Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Yesterday I joined in a Question on the latest massacres at three villages near Jos, in Nigeria. There communal killings in Plateau State have been recurrent over the years, but 2010 has been the first to be stained with two such incidents, in January and March respectively. The reports estimate that 300 people were murdered in the March bloodbath, which seemed to be a revenge attack on Christians for the alleged killings of Muslims in January. I asked whether, considering that internet traffic beforehand had indicated what was about to happen, the Nigerian authorities had considered establishing an early warning system and rapid reaction force, to prevent future massacres.

In the afternoon, a blood test at King's after another long wait, to see what is the concentration of iron in the bloodstream, Dr B said on Monday. The normal spread is 13.5 - 16.0 g/cl according to her, but 11.1 - 15.0 on the Medic8 website Mine is 10.3 in the last test, which for some reason didn't look at anything except haemoglobin. According to Medic8 I'm suffering fro anaemia, the major symptom of which is fatigue, but another one listed is cold hands and feet which I certainly do have. I had been prescribed iron tablets, but they made me constipated so I stopped them.

Today I issued the preliminary report of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group mission to Pakistan, which spent an intensive 10 days there inquiring into the treatment of the Shi'a, Ahmadiyya Muslim and Christian religious minorities. The main report, with all the evidence, will be issued when Parliament returns after the election. In the meanwhile the Mission has produced its conclusions and recommendations on a deplorable situation. There is endemic persecution and harassment of the minorities, depriving them of all opportunities of making a positive contribution to Pakistani society.

Did some preliminary work on the debate I'm initiating on April 6 on changes in the Immigration Rules for Tier 2 migrants, ie those coming to the UK for education. In spite of tightening up the requirements for institutions that offer education at lower than degree level, the Government believe that bogus students are using this route to gain entry to the UK Since the colleges already have to report students who don't turn up, and they can be struck off the approved list if they accept too many no-shows, the answer may not be to put up the amount of money an applicant has to produce, stop him or her bringing in a spouse of other dependent, and cut the number of hours the applicant can work. The bogus migrant is still likely to find the money, as a cheaper and safer way in than paying the people-smugglers.

Its been a horrible weather day with dark skies, lots of rain and bitter winds, and the forecast is that its not going to get better until, maybe, there will be sunny spells on Sunday.

Monday, March 29, 2010

549th anniversary of the battle of Towton

Today I spoke in a debate initiated by Caroline Cox on the Armenian Genocide, mainly on the attempts we have made over the years to engage Turkish MPs in a debate on the evidence, and particularly the authenticity of the testimonies in the Blue Book of 1915. The Turkish Grand National Assembly sent a petition to the British Parliament in 2005 asking us to repudiate the Blue Book as a fabrication of wartime propaganda, and we have been trying ever since to engage them in a dialogue on the authenticity of the evidence.

At the peers' entrance, with the Turkish edition of the Blue Book

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Alison Weir

Friday evening Lindsay, Lyulph and I went to the National Army Museum for a talk by Alison Weir (see below) on Eleanor of Castile, whose biography she wrote over ten years ago, and about whom she has just published a novel, The Captive Queen. She said that when she first spoke to her publisher about the biography their reaction was that nobody would want to read about a 12th century woman they'd never heard of, but it turned out to be the best seller of all her historical works. The transition from historian to novelist was difficult, but in answer to a question she mentioned about half a dozen subjects on which there is work in progress. I wonder if she could be persuaded to write about Margaret Beaufort? There may not be a huge amount of material, but surely at least as much as there is on Eleanor. The moral could be that while early teenage pregnancies may not be good for the mother, the progeny can be outstanding.
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From Lord Avebury

020-7274 4617

March 25, 2010

Dear Caroline,

I attach a response to the Conservative Green Paper on Gypsies and Travellers.

The Conservatives evidently failed to seek advice from established experts or members of the Gypsy and Traveller community, contrary to good practice in policy formation generally, and on ethnic minorities in particular.

There is no acknowledgement of the exclusion suffered by Gypsies and Travellers, which as the EHRC and others have demonstrated is primarily caused by a national shortage of sites - made worse by the last Conservative Government’s repeal of the duty to provide sites contained in the Caravan Sites Act 1968. The issue of Gypsy and Traveller site provision is a sensitive one which arouses the worst prejudices, but consensus has been laboriously established on a framework for site delivery. Your Green Paper would destroy this achievement at a stroke.

If this document is used by Conservatives in local or national election campaigns, it will provoke community tensions, as occurred at the last general election when negative Conservative policies, less extreme than the present Green Paper, aroused great concern among Gypsies and Travellers and an increase in racism in schools and the wider community. The attached note shows that your Green Paper is based on false assumptions and little if any research. I respectfully urge you to meet Gypsy and Traveller representatives and established experts in planning and race relations including the EHRC, and that in the meanwhile you put this flawed policy on ice.

Ms Caroline Spelman MP,

House of Commons,

London SW1A 0AA

cc David Cameron MP, John Denham MP, Dan Rogerson MP, Julie Morgan MP, Trevor Phillips EHRC



A RESPONSE by Lord Avebury, Chris Johnson (Community Law Partnership), Marc Willers, barrister, David Joyce BL and Andrew Ryder

Extracts from the paper are in bold and our comments on them are in italics.

Planning rules should ensure fairness between the settled and the Traveller communities. Local authorities have a role to ensure the provision of suitable authorised sites to tackle genuine local need for their area in consultation with local communities. In addition, recent UK case law has clarified councils’ need to provide authorised sites locally if they are to be able to take effective action against unauthorised sites, even though enforcement still remains a major problem.

Since the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, central and local government have accepted that adequate site provision, both permanent and transit, is the answer to the problem of unauthorised encampments. Until the Caravan Sites Act 1968 was repealed in 1994, it ensured that 350 or so local authority Gypsy and Traveller sites were provided in England and Wales., But there is still a shortfall, caused by the failure of successive central governments and local authorities to ensure adequate provision. This has led to the endemic situation of unauthorised encampments and unauthorised developments, and it is essential that agreement is maintained on the existing framework, based on the policy of ensuring adequate site provision.

Where, therefore, councils have made appropriate provision for authorised sites in their area, which reflect local need and historic demand, we will provide them with stronger enforcement powers to tackle unauthorised development and illegal trespass. In addition we will introduce a new criminal offence of intentional trespass.

If there was adequate site provision, unauthorised encampments would be eliminated. However, local authorities may need to provide more or fewer that the apparent need as measured solely by the local situation, because some redistribution of the burden is necessary as illustrated by the example of Basildon.

There is simply no need for further enforcement powers. There are already sufficient enforcement powers in place. However there is a need for central government to enforce against those local authorities which are avoiding their duty to provide for adequate land under the planning system for the provision of sites.

At the same time, it is important that settled council taxpayers do not foot the bill for the construction of new authorised sites. We will also therefore reform the situation of Traveller site funding to Councils so that Councils are properly compensated for new sites and require Travellers to make a contribution to the appropriate cost of services on authorised sites.

If this paragraph means that 100% funding will continue to be provided for new sites then we are sure that that would be welcomed by local authorities. Gypsies and Travellers already pay rent for such sites and it is difficult to see what further contribution could be expected

The Human Rights Act affects all the planning, eviction and enforcement decisions made by all public authorities, including Councils and the Police. It has made it more difficult and expensive to evict trespassers from private and public property, and has overridden planning law by allowing travellers to go ahead with unauthorised developments. We will replace Labour’s Human Rights Act with a new British Bill of Rights, which will help address these problems.

