23/02/2017 Thursday in Parliament


Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 23 February presented by Kristiina Cooper.

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Hello and welcome to Thursday in Parliament.


Was a British terror suspect paid compensation after being held


And was the money used to fund terrorism?


People across the country will feel sickened at the idea of large


payments being made to someone who may have been involved


There are calls for an end to so-called witch-hunts


against soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.


It is wrong that our veterans are sitting at home,


wondering if, perhaps, a third or fourth investigation


is now going to take place into their case.


And calls for an investigation into claims that some peers turn up


briefly to the House of Lords - just to claim their


Surely, does the Leader of the House not agree,


this at least warrants some sort of investigation as to what's going


But first, Jamal al-Harith - a British citizen -


was held as a terror suspect in Guantanano Bay in 2001


after the US forces seized him in Pakistan.


The Daily Mail has claimed that the British Government gave him


Jamal al-Harith subsequently joined the so-called Islamic State group,


and last week he carried out a suicide attack at


The Home Office was called to the Commons to make


But, at the outset, a Minister explained that there were a few


The monitoring of individuals is an intelligent matter,


and the Government does not and cannot comment


Neither can the Government comment on whether particular individuals


In November 2010, the then Lord Chancellor, Secretary


of State for Justice, my right honourable friend


the member for Rushcliffe, informed the House of Commons


the Government had secured and mediated settlement


of the civil damages, claims brought by a detainees


held at Guantanamo Bay in the early 2000s.


The details of that settlement were subject to a legally binding


confidentiality agreement, and we are therefore unable


to confirm whether any specific individual received


It is reported that Jamal al-Harith has died in a suicide attack


in Mosul, and in doing so has killed several others on behalf


If these reports are correct, he was a deeply dangerous man


involved in the worst kind of extremism and terrorism,


that I'm sure will be widely condemned on all sides of this


Everyone understands there will be information that cannot be revealed


However, he has provided far too little information


Can he confirm whether Mr al-Harith was made any payment, and also,


notwithstanding the subsequent, welcome legislation -


which had cross-party support to tighten the law -


would he agree that people across the country will feel


sickened at the idea of large payments being made to someone


who may have been involved in serious terrorist activity?


We know that Mr al-Harith was subject to monitoring


after 2004, was he subject to monitoring between 2010,


when the compensation payments are reported to have been made,


and reportedly leaving the country in 2014?


I thank the right honourable lady for her questions.


Can I also say, like her, and like my constituents,


we will all be outraged and disappointed by the sums


But the sums of money that had been paid and been


reported to have been paid, I can't comment on


And unlike former Home Secretaries, the Government is bound by its legal


obligations that it has made, and we cannot break


But I can say that some of the vulnerability that led us


to have to pay those damages occurred when she was a member


of the Labour Government, and when those individuals brought


There will be natural public concern about the case of Jamal al-Harith


he was allegedly paid ?1 million in compensation by the UK


Government following his incarceration in Guantanamo.


And there will be natural public concern that the Minister has chosen


to hide behind the notion of sensitive intelligence to fail


to answer even the simplest factual questions about this case.


We don't need to know exactly how much, but was there any payment?


Is there any truth in the idea that the settlement was designed


to stop al-Harith making embarrassing revelations


about our acquiescence in enabling of the torture of a UK citizen?


It is reported that around ?20 million was being paid to former


Guantanamo Bay detainees, 16 in number.


This morning, Lord Blunkett suggested that sum should


be formally reviewed, since the public will be dismayed,


and they will be particularly concerned if any of that money has


Will he undertake to review the ?20 million or thereabouts


that is reported to have been paid out to these individuals?


My right honourable friend raises an important point


about the destination or what happens to any money


One of the reasons we took through the House only on Tuesday


the Criminal Finances Bill, which covers terrorist financing,


is to give us even more powers to track money destined


The root cause of the problem here is the operation


The Government previously supported President Obama's aspiration to see


it closed and the reduction in numbers there.


The current president, when he was campaigning,


said he was going to load it up with some "bad dudes".


Does the Government now support President Obama's position


I think before the Government comments on United States action,


we should see what the actions are in themselves.


I can tell you from my own personal experience, as a young officer


in Northern Ireland doing counterterrorism, is torture,


degrading people doesn't work, it doesn't get


In fact, it usually extends conflict.


Can I diassociate myself from these disgraceful attacks from the Tory


benches on the Daily Mail for campaigning to release British


Lord Carlile was a Government adviser, he has stated that Jamal


al-Harith and others were paid compensation to prevent


the release of security information through the courts


It's bit late now for the Minister now to rest on confidentiality,


so perhaps he could tell us this - what was the date of


the confidentiality clause which the Minister was citing?


First of all, perhaps I could respond to the right


honourable gentleman's point about the attacks on the Daily Mail.


I don't think anyone's heard from this dispatch box


I know he'd like to put up a strawman to make some allegations.


As I said in my answer, November 2010, we made a legally


The key word in there for him is legally binding.


It's not confidentially, it's the legally binding bit.


Which I'm sure he'll understand puts an obligation on us,


it's not an obligation on former Home Secretaries, by


the sounds of things, or reviewers of terrorism,


And should it even be an SNP Government, they would be


legally obliged to stick to the confidentially


The Government has come under pressure to take urgent action over


investigations into allegations against British veterans who served


Some Conservatives and Democratic Unionist MPs have said that,


in future, inquiries should only proceed if NEW evidence


The demands follow the decision by the Defence Secretary,


Sir Michael Fallon, to shut down the Iraq Historic Allegations Team.


We believe that the Government must give urgent consideration


to introducing a statute of limitations for soldiers


and police officers who face the prospect of prosecution in cases


which, and this is very important, in cases which have


previously been the subject of full police investigations.


It is wrong that our veterans are sitting at home wondering


if perhaps a third or a fourth investigation is now going to take


place into their case simply because some hot,


fast-thinking, make a quick buck human rights lawyer in Belfast


thinks it's a good idea to reopen this case.


To re-open cases now, Madam Speaker, what it does,


it actually is revisionism, it's trying to rewrite history.


We're trying to look at what happened then


through the lens of 2017, were we have a whole


new emphasis on human rights and different standards.


I find this perverse, long and completely unacceptable.


I am increasingly worried because 38 years ago I gave my word the two men


under my command after they had been involved in a fatality shooting


that, if they went to court, and were charged with manslaughter


and they were proved not guilty, they would never


I gave my word and it looks like my word may not be worth


I'm grateful to my honourable and gallant friend.


I think we all, a lot of us share on this side of the House,


the view that fresh evidence, a transparent procedure for showing


that fresh evidence has emerged, should be the requirement for any


There cannot be a progress to the future without a complete


settlement of the issues of the past.


There has to be the closure, there has to be the investigation,


there has to be the disinfectant of sunlight, to quote the phrase.


We have to move on, sure and certain in the knowledge that we have done


We will never accept any kind of moral equivalence between those


who sought to uphold the rule of law and terrorists who


For us, politically motivated violence in Northern Ireland


Whether it was carried out by Republicans or loyalists.


The Northern Ireland Secretary called on all parties -


following next week's elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly -


to get behind the 2014 Stormont House Agreement


and the plans to set up a Historical Investigations Unit.


Any legislation establishing the HRU would include specific tests


which must be met in order that a previously completed case


This will mean specifically that new and credible evidence


that was not previously available to the authorities is needed before


I would hope that, on the far side of this election,


that there is that opportunity for the restoration of the political


institutions and that there's parallel negotiations to deal


with these issues that are outstanding, that


It's absolutely important that the institutions


which were being set up under the Stormont House Agreement,


which the Secretary of State referred to and which my right


honourable friend referred to, the Historical Investigation Unit


and so on, are set up so we can have a balanced, fair


and proportionate approach to all of this.


On Monday, the Prime Minister Theresa May turned up in the House


of Lords to watch the start of the debate on the Bill


authorising the Government to trigger the start of the Uk's


It's extremely rare for a Prime Minister to observe


A Labour MP, Valerie Vaz, was suspicious about


This is a photo opportunity for Prime Minister and Government.


All photos, no substance or any thought for the British people.


Not content with being the first to visit the United States,


when the Prime Minister should have been networking in Europe,


the Prime Minister then photobombs the House of Lords in the company


No wonder we can't get a date for recess.


Instead of photobombing, the Prime Minister needs to focus


on what is going on in her own Cabinet.


She may have come off the sofa and into the Cabinet table,


I was disappointed in what they said about the House of Lords.


I actually think it's important, it's important that ministers


respect the constitutional role of the House of Lords.


In my experience, both in Government and in Opposition,


members like the fact that ministers and indeed occasionally Opposition


spokesmen go and listen to what they have to say


and that is exactly what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister


and I were doing earlier in the week.


I suppose the Leader of the House can safely put away that Abolition


of the Lords Bill then, and all we really needed


was a selfie with himself and the Prime Minister


when he visited the Chamber last week.


After threatening to lead this great Brexit rebellion,


these brave tribunes have led the nation all the way


to the top of the hill and all the way back down again,


while obviously leaving the taxi motor running.


Am I the only member of the House that is slightly disturbed by these


allegations from the former Lord Speaker?


This is taxpayers' money, surely does the Leader of the House


not agree that this at least warrants some sort of investigation


about what is going on down there with their expenses?


He was referring to claims made in a BBC programme


on the House of Lords, due to be aired next Tuesday.


The former Leader of the Lords says some peers turn up briefly,


While I don't know any detail beyond the reports of this


television programme, it is clearly a right to that


evidence about specific allegations needs to be investigated


by the appropriate authorities in that House, just as should be


There also has to be due process and one has to proceed on the basis


You're watching Thursday in Parliament, with me,


New figures show net migration has fallen to its lowest


level for two years - but it's still above


It dropped to 273,000 in the year to September, down 49,000


The Home Secretary said the numbers showed that "we can reduce migration


Just as those figures were being released,


the Lord's Economic Affairs Committee was holding


its latest hearing into Brexit and the Labour market.


I would suggest an objective of this kind - a level of net migration that


avoids undue pressure on our population, public services


Finally, as for an appropriate level, that of course


I would say that even 100,000 a year would add


to our population over next 25 years, so if you're


concern is of population, crowding and everything that follows


that, then you should be having in mind something of that order over


The net migration target is nonsense.


It's absurd, because there's no right level of net migration.


It's absurd because the Government doesn't have the means to achieve


any arbitrary target that it sets, both because it can scarcely control


immigration or EU migration, and because it only has limited


And last but not least, and crucially, because in


prioritising an absurd and arbitrary target, it takes stupid and costly


decisions without thinking through the consequences.


So it's madness at a time when every country in the world is trying


to increase its share of the booming global export market to be clamping


What you are advocating for is a complete free-for-all that


anyone who's got a job should be able to get a visa to come


here and you say, in response to the point that's been made


by Lord Green about the public backlash that might result,


is that this could be dealt with by making welfare


The problem we have is people can't get GP appointments,


the National Health Service is enormous pressure,


there is huge opposition to building on the green belt.


Isn't this an idealistic economic model which is


The self-selected migrants that are able to come to Britain freely


tend to be particularly highly educated, are more


likely to be employed and are particularly large net


In effect, they're actually subsidising the public services


If there were no migrants here, there'd be even less money,


net, for public services for British people.


Not to mention, doctors, far fewer doctors and nurses to care for them.


A Liberal Democrat asked about sectors such as agriculture,


that relied on large amounts of low skilled migrant workers.


You're saying we should aim to be ultimately


Well, I mean, we have 1.5 million people who are unemployed


and we have over 1 million part-time workers who are looking


for full-time work, so it's not as if the barrel is empty.


Robinson Crusoe scraped by on his island.


But the idea that it is desirable is insane.


Just as if we try to become self-sufficient in goods


and services, we would adjust, we would be poorer


Mechanization clearly is one thing that would happen.


Some things we would just do without.


So the Scottish strawberries that Lord Forsyth loves would go unpicked


and so perhaps would the English strawberries, and we would import


Whether British people would be better off as a result


With some 100,000 people facing starvation, and a million more


on the brink of famine in South Sudan, an independent peer,


Lord Alton, secured an urgent question in the House of Lords.


He wanted to know what was being done to tackle the causes


Does the noble lord agree that the three-year civil war


in South Sudan and the continuing conflict just north in the Republic


of Sudan have generated vast numbers of refugees and a consequential


inability to grow and harvest crops, and that should remain our priority


Can the noble lord tell us what progress is being made


in achieving this, in obtaining access to closed areas in the unity


state and then galvanizing international effort


to save the lives of millions now at risk of starvation,


He's right in highlighting that many crises


that we face are not man-made, but this one is most


I have just left a emergency planning meeting on the situation in


Somalia. That is where some 6 million people


are at risk because of famine and there we are doing


the best we actually can. Here, the frustrating thing is,


although we donate ?100 million, although the UN mission


to South Sudan is in place on the ground and many humanitarian


workers are risking their lives to deliver aid, unless there


is that peace agreement, the implementation of the existing


peace agreement, then the futures of people in South Sudan,


particularly women and children, What are we doing in terms


of building sustainable peace It comes back to our point before,


development is not just about humanitarian aid,


it is about building peace and sustainability,


particularly in Africa. The Lord is absolutely right


and I appreciate his remarks. On the specifics that he mentions,


we have been supporting and coaching and encouraging the work


of the intergovernmental African development body,


who have been reading a lot of this work and also through the UN


Security Council on that. We've been working with


international partners, we're part of an agreement


with Norway and the United States A huge amount had been done,


he said, but the UK Now, what will airports be


like in the post-Brexit world - when the UK takes


control of its borders? Will there be long queues of people


from EU countries waiting to get Perhaps there'll be


a new dedicated fast lane Does taking back control


of our borders mean the 23 million inbound passengers from the EU


who pass through our airports each year will be subject


to full border checks? Is he aware of research


by the tourism industry Council which shows it would require UK


border resources to be Can he assure us that those costs


will be met from the 350 million Well, Mr Speaker, it is already


the case that when an EU citizen arrives in this country,


they have to show their passport and I don't envisage


that changing in future. Passengers arriving at UK airports


would expect the queue for no longer than 25 minutes coming


from the European Economic Area, 45 minutes coming from outside that


area due to service-level agreements Does the Secretary of State believe


these service-level agreements Mr Speaker, as the Prime


Minister said recently, and I would reiterate,


our desire post Brexit is not to have long queues on our borders,


it's actually to have sensible arrangements to allow people


to travel to do business but also to enable us to have the controls


on migration to the United Kingdom that I think people


voted for last year. Does my right honourable


friend agree that, once the UK leaves the EU,


we will be free to open dedicated entry lanes to our airports for use


only by UK citizens and those of our overseas territories,


thereby speeding up entry to the UK? Well, of course, Mr Speaker,


as my honourable friend knows, post Brexit, it will be a matter


for this House and this Government to decide how best


to manage our borders, but I'm sure my honourable friend


would wish to ensure that, where appropriate,


we have the smoothest possible passes through our border for people


who we would wish to welcome At the Culture, Media


and Sport Select Committee this week, several witnesses expressed


concern about the timeliness that would be required for physical


reconfiguration of airports. Is the Secretary of State having


conversations with the airport Well, I had a meeting in fact


with airlines and airports earlier this week and will continue


to do so. We will continue to consult


carefully with the industry. But as I say, of course,


people arriving from all around the world today have


to show their passports already when they arrive


in the United Kingdom, so I don't envisage the kind


of dramatic change that perhaps What insurances and evidence can


he provide as inter-departmental work ongoing to ensure


that there will be as little disruption as possible


and ensure our tourism market, which is vital for jobs


and the economy, will not I'm going to simply say


to the honourable Lady, she is making an assumption


I simply don't accept. It is the case already,


Mr Speaker that people are arriving into our borders have


to show their passports before We certainly don't envisage


a situation where we said we create vast additional queues


on our border. We want a smooth, streamlined


process for people who have the right to come here to do


so and to be welcome here. Chris Grayling, reassuring


everyone that there'll be no Well, time for me to fly but do


join me on Friday night at 11 for a roundup of a week


in which the House of Lords Until then from me,


Kristiina Cooper, goodbye.


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