Author Archives: Eric Avebury

Eric Avebury writes…Society cannot afford to scrap the alcohol duty escalator

Alcohol and Ulcerative ColitisLast week’s Budget saw the Chancellor renege on the Government’s commitment to tackle the problem of cheap alcohol by scrapping the alcohol duty escalator. This move is a step that society simply cannot afford; not only will these duty cuts result in a shortfall of £290 million to the Exchequer when Osborne admits we are still going to be in deficit until 2018, but with the cost of alcohol harm in the UK exceeding £25 billion each year, our public services – particularly the NHS – can’t cope …

photo by: kimerydavis
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Lord (Eric) Avebury writes…Pakistan’s Army stands firm against the Taliban

The Pakistan Army’s Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) has condemned Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Chief Syed Munawar Hassan’s statement in which he called former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Chief Hakimullah Mehsud a martyr.

In fact, Mehsud was a mass murderer, motivated by implacable religious hatred, and his killing by a US drone on November 1 was fully deserved. Under his leadership the TTP slaughtered Pakistani soldiers and civilians, men women and children indiscriminately. He targeted Shia Muslims, of whom 700 have been killed so far this year.

The objective of the TTP is to overthrow the state of Pakistan and to replace it with …

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Bahrain’s Day of Reckoning August 14, 2013

BCHRAugust 14 has been designated by the youth of Bahrain as Tamarrud Day, the day of rebellion. They see the 42 years that have elapsed since the country gained its independence as a history of violent repression, littered with false promises of reform, the latest example of which is the so-called national dialogue.

After several months that process has achieved zero results though from the regime’s point of view it distracts attention from the continued imprisonment of the ‘Bahrain 13’, political leaders and human rights activists imprisoned for thoughtcrime.

Those men were tried …

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Lord Avebury: Caste adrift

The Government acknowledge that Caste discrimination in the UK is a fact. But they were not convinced that legislation against it was necessary until April, when they agreed reluctantly to make caste a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act. They appeared to be converted after suffering two defeats on the issue in the Lords and running out of time to complete their  programme for the session that was about to end.

But since then, Equality Minister Helen Grant has said plainly that she doesn’t agree with the proposal, defying the Cabinet Office Code which says that once a decision is made, …

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Eric Avebury writes… Light on the horizon for some gay asylum seekers

In 1995 our immigration law was amended so that asylum applicants from countries that were designated as ‘safe’ no longer had a right to appeal against refusal unless their case was ‘certified’ by the Secretary of State. With a Border Agency prone to error, a risk arose that people with good cases might be unjustly be detained, speeded through a truncated process and deported.

Even the Home Office recognised that in some designated countries, there was endemic persecution of women. In 2005 an Order was made adding some countries to the list of those deemed safe, but for men only. …

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Eric Avebury writes … Let’s outlaw caste discrimination

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill – Lords Amendment 37

Ping Pong stage, April 16, 2013

On March 4, the House of Lords voted by a majority of 103 for a cross-party amendment to make caste a protected characteristic under equality law (via a New Clause in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill). This is a conscience matter and I hope all LibDem MPs will support the Lords’ New Clause, as part of our commitment to the principles of liberalism.

Peers were persuaded by a report commissioned by the Government during the passage of the Equality Act 2010. It confirms that caste discrimination is …

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Eric Avebury writes… Bernie Ecclestone, F1 and Britain’s shameful friendship with Bahrain

ecclestone bahrainBernie Ecclestone is an appropriate person to be the public face of Formula 1, a ‘sport’ which is fast becoming known as the event of choice for autocrats who wish to launder their international reputation, as evidenced by the appearance of races in Bahrain and Dubai in recent years.

Ecclestone famously praised Thatcher, Hitler and Saddam a few years ago, saying that he preferred strong leaders, that Hitler was a man who was ‘able to get things done’, and yet paradoxically, that politics ‘is not for me’.

Equally bizarre, he …

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Eric Avebury writes … LibDems should oppose Tory measures against the poor

The Children’s Society reveals that 1.2 million school age children in poverty aren’t getting free school meals, 700,000 because they aren’t even entitled to them.

At the same time the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill comes into force, under which almost two thirds of the money saved comes from the poorest households. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, the effect of the Bill is to increase child poverty by 200,000 children. The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that by 2015/16 there will be 300,000 more children in poverty than today.