It is not clear how the Conservative Party proposes to repeal the Human Rights Act when the enforcement of the European Convention on Human Rights in domestic law is an obligation of the UK Government to the European Union. It is not correct to say that the Human Rights Act has “overridden planning law by allowing travellers to go ahead with unauthorised developments”. No Planning Inspectorate or Court decision supports this assertion. The Human Rights Act is a matter to be taken into account in eviction and enforcement actions but the assertions made here are incorrect.

The Labour Government has used the regional planning system and top-down targets to force local planning authorities to build new traveller camps often on Green Belt land and, if necessary, using their compulsory purchase powers to obtain land for these new Traveller sites. Conservatives disagree with top-down building targets, be it for traveller camps or new houses.

There is no evidence that compulsory purchase powers have been used albeit that they could be used. The sensible accommodation assessment process of identifying suitable locations for sites will be thwarted by this complete change of direction, which will have disastrous consequences for the systematic provision of adequate land for Gypsy sites.

As part of the abolition of regional planning and Regional Spatial Strategies, targets for the provision of traveller camps will be scrapped. In addition we will also scrap John Prescott’s controversial guidance on travellers.

Scrapping of targets and guidance will reverse the process of ensuring adequate site provision. This section of the Green Paper does recognise the need for adequate site provision, but is silent on how this can be achieved without targets or guidance. A great deal of work has been done not only in putting together the targets and guidance, but also in getting them generally accepted through consultation. In a recent briefing note for the Institute for Race Relations (Avebury, Acton , Ryder and Willers, IRR, 2010) it is argued that scrapping the Regional Spatial Strategy will cause huge confusion and derail the timetable to deliver new sites, leading to a continuation of unauthorised encampments and developments and increased community tensions.

The abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies will also wreck the mechanisms created whereby the site targets for some areas with large Gypsy and Traveller communities such as Basildon have been reduced by redistribution of pitch targets through the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS). The end of such policies of redistribution are implied in the line already quoted in Conservative policy which states councils should make appropriate provision which ‘reflect local need and historic demand’. Redistribution via RSS has proven popular with a number of Conservative councils who have seen their pitch targets greatly reduced and neighbouring authorities compelled to develop sites, who it has been argued with some justification managed to avoid their obligations to Gypsies and Travellers in the past. This begs the question of how widely the Green Paper has been discussed within the Conservative Party itself.

In addition, our promise to limit the concept of retrospective planning permission will also ensure that another route by which the planning system has been abused by those seeking to use unauthorised sites will be curtailed.

The Government Task Force on Enforcement and Site Provision concluded that, especially since retrospective planning permission applied across the whole spectrum of planning cases, that this right should not be withdrawn. We fully support the Task Force conclusion and the reasons given by them for their conclusions. A large number of very eminent experts on planning were represented in the Task Force and it is most alarming that their conclusions should be dismissed in this way.

As a result we will have introduced a legal framework, similar to that which exists in the Irish Republic, to enable Councils to remove unauthorised dwellings. This will allow Councils to tackle the problem of unauthorised sites including both those built on land which is owned by travellers and land which is not.

The Irish Republic system relies, as we do, on the concept of adequate site provision. And as in Britain, only when adequate site provision is achieved, will the situation of unauthorised encampments and unauthorised developments be resolved. Unlike in England and Wales, Irish local authorities have a duty under the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 to adopt a Five Year Traveller Accommodation Programme which includes both housing and transit sites.

In Ireland, S 19 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 as amended by S 24 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002, the 'Trespass law' allows for the removal of objects including a caravan placed on private or public land without the consent of the owner. It does not apply to temporary dwellings placed on land owned by a Traveller, roadside land, or land to which little or no public amenity is attached.

