By Paul Goodman
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This site reported yesterday that 17 Conservative MP had written to the Daily Telegraph on behalf of Conservative Friends of Israel, urging the Government to maintain its position of not dealing with Hamas.
The Conservative Middle East Council has also released a statement from Nicholas Soames, CMEC's President, and Baroness Morris, its Chairman. They support "the efforts of our Foreign Secretary in dealing with the tragic and escalating conflict in the Gaza strip and Israel", and say:
"We endorse our Foreign Secretary’s calls for a ceasefire and believe it is right for him to push for both sides to de-escalate, avoid civilian casualties and abide by international humanitarian law.
The conflict has already wreaked an appalling wave of violence upon many innocent civilians. Furthermore, it has also served to boost Hamas’ prominence, further weaken the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, and divert regional attention from the continuing bloodshed in Syria.
The people of Gaza still bear the scars and suffer the traumatic legacy of the Cast Lead operation in 2009. It is therefore imperative that another Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza strip must be averted: such an action would surely lead to an even greater civilian death toll, a significant loss of international sympathy and support for Israel, and a prolonged and deepening conflict across the occupied Palestinian territories."
There were some noteworthy questions in the House of Lords yesterday.
If Lord Tebbit gets the memos from modernisers at Conservative Campaign Headquarters, I'm not sure he reads them:
"Lord Tebbit: My Lords, will the noble Baroness say whether her legislation and her policies will do anything to rectify the gross imbalance of the sexes in the Crown Prosecution Service, where twice as many women as men are employed? What will she do about that to help these poor men who are being discriminated against?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, that is an interesting point. In many professions and sections of our society, women do some jobs and men do others. It is part of the culture, but it is also part of our education; women and men do not know of the opportunities that are available to them. Therefore, we need more men to know about the opportunities in the Crown Prosecution and more women to know about opportunities in science."
(Barnoness Royall is Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords.)
Baroness Morris of Bolton (Shadow Minister for Women and Health) asked a question that will cause fewer palpitations:
"My Lords, one area where the pay gap is most stark is the City, usually because of bonuses. Given that the Government are now a substantial shareholder in a number of banks, how will they ensure that there is fair play in those institutions?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, that is yet another interesting point. The Government of course have some responsibility here, but the Equality and Human Rights Commission is conducting a series of inquiries in sectors where inequality is clear, including in the financial sector. We look forward to hearing the results of those inquiries."
The Conservative front bench in the House of Lords has been slightly reshuffled.
The recently enobled Lord Bates of Langbaurgh (right) becomes Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, and also a Whip. As Michael Bates, he was MP for Langbaurgh between 1992 and 1997. The constituency has been abolished, and is essentially now Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland. Lord Bates is a former Paymaster General.
Throughout his time in politics Michael has been a tireless advocate for the Conservative Party in the North East of England and for the North East at Westminster. Working recently with William Hague on Campaign North and the Northern Board as Deputy Chairman of the Party (North) the party has done well to promote a proven talent to another key role as we approach the General Election. Lord Bates will make a great contribution to the Shadow Team.
Commenting on his appointment Lord Bates said:
"I am delighted to be called to the Front Bench at such a critical time for the country and the Party. The country is crying out for a change from this cynical old Labour administration that has brought us to the brink of bankruptcy. It will be a huge honour to work with the Shadow Cabinet Office ministerial team preparing the Conservative Party for a return to government under David Cameron. I am also delighted to be working in the Opposition Whips' Office, since my arrival in the House of lords I have been hugely impressed at the skill of Lord Strathclyde and Baroness Anelay in deftly exposing ill-conceived legislation and ensuring an arrogant and out of touch government who treat Parliament with disdain regularly get their comeuppance in their Lordships House."
Lord de Mauley becomes Shadow Minister for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Baroness Morris has asked to stand down as Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families (and is replaced by Baroness Verma) but remains Shadow Minister for Women in the Whips Office.
The Tory leader in the House of Lords, Lord Strathclyde, commented:
"I am delighted to welcome Lord Bates on to the frontbench, he brings significant experience as a former minister, and insight drawn from a successful career in business."
Baroness Morris of Bolton is a Shadow Minister for Children, Schools & Families, as well as covering women's issues and being a Whip in the House of Lords. A former Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for candidates, she stood out at Conservative Central Office as highly capable.
Yesterday she spoke about children.
The Government has agreed to place a duty on the UK Border Agency: along with its primary duty to secure our borders, it must protect children. (The Government has decided that instead of using the Children and Young Persons Bill, which only covers England and Wales, it will use the Immigration and Citizenship Bill.)
Baroness Morris remarked:
"I am delighted that the Government have looked so favourably on placing a duty on the UK Border Agency to have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the exercise of its functions. The phrase that I used on Report was,
It is a testament to the enormous support received throughout your Lordships' House that the Government now agree.
Barnardo’s has voiced a number of concerns, which the Minister has addressed. However, we share with it one concern: that the transition between the code of practice to safeguard children, to be issued under Section 21 of the UK Borders Act 2007, which will be laid before Parliament shortly and come into effect in the new year, must take into account the new stated policy intention of promoting children’s welfare. There must be a seamless transition between the codes and the guidance for staff working on the ground.
I said that the Bill has seen true cross-party co-operation. We on these Benches have been encouraged by the Government’s constructive approach. We look forward to the outcome of the pilot social care practice schemes, and hope that positive findings will be acted on in due course. We of course welcome the greater support offered for disabled children and their parents, and the greater emphasis that is to be placed on family fostering and fostering closer to home.
Baroness Morris is surrendering her position as Opposition spokesperson for children and families at the end of this parliamentary Session. Her advocacy on these issues will be missed.
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