Friday, 27 April 2018

Get the facts on Chernobyl, 32 years on

April 26, 2018
On the 32nd anniversary of the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear accident, these articles published by Beyond Nuclear International ( from Washington DC are well worth reading.

Get the facts on Chernobyl, 32 years on            

What is the real legacy of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster? In the newest Beyond Nuclear newsletter -- Chernobyl: The Facts -- we debunk the propaganda and examine the lasting legacy of death, disease and environmental harm. And we also highlight those who help children and animals still suffering today. Read our article, which lays out facts about the accident's terrible radioactive legacy and how it continues to harm people, animals and the environment. And please feel free to download and distribute our Thunderbird newsletter on Chernobyl. (Photo: Jose Franganillo.) 

The damaging legacy of Chernobyl            

Even in the wake of the Chernobyl, Ukraine, Three Mile Island, USA,  and Fukushima, Japan nuclear power disasters, the governments of these countries and many others refuse to acknowledge the abundant evidence of damaging environmental impacts; increases in leukemia, thyroid and other cancers; and genetic impacts and birth defects among animals and humans. Instead of adjusting their radiation exposure standards, governments push back with scientifically unsupported assumptions and even pseudo-scientific platitudes. For example, the U.S. EPA has pushed for lowering radiation protections in the case of catastrophic releases of radioactivity, even for sensitive women and children. In Japan, the government is attempting to force people back to areas of unsafe contamination; and evacuation is under fire as a way to respond to these catastrophes, despite the protection it offers against latent diseases caused by radiation exposure. Such intransigence begs the question: will individuals be able to take action to protect themselves and others when governments refuse? The proper response to this cynical denial of health impacts is to question whether or not we can allow these nuclear technologies in our midst. The answer is no.  

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

The most appalling racist letter ever published in the Guardian

Today  the Labour Party Disciplinary Committee is due to adjudicate on a case of a suspended Labour Party member, Marc Wadsworth,  who allegedly made anti-Semitic comments towards Labour MP Ruth Smeeth, who is Jewish, at the launch two years ago of the Chakrabarti report on incidences of  anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

It comes the day after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met  for several hours with the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council.

On 18 April I submitted this letter to The Guardian newspaper: it remains unpublished.

I do not think I can ever recall reading  such an incendiary letter published in the Guardian as the one you published  on 17 April from Paul Charney (,) who signs himself as the chairman of the Zionist Federation, UK and Ireland,  ( responding to a collective letter from five militarily recalcitrant former Israeli defence force (IDF) snipers on 13 April.
Mr Charney mentions he served in the IDF tank corp. His biography on the ZFUKI web site details he hails from South Africa, has lived in Israel for “many years” and now resides in the UK running a property evaluating business after having studied  in Britain earlier.

Writing on behalf of the ZFUKI he justifies the murder of dozens of Palestinian civilian protesters inside their own refugee camp inside the fenced off Gaza strip by IDF  snipers on the asserted grounds these were rioters armed by Hamas with guns and, explosives and Molotov cocktails.

I do not understand why foreign nationals - is he Israeli or South African? - are allowed to promote the murder of civilians in Gaza with impunity with such deeply offensive proclamations as you published on Tuesday

When many backbench Labour MPs spent several hours on Tuesday excoriating their own party leader Jeremy Corbyn in a Parliamentary debate, over concerns of anti-semitic bias in some parts of society, including  claimed to be inside the Labour Party (“MPs accuse Corbyn of lack of leadership over antisemitism,” !8 April), they also appeared to justify  taking a pro-Zionist  political stance, in that they support the right of the state of Israel  to  continue to exist..

I would be greatly encouraged if Ruth Smeeth and Lucian Berger, two Labour MPs who have received totally unacceptable abuse on social media from individuals who appear to  be  political supporters of the Labour leader from their  hashtags - and who received virtually unprecedented Parliamentary applause from MPs colleagues  for their  outspoken speeches were to publicly renounce the extreme belligerent and deeply aggressive views and language of the chairman of the ZFUKI, which I think brings  kind humanitarian spirit with which jewish  people have been associated for centuries  into disrepute with his appalling letter.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

A contemptible (wind-) rush to judgment by the Home Office


Currently there is a Petition before Parliament entitled: “Amnesty for anyone who was a minor that arrived In Britain between 1948 to 1971”(”) which has 175,000 signatures. It points out: “Windrush Generation were invited as settlers and as British subjects. Minors also had the right to stay.” and calls on the government to “stop all deportations, change the burden of proof and establish an amnesty for anyone who was a minor.” and insists the Government should also provide compensation for loss & hurt.”

Parliament will debate this petition on 30 April.

Indeed, petitions to Parliament involving Caribbean workers have a long history. For instance, on the 4th February 1859 Lord Brougham presented a petition to Parliament on the  Immigration Act (Jamaica) “from emancipated labourers, and others, of Arnatto Bay, in the Island of Jamaica, complaining of a Bill having been passed, without due consideration and in great haste, seriously detrimental to their interests.”  (; HL Deb vol 152 c106) 106

The Bill related to the immigration of free labour to the island, and the Petition prayed that it should be disallowed. The petitioners complained, it said, that the Petition had been passed through the Legislature with such haste, that they had no opportunity of raising their voice against its enactment, They further stated that there was no want of labourers in that country, and that all attempts which had been made to obtain a further supply of them had proved absolute failures. and they therefore “prayed that their Lordships would, by an address to the Crown, use their influence to prevent the Royal Assent being given to the measure.” Royal assent had or had not been given to this Bill.

Just over a hundred years later, some 15 years after the post–war Immigration Act had been passed, and a year after the Commonwealth Immigration Bill had been passed into law ( he Home Office told MPs in a written answer – under the heading Commonwealth Immigrants (Deportation)- asking about the total number of deportation orders which had been considered under the Commonwealth Immigration Act, by stating:

“Up to 20th March [1963], 571 recommendations were received in respect of Commonwealth citizens and citizens of the Irish Republic. Forty-nine have been the subject of successful appeals and thus called for no further action; [TheHome Secretary] had considered 371, and made 198 deportation orders. Among the balance of 151 awaiting consideration were 26 cases in which appeals were pending.”

HC Deb 28 March 1963 vol 674 cc172-3W

In light of the revelations in The Guardian by Amelia Gentleman - married herself to government  minister Jo Johnson - over the past few months, reaching a crescendo in the past week that has demanded attention of Parliament and ministers at the top of Government, the origins of the 1948 British Nationality Act are very interesting and demand a revisit.( It followed the Commonwealth Conference on Nationality and Citizenship in 1947.

The Immigration Bill was introduced in Parliament in the Lords by the Lord Chancellor, Viscount  William Jowitt, almost exactly 20 years before Conservative MP and former shadow cabinet member Enoch Powell’s  notorious ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in Birmingham on 20 April 1968 warning of a future race war between  black and white in the UK.(


Viscount Jowitt opened by warning “I cannot conceal from you that, although I do not think the Bill is controversial, it is concerned with a very complicated and difficult subject…I start with this general principle: I believe that of all the remarkable contributions which our race has made to the art of government, the conception of our Empire and Commonwealth is the greatest. …it may fairly be said of our conception of the British Empire and Commonwealth that its service is perfect freedom. Now the link, the bond which binds us together, is, of course, primarily the fact that we are all proud to be subjects of His Majesty the King. There are other things which bind us: there is the sense of perils shared together and overcome in the past; there are the hopes for the future. But those things are not in any sense limited to members of the "family;" they are things which we share, I hope, with the countries of Western Europe. But there is something about the family which to my mind depends upon there being a common status and a common nationality. The problem is how to achieve that common status.”

He went on to point out: “you could have a common code: you could have every member State enacting the same legislation, and so you might say you had a common test of nationality through the whole of the Commonwealth. That is the principle upon which the 1914 Act was drafted. That Act extended, or was intended to extend, throughout His Majesty's territories, and it was contemplated that part of the Act would be adopted by various member States.”

Here I want to point out that, this being the new principle, we must provide for citizenship of the United Kingdom. Our citizenship, of course, equally has British nationality, and subsection (1) of Clause 1, which I call the key clause of the Bill, sets out the position: Every person who under this Act is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies or who under any enactment for the time being in force in any country mentioned in the next following subsection is a citizen of that country shall, by virtue of that citizenship, be a British subject.”