The bedroom tax, which kicks in this month, affects 660,000 lower …

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Eric Avebury writes…Managing our nuclear legacy: the £67.5 billion question for Ed Davey

The most important task facing Ed Davey for the long term is not how to manage the Energy Bill, but deciding how to deal with the 112 tonnes of plutonium accumulated at Sellafield and Dounreay from past civil nuclear operations, still growing at 4-6 tonnes a year.

The cost of maintaining this hazardous material in maximum security conditions to the year 2050 is estimated at £67.5 billion. But storage in a geological disposal facility is not on the cards, with Cumbria County Council’s decision to reject the idea in January, and no other candidates on the horizon. The best hope is …

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Eric Avebury writes: Rare disease Day – a new report on care co-ordinators

rare-disease-day-logoTomorrow is International Rare Diseases Day, and I shall be asking in the Lords what contribution the Government are providing for the International Rare Diseases Research Consortium.

The EU defines a rare disease as one that affects no more than 5 in every 10,000 persons. But since between 6,000 and 8,000 such diseases have been identified, about 3.5  million patients are affected in the UK. Three quarters of these diseases can affect children, and nearly a third of the youngest patients die before their fifth birthday.

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Eric Avebury writes…We must heed the cries of the Hazaras

Just over a week ago a massive bomb was detonated in a packed bazaar on the outskirts of Quetta, killing at least 92 people and seriously injuring more than 200.

Last month a double suicide bombing on Alamdar Road, Quetta took the lives of 108 people

These were the latest in a crescendo of genocidal attacks on the Shia Hazara community in Pakistan since the turn of the century, which was considered in a packed meeting I chaired at the House of Lords yesterday, February 25.

According to published accounts, these atrocities have left over 1,100 dead and 1,300 injured. In fact the …

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Eric Avebury writes … Caste discrimination in the UK

When the Equality Bill was going through the Lords in 2010, I moved an amendment with LibDem support, giving the Government power to add caste to the list of ‘protected characteristics’, making it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of caste in employment, education and the provision of services.

Baroness Thornton, the Minister dealing with the Bill for the Labour Government, accepted the amendment. But the Government decided that further research was needed, and they gave the job to the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR). It reported in December 2010 that there was indeed evidence of caste discrimination in …

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Lord Avebury writes… Gay asylum-seekers: we’ve come a long way, but much still left to achieve for LGBTI people around the world

It is estimated that worldwide more than 175 million people, some three times the population of the UK, are at risk of persecution because of their sexual orientation. Seventy-six countries criminalise consensual same sex relations, among them 54 countries of the Commonwealth.

Hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people is deeply entrenched in the culture of these countries, and their elected governments reflect the prejudice of the masses. They know that persecuting LGBTI people is contrary to international law, and leads to friction with donor nations.

In the case of Gambia, when EU representatives were due to …

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Eric Avebury writes… Press conferences in the Lords

house of lordsBelieve it or not, there is nowhere in the House of Lords where backbenchers can hold press conferences! We used to be able to use any of the Committee Rooms, but in March 2010 the House agreed that only Committee Room G could be used for this purpose.

Two years later, an obscure Committee which deals with matters such as charging for tours of Big Ben and the use of electric hand dyers decreed that press conferences should be exiled to a small room in a building five minutes’ walk from the House. No consultation

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Tagged | 9 Comments

Eric Avebury writes: Assisted dying

Over the last 20 years I have had a few close shaves that made me think about death, including a quadruple bypass, a burst colon, lung cancer and an aortic aneurysm. None of these were conditions that involved more than temporary pain and a fairly low risk, though as Hamlet’s mother says:

‘All that lives must die
Passing through nature to eternity.’

But then in August 2011 I was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, an incurable form of blood cancer, that ultimately leads to various unpleasant and painful symptoms, needing frequent blood transfusions to prevent the arteries seizing up with fibres. Would I then want …

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Opinion: Apostasy and Saudi Arabia

Jeddah Corniche - Some rights reserved by CharlesFredRaif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian liberal writer, was arrested on June 17 in Jeddah and charged with ‘insulting Islam through electronic channels’ and ‘going beyond the realm of obedience’. His ‘crime’ at that point appeared to be setting up an online forum, Free Saudi Liberals, and attending a meeting in Cairo on May 7 of the Arab Alliance for Freedom and Democracy, but the words that constitute the offence were not specified.

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Opinion: Bangladesh – conspiracy to pervert the course of justice?

Flag of Bangladesh - Some rights reserved by v i p e zThose who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971 should be prosecuted and, if found guilty by due process, severely punished.

But the trials have been conducted under a law dating from 1973 which is not compliant with international norms. The US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Stephen Rapp; Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; the International Center for Transitional Justice; the International Bar Association; the UK

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Eric Avebury writes … All Party Group supports vaccination summit in Tanzania

Photo from Gates FoundationLast week, Jim Dobbin MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Child Health and Vaccine Preventable Diseases was in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania to take part in a global health summit to raise awareness of the challenges entailed in vaccinating children against preventable diseases such as pneumonia, rotavirus, HPV and rubella.

The summit, which was being hosted by the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and coordinated by the GAVI Alliance, saw more than 500 distinguished global health leaders and parliamentarians from developing and donor countries, technical experts, civil society organisations and private sector partners come together to promote the Global Vaccine Action Plan, endorsed at the May 2012 World Health Assembly, and determine what more can be done to meet goals for women’s and children’s health through vaccination programmes.

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Bahrain – time for Britain to take a lead

On November 5, thirty-one Bahrainis were deprived of their citizenship arbitrarily, without notice and without judicial process, contrary to customary international law. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has the right to a nationality and no-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality. The victims can appeal these decision, but there is no point. The king has absolute power to grant or rescind citizenship, and the courts wouldn’t dream of overturning his decisions.

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Lord Avebury writes… World Toilet Day and sanitation: an unspoken problem

Today is World Toilet Day and it is important to remember that 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. One in three women across the world risks shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they do not have a safe place to go to the toilet. This is unthinkable in the UK, but a reality in the developing world and the impact is devastating. Absence of clean toilets and inadequate sanitation facilities are key causes of diarrhoeal disease, the second largest killer of children worldwide, causing around 760,000 child deaths every year. Diarrhoeal disease is also a contributing factor to malnutrition, which in turn can lead to stunted growth and impede cognitive development.

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Opinion: International Development and the Coalition – so far, so good

With the 10 year Millennium Development Goal Review Summit taking place this week, now is a good time to take stock of the Coalition Government’s International Development policy so far.

The Coalition Government promised, in their “Programme for Government”, to commit to the internationally agreed goal of 0.7% of Gross National Income spent on aid by 2013 as well as supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and prioritising “aid spending on programmes to ensure that everyone has access to clean water, sanitation, healthcare and education; to reduce maternal and infant mortality.”

As Joint Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for …

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Opinion: International Development and the Coalition – so far, so good

With the 10 year Millennium Development Goal Review Summit having taken place this week, now is a good time to take stock of the Coalition Government’s International Development policy so far.

The Coalition Government promised, in their “Programme for Government”, to commit to the internationally agreed goal of 0.7% of Gross National Income spent on aid by 2013 as well as supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and prioritising “aid spending on programmes to ensure that everyone has access to clean water, sanitation, healthcare and education; to reduce maternal and infant mortality.”

As Joint Chair of the All-Party …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarStephen Hesketh 2nd Aug - 6:18am
    Richard, following your question to me, "is that a typical example of a Lib Dem response to criticism", I awoke this morning with a thought....
  • User AvatarDavid-1 2nd Aug - 4:25am
    For what it is worth (and I'm afraid it's worth very little) I support Caron — and I strongly support bettering the quality of political...
  • User AvatarT-J 2nd Aug - 4:25am
    @Richard Dean The politician's trick of using a non-apology apology (its never usually a real apology if the word 'sorry' is immediately followed by the...
  • User AvatarAlex Dingwall 2nd Aug - 1:49am
    From the Scottish Government: Question: Will universal postal services be maintained in an independent Scotland? Answer: Yes. This Scottish Government recognises the importance of postal...
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 2nd Aug - 1:44am
    @Mark Did you notice that your three-word sentence can have several meanings? Maybe if you do, you might start to understand how awful the piece...
  • User AvatarMark Valladares 2nd Aug - 1:21am
    Richard, I think not.