam Al Sheikh, a Bahraini human rights activist, who described the torture he was subjected to in Bahrain including beatings and electrodes applied to his sexual organs.

The meeting concluded with the unaninamous passing of the following resolution: This meeting, recalling that Britain continues to encourage Bahrain to honour its oblibations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and noting the Bar Human Rights Committee's statement that human rights activists in Bahrain are subjected to systematic harassment and torture by the state authorities in order to prevent them from criticising the government,

* Notes with concern the prior warnings and recent arson and grevious assault on human rights exiles from Bahrain in London;

* Draws the attention of the government to the testimonies of the victims given at this meeting;

* Requests the Metropolitan Police to complete their investigation of criminal offences committed against exiles and their property and

* If sufficient evidence is not available against the offenders to refer these crimes to the Crown Prosecution Service, asks the commissioner to make a statement;

*Calls on the commissioner to extend police protection to Bahraini opposition activists.

For further information contact Dr Saeed Shehabi: 0207-724-3033

Article in today's Daily Telegraph

Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails over past decade

Buddhism is the fastest-growing religion in England's jails, with the number of followers rising eightfold over the past decade.

By Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Published: 6:38PM BST 05 Aug 2009
Mural depicting the Buddha s arrival: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails over past decade

Although adherents to the Eastern faith believe in peace and the sanctity of life, almost all of the Buddhists behind bars in this country are serving lengthy sentences for serious crimes such as violence and sex offences.

Some jails and secure hospitals including Broadmoor have opened shrines known as Buddha Groves in their grounds, and there is a nationwide network of chaplains to cater for the growing population.

It is claimed that most of the Buddhists in jail converted after their conviction, and chose it over other religions because its emphasis on meditation helps them cope with being locked up.

Supporters of Buddhist criminals say they also believe the spiritual development they gain in prison will help them once they are released, and prevent them from re-offending.

Lord Avebury, a Liberal Democrat peer who is the patron of Angulimala, the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Organisation, told The Daily Telegraph: "The numbers are quite remarkable. I think one of the reasons is that they convert to Buddhism in prison – it's a reasonable hypothesis that they become interested when inside.

"I think it does enable people to come to terms with their situation. Buddhism gets people away from the idea of material ambitions, and if people are in prison they can't go for those goals anyway.

"You do have more time to reflect and meditate in jail, and get away from the idea of self."

He went on: "My inclination would be to say it must help people after they leave jail. The whole idea of Buddhism is not to cause harm to anybody, and the person who persists in their faith is likely to be totally recast in their life and must be less likely to re-offend."

Lord Avebury said the care offered by the network of Buddhist prison chaplains, who are supported by the Prison Service, would also have encouraged many prisoners to convert, in addition to the existence of shrines in the jail grounds.

"We have an annual celebration at Spring Hill [an open prison in Buckinghamshire where the first Buddha Grove was built]. That's a remarkable place, it's extremely peaceful. Staff go there to meditate as well as prisoners."

Official figures show Britain's 149,157 Buddhists – who believe in gaining spiritual knowledge about the true nature of life and do not worship gods – make up just 0.26 of the general population .

In 1997 there were only 226 Buddhists in prisons in England and Wales, but by the end of June 2008 that figure had risen by 669 per cent to reach 1,737 – 2 per cent of the 79,734 prison population.

The vast majority, 1,194, were white and most were over 30. Only 78 were female.

Detailed statistics published by the Ministry of Justice show that almost all were serving long sentences. In total, 621 were serving terms of four years or more, while a further 521 had been given indeterminate sentences.

The rate of growth in the Buddhist jail population outstrips that of Muslims, whose numbers have more than doubled from 3,681 to 9,795 over the past 11 years.

Christians remain the best represented group behind bars, with 41,839 worshippers, while those declaring themselves to have no religion, or atheist or agnostic views, now stand at 27,710.

Atheists make up 1 per cent of the prison population for the first time this year, with 570 declared adherents to the view that there is definitely no God.

Just 220 prisoners said they were Jewish – fewer than the 366 recorded Pagans, 340 Rastafarians and 230 Jehovah's Witnesses. There are also 37 members of the Salvation Army in jail.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "The Prison Service recognises the positive role faith can play in the lives and rehabilitation of prisoners, and is committed to enabling prisoners of all faiths to practise their religion.

"Each prison has a multi-faith chaplaincy team to meet the religious and pastoral needs of prisoners and staff. Teams include chaplains and volunteers from a wide range of religions and denominations."

Population in English and Welsh prisons by religion in June 2008

No religion 26,626

Church of England 23,039

Roman Catholic 14,296

Muslim 9,795

Buddhist 1,737

Sikh 648

Atheist 570

Agnostic 514

Hindu 434

Pagan 366

Rastafarian 340

Jehovah's Witness 230

Jewish 220

Scientology 3

Source: Ministry of Justice

JW's birhday

JW and Maite have gone off with Alastair to a festival, where no doubt they have been drenched in the several downpours. As they were going to be away on his real birthday, we had a little party on Thursday evening, with a special cake decorated with a single candle.

We have only managed to fit in one game of ping pong since July 15, and it was 1-1 making the cumulative score 123-118 in favour of JW.