S 10 of the 1992 Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act as amended by S 32 of the Housing Traveller Accommodation Act 1998, the most commonly used method of evicting Travellers, allows a local authority to get the owner of a caravan on an unauthorised encampment on public land within a five mile radius of a site managed or controlled by a local authority to move that caravan to a vacant place on that council site, or on any other council site within the council’s functional area. The local authority also has power to serve a notice on a Traveller whose caravan is stationed without authorisation on public land, requiring the owner to move it to a vacant pitch on any council-owned site that is within one mile. Such provisions would hardly ever work in England and Wales, because there would not be a vacant place to which the Traveller could be directed

Suppose it is conceded, however, that proportionately more evictions do occur in Ireland than in England and Wales. The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), an international non-governmental organisation mandated to protect and promote housing rights throughout the world, having special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, reported in 1995 that in Ireland

“The number of evictions recorded – whether official or unofficial - is extremely high considering that the Department of Environment estimates that 700 Traveller families currently live by the roadside, while another 350 are sharing accommodation with relatives to avoid eviction from the roadside. Evictions are severely disruptive to children’s education and have a severe impact on the mental and physical welfare of the Traveller families. Sustainable access to services such as health and social welfare is made exceedingly difficult.

Five years later, it was reported that in the year 2000, about 500 families were served with eviction notices without being offered alternative accommodation. The effect of making it easier to evict Travellers was not to reduce unauthorised encampments, but to disrupt the lives of Traveller families still further and make it even more impossible for them to play a useful role in society. This would be the experience in Britain too, if Irish policy on evictions is imported.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh

25 March 2010

Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

Government of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh

Prime Minister’s Office

Tejgaon, Dhaka

Subject: Unilateral declaration of land survey in the CHT as well as unilateral call for applications by the Land Commission

The CHT Commission has consistently appreciated the desire of your government to implement the CHT Accord of 1997 and resolve the land disputes of the region in a fair and just manner, in accordance with the provisions of the peace treaty.

Clause Gha-2 of the Accord states that: “After the signing the Agreement between the Government and the Jana Samhati Samiti and implementation thereof and rehabilitation of the tribal refugees and internally displaced tribals, the Government shall, as soon as possible, commence, in consultation with the Regional Council to the constituted under this Agreement, the Land Survey in Chittagong Hill Tracts and finally determine the land-ownership of the tribal people through settling the land-disputes on proper verification and shall record their lands and ensure their rights thereto.”

It is evident that the treaty requires the Land Survey to be held after the implementation of the agreement, particularly the rehabilitation of the Pahari refugees and internally displaced persons and in consultation with the Regional Council. However, without any of these preconditions being met, the Minister for Land has declared that a land survey will be held in the CHT to ‘solve the land disputes of the region’. A similar announcement had been made unilaterally by the incumbent chairman of Land Commission to which the CHT Commission expressed its reservations at an earlier date.

The CHT Commission is disturbed by this unilateral announcement because holding the land survey prior to settling the land disputes is likely to unduly favour the illegal occupiers of Pahari lands by putting their names in the records made by the survey, rather than those of the actual owners of land. Settling the land disputes first, as specified in the Peace Accord, would enable the proper owners to be identified, following which the survey could record their titles and thereby protect the rights of the indigenous peoples of the CHT – as indeed envisaged in the treaty.

Furthermore, in order to resolve land disputes in a fair and just manner, the Land Commission needs to function in the manner specified in the peace agreement (Clause Gha-4). However, the Land Commission Act of 2001 is seriously flawed and inconsistent with the provisions of the peace treaty. These incongruities need to be rectified legally and this may be done by implementing the recommendations of the Regional Council to that effect. Moreover, the Land Commission has not been functioning as a full commission, but has been run by its current Chairman on his own. As a result, many of the other Members of the Land Commission have not been involved in its declarations. The announcement on 17 March 2010 by the Land Commission inviting applications for settling of land disputes with a time limit of 60 days has not been done in consultation with the representatives of the indigenous peoples who are members of the Commission. However, as previous experience of the CHT shows, unilateral decisions without consensus-building, based on undue exercise of power, do not work.

The CHT Commission urges you to ensure that the land survey is held and the Land Commission functions in the manner specified by the peace treaty signed by your government. This also requires that the Land Commission resolves land disputes “in consonance with the law, custom and practice in force in the Chittagong Hill Tracts” as a prerequisite for holding of the land survey (Clause Gha-6-Kha). Without specifying criteria based on customary rights, the indigenous peoples are unlikely to be able to establish their authentic land rights even if the Land Commission functions properly.