And he then explained the new development in citizenship being  introduced by the Labour Governemnt.

“ First, your Lordships will see that the citizenship which for the first time we prescribe is not ‘citizenship of the United Kingdom,’ but citizenship  ‘of the United Kingdom and Colonies.’ That is the species. It may be asked, "Why do you add 'and Colonies'? Why not let the Colonies have their own species of citizenship? "But then you are confronted with the difficulty that either you deal with the Colonies as a group or you deal with each Colony individually. Ultimately, of course, we are responsible for the peace, order and good government of our Colonial territories; in a sense, we are trustees for the people of those territories. In those circumstances, is it right that we should differentiate between our own people and the people for whom we are trustees? We think it is not right.”

He added: The […] propositions in regard to children may therefore, I think, be stated thus: a child born in this country or in the Colonies will be a citizen, except of course the child of a foreign diplomat. The children of the first generation born outside this country, whether abroad or in a Commonwealth country, will have citizenship. Subsequent generations born in foreign countries will also have citizenship….The child of a citizen will also be a citizen if born in a Protectorate, Protected State, Mandated Territory, or Trust Territory.”

Responding Viscount Simon for the Conservatives observed: “Beyond all question, this is a very difficult and complicated matter, and it is perhaps worth while for a moment to point out how, historically, it has come about. Originally, the conception of British nationality was the simplest thing in the world.”

He added: “The […]complication—and none of us has the slightest reason to regret it—has come about much more  recently, and is a result of development in the British Commonwealth of sovereign States, of equal power and authority with ourselves.”

(HL Deb 11 May 1948 vol 155 cc754-99 )

The debate was resumed six weeks later, one day before the MV Empire Windrush, a German built ship, brought the first group of Caribbean families to theUK by invite and encouragement  of the British Government.  The Bill’s  very first clause read: “Every person who under this Act is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies or who under any enactment for the time being in force in any country mentioned in the next following subsection is a citizen of that country shall, by virtue of that citizenship, be a British subject.” (HL Deb 21 June 1948 vol 156 cc992-1083;

For the opposition Conservatives Lord Altringham  commented: “agreement was arrived at with the rest of the Commonwealth in regard to the general structure of this Bill. We understand that there is a clear agreement upon that subject, and we should hesitate to take any action which implied a difference of opinion on that subject between this country and the Dominions. So far as I know, there is none. But in creating a new citizenship of an entirely new geographical and political entity, known as "the United Kingdom and Colonies," the Bill does something which is subject purely to the jurisdiction of this United Kingdom Parliament. It is a matter in which we are responsible, and in which nobody shares our responsibility. This Parliament, therefore, must look at this new proposal seriously and soberly.”

He stressed “I think most of us must feel, that the term ‘citizenship’ is inconsistent with what constitutes the true basis of loyalty in the Colonial Empire. After all, the allegiance of the King's subjects within the Colonial Empire is not to any political system; it is quite simply to the King in person….Hitherto, it has been our proud boast that all British subjects have equal rights in the United Kingdom. Whatever you may say at the outset, if you create a distinctive citizenship it is bound to set up a tendency towards differentiation. This is a metropolitan country, the greatest in the world, the greatest and most liberal in all history.”

Viscount Jowitt retorted: “whatever Party we belong, [we] regard the British Empire and Commonwealth as the greatest institution which British genius has ever developed. And it would be a very evil day if any of us were to do anything to attempt to weaken or destroy it.”

When the debate was resumed a days later (HL Deb 24 June 1948 vol 156 cc1246-64 it addressed the very title of the Bill  which read “to make provision for British nationality, and for citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies.”

Viscount Simon suggested the title of the Bill should omit "for citizenship" and insert "to constitute a British nationality."

Viscount Jowitt for the Governemnt  rejected the proposal with a very interesting argument, stressing: “. I regard this as dealing with a very fundamental question. Speaking for myself—and I think speaking on behalf of my noble friends—we feel that if we assent to this Amendment, logical though it may be, we shall be becoming accessories after the fact in a very unpleasant and unfortunate deed. The proposal is to  strike out the words "for citizenship." I was surprised on the previous occasion to hear the words "citizenship" and "citizen" