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  • Mar 17, 2015:
    • Backbench Business - Shaker Aamer | Oral Answers to Questions - Justice | Commons debates

      I add my congratulations and thanks to the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) for bringing this matter to the House. The quality of speeches on all sides, the power of the points made and, more importantly, the unity in the Chamber are a source of encouragement and underline the level of frustration and incredulity that something so self-evidently wrong and outrageous should continue in the face of such incontrovertible evidence. Along with right hon. and hon. Members on all sides, I want to state our conviction that Shaker Aamer is an innocent man and is being treated unjustly. We stand resolutely with his family, who continue to endure the separation and division of their family, awareness of Shaker Aamer's ill health and the realisation of the appalling treatment that he has unjustly and inhumanly received for all these years.

      We say sometimes that a person is innocent until proven guilty. We should clarify that and say "unless proven guilty". In this case, there is no guilt to be proven. As a number of colleagues have said, two US Presidents, Bush and Obama, have both in effect cleared Shaker Aamer for release, yet here we still are. Shaker Aamer's incarceration, his being subjected to torture, and the length of time involved-13 or 14 years now-is an outrage. The man has not seen his youngest child. This is an absolutely immoral outrage. It is perhaps even more outrageous that this blot on our collective conscience occupies so little space in the consciousness of people in western society.

      I shall be interested to hear what the Minister says about the reasons the United States has given, or continues to give, for the failure to release Shaker Aamer, yet the reality is that no excuse would be good enough. We understand that there is a dispute over whether, as the Americans want, he is released to Saudi Arabia or whether, as we want, he is released to the United Kingdom. That is not an acceptable excuse. This man belongs here; his family are here. There is no just reason whatsoever why he should not be released now, and released to this country. I hope that the United States takes some notice of what is meant to be its strongest and most loyal ally, the United Kingdom, and what is said here in the Parliament of that country. Will it take notice of the fact that, in our eyes and in the eyes of many other people in the civilised world, this is the behaviour of an extremist regime-the kind of behaviour that we would expect the United States to castigate, as the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) so rightly said?

      Speaking as somebody who counts himself as a Liberal Democrat and has a habit of instinctively lionising President Obama, may we somehow communicate to him the fact that this is an appalling stain on his legacy, on his record, and even on his character? Either he is not sufficiently important and powerful to make sure that these things happen, or he is a man who is not of his word. We should be appalled by this and say to him, as strong friends, that this is a stain on his legacy and on his record. It is also a massive strain on UK-US relations; perhaps it should be an even greater strain than it is.

      I want to make three brief points. First, the justice and humanitarian arguments are incontrovertible. We would like to hear from the Minister what the United States Government have been saying to our Government. Secondly, as I am sure Members on both sides of the House will testify, when one is a UK citizen, one has, all over the world, a sense of shared responsibility about the actions of other western nations. The moral authority of "the west", if we can call it that, is undermined by the continued presence of Guantanamo Bay itself, and by the continued incarceration of the innocent man, Shaker Aamer.

      Thirdly, as the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) said, there is the issue of American self-interest. This continued action is absolutely not in America's self-interest. The Americans may well fear that Shaker Aamer has things to say that they would consider to be against the American interest if they came into the public domain. Well, tough-if those things have happened, they must be known and we must hold this United States Administration, and previous ones, to account for them. The continued incarceration of this innocent man is far more of a threat to America's interests.

      America has already-perhaps we are culpable too-acted in ways that have demonstrated a lack of understanding of some of the geopolitical problems that we face, not least the rise of ISIS. America has failed to understand what territory means to ISIS, and that it is not just another guerrilla Islamist extremist outfit but has an immense sense of theological destiny. We must understand its ideology, because if we fail to do so, it will become an even greater threat to world peace and security. We must also understand that while the motivation of al-Baghdadi and many others at the heart of that regime is theological and ideological-even apocalyptic-those who are going to help him and it have very different, much more political motivations. Many of those motivations come from the sense that western countries, and America in particular, specifically in relation to Guantanamo Bay, are acting in ways that deserve a response and a resistance-an insurgency-with ISIS as its torchbearer. It is not in America's interests to continue to pour petrol on that fire.

      The incarceration of Shaker Aamer is unjust, wicked, and fundamentally counter-productive to America's self-interest and ours. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

    • Mediterranean Sea | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what her estimate is of the number of deaths amongst refugees in the Mediterranean in the first two months of (a) 2015, (b) 2014 and (c) 2013.

  • Mar 16, 2015:
  • Mar 10, 2015:
    • Mediterranean Sea | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what estimate her Department has made of the number of migrants who have drowned in the Mediterranean since the end of Operation Mare Nostrum and the start of Operation Triton.

  • Mar 6, 2015:
  • Mar 3, 2015:
    • Maternity Services (Morecambe Bay) | Royal Assent | Commons debates

      I, too, want to the thank the Secretary of State and the shadow Secretary of State for their entirely appropriate contributions, both the statement and the response, on this immensely sensitive and deeply personally upsetting series of circumstances. I want especially to pay tribute to the families who lost loved ones as a result of what Dr Kirkup referred to as

      "serious failures of clinical care".

      He refers to the report as a damning indictment.

      The dignity and determination of parents such as James Titcombe and Carl Hendrickson have led to this awful truth being laid bare today. Those parents are an inspiration to me, and they should be to all of us. I want to pick up on one point in particular that was raised during the Secretary of State's statement. Dr Kirkup expresses disquiet that the NHS and the parliamentary ombudsman chose not even to investigate what has now been shown to be the needless deaths of at least 11 babies and at least one mother. May I press the Secretary of State to go further than he has in his statement and do everything in his power to ensure that the watchdog for patients is not a lapdog for senior managers? Patients need a powerful, effective independent investigator who listens to those who grieve, like the Morecambe Bay families, and not one who dismisses them without even an investigation.

    • EU Membership (Renegotiation) | Oral Answers to Questions - Foreign and Commonwealth Office | Commons debates

      The Foreign Secretary has kindly shared with us that he has spoken to 23 other member states and that they all support the United Kingdom's remaining in the European Union. Can he tell us whether he supports Britain remaining in the European Union? Does he understand the damage that his policy is doing to British business and British interests in order to maintain a temporary peace in his party?

  • Mar 2, 2015:
  • Feb 26, 2015:
    • National Parks | Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions she has had on the inclusion of proposals to introduce direct elections to National Park authorities through the draft Governance of National Parks (England) and the Broads Bill; and with which people or organisations those discussions have taken place.

  • Feb 23, 2015:
  • Feb 12, 2015:
  • Feb 10, 2015: