You can find details of matters I have spoken about in the House by navigating to the Recent and Year Archive buttons on the Work in Parliament tab above.
I have always been a full-time Member of the House and have campaigned over the years on a whole number of issues, including housing, aspects of social security, civil liberties and anti-discriminatory legislation. Apart from this, I have been particularly concerned that there should be a full declaration of interests by Members, and welcome the changes which have occurred in more recent years.
Compensation for former Prisoners of War
A campaign in which I was actively involved, with others, was compensation for former Prisoners of War of the Japanese, and I had debates and questions over this for a number of years. It was certainly excellent news when it was announced on 7th December 2000 that such compensation was to be paid. The sum was £10,000, tax free and not subject to any social security or housing benefit regulations (this was also paid to widows).
Another of my interests has been Northern Ireland, and I was from 1997–2005 the British co-chair of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body. The Good Friday agreement is undoubtedly the best opportunity for both communities in Northern Ireland.
I welcome the reduction from 28 to 14 days pre-charge detention in suspected terrorist cases. However, I have reservations about the present government’s intention what is described as ’14 days plus’. This could mean debating in Parliament individual cases, which, if the individuals are later charged with terrorism, defence lawyers could argue on their behalf that their cases have been prejudiced. On the other hand, if we don’t debate the orders which will be before the Commons and the Lords, what is the purpose of having such orders put before us for a decision whether to agree to a time limit from 14 to 28 days. This in no way underestimates the continuing acute danger of terrorism, and this danger would exist even if the atrocities of 7/7 had not taken place. However, learning from Northern Ireland during the troubles, it is first important not to undermine the ordinary process of law in dealing with terrorism and secondly, of course, not to give ammunition to those who want to find some excuse for inflicting terror on their fellow citizens.
I also welcome the abolition of identity cards. On the Home Affairs Committee from 2001, I made clear my opposition, and was throughout in a minority on the Committee, which comprised, as well as Labour, Tory and Liberals. There would have to be very exceptional circumstances in peacetime to justify ID cards. There is no evidence whatsoever they would help in the fight against terrorism, as shown in the massacre in Spain, carried out, again, by Islamist terrorists, and where, of course, Spanish nationals and others have such documentation.
Israel and Palestine
I have expressed continuing concern at question time over the refusal of the Israeli authorities to show willingness to end the illegal post-1967 settlements. No one challenges that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is a very difficult and complex one, to say the least, and where both sides believe, understandably, they have a just case. As in Northern Ireland – where I took a considerable interest during the years of violence – it is necessary for both sides to compromise; and the peace process in Northern Ireland was an undoubted achievement of the Labour government, and particularly Tony Blair and Mo Mowlam. The main representatives of the Palestinians have shown more flexibility (and, their critics would say, too much) in the negotiations while, particularly, in the last 10 years or so, the Israelis have not. I certainly remain strongly of the view that it was the international community, through the United Nations, that approved the establishment of Israel, and that that state has a right to exist and to defend itself. However, that must be in the pre-1967 borders, and if Israel has a right to exist, which it has, so the Palestinians have no less a right, moral and political, for a viable and independent state in the now occupied territories. Anything less would be totally unacceptable to the Palestinians, and rightly so.