William Hague MP

26 Apr 2011 16:59:55

William Hague tells the Commons that all British action in Libya remains defined by UN Security Council resolutions

By Jonathan Isaby

After the three-week Easter recess, Foreign Secretary William Hague took the first opportunity to update the Commons on the action being taken against Libya when the Commons reconvened this afternoon.

Here are the key extracts from his statement:

"Britain has continued to take a leading role in international efforts to protect civilians in Libya and the case for action remains compelling: Qadhafi’s regime persists in attacking its own people, wilfully killing its own civilian population.  Our strategy is to intensify the diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Qadhafi’s regime and since the House last met we have made progress on all those fronts.

"On the diplomatic front, I co-chaired the first meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Doha on 13 April.  The 21 states and seven international organisations represented demonstrated clear unity with participation from across the Arab world and the African Union in attendance. The Group agreed that Qadhafi’s regime had lost all legitimacy, that the National Transitional Council should be offered further support and that the UN Special Envoy should take forward an inclusive political process. I will attend the next Contact Group meeting in Rome on 5 May.

"At the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Berlin on 14 and 15 April, I joined colleagues in showing our determination to increase the pace of military operations to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973. The 28 NATO Member States and 6 Arab countries that attended, 16 of which out of the 34 are engaged in military action, agreed a common strategy. That is an important milestone in world affairs, a sign of a growing ability to work across traditional regional divisions and a demonstration of the breadth and unity in the international coalition in support of the Libyan people.

"On the economic front, since my statement on 4 April, further Libyan entities have been sanctioned and the regime is now subject to some of the most comprehensive economic sanctions ever agreed by the United Nations.

"On military matters, since NATO assumed full control over all military operations on 31 March, more than 3500 sorties and 1500 strike sorties have been conducted.  This action has seriously degraded Qadhafi’s military assets and prevented widespread massacres planned by Qadhafi’s forces: they remain unable to enter Benghazi and it is highly likely that without these efforts Misrata would have fallen, with terrible consequences for that city’s brave inhabitants."

Continue reading "William Hague tells the Commons that all British action in Libya remains defined by UN Security Council resolutions" »

8 Mar 2011 08:24:39

William Hague defends "sending a British warship named after a pork sausage to rescue Brits from a Muslim country". Yes, really.

Tim Montgomerie

I recorded the substance of William Hague's statement on Libya yesterday but this bizarre exchange between backbench Tory John Baron and the Foreign Secretary is also worth noting:

Images Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay): "Apart from the irony of sending a British warship named after a pork sausage to rescue Brits from a Muslim country, is not the real lesson from this situation that we should stop meddling in other people's affairs and be very careful before we lecture countries on democracy when we have armed their autocratic rulers with crowd-control weapons?"

Mr Hague: "I differ a little from my hon. Friend on that point. When we had to evacuate British nationals from Benghazi, it was important to send the nearest royal naval ship available, irrespective of its name. That is not the only vessel that has been involved. HMS York has also been there, and my hon. Friend will understand that I am particularly proud of that as a Yorkshireman. I hope he has no difficulty with that. Those ships have been there not to meddle in anybody else's affairs, but primarily to take humanitarian aid and to evacuate our nationals and the nationals of many other countries out of harm's way."

7 Mar 2011 16:27:50

Tory MPs divided on No Fly Zone during Hague statement on Libya

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2011-03-07 at 16.07.21

The Foreign Secretary has just addressed the Commons, updating MPs on the situation in Libya.

  • Mr Hague noted that there had been violence against civilians: "The Qadhafi regime is launching military counter-attacks against opposition forces. There has been intense fighting in the East and centre of the country along the coastal strip between the opposition-held Ras Lanuf and the Qadhafi stronghold of Sirte. There are credible reports of the use of helicopter gunships against civilians by government forces, and unconfirmed reports of a helicopter and jet shot down over Ras Lanuf."
  • He repeated calls for Gaddafi to go: "Mr Speaker, our position is that Colonel Qadhafi must put an immediate stop to the use of armed force against civilians and hand over power without delay, to a government which recognises the aspirations of the Libyan people and is more representative and accountable."
  • The Foreign Secretary confirmed he authorised the Special Forces operation that went wrong over the weekend: "Last week I authorised the despatch of a small British diplomatic team to Eastern Libya, in uncertain circumstances which we judged required their protection, to build on these initial contacts and to assess the scope for closer diplomatic dialogue. I pay tribute to that team. They were withdrawn yesterday after a serious misunderstanding about their role leading to their temporary detention. This situation was resolved and they were able to meet Council President Mr Abdul-Jalil. However it was clearly better for this team to be withdrawn. We intend to send further diplomats to Eastern Libya in due course."
  • 600 British nationals have been evacuated from Libya but 180 are still there, including a number of journalists.
  • Mr Hague also announced that he would be "upgrading the status of the Palestinian Delegation to London to the level of a Mission."

