Soodman Released! (From the archive)

October 24, 2008

I have just received the brilliant news that the Iranian Christian who faced being hanged for his faith has now been released!

Ramtin Soodman has been released following efforts led by Christians across the world. I hope that my own correspondence with the Foreign Secretary may have played a small part in strengthening our own British Government’s representations.

42 Days Detention Bill thrown out (From the archives)

October 15, 2008

I have been very concerned in recent years about the way in which the Government has ignored the rights of citizens and created a number of big brother style measures in the regulation of investigatory powers, thus giving the Royal Parks police and others the right to intercept private emails.

In the Legislation and Regulatory Reform Bill they tried to go further and give ministers the power to change Acts of Parliament by government order. And we all know about their plans to have spies in every bin to investigate “dust-bin crime”.

I was very alarmed by their idea that innocent individuals might be locked up for 42 days without charge.

All too often the House of Lords has had to intervene to protect our liberties. My colleague David Davies was so alarmed that he even fought a by-election on the issue. I was delighted that the Government was defeated on 42 days and has backed down but they should have listened before and it really was extraordinary that former Labour Lord Chancellors, a former attorney general as well as two former heads of MI5 voted against the Governments proposals, and that they lost by a wapping 191 votes in the House of Lords – one of the worst ever Government defeats.

The fate of Ramtin Soodmand (From the archives)

October 14, 2008

I am concerned about the fate of Ramtin Soodmand, the Iranian Christian whose father was hanged for converting to Christianity when he was a child and who too now faces the possibility of a death sentence for his faith.

David Miliband has spoken against this injustice, however I want to know what more he is going to do? Will he make representations to the Iranian Government?

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. There can no half-hearted measures when it comes to this issue. The world must send an unequivocal message about the importance of the right to religious conscience.

How much? (From the archives)

October 10, 2008

The £500 billion package to underpin the high street banks could – if things go wrong – mean taxpayers spending an average £16,000 each on the bail-out. These are enormous sums and we must hope the plan works. The interest rate cut was co-ordinated with other governments and is also designed to give lending a boost.

Why does saving the banks matter? The fact is that credit makes the economy tick and without some bank lending jobs will be lost, wages not paid and the value of our country’s assets will diminish as investment dries up. In recent years credit has been handed out too easily, so building up the economy on a debt bubble. But the banks are not sure now what debts are good quality and likely to be repaid.

The sad truth of this episode is that it is the taxpayer, not the Government or those who made rash lending decisions, who is bailing out the banks. Conservatives are helping the Government to try to sort out the mess and supporting their measures in the national interest, but there are many questions to be answered in due course about how we ended up here.

Finally, and you may be getting a little tired of hearing this, but what about the “moral hazard” of bailing out the very people who helped orchestrate this disaster? There is a serious danger present in mitigating all risk, this bail-out threatens encouraging the very recklessness which got us in this trouble in the first place. The Government must ensure that is not the effect.

Tuesday’s contributions to the House (From the archive)

October 9, 2008

I made a comment during the Opposition day debate on fiscal rules in the House yesterday on an issue which is very close to my heart – pensions.

“Does my hon. Friend (Philip Hammond the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury) share my concern about the situation of pension scheme members? Obviously, pension schemes have been badly hit by the falls in the stock market, and someone purchasing an annuity is in a very difficult situation. Has not the Government’s £5 billion-a-year raid on the pension funds been masked to an extent by the rises in the stock market over recent years? Are we not now paying the price?”
It just seems wrong that a pension scheme member could be forced by Government rules to buy his pension annuity today, leaving him with a low pension for life, because his fund has collapsed in value over recent days. There is every chance that in a few years’ time he would get a far better pension for life, after the Stock market has recovered from the current credit crunch shock.

I am glad that David Cameron has now taken up this point and hope the Government will suspend the rule speedily.