We appeal to you to restrain this urge to rush into a land survey which is likely to be manifestly unfair to the indigenous peoples of the CHT while providing a means of legitimizing illegal occupation of Pahari lands. Such an outcome would be exactly the opposite of the objectives and sprit of the CHT Accord of 1997.

On behalf of the CHT Commission

Eric Avebury; Sultana Kamal; Ida Nicolaisen

Co-chairs of the CHT Commission

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The azalea in our front garden this morning. The flowers don't last long.

Alison Weir about to sign her book The Captive Queen for me.
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Catching up

Monday Frank Russell came to see me about the African Gifted Trust, on which I have agreed to become a trustee. The paperwork for setting up a new trust seems to be unnecessarily complicated, requiring the production of a passport and another piece of identification such as a driving licence, to prove that you live at the address stated on the forms. But there's nothing to stop people convicted of serious offences becoming trustees.

Tuesday P G came to see me about his libel action against the Lake House publishers in Sri Lanka. He got judgement in the English courts but they refused to pay up, in spite of a treaty that's supposed to ensure reciprocal enforcement of judgements. Its difficult to see what remedy there is for this.

Another trip to the dentist in the saga of my tooth that fell out and was glued back, then fell out again. This time it means a ruinously expensive reconstruction, linking the tooth to its neighbours with a metal bridge. I have to go back again for this to be fitted when its been made.

After questions, Third Reading of the Equality Bill, the last stage before it goes back to the Commons next week, to complete the whole process just in time to avoid the 'wash-up' at the end of the Parliament. Then attended a useful meeting of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group to hear from several experts on the situation in Burma, where the generals are holding an election later this year under a new set of restrictive laws which ban the Leader of the Opposition, Nobel Prizewinner Aung San Suu Kyi, from taking part.

Wednesday, in a piece of good timing, David Alton had a Question on the Burma elections in which I participated - asking if the EU could get the regional organisation ASEAN to declare in advance that the election is a sham.

Thursday, met US former Ambassador Bob Blackwill over lunck to discuss aspects of foreign policy including Afghanistan and south Asia. Wrote to Caroline Spelman MP about Tory policy on Gypsies and Travellers.

In the evening, to the National Army Museum for a talk by Alison Weir on Eleanor of Aquitaine, mainly about her new novel The Captive Queen. She acknowledged that the sources were few, though her biography of Eleanor published some ten years ago gives one a surprisingly full picture.

John William and Maite arrived from Grenoble in the late afternoon for a two week stay.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Speaking at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Conference
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Receiving the Ahmadiyys Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace from His Holiness Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

House guests

Alastair and Gill, and two of their friends, were at a party round the corner last night, and Alastair called just after we got home o ask if they could stay the night, which they did. They all crept up the stairs like mice when they got in at some unearthly hour, but I heard them, being a light sleeper/ This afternoon Alastair and Gill went off the Richmond, to see Alastair's cousin and possibly to have a walk in Richmond Park.
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Yesterday evening, Lindsay and I attended the Ahmadiyya Muslims' Annual Peace Symposium. The keynote speaker, His Holiness Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, spoke about the duty of Muslims not only to proclaim that Islam is a doctrine of peace, but to put the principle of 'Love for all, and Hatred for none' into operation in their own lives, and he reviewed the effects of strife in various parts of the world on the victims.

His Holiness presented me with the first Ahmadiyya Muslim Annual Peace Award, in recognition of 'outstanding services for the advancement of the cause of peace'. I have had the honour and privilege of working closely with the Ahmadiya Community for many years, including most recently in organising a mission to Pakistan on behalf of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group on the situation of religious minorities.