The execution of the SAS operation was described as "botched" by Labour's Douglas Alexander but more interestingly by Ming Campbell as "ill-conceived, poorly planned and badly executed".

Sir Malcolm Rifkind asked the Foreign Secretary to rule out a no fly zone unless the UN approved one. Mr Hague didn't reply directly, saying only that it must be sought by representatives of the Libyan people, enjoy wider regional backing and be legal.

From the backbenches Tory divisions on foreign intervention were laid bare. Bernard Jenkin encouraged Mr Hague to continue to lead efforts to secure a No Fly Zone and Colonel Bob Stewart urged Mr Hague to ensure any Zone was properly enforced. On the other side of the fence Rory Stewart urged exhaustion of non-military interventions, John Redwood warned of civilian casualties if a NFZ was introduced and Edward Leigh said there was no public appetite for a third intervention in a Muslim country after Iraq and Afghanistan.

2 Feb 2011 15:44:48

Pauline Latham and Robert Halfon press the Government for answers over the release of the Lockerbie bomber

By Jonathan Isaby

Two Conservative backenchers raised the case of the Lockerbie bomber, al-Megrahi, at Foreign Office Questions yesterday, in the wake of the leak of documents suggesting that the Labour ministers had secretly advised Libya how to secure release of Lockerbie bomber.

Pauline Latham and Rober Halfon both pressed the Foreign Secretary to comment on the latest revelations, but he opted to keep his counsel in advance of the Cabinet Secretary's report into the matter, as the exchanges below demonstrate:

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire): Following the premature release of al-Megrahi, do the Government have any plans to send more NHS cancer patients to Libya, given the better survival rate there? How does the Secretary of State feel this disgraceful leak will affect our relationship with the United States of America?

WIlliam Hague: I detect from my hon. Friend's question that she did not agree with the release of Mr Megrahi. Nether did I, and nor did my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, it was a decision taken by the Scottish Executive. On the question of relations with the United States, the Prime Minister undertook to have the Cabinet Secretary look at past papers on this case, and his report will be published shortly.

Robert Halfon (Harlow): Following the Secretary of State's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) on the release of the Lockerbie bomber, does he not agree that the previous Government hid behind the fig leaf of devolution in order to release a mass terrorist on dubious commercial grounds? Will he take steps to ensure that such a thing never happens again?

Mr Hague: As I have said, the Cabinet Secretary's report on that will be published in the not-too-distant future, so it would be wise to wait for that, rather than trying to anticipate it.

Meanwhile, Robert Halfon has also tabled the following early day motion (EDM 1387) on the issue:

That this House sincerely regrets the decision of the Foreign Office under the last administration, when it reportedly wrote to Libyan officials offering them detailed legal advice on how to use Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's cancer diagnosis to ensure that he was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds; notes thatit has been reported in the Daily Telegraph that the Libyans closely followed this advice from the Foreign Office, only a few months after this letter, and that this led to the controversial release of al-Megrahi, the terrorist and Lockerbie bomber, who was convicted by a British court in 2001 for the murder of 270 innocent passengers on Pan Am flight 103; and concludes that this new information seriously undermines the last Labour administration's claims that there was no double-dealing in the release of al-Megrahi and that the decision was solely the responsibility of the devolved Scottish Executive.

27 Jan 2011 06:48:32

Andrew Tyrie calls for BBC World Service funding to be protected ahead of DfID budget

By Jonathan Isaby

William Hague Commons Yesterday Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons about the cuts to be implemented at the BBC World Service:

"The House will agree that the BBC World Service performs an invaluable role, reflecting British democratic values overseas and supporting British influence in the world, and that the services it provides are a beacon to many in some of the poorest and most insecure countries in the world. We announced in October that from 2014 responsibility for the BBC World Service will be transferred to the BBC itself and funded from the licence fee, a move that has been welcomed by the World Service and the BBC Trust as providing new opportunities for the World Service to develop in the future. In the meantime, the World Service, like any other taxpayer-funded body, must ensure that it is working on the right priorities and as efficiently as possible. I announced in October that its expenditure limits would be reduced by 16% in real terms over the next three years.

"As I set out in a written statement earlier today, we are providing £13 million per annum to help with the deficit in BBC pension funds and £10 million per annum for new services in markets that we and the World Service have identified as priorities. Those include TV programming in Urdu, in sub-Saharan Africa and in Hindi to be provided to local partners. We have also guaranteed the capital for the move of the World Service to its new offices in W1. That is proper provision for the future of the World Service and will make up for inherited deficits.

"The other services provided by the World Service cannot stand still, and those that have become less well used because of the rise of local broadcasters or falling shortwave audiences sometimes have to close. It is the World Service's responsibility to be as efficient as possible while maintaining as many services as possible, something the previous Government recognised when in 2006 they closed 10 separate language services of the World Service. The World Service initially suggested to the Foreign Office the closure of up to 13 language services, but I refused to give permission for that. I have agreed to the closure of five language services, accounting for 3.5 million listeners out of the total audience of 180 million. Withdrawal from shortwave and other services will have a bigger effect, but they will rightly allow for concentration on online and mobile services for the future.

"The BBC World Service has a viable and promising future, but it is not immune from public spending constraints or the reassessment of its priorities. While any closures might be regretted, they would not be necessary at all were it not for the inherited BBC pension deficit and the vast public deficit inherited from the previous Government."

Andrew Tyrie Of all the supplementary questions which followed, the one which stood out to me was that from Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee. He said:

"There is very deep concern in the House about this decision, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will reconsider it with Cabinet colleagues. In particular, I hope that he will take a look at the overseas aid budget, which is increasing by 37% in real terms at a time when he intends to implement 16% cuts to the World Service. I hope that he will hear the message from the House that if there is a choice between the two, we want to put the World Service first."

The Foreign Secretary replied:

"I stress to my hon. Friend that a good deal of the World Service's budget already counts as ODA-able expenditure, so he should not think that turning to DFID for the money is an easy answer. I reiterate my view that all parts of the public sector must join in in becoming more efficient, and the BBC World Service will be part of the public sector for the next three years."

Incidentally, I imagine many readers will share my sadness that one of the victims of these cuts will be the excellent weekly programme, Politics UK, which has always given the world an insightful take on British politics.

8 Dec 2010 06:24:57

Sceptical at least, hostile in part: many Conservative MPs give the Government's European Bill a cool reception

by Paul Goodman

The Second Reading of the European Union Bill took place yesterday.  The core of William Hague's case for the Bill as Foreign Secretary was as follows -

"The Bill makes a very important and radical change to how decisions on the EU are made in this country. It is the most important change since we joined what was then called the European Economic Community. It marks a fundamental shift in power from Ministers of the Crown to Parliament and the voters themselves on the most important decisions of all: who gets to decide what...

The Bill...ensures that any future amendment to the treaty on the European Union or to the treaty on the functioning of the European Union, under either revision procedure that I have just outlined, will require parliamentary approval by Act of Parliament before the United Kingdom is able to ratify the change...

[The Bill] means that not only do we have our commitment not to transfer more powers from this country to the European Union, but that in a vast range of circumstances we would have to hold a referendum if we contemplated doing so...The Bill will give Parliament more control over whether the Government can agree to a number of other important EU decisions, sometimes referred to as the self-amending provisions of the Lisbon treaty...

The coalition stated in its programme for government that it would examine the case for a United Kingdom sovereignty Bill. I announced in October that, following that examination, we had decided to include a provision in this Bill to place on a statutory footing the existing common law principle of parliamentary sovereignty."

Conservative MPs whose speeches were largely critical of the Bill included John Redwood -

"I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s noble aim. He says that the aim of his legislation and policy is to give us all a greater sense of empowerment when it comes to matters of European governance and action. I would urge him to look again at his Bill, however. It is certainly cleverly contrived, and it is certainly contrived in a great deal of detail, but it is, in practice, the not-the-referendum Bill. On every area of competence and power that we see drifting away or being transferred from us as we have this debate, we are told, “That would not qualify for a referendum under this legislation.”

I believe that the Foreign Secretary has taken legal advice, and he wants to have a referendum on the transfer of competences rather than on the transfer of powers. I would suggest that that is a tad too clever. We all know that most of the competences have already gone. That was what Lisbon was all about. That was why he and I fought tooth and nail, together, against that treaty and in favour of a referendum on the treaty. Most of the things that the Government now wish to do are a shared competence with the European Union. What matters is not a further transfer of competence, but a further grab or transfer of power by the European authorities."

Bill Cash -

"The European Scrutiny Committee reported last night, to an eerie silence from the BBC, and as we clearly indicated, the Committee’s report is essential reading for those who really want to know what is going on. There are grave objections to the principle, the methodology, the distorting and misleading explanatory notes that accompany the Bill, and clause 18 itself. Clause 18 is a judicial Trojan horse leaping out of Pandora’s box. It is not, as the Foreign Secretary claimed, an enlightened act of national self-interest.

Parliamentary sovereignty is not built on a common law principle, as the Government claim. It is built on the sturdy foundations of the freedom of choice of the voters of this country, and not the whimsy or the Euro-integrationism of some Supreme Court judges. They increasingly claim that they are upholding the rule of law, but I have to ask which rule and whose law."

Richard Drax -

"How interesting that the poor old mouse has taken such a lot of stick tonight. Several hon. Members have used the expression “mouse of a Bill.” It is a mouse that the EU cat will play with, mutilate and consume. I have heard the words, “judicial reviews,” “written constitution,” “competences,” “vetoes,” “referendums,” “advocate-generals,” and “ratchets.” That is the language of the bureaucrat. The bureaucrat loves this. Such legislation employs the bureaucrat and gives them lots of money on the gravy train in Europe.

We want our country back. That is what we want. We do not want to say goodbye to Europe; we want to trade with Europe. I like Europe. I like the French, the Germans, the Italians; they have so much to offer us. However, we should not be ruled and regulated by Europe, particularly by the unelected Commission."

