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Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2008 13:12

Parliamentary debates

You can follow any statements and questions made by your MP in Hansard, the parliamentary record of all that goes on in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

You can search Hansard by subject matter or by individual MP and read questions put or subjects spoken on in the House.

You can access and read Hansard here.

Reproduced below are just a few of the topics discussed in the House of interest to Muslims:

15 Oct 2008 : Column 882

Local Government

Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con): Although my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) cheered us all up with his knockabout attack on the various follies and errors in Government policy, the debate has necessarily been rather sombre, given the background. It has also been thoughtful and constructive, and I want to respond to some of the main points.

I am sorry that the Minister is not in his place—doubtless, he will scurry in shortly—because I wanted to congratulate him on his elevation to the Privy Council. In the light of that good news, I expected many Government Back Benchers to flock in to support him. However, at the start of the debate, only two were present, neither of whom—how can I put it politely and diplomatically?—is famous for supporting every dot and comma of Government policy. Nevertheless, the Minister did his usual excellent job, in his polite, thoughtful and constructive way—and we are grateful for his comments about the Icelandic banks—of defending the indefensible.

The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy) presented the argument, as I expected, for local income tax. To put it mildly, we do not agree with her. We do not believe that, at this point in the economic cycle, with a downturn looming, we should impose more taxes on hard-working families. However, I am determined to agree with her about something, and I agreed with her intervention about IN35, one of the indicators that measures PVE—preventing violent extremism. She was right to point out that the Government should ensure that money does not go to extremists, but that local councils should have the maximum flexibility to use PVE money as they want.

15 Oct 2008 : Column 883

The hon. Member for Blyth Valley (Mr. Campbell), who has not returned, made a doughty defence of his local interest. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) asked me for a commitment on neighbourhood renewal money. I am sorry to disappoint him, but I am not in a position today to write on the Floor of the House our general election manifesto on every pot of money that the Government produce. I know that he will be disappointed, but I am afraid that he must live with that.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) made, as always, a polished and assured speech, and demolished the various follies of unitaries. He made a telling point about parish councils, which do a job that the Government seem to want to reinvent.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) reverted, as one might expect, to the Buncefield fire, a subject that he has raised many times. It proved again, were proof needed, that he is capable of phenomenal hard work on behalf of his constituents.

My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) brought all his council experience to bear—I am sorry to hear that he is finally to leave his local government post—on various aspects of Government policy with which he disagrees.

I want to ask a few questions about community cohesion, especially about the way in which the Department perceives the role of local government in helping prevent violent extremism—an aspect of local authorities’ work that we have not discussed so far. I will make three brief points about that.

First, it is wrong to assume that violent extremism is the monopoly of any particular ethnic or religious group. It is worth noting that, in the past year, a neo Nazi from Yorkshire was sentenced for serious offences under terrorism legislation for designing violence to be committed specifically against Muslims.
Secondly, we must recognise, however, that the main threat to public safety—to Muslims and non-Muslims alike—comes from those who would exercise violence in the name of Islam. I would like quickly to make the point that it is not often appreciated that Muslims face a particular difficulty, because the aim of al-Qaeda is to drive out mainstream Muslim leadership and replace it.

Finally, many people talk about the causes of violent extremism and give different reasons for it—the failures of multiculturalism, foreign policy, discrimination, and so on. The point is that local government has to pick up those issues and deal with them. They are not just a matter for national Government. I appreciate that the Minister will not have time to answer all my points, so I would be grateful if he indicated that he will write to me about any that are outstanding.

Government policy on preventing violent extremism has been through three main phases since 2007 and the horror of 7/7. The first was to work through the preventing extremism together programme, with which I know the Minister was involved, with partnership organisations at a national level. The second phase, begun after Tony Blair rushed out his famous—or notorious—12-point plan, saw the Department for Communities and Local Government in the driving seat and the start of the preventing violent extremism programme or PVE, the

15 Oct 2008 : Column 884

flagship DCLG scheme. The third and current phase sees the Home Office back in control, seeking a more targeted approach. We must all hope that the latest strategy works, and of course we entirely support its aim of preventing extremism and supporting moderation. However, it raises questions about the future of PVE and the role of local authorities.

As I have told the House before, we must recognise that targeting taxpayers’ money at one faith community is problematic. None the less, given the seriousness of the threat of violent extremism, we have supported PVE and continue to do so. Indeed, I pay tribute to some of the good work that I have seen up and down the country. However, we must recognise that considerable sums are being invested in PVE—some £45 million this year and the next two years, on top of the £7 million or so that was spent on it last year. It is vital to ensure that the money is effectively spent.

The Department should therefore surely support an independent study of the scheme’s effectiveness in achieving its indispensable aim of preventing violent extremism. If Ministers will not commission such a study, questions are increasingly bound to be asked about whether the scheme, which works through local authorities, is achieving its aims. We have to be sure that it is doing so. Will the Department commission an independent assessment of the effectiveness of PVE?

In July, the Secretary of State announced that she planned to establish a new board of academic and theological advisers. I previously floated the idea of a privately financed institute of British Islam to achieve the same aim and we have some reservations about the danger of the state being seen to impose a preferred model on British Muslims. Will the Minister say whether members of the board have been appointed yet and, if so, who they are, whether they have met, whether they will publish any reports and what role local authorities will play in the process, if any?

We are aware that the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board published a draft constitution last year and obtained responses, and has since published a second draft constitution in the light of those responses. We would be grateful if the Minister said when MINAB will publish a fully fledged constitution and what plans there are, if any, for links between MINAB and local authorities.

In closing, I make no apology for returning to the implications for community cohesion and local government of sharia courts in the UK, a matter on which the new Minister quite properly opined last weekend and which we discussed yesterday. As both I and the Minister intimated yesterday, my hon. and learned Friend the shadow Home Secretary has received a letter from the Home Secretary confirming that Muslim arbitration tribunals were established in Britain last year. We have no objection in principle to the use of arbitration vehicles, including such tribunals, to resolve private family and contractual disputes. However, those tribunals will clearly be run by sharia judges and are therefore likely be marketed to Muslims as state-licensed sharia courts. There are, in particular, important questions about whether Muslim women will always come before such tribunals voluntarily.

I want to put it on record that we are deeply concerned about the paucity of information that we have received from the Home Office and about the implications,

15 Oct 2008 : Column 885

therefore, for community cohesion. This is a subject of great public interest, as the Archbishop of Canterbury, for one, will confirm.

Ministers do not appear to have announced the establishment of these tribunals last year. They have not said how many there are, or who was consulted. They have not told us who the mediators or judges are, how many cases have been heard or what measures are in place to protect women. The House and the public are being told very little. I was grateful to the Minister for confirming yesterday that he will use his good offices to clear up these matters, by ensuring that we get answers in writing, but our message to Ministers this afternoon is that they should not take refuge in letters that conceal more than they reveal.
I could close this debate in the manner in which my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst quite properly opened it, by attacking all the flaws and follies of Government policy in relation to centralisation, the target culture, the planning quangocracy, the gimmicks—such as doughnuts for voting—to which my hon. Friends have referred, and people pressing buttons when councillors are not even in the chamber. Or I could refer to the absurdities of the Standards Board for England, about which so many councillors complain.

However, given the questions that I have just raised, to which I am seeking answers from the Minister, I would like to end on a note on which I think the whole House can agree. The challenges of violent extremism are clearly serious. If we are to succeed in tackling it, much of that success will depend on the effectiveness of an unwritten social contract between British Muslims and non-Muslims. Non-Muslims, such as me, all the non-Muslim Members of Parliament and others, have to make Britain a warm place for mainstream Islam and acknowledge the contribution that Islam has made to the west in the past, is making now and will surely make in the future.

The other side of that social contract is that Muslims themselves must continue—as the majority do—to seek to drive out support for terrorism and extremism. The success of that social contract will depend on what is effected not only at national Government level but at local government level, where local councils have responsibility. That is the forum in which many of these great issues will be decided. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s reply.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Sadiq Khan)

15 Oct 2008 : Column 889

Mr. Khan: The hon. Gentleman’s hon. Friend the. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman) spoke, characteristically, in a partial, unbalanced but witty fashion. I enjoyed his contribution, as I always do. I think that he and I agree on the ends—such as community cohesion—and also on some of the challenges that we face, although I suspect that we disagree to an extent on the means. He was wise to point out that issues of terrorism and extremism are not the purview of a single faith, religion or race, and I am pleased that he gave other similar examples. I shall write to him to answer some his questions, but if he considers a meeting with me to be desirable, I shall be happy to meet him—with or without officials—to discuss the issues that he raised. We need national unity during the times of crisis that he described, as well as at times of economic crisis.

This has been a very important debate, and I congratulate all who were able to take part in it.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 October 2008 17:12

Early Day Motions

Early Day Motions (EDMs) are motions submitted by MPs for debate in parliament. Very few EDMS are actually tabled for debate in the House but by sponsoring and supporting motions, MPs indicate an interest and concern in a matter or an event sufficient to want to bring the matter to greater attention.

A full listing of EDMs can be searched here.

For EDMs and signatures prior to 1989/90, please contact the House of Commons Information Office 020 7219 4272

The EDMs below state the motion reference, the date it was submitted, the sponsor of the motion, the number of MPs that signed in support of it and their names.

If your MP has sponsored or supported an EDM on a subject of which you feel strongly, why not write and thank him/her for doing this?

If you feel there is a subject that your MP should sponsor or support, why not write to them and ask them to do this?

Some of the EDMs presented in the current and previous parliamentary term (2007 - 2008) can be found below. Further examples can be found in Hansard.


EDM 585      
DEC GAZA CRISIS APPEAL    
26.01.2009
 
Burden, Richard      

122 signatures

'That this House is astonished by the refusal of the BBC and Sky to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Gaza Crisis Appeal; considers that the explanations given for this decision by BBC spokespersons are both unconvincing and incoherent; and draws attention to the fact that people wishing to obtain information about the Gaza appeal can contact the DEC by visiting www.dec.org.uk.'

Abbott, Diane        
Alexander, Danny        
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John    
Barrett, John        
Battle, John
Begg, Anne        
Berry, Roger        
Betts, Clive
Bottomley, Peter        
Brake, Tom        
Breed, Colin
Brown, Lyn        
Bruce, Malcolm        
Buck, Karen
Burstow, Paul        
Burt, Lorely        
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Menzies        
Carmichael, Alistair        
Caton, Martin
Chaytor, David        
Clark, Katy        
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann        
Cohen, Harry        
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank        
Corbyn, Jeremy        
Cunningham, Jim
Davies, Dai        
Dean, Janet        
Devine, Jim
Dhanda, Parmjit        
Dobbin, Jim        
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David        
Efford, Clive        
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Don        
Francis, Hywel        
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike        
George, Andrew        
George, Bruce
Gerrard, Neil        
Gibson, Ian        
Griffith, Nia
Gwynne, Andrew        
Hain, Peter        
Hamilton, Fabian
Hancock, Mike        
Hemming, John        
Holmes, Paul
Hopkins, Kelvin        
Horwood, Martin        
Hosie, Stewart
Hughes, Simon        
Iddon, Brian        
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Glenda        
Jones, Lynne        
Jones, Martyn
Kaufman, Gerald        
Keeble, Sally        
Key, Robert
Kidney, David        
Lamb, Norman        
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leech, John        
Levitt, Tom        
Linton, Martin
Love, Andrew        
Luff, Peter        
MacNeil, Angus
Mahmood, Khalid        
Main, Anne        
Mallaber, Judy
Marshall-Andrews, Robert        
Mason, John        
Meacher, Michael
Michael, Alun        
Moffatt, Laura        
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Julie        
Mulholland, Greg        
Naysmith, Doug
Owen, Albert        
Pelling, Andrew        
Prentice, Gordon
Purchase, Ken        
Reid, Alan        
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, John        
Rooney, Terry        
Rowen, Paul
Russell, Bob        
Salmond, Alex        
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad        
Short, Clare        
Singh, Marsha
Slaughter, Andy        
Smith, Robert        
Soames, Nicholas
Soulsby, Peter        
Starkey, Phyllis        
Swinson, Jo
Taylor, Ian        
Teather, Sarah        
Thornberry, Emily
Touhig, Don        
Vaz, Keith        
Walter, Robert
Webb, Steve        
Weir, Mike        
Williams, Betty
Williams, Hywel        
Winnick, David        
Wishart, Pete
Wyatt, Derek
 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 January 2009 11:13

Terrorism Legislation

In 2005 the Government attempted to extend the period of detention during which a person can be held without being formally charged with a crime from 14 to 90 days (see below). On losing the vote on that motion, the Government proposed a revision and put a ’28 day’ proposal before the House which it won.

In 2008, the Government sought again to revise this figure upwards asking the Commons to back an extension period of 42 days. The voting results for this motion are given below.

Those that voted ‘aye’ in this division were voting in support of the Government’s plans to extend the period of detention without charge to 42 days.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2008 17:31

Racial and Religious Hatred

Racial and Religious Hatred Bill
(Reasoned amendment on second reading)
21 Jun 2005
Division 14

The Government’s proposed legislation on Incitement to Relgious Hatred faced a number of challenges by MPs and peers before it was adopted into law.

One such challenge came to the second reading of the Bill in the House (Bills are presented to the House three times before moving on to the House of Lords in the next stage of the legislative cycle) when MPs voted on whether the Bill should be read and voted on a second time.

The motion voted on stated that:

‘This House declines to give a Second Reading to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill because, while the Bill recognises the problems caused by extremists seeking to stir up hatred against others on the grounds of their ethnic identity, by creating a new offence of inciting religious hatred, it will disproportionately curtail freedom of expression, worsen community relations as different religious and belief groups call for the prosecution of their opponents, create uncertainty as to what words or behaviour are lawful and lead to the selective application of the law in a manner likely to bring it into disrepute.’

Those that voted ‘aye’, that is in favour of the motion, were voting against the Bill’s becoming law by refusing it a second reading explaining their reasons for doing so in the reasoned amendment.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2008 17:28

Iraq Inquiry

Parliament has since the war in Iraq began debated at various stages the need to hold an inquiry into the run up to the war and the Government’s handling of affairs in its aftermath.

One such debate and motion was voted on in March 2008.

Iraq Inquiry – Call reject

25 March 2008
Division 133

The motion voted on stated that:

‘This House calls for an inquiry by an independent committee of privy councillors to review the way in which the responsibilities of Government were discharged in relation to Iraq, and all matters relevant thereto, in the period leading up to military action in that country in March 2003 and its aftermath and to make recommendations on lessons to be drawn for the future.’

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2008 17:18

MPs voting records

Your MP is your representative in the national parliament and it is his/her responsibility to ensure that the views of his/her constituents are conveyed and publicised in that assembly both through speaking on the floor of the House and by voting on motions and laws put before the House. Your MP bears the duty of representing your views and executing these through his/her voting patterns in the legislature.

You can check the voting record of your MP at: www.publicwhip.org.uk. The website lists MP voting records and is searchable by MP or by subject matter.

Where you feel your MP has not satisfactorily represented your views, write to him/her and ask for a written response on why s/he voted the way s/he did.

You can also visit your MP in his/her constituency office during surgery hours and discuss in person any concerns or objections you have regarding their voting or speaking record.

Where your concerns are matched by others in your constituency, or your ward, organise a meeting and invite your MP or councillors to listen to you and your fellow residents. Your MP and councillors, by having a better idea of how strongly you feel about a subject, will be in a better positon to represent you.

MPs and councillors are your representatives in local and national government. Help them represent you better by regularly informing them of your views.

There have been a number of laws recently passed which have had some significant impact on the British Muslim community. These include legislation on extending the period in which individuals can be detained without charge from 28 to 90, 60 and 42 days; incitement to religious hatred legislation; the expansion of powers of stop and search by the police and the motions debated and passed by Parliament committing British troops to an invasion of Iraq.

You can read below some of the motions presented to the House and the voting records of MPs relating to these. Did you MP vote in accordance with your wishes? Did you challenge him/her on it if not?

Before the Government could commit British troops to an invasion of Iraq it had to present its case in favour of war to the House of Commons and seek the backing of Parliament. MPs voted in five separate divisions each of them detemining the possibilities for the Government to be part of the coalition forces that were being readied for the invasion.

In November 2002, MPs voted on whether or not a second resolution from the United Nations, one expressly mandating any offensive against Iraq, was required. This motion was rejected leaving the way open for the Government to pursue a strategy against Iraq without authorization from the UN.

Those MPs that voted ‘no’ were voting against the necessity of a further resolution from the UN before the British government could contemplate war in Iraq.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 September 2008 16:51

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