Religious differences have been key factors in the causation of violence and conflict throughout the ages, and that continues to be so today. The Ahmadiyya Muslims insist, with the authority of the Prophet, that there must be no compulsion in religion, and that people of different religions can live side by side in peace with each other - as they do in the UK

One of the reasons we have been comparatively successful in promoting religious harmony in this country is the framework of law, including particularly the laws against discrimination and incitement to religious and racial hatred, and for equality. They don't have laws on these lines in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, where for example religious fascists chant slogans outside places of worship calling for people of different faiths to be murdered, with the police standing by doing nothing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

That was the week

The week began with a visit to the dentist, who managed to glue a tooth that had fallen out, back into the root. She wasn't optimistic about its probable remaining lifespan.

In the afternoon, my question about asylum support cuts, see I don't know whether to be reassured or not by Alan West's non-committal answer, that the question of whether the amounts paid were essential to meet essential living needs was something that could be looked at.

Tuesday morning, my old friend Ayman Ahwal called in to see me at Flodden Road. He spends a good deal of time these days in Acheh, where he sees Tengku Hasan di Tiro, Dr Zaini etc, alumni of the Acheh Sumatra National Liberation Front. In the end they go a substantial degree of autonomy and it seems to be working smoothly.

At lunchtime, attended a meeting on the work of the The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) , a new body created as part of the Government’s Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) to help prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults. Its a 'Non Departmental Public Body', sponsored by the Home Office, working in partnership with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to help ensure that there is ‘no known reason’ why individuals who work or apply to work or volunteer with children or vulnerable adults shouldn’t do so.

In the afternoon, a meeting with Mr Bengi Yildis MP for Batman in the Kurdish region of Turkey. The Kurds recently held a very successful international peace conference, a suggestion I made when I was in Ankara last year to launch the Turkish translation of the Blue Book of 1916, on the Armenian Genocide. Its an excellent principle, that people who are claiming the right of self-determination should compare notes with those who have been through the process and reached solutions that were acceptable.

Wednesday morning, a meeting of EU Subcommittee, including a session taking evidence from Meg Hillier MP, on the justice and home affairs elements of the EU's Stockholm Programme. Our report on EU policy on protecting Europe from large-scale cyber attacks was published this week, and as far as I could see got very little coverage.

At question time I chipped in on Janet Whitaker's question on security of tenure on Gypsy sites. The European Court of Human Rights found against the Government on his issue 1n 2004 but they still haven't dealt with it in spite of three reminders from the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Human Rights, and an undertaking to that Committee to make the necessary change in legislation last autumn. Now they are very apologetic, but say there isn't enough time. I gave the Minister, Bill McKenzie, a draft of an Order, and he told us in a discussion afterwards that he would see what he could do. (See

In the afternoon, a useful meeting with Mike Smith, the new convener of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on TB, who gave me some useful material on the current position, in the UK and across the world. As it happened, there was a question on the Order Paper the following day, in which I made a contribution (

At 16.30 on Thursday, a meeting in Mr Speaker's apartment of the judges for the Abbott Award, given to a journalist who has played a conspicuous role in promoting democracy and human rights in a country where journalists are under fire. I'm sure the candidate we selected will be very warmly approved when the name is announced.

Friday, to Dulwich Hospital for an intravenous infusion of Aclasta, a bisphosphanate, used in cases of osteoporosis. My bone density is just on the wrong side of the line, and this stuff, which lasts for a year, should do the trick. The leaflet on the drug says that special care must be taken with patients who had had part of their intestine removed, but the nurse said that didn't matter. On the other hand she was at pains to tell me about the general side-effects, which affect more than 30% of patients, including fever and chills, pain in the muscles or joints, and headaches. I told her I don't do side-effects.

Victoria came over to help me with the paperwork, and the ofice isn't quite as chaotic as usual.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Today is the 48th anniversary of the Orpington by-election. I had been elected to the Orpington UDC the previous year for my home ward of Downe:

The result of the Downe ward election for Orpington UDC, Saturday 13th May 1961:
Lubbock, E.R. (Lib.) 361
Foster, Wing-Commander M.G.L. (C.) 173
Majority 188
Lib. gain from Independent.
Source: Orpington Times, Friday 19th May 1961, page 4.
(With thanks to the Bromley Local Studies Library)

The declaration of the result of the by-election can be seen at

We had very high expectations of the Party's fortunes in the rest of that Parliament, but the only other victory was Emlyn Hooson's in the Montgomeryshire by-election, following the death of Clem Davies, Jo Grimond's predecessor as Party Leader. And at the 1964 general election, although we got nearly twice as many votes as in 1959, there wasn't the breakthrough we expected. Such is the blatant unfairness of the 'first past the post' system, we only went up from 6 to 9 MPs. What has been most remarkable in my half-century of political life is that so many liberals with a small 'l' have clung tenaciously to the belief that ultimately they would achieve a Liberal Government, in spite of the scales being so heavily weighted against them.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

And here is Maurice Lubbock, the grandson of Maurice Lubbock, at Taupo, New Zealand, March 6.

Maurice Lubbock Lecture

Yesterday, to Oxford, for the Maurice Lubbock Memorial Lecture at the Said Business School, in memory of my father, given by Hector Sants, Chief Executive of the Financial services Authority. I was a virtuoso performance, in which he outlined the FSA's new consumer protection strategy. (, and was followed by an equally coruscating question and answer session.

Why the Tories would transfer the FSA to the Bank of England isn't clear to me. The consumer protection functions of the FSA would go to a new Consumer Protection Agency with its own management, premises and IT system, the cost of which is not quantified in their 'White Paper', and there would also be costs associated with moving the remaining functions to the Bank. Under Mr Sants, the FSA is stronger and better equipped to deal with the set of problems within its remit, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Mr Sants has already announced that he is leaving at the end of his three-year contract in the summer, and the job of finding a replacement can't begin until after May 6 because of the FSA's uncertain future.

Of course, there are other essential steps that must be taken, outside the powers of the regulator, if the risks of future crises are to be reduced. The bloated banks need to be dismembered so that 'too big to fail' never happens again. The obscene bonuses paid to elite bankers must be cut down to size, and there should be an insurance levy on financial transactions, to cover failures, which can never be eliminated altogether.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The week so far

Monday we had a meeting with Dr Sam Paul, a long time advocate for the rights of religious minorities and Dalits, who is Secretary of the All India Chrisrian Council. The AICC has provided assistance to the victims of communal violence in Orissa, , and cooperates with other groups working for peace and against impunity.

Tuesday, spoke at a tea organised by the All-Party Group on Kashmir. We were all agreed that the resumption of talks between India and Pakistan was to be welcomed, and that the people of Kashmir should be fully consulted before any agreement is reached on the political status of the territory. I added that our Foreign Secretary had to be careful what he says about the dispute, remembering that Milliband and before him Robin Cook had both trod on sensitive corns.

In the evening, to Midsummer Night's Dream at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, arriving in the nick of time after circling the one-way system several times trying to find the theatre, in spite of the satnav. It was packed out, no doubt because Judy Dench was playing Titania, but Julian Wadham was an excellent Theseus.

Wednesday, took part in exchanges following John Sandwich's Question on Sudan, and in the evening spoke at the Orpington Circle's 3rd Annual Dinner, with Ming Campbell, David Steel, Ros Scott and David Chidgey We had to rush back to the House in the middle of the main course, to vote on an Order dealing with parking in Richmond, a source of great concern to the residents. The Tories abstained when we put a fatal motion to the vote.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Angulimala Silver Jubilee

Cutting the cake to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Angulimala, with 'Bhante', the Spiritual Director.