- Zac Goldsmith -

"A referendum lock alone is not enough, and if we are honest, it is not even on the cards. The judgment as to whether a treaty or treaty change meets the criteria for triggering a referendum will rely on the subjective opinion of a Minister and it will be for the Government to adjudicate whether a change represents a transfer of power and a loss of sovereignty. Is that really an adequate safeguard?"

- James Clappison -

"This is a matter of academic debate, but clause 18 is a restatement of the existing position—there are different academic views on that—and it certainly does not set out to stop any further transfer of power to the European Union. Nor, I would suggest, do the other parts of the Bill fully accomplish the end of preventing a transfer of power to the European Union, however many referendum locks they contain, particularly in so far as they concern transfers of any further competences to the European Union."

- Bernard Jenkin -

"The problem with this Bill is that it neither addresses the democratic legitimacy—or the lack of it—in the current settlement, nor stops the flow of power to the European Union. As we are talking about democratic legitimacy, I should say that that flow takes power away from democracies and gives it to something else, because whatever the European Union is, it ain’t a democracy. The Bill fails to address our national interests and it reflects the muddle that the Government have got themselves into because, as we have heard, the prime purpose of this Bill is political; it was designed to appease sentiment in the absence of a referendum on all the treaties where we should have had referendums: the Maastricht, Nice and Amsterdam treaties, as well as the Lisbon treaty."

Those Conservative MPs whose speeches were largely supportive of the Bill included Stephen Dorrell -

"It introduces not an irreversible, immovable, permanent safeguard that can never be overcome, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) said, a further inhibition on the development of competence within the European Union, which I would have thought my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) welcomed. Again, it is a modest step. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone dismissed it as a mouse of a Bill, but even if it is a mouse it can be a mouse on the right side of the scales, and that seems to be the case for it."

- Laura Sandys -

"The Bill sets three clear triggers that will create sovereignty locks that will introduce a clear mechanism for referendums, the need for legislation or parliamentary approval. My constituency has one of the largest UKIP votes in the country—2,500 voted to get out of Europe—so I am very conscious that we need to be robust on Europe and that any further transfer of powers needs to be questioned. The Bill convinces me of our control over transfers of power, which is important."

- Martin Vickers -

"The Bill as it stands is not perfect. I would like it to go further, but it is better than nothing and I shall certainly be in the Lobby to support the Government."

Nick de Bois -

"I echo my hon. Friend’s sentiment and I will support the Bill because I regard it as the first serious attempt to stop the erosion of power from Westminster to Brussels. I say “serious” because it is legislation before the House, and I say “attempt” because I recognise that it does not go as far as I and other Members might like. EU interference has dogged us for many years. We as a sovereign nation have been bled dry of powers, which has increased the frustration of the public with an institution that is so remote yet so influential on their lives."

Chris Heaton-Harris -

"At the beginning of my remarks, I described how the British public and British politicians had entered the European garden of Eden fully clothed, only to find that over a period of years we had been stripped. Although I appreciate that the Bill is just a fig leaf, I will happily vote for it because it covers a tiny piece of our modesty."

Neil Parrish -

"Now is the time to support the Bill and bring powers back. Provisions such as the social chapter, to which Tony Blair signed up, have brought all the working time directives and all the bureaucracy that ties up our businesses and stops us going forward as an economy. In time, after this, all those things will have to be pulled back to make sure that, in the end, this Parliament is sovereign and that we are not dictated to by Brussels."

Robert Buckland -

"I do not stand here as somebody who could be described as a dyed-in-the-wool Eurosceptic. In the tradition of my party, I would be described as pro-European Union. I make no apology for that whatsoever. It is because I am pro-European Union that I support this Bill, because I am also pro-democracy and transparency."

Some Conservative MPs, while supportive of the Bill, made speeches largely critical of it in tone.

Jabob Rees-Mogg -

"I, too, will support the Bill at this stage, although I was deeply concerned by what my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) said about its not being introduced, for the main part, until after this Parliament has been completed. If that is correct—I hope the Minister will give us some comfort on that point—the whole of this exercise is entirely pointless.

Mr Jenkin: The Minister nodded at that point in my speech, and I accepted that as an indication of assent.

Jacob Rees-Mogg rose —

Mr Lidington: May I make it clear that I nodded to indicate that I would respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) in my concluding remarks?

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I would not wish to anticipate the excitement that we all hold for the Minister’s speech on that crucial point."

Priti Patel -

"This Bill is a welcome step, but it could have gone much further and contained stronger measures to bring democratic control back to Britain and to safeguard against what I would call competence creep."

Andrew Bridgen -

"I intend to support the Bill this evening, but I issue a warning to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench. I and many hon. Members will not stand idly by and witness the death of our country’s sovereignty, bled away by a thousand cuts, however small, that some may think insignificant."

