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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Barbara Follett): We have had a most interesting debate that has, at times, ranged far more widely than the 2010-11 local government settlement and over a far wider time frame. The settlement means that every one of the 421 councils in the nine English regions will receive an increase in their formula grant this year, as they have for the past two years.
The hour is late and I shall confine myself to thanking the right hon. and hon. Members who have made such valuable and interesting contributions to the debate. There have been contributions from the hon. Members for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy), for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling), for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer), for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) and my hon. Friends the Members for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey) and for Wigan (Mr. Turner), as well as many other hon. Friends who
took part in a debate that was, on the Government side of the House at least, extraordinarily well attended. In deference to the injunction from the Chair, I shall not mention the concerns about the dubious mathematical basis of the assertions made by the Conservative Front-Bench spokesperson. However, I think that all Members present welcome the stability offered by this, the first ever three-year settlement. I reassure hon. Members that this Government have every intention of having another three-year settlement. I hope that it will be as fair and as good as this one.
That the Local Government Finance Report (England) 2010-11 (HC 280), which was laid before this House on 20 January, be approved.
That the draft Council Tax Limitation (Maximum Amounts) (England) Order 2010, which was laid before this House on 20 January, be approved. -(Helen Jones.)
That the draft Electronic Commerce Directive (Hatred against Persons on Religious Grounds or the Grounds of Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2010, which were laid before this House on 5 January, be approved. -(Helen Jones.)
That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 17708/09, relating to a proposal for a Council Decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and Japan on Mutual Legal Assistance in criminal matters (MLA); and supports the EU Council decision to conclude the Agreement in order to establish a formal international framework for MLA between the EU and Japan which will improve the measures available to combat international and transnational crime. -(Helen Jones.)
Sandra Gidley (Romsey) (LD):
The petition of the citizens of the UK attracts 12 signatures, supported by 4,098 of similar sentiment, 433 of which were collected by The Southern Daily Echo. The petitioners recognise the award of the naval general service medal and the general service medal with Malaya clasp to approximately 100,000 members of the three armed forces who saw
active service in Malaya during the emergency from 16 June 1948 to 31 July 1960. On 31 August 1957, the Government of the UK granted Malaya its independence and after then, to resist incursion by the Indonesian army, Commonwealth troops fought under a defence treaty signed between the Government of Malaysia and the Government of the UK. Those involved in the confrontation were awarded a Borneo clasp by the UK Government and the Pingat Jasa Malaysia by the Government of Malaysia.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to bring forward legislation to award an additional rosette, to be attached to the NGSM/GSM medal ribbon, to all forces who qualify for active service in Malaya between 16th June 1948 and 31st August 1957, in order to distinguish between those who served before Malaya's date of independence and those after; a similar circumstance was recognised by the award of a rosette with the South Atlantic Falklands Medal Ribbon.
Declares that they accept the recognition of the award of the NGSM/GSM with clasp M alaya to all members of the three Armed Forces of the Commonwealth, approximately 100,000 in number, a high proportion of them being National Servicemen, serving on active service in Malaya during the emergency from 16th June 1948 to its cessation on 31st of July 1960; on the 31st August 1957 the Government of the United Kingdom granted Malaya its independence.
Further declares that the Malaysian Government was formed in 1963 to include Singapore and the States of Sabah and Sarawak on the Island of Borneo; that the amalgamation of the States began a confrontation with the Indonesian Government Army; that to resist the incursion by the Indonesian Army, under the defence treaty signed between the Government of Malaysia and the Government of the United Kingdom, it was necessary to take up arms by the Commonwealth Forces resulting in an agreement being reached in August 1966; and that the Government of the United Kingdom awarded the NGSM/GSM with clasp B orneo and the Government of Malaysia awarded the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM) to all Commonwealth Forces engaged during the confrontation, including all serving members still engaged on active service in Malaya post 31st July 1957, disregarding those forces actively engaged prior to that date.
The Petition further declares that those who fought and endured the struggle between 1948 and 1957 do not qualify for any further recognition for their part in the defeat of the Military Army of the Malayan Communist Party.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to bring forward legislation to award an additional rosette, to be attached to the NGSM/GSM medal ribbon, to all forces who qualify for active service in Malaya between 16th June 1948 and 31st August 1957, in order to distinguish between those who served before Malaya' s date of independence and those after; a similar circumstance was recognised by the award of a rosette with the South Atlantic Falklands Medal Ribbon.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to uphold the constitutional standing of the Parliamentary Ombudsman by complying in full with the findings and recommendations of her Report upon Equitable Life.
Declares that the Petitioners either are or they represent or support members, former members or personal representatives of deceased members of the Equitable Life Assurance Society who have suffered maladministration leading to injustice, as found by the Parliamentary Ombudsman in her report upon Equitable Life, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on 16 July 2008 and bearing reference number HC 815; and further declares that the Petitioners or those whom they represent or support have suffered regulatory failure on the part of the public bodies responsible from the year 1992 onwards, but have not received compensation for the resulting losses and outrage.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to uphold the constitutional standing of the Parliamentary Ombudsman by complying with the findings and recommendations of her Report upon Equitable Life.
Mr. Fabian Hamilton (Leeds, North-East) (Lab): I should like to present a petition from Mrs. Patricia Hooker and the Churches Together in Roundhay, in my constituency, which has been signed by 181 of my constituents.
The Petition of members of Churches Together in Roundhay,
Declares that we are deeply concerned about the high levels of destitution among asylum seekers, especially refused asylum seekers, and in particular that many people have been left in this dire situation for prolonged periods. Research in Leeds in 2009, indicates that since the Report in 2007, the situation has deteriorated. It demonstrates that destitution happens at all stages of the asylum process, administrative delays worsen destitution, destitution is serious and prolonged, the number of people being made newly destitute is increasing even with the 'New Asylum Model'-it is not just a 'legacy' problem and entitlement to apply for support does not mean entitlement to receive support. Destitute people may be single or families with children; they are being forced into street homelessness and they have worsening health and mental health problems.
The Petitioners therefore request the House of Commons to ensure its legislation is designed and implemented so as to end the destitution of asylum seekers at all stages of the asylum process so they can contribute to the United Kingdom and provide for themselves.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): First, I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to raise this issue in the House. Yemen used to be perceived as being in the backwaters of the middle east, but recent events have put it under the international spotlight.
Before I proceed, let me declare my interest in Yemen, which is registered in the Register of Members' Financial Interests. I am also the chairman of the all-party group on Yemen and have a personal interest to declare. I was born in Aden, Yemen, in 1956. My parents had gone there for economic reasons from Mumbai, India, and settled in the then British-occupied south Yemen. I spent the first nine years of my life there, before leaving with my family to escape the mounting conflict. I still feel strongly attached to that beautiful country and I have vivid memories of my early childhood there. I was educated at St. Joseph's convent school, and, as a young child, I used to sit and watch the ships as they prepared to go up the Suez canal.
I want to thank the Yemeni ambassador to London, His Excellency Mohamed Taha Mustafa, for the role that he and his predecessors have played in ensuring that, despite its size and previous isolation, Yemen is a country that commands the interest of this House and this Government.
I also want to thank the members of the all-party group-the hon. Members for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard), for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), and for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan), and Lord Lea and Lord Kilclooney-for attending a meeting that I organised only a week ago with Dr. Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, the Foreign Minister of Yemen, prior to the very successful Yemen conference.
I welcomed the Yemen conference, which took place on 27 January. Our present Prime Minister is the first person in his position to have decided to focus, laser like, on the problems in Yemen and on the country's importance for regional and global security. I also want to thank the Foreign Office and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for ensuring, before the conference, that we built up relationships with the country. As a result, the conference was very much an end-product of dialogue and assistance that had been going on for some time.
As I speak in the House tonight, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Lewis), is actually in Sana'a. He went there following the conference in order to continue with the relationship that I have described. It is for that reason that the response to this debate will be made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for International Development. I think that the Foreign Office looked hard and far for a Minister to answer the debate, but they are spread all over Britain, if not the world. However, I am glad to see my hon.
Friend here, as he has had many discussions with me about Yemen, and has done a great deal of work in his Department in respect of international development in the country.
Only today, and despite his very busy schedule, I and members of the all-party group had a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. We discussed many important issues in connection with Yemen, and I am very grateful for the time that he made available to us.
On Monday, the Foreign Secretary spoke about the need for deeds, not words. He was right. What we need are practical steps to be taken now, and pledges of aid to Yemen must be delivered immediately. As the Minister knows, we are still waiting for the pledges made at the 2006 Lancaster house conference to be realised. A total of £3 billion was promised by those who came to London to pledge support for Yemen, but only 7 per cent. of that has been paid over so far.
Yemen is a country of legends, and its history is fascinating. It was rumoured to be the route taken by the three wise men. If that was not the case, it certainly heralded the start of the frankincense trail. The Queen of Sheba had her palace in Yemen.
Yemen is situated at a key position on the Saudi Arabian peninsula. It is strategically placed above the horn of Africa, and lies across the most utilised international shipping route. Its security, and the maintenance of stability there, are of vital interest-not only to Yemen but to all countries, both in the region and internationally.
Political unrest has caused much trouble for the Yemeni Government since reunification in 1990. It led to the emergence of a separatist movement in the south and the rebellion of a minority sect of Muslims in the north that is now referred to as the Houthi rebellion. The Yemeni Government are addressing the unrest on both sides, while ensuring that unity remains.
What has concerned us is the recent strengthening of terrorist cells in Yemen. This has meant that the Yemeni Government must additionally face an even more dangerous threat on another front. Terrorists bring the internal risk of disfranchised Yemenis being enticed into terrorist activities to undermine the Government. Effectively, that would rapidly lead to Yemen becoming a failed state-fragmented, drawn into a humanitarian crisis, and encouraging conflict beyond its borders.
I know that some have described Yemen as a failed state, and I keep reminding Ministers that it is not a failed state. It has the capacity to become a failed state if we fail to support it. As the Minister will know, its commitment to democracy is much better than that of many other countries in the region. However, it is important that in pushing the case for reform, we do so with the Government of Yemen, who are committed to reform. They are aware of the need to reform, and they are aware that unless there are reforms, there will be internal schisms. Tackling corruption and improving co-operation with the Opposition was the first item on the agenda, to be achieved through a commitment to daily dialogue with the Opposition and by the establishment of a national anti-corruption authority.
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