At the Forest Hermitage

Saturday, at the Forest Hermitage to celebrate the silver jubilee of Angulimala, the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy, of which I have the honour to be Patron. There was a good attendance by Buddhist chaplains from all over the country. and we had a stimulating discussion led by the Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo (Chao Khun Bhavanaviteht) OBE, the Spiritual Director of Angulimala, see The chaplains discussed their work, including some of the problems that arise. When they visit a prison by arrangement, for instance, the Buddhist prisoners may not have been assembled in the multi-faith room or chapel.

A very high proportion of the prisoners declaring themselves to be Buddhist have converted while serving their sentences, but there are also inmates from south and southeast Asia, and from China, where the predominant faith is Buddhism but traditional practice varies. The Vietnamese quite often have little or no English. Our chaplains have to be flexible, to accommodate the needs of these communities, as well as those of the native English, who may be at an early stage in understanding the basics of Buddhism.

I found the discussion very informative, and at the end of the day I was given a lift back to London by one of the chaplains, who visits two London prisons. We had a useful conversation about the problems he has in dealing with large groups from different traditions.

The dedication and commitment of the Angulimala chaplains is impressive. The Prison Service is threatening to put chaplaincy services out to tender, but if they expect to get a better or cheaper service from some other organisation they are very much in error.

LSE event - Ara speaking

Friday evening, to the LSE for a showing of Gagik Karagheuzian's documentary on the Blue Book, the Bryce/Toynbee compilation of testimonies on the Armenian Genocide of 1915-16. The Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) sent a petition to the UK Parliament in 2005, calling on us to repudiate the Blue Book as false wartime propaganda. Our Speaker replied non-committally and referred the letter to the Foreign Office, who quietly filed it in the House of Commons Library.

We picked the issue up, and wrote to every member of the TGNA, suggesting a dialogue between MPs from the UK and Turkey, with their academic advisers, to examine the authenticity of the Blue Book. Not a single reply was received. In the meanwhile the scholar and publisher Ara Sarafian, who had already produced a modern edition of the Blue Book restoring all the names which had been omitted for reasons of confidentiality originally, translated the document into Turkish, and we sent copies to every member of the TGNA. I accompanied Ara to Ankara where we held a press conference to launch the Turkish edition.

Delivery of the books to individual members of the TGNA was blocked, but at least we had broken the taboo on discussion of the issue.

Obviously, only one or two of the Members who signed the petition to the UK Parliament had any idea of the contents of the Blue Book, because of their lack of English, and were in no position to assess its authenticity. The fact that none of them picked up the invitation to discuss the subject indicates that they had no confidence of their ability to defend their position.

Gagik's film covered Ara's research in Ankara and in the US, where the original witness statements are archived, and our attempts to get the issue freely debated in Turkey.

After the showing there was a panel discussion when Ara, David Miller, former UK Ambassador to Armenia, and myself gave 10-minute statements on the film and the issues it covered, followed by a stimulating question and answer session between the panel and the audience.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Business of the House

Tuesday was Report stage of the Equality Bill, and our amendment on caste went through ( It provides that an order can be made adding caste to the 'protected characteristics', ie those which are protected against discrimination such as gender, race etc. We even got a supportive word or two from the Tory front bench spokesperson, Baroness Warsi, which may turn out to be useful if they win the election.

Wednesday morning, Select Committee meeting to consider a second draft of our report on protection of Europe from large-scale cyber attacks. Hosted Bangladesh Major-General (retd) Ansa Amin for lunch.

Thursday, I spoke on an immigration order and regulations ( The Minister, Lord West, didn't have many answers to my questions, and where he did venture an off the cuff reply, he got it wrong. Iris recognition technology, already in use at all major airports in gates allowing automatic entry, isn't less reliable than facial recognition technology, and my question about the need for a second set of gates based on the latter technology still remains.

Monday, March 01, 2010

First African Baptist Church

Karen Wortham, our friend whom we met in Savannah a few years ago, sent me this link to the CNN film about the historic First African Baptist Church:

Karen is interviewed in the film, which is mainly about the campaign to get African Americans to register in the US census, which has advantages for them in terms of public funding.