Therese Coffey -

"I will vote for the Bill tonight, but I ask the Minister to address my strong concerns about the British public. They do not want to be sold short, and they would be horrified to know that we might be voting for a Bill that would allow the EU to levy taxes, and that they would have no say."

Dominic Raab -

"...My cup is half full. This is a point of departure, not the point of arrival, and I commend the Government and Ministers for breaking new ground with the Bill."

4 Jun 2010 08:58:44

William Hague sets out Coalition's EU policy in House of Commons

Key extracts from William Hague's speech to the Commons yesterday on the Coalition's EU policy. Hague identifies extravagant spending as main cause of Eurozone's problems and promises to support Turkish membership of EU.

The EU rebate will be protected: "We will not repeat their wretched handling of the negotiations on the current financial perspective, which saw them accept a cut of £7 billion in our rebate while obtaining nothing of substance in return."

Deregulation and freer trade is key to European prosperity: "We need to get Europe back to work, create jobs, attract investment and deal with the erosion of our long-term competitiveness. Those issues concern every member of the European Union, not just the eurozone. We will urgently make the case for the extension of the single market, better regulation that can lighten the burdens on businesses, and seizing opportunities to create freer and fairer trade between the European Union and third countries. In that context, we will particularly encourage greater economic engagement between the European Union and new, rising economic powers."

Extravagant spending is main Eurozone problem: "Deficits unaddressed or regulation that prices people out of work in some European nations are the real dangers to economic growth in the long term. When we consider the position of the countries in the eurozone that face the most severe fiscal difficulties, their problem is not insufficient state spending or insufficient regulation, but very much the opposite."

A 'referendum lock' will be introduced to ensure democratic oversign of Britain's relationship with the EU: "Both parties that form the coalition are determined to make the Government more accountable to the British people for how the EU develops, so that Bill will be introduced later this year. It will enlarge democratic and parliamentary scrutiny, accountability and control over the decisions that we make in the EU. As the House will know, it will include a referendum lock, so that no future treaty may pass areas of power or competences from the UK to the EU without the British people's consent in a referendum. The Government have already agreed that there will be no further transfer of sovereignty or powers in this Parliament in any case. The lock will also cover any proposal for Britain to join the euro. We regard that measure as essential in ensuring that the EU develops in a way that has the British people's consent."

Britain will not support gradualist expansion of EU powers: "At the spring European Council, five EU-level target areas were identified: employment; research and development; energy and climate change; education, and social inclusion. We are concerned that some, while not legally binding, may stray into the competences of member states. Some are inappropriate for the different systems and models that various member states use. That variety must be respected in creating a meaningful strategy that addresses the economic issues faced across Europe."

The EU must support more sanctions against Iran: "We remain extremely concerned about Iran's nuclear programme. Iran has failed to suspend its nuclear activities in line with UN Security Council resolutions, has shown no serious intent to discuss its programme with the international community and has failed to address the outstanding concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency. For those reasons, we are pursuing-as we speak-new sanctions, and a draft resolution is now being discussed at the UN Security Council. The EU has agreed to take measures to accompany this process and we will work hard with our EU partners to ensure that we take strong measures that have an impact on Iran's decision making."

Support for Turkish membership: "Widening of the European Union must go along with the rigorous application of the entry criteria. The Government will continue to champion the European Union's enlargement, including to the western Balkans and Turkey. We will be assiduous in working with Ankara and other member states to resolve outstanding issues."

In conclusion:

"The last Conservative Government left a considerable legacy in the European Union: the creation of the single market; the enlargement from nine to 15 members; and the setting in train of further eastwards enlargement. I will not take away from the last Government their achievement in helping to complete that enlargement, but in other respects their legacy is to be regretted: the alienation of the British public from the EU; the failure to stand up for Britain's interests on the budget, and so on. The new Government have started as we mean to continue-with activity and energy in European affairs. We will play our role with enthusiasm, while vigorously advancing our country's interests and never taking the British people for granted."

Read the full record in Hansard.

In a commentary the BBC's Europe Editor concludes: "Like others, the foreign secretary said the main issue facing the EU was the lack of growth, which he described as "anaemic." The basic message was that Britain would be co-operative, but it would not agree to further integration."

Tim Montgomerie

2 Jun 2010 16:11:09

Hague attacks Israel's "unwise" blockade of Gaza

Highlights, not verbatim.

Screen shot 2010-06-02 at 15.39.02In a statement to the Commons, William Hague says it is vital for there to be "unfettered" access to Gaza. Hamas, he says, continues to pursue an ideology of violence. Hamas must cease their attacks immediately and back The Quartet principles. The only long-term hope is a Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure Israel.

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Miliband calls Israel's attack on the flotilla "self-defeating". The blockade does nothing to weaken the grip of Hamas - in fact Hamas benefits from taxes on smuggling.

Responding to Miliband, Hague says support for the people of Gaza is "bipartisan" in the Commons. He agrees that Israel's policy on the blockade "tightens" Hamas' grip on Gaza.

William Hague responds to a request from Ming Campbell that Hamas be brought into the circle of talks. Addressing "his honourable friend" the Foreign Secretary says Hamas must first recognise Israel, honour past agreements and abandon violence.

Labour MP Louise Ellman becomes first MP to speak in sympathy with Israel. She invites William Hague to understand how Israel can be assured that its security won't be compromised if the blockade is lifted. Two questions later Sammy Wilson (DUP) invites the Foreign Secretary to say how Israel's security can be guaranteed - and arms shipments avoided - if the blockade is lifted. Hague replies that the international community must provide Israel with such assurance without saying 'how'.

Sir Nicholas Soames calls the blockade "cruel" and invites William Hague to agree that it is illegal. William Hague says that he think the blockade is unwise and the challenge is to persuade Israel that it is not in its interest. Anne Main attacks what she describes as Israel's use of "selective footage" of the flotilla incident in the media. Another Tory MP Julian Brazier describes the blockade as "brutal". He says that smuggling tunnels into Gaza can now accommodate 4x4 vehicles.

Screen shot 2010-06-02 at 16.05.45 Robert Halfon invites the Foreign Secretary to acknowledge that Israel is allowing millions of tonnes of humanitarian aid into Gaza and there is a risk that Iranian-supplied weapons could reach Hamas if the blockade is lifted. The Foreign Secretary says the comments bring balance to the discussion so far.

Ann Clywd calls on William Hague to adopt a hobnailed boot policy towards Israel. End the pussy footing she said and end the illegal settlements. William Hague replies that he still has faith in Israeli democracy and that the nation can be persuaded to change course.

Tim Montgomerie

11 Feb 2010 17:31:21

William Hague says the alleged torture of Binyam Mohamed will harm efforts to combat terrorism

William Hague Commons David Miliband made a statement in the Commons yesterday following the decision by the Court of Appeal to force publication of part of an original judgment relating to ex-Guantanamo inmate Binyam Mohamed from 2008 - which contains summaries of American intelligence relating to is case held in UK files.

Its publication suggests that MI5 knew about the alleged torture of Mohamed.

Mr Hague told the Commons:

"The alleged treatment of Binyam Mohamed described in the seven paragraphs now released by the Foreign Office is so utterly unacceptable, and the alleged treatment described in the US court judgment in December so dramatically unacceptable, that if true, they are not only morally wrong but will harm our efforts to combat terrorists, play into the hands of their propagandists and weaken, rather than strengthen, our national security.

"We have always believed that the principle of control could be upheld while seeking an exception in this case from the United States. The Foreign Secretary will recall that I put to him in the House a year ago this week that the Government could have positively asked the US for permission to publish these paragraphs. If they had done so, and if the US had agreed, we would have arrived at the same outcome as today's Court judgment, without a further year of legal proceedings, more quickly and smoothly, and in a way that left the Government less open to the attack that they were withholding from the public evidence of complicity in torture. Does not the fact that the relevant information has been published anyway in the US strengthen our case that that would have been the right course of action a year ago?"

> Alex Deane covered the issue in this CentreRight post yesterday.

Jonathan Isaby

5 Oct 2009 12:49:22

Conservatives propose giving more power to Parliament over its business and establishing public consultation on legislation

This morning has seen two speeches from frontbenchers covering reforming Parliament and th way legislation is scrutinised.

Firstly, the newly-appointed shadow Commons Leader, Sir George Young, explained how he wants power to be taken away from the Government and handed to Parliament as a whole over how its business is transacted. Among his proposals were:

  • Giving backbenchers more power over what and when they debate, instead of the Executive having sole control over the whole Commons agenda;
  • Abolishing routine programme motions and ending automatic ‘guillotining’ of all Government bills;
  • Enhancing Select Committees by providing unwhipped elections of the chairmen and by giving them time to launch key reports on the floor of the House;
  • Giving Parliament more power over its procedures by abolishing the Modernisation Select Committee, chaired by a member of the Cabinet, and folding its work into an invigorated Procedure Committee, chaired by a backbencher;
  • Allowing the Opposition to trade a number of its Opposition Days for statements on topical issues;
  • Winding up the regional select committees.   

Later, in a wide-ranging speech, William Hague announced a consultation on introducing a "Public Reading Stage" for legislation as part of the party's agenda for giving citizens more power in the post-bureaucratic age.

The proposal is that after a Bill's Second Reading, it would be put open to public consultation before going into committee stage, enabling MP an peers to take into consideration the views of the public.

Jonathan Isaby

11 Jun 2009 07:40:48

William Hague: I wouldn't be surprised if Gordon Brown made Peter Mandelson an Archbishop!

In one of his best Commons performances William Hague spoke for the Conservatives in yesterday's dissolution debate.  He mocked the powers that Gordon Brown has showered on Peter Mandelson:

"The Lord Mandelson, denied the opportunity to become Foreign Secretary by the sad combination of a Prime Minister too weak to remove his Foreign Secretary and, equally, a Foreign Secretary too weak to challenge the Prime Minister, has gone around instead collecting titles and even whole Departments to add to his name. His title now adds up to, “The right hon. the Baron Mandelson of Foy in the county of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the county of Durham, First Secretary of State, Lord President of the Privy Council and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills”. It would be no surprise to wake up in the morning and find that he had become an archbishop—[Laughter]. That is exactly what happened with Cardinal Wolsey."

Watch William Hague's contribution in the video below:

1 Apr 2009 12:05:47

What can be done to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear power?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP Yesterday saw Foreign Office questions.

Shadow Deputy Secretary of State for Wales David Jones and former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind both asked about Iran's nuclear ambitions:

"The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): The International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report of 19 February shows that Iran continues to refuse to suspend its proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities and has not granted the IAEA the access that it seeks as required by five UN Security Council resolutions. We, and the international community, will continue to press for Iran to fulfil its international obligations and restore confidence in its intentions.

Mr. Jones: Does the Secretary of State agree that while President Obama’s recent outreach to Iran is welcome, diplomatic overtures must be backed by a readiness on the part of the United States and the EU to impose such further sanctions as are necessary until such a time as Tehran can demonstrate to the unequivocal satisfaction of the UN inspectorate that it has abandoned its ambitions to develop a military nuclear capability?

David Miliband: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his enunciation of the policy, which I think has support across the House. It is the so-called dual-track policy, which is that we should seek to engage with Iran, that we should make it clear that we have no quarrel with the Iranian people and that the choice of Government in Iran should be a matter for them. However, whatever the Government in Iran, they need to abide by their international responsibilities. If they refuse to do so, there are costs associated with that decision.

The hon. Gentleman is right that there are responsibilities on the EU and the US, but the responsibilities go wider. The international coalition, which is right to fear an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, goes wider than the EU and the US. Russia, China and the Gulf states have responsibilities, too, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would want to join me in working to ensure that they are part of a global coalition against an Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: With North Korea, it has proved useful to include its neighbours, Japan and South Korea, in the negotiations to discourage it from going down the nuclear weapons route. Should not Iran’s neighbours, particularly Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, be invited by the Security Council to join the negotiations over Iran, especially as the Iranians need to realise that those three countries might themselves go nuclear if Iran ends up as a nuclear weapons state?

David Miliband: Only up to a point. The multilateral negotiations are not being conducted under a UN framework—the E3 plus 3 is not a UN body, but it is recognised to have a global coalition behind it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman might have an important point, which was at the heart of the E3 plus 3 offer agreed under my chairmanship last May in London. It concerns what will happen in the future if Iran ceases its nuclear weapons programme or restores the confidence of the international community that it does not have a nuclear weapons programme. There are important regional political issues about Iran’s legitimate interests in the region, but no discussion of those issues can take place without the involvement of the countries that he has mentioned."

Continue reading "What can be done to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear power?" »

26 Feb 2009 12:05:29

It was right to suspend PMQs yesterday

I want to place on record that I think the suspension of Prime Minister's Questions yesterday was absolutely right and proper. None of David Cameron's senior colleagues - who are also his friends - would have wanted to stand in for him. The Prime Minister meanwhile will have been particularly saddened, having lost a child - Jennifer Jane - himself. Neither knockabout debate nor forensic questioning was appropriate yesterday. And it was a touching mark of respect to a senior parliamentarian to suspend the session.

Everyone spoke with great dignity, and their contributions are worth recording in full. I pay tribute as well to the service and sacrifice of Lance Corporal Stephen Kingscott, Marine Darren Smith and Private Ryan Wrathall.

"Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 25 February.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Lance Corporal Stephen Kingscott, Marine Darren Smith and Private Ryan Wrathall have all given their lives in the service of our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know that the whole House will join me in expressing our condolences to their families and friends. Time and again our service personnel show us their courage and commitment. They are dedicated men and women who are prepared to sacrifice their lives for our country and in the interests of a safer world. They shall not be forgotten.

I know that the whole House will want to express our sorrow at the sad death this morning of Ivan Cameron at the age of just six, and our condolences go out to David, to Samantha and to the Cameron family. I know that, in an all-too-brief young life, he brought joy to all those around him, and I also know that for all the days of his life he was surrounded by his family’s love. Every child is precious and irreplaceable, and the death of a child is an unbearable sorrow that no parent should ever have to endure.

Politics can sometimes divide us, but there is a common human bond that unites us in sympathy and compassion at times of trial, and in support for each other at times of grief. Sarah and I have sent our condolences to David and Samantha, and I know that the whole country, and our thoughts and our prayers, are with David, Samantha and their family today.

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Lance Corporal Stephen Kingscott and Marine Darren Smith, who were killed in Afghanistan, and to Private Ryan Wrathall, who died in Iraq. Whenever we read out such names, it is a reminder that whenever death comes, or however it comes, it is a devastating loss to the families involved. That is why I want to thank the Prime Minister on behalf of David and his family for his very generous and, I know, heartfelt words and for the private condolences that he passed on this morning. I also want to thank the Prime Minister for suggesting that we suspend the normal exchanges of Prime Minister’s questions, and the Speaker for agreeing to that exceptional action, which is deeply appreciated by David’s friends and colleagues in every part of the House. As much as anyone in the House, the Prime Minister will understand the dimensions of this loss—which, as he has said, is something no parent should have to endure. I spoke to David a little while ago, and he has asked me to pass on his thanks for the sympathy already expressed by so many colleagues in this House and beyond.

Ivan’s six years of life were not easy ones. His parents lived with the knowledge that he could die young for a long time, but that has made their loss no less heartbreaking. They also wanted me to say, once again, how hugely grateful they are to the many NHS and care workers, who not only did their utmost for their son this morning, but have helped him every day from the moment he was born. We should remember today that many thousands of other families are deeply grateful for the dedication, support and love of these highly professional people. We know how much their help has meant to the Cameron family. Ivan, their son, suffered much in his short life, but he brought joy and love to those around him, and, as David himself has said in the past, for him and Samantha he will always be their beautiful boy.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): May I add my condolences to the family and friends of the three servicemen who died serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan? May I also say a few words on behalf of my party leader, my parliamentary colleagues and my party to extend our deepest sympathy to the Cameron family on the loss of their son, Ivan, this morning? Everybody in the House will have experienced bereavement, but there is something especially sad and shocking about the loss of a child. We all recognise that that is something that is especially difficult to cope with. This is a personal tragedy that transcends all party barriers, and I simply express the hope that the family are given the space and privacy to grieve and cope with the tragedy that they have experienced.

Mr. Speaker: This House will share my sadness at this news. Our hearts and sympathy go out to David and Samantha, and to Nancy and Arthur. As a mark of respect for Ivan, this House will suspend until half-past 12 o’clock.

12.5 pm

Sitting suspended."

Tom Greeves

16 Jan 2009 13:24:47

Lord Malloch-Brown says Irish should not stop Lisbon Treaty

Lord Malloch-Brown, a Foreign Office Minister, takes a rather different attitude to democracy to Daniel Hannan.

On Tuesday the House of Lords debated the Lisbon Treaty. Independent peer Lord Stoddart of Swindon put a question to the minister, and received a breathtaking reponse:

"Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, can the noble Lord explain why those who prate on about democracy and the will of the people will never accept no as an answer when it suits them? Do the Government understand that the French and the Dutch rejected the constitution and then the Irish rejected the Lisbon treaty? Is that not “No” enough for the Government, or are they prepared to accept the will of the people?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the constitution that was rejected by the Dutch and the French led to very big changes, which led to a treaty that was no longer a constitution. With 24 countries having approved the treaty, I am not sure whether the voters of Ireland should have a right of veto over the aspirations of all the other people of Europe. I am not sure whether that is or is not democracy."

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "Labour denied the British people any say over the renamed EU Constitution and now they claim the Irish don't matter either."

Lord Malloch-Brown is also on record as wishing and believing that the European Commission will one day represent the EU on the UN Security Council. 

9 Dec 2008 17:21:40

William Hague calls for action on Zimbabwe

William_hagueShadow Foreign Secretary William Hague will speak in the House of Commons today about the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Here is a portion of his speech:

"My Rt Hon Friend the Leader of the Opposition spoke to Botswana's Foreign Minister yesterday, who has called for a ban on fuel supplies to the Zimbabwean Army and Police. We hope that the government will lend its support to proposals like this which target the regime, and urge African countries to implement them. In our view, this should also involve a clear message to Mugabe from as many African nations as possible that he must now step aside, backed by the threat of action if he does not.

We hope that the Foreign Secretary will now intensify the preparations that we have called for, for the day after Mugabe, so that when a new government is in place in Harare, arrangements are already in place, backed by EU nations, for a massive programme of aid, the establishment of a Contact Group to provide diplomatic support, and assistance to rebuild the economy, reform the security services, and assist the return of Zimbabwean refugees.

Will the Foreign Secretary raise with the African Union the need to identify and quickly develop the capacity to deploy a humanitarian force to Zimbabwe at short notice if the situation were to require it? This would not be an actual force sitting on Zimbabwe's borders, but a commitment by a group African [sic] countries to deploy troops in the event of collapse in the country, to ensure the basic functions of the state continue, that aid reaches those in need, and that a new government can find its feet. Developing such a stand-by force will take time, and the African Union should begin work on it now.

We welcome the fact that EU foreign ministers discussed Zimbabwe yesterday and agreed to add 11 more regime officials to the EU travel ban and assets freeze list. However to carry any weight with the regime, they must be scrupulously enforced, which has not been the case in recent years. Banning over 100 officials from the EU had little point when Mugabe himself was welcomed to Lisbon only last year."

A typically tigerish and detailed speech from Mr Hague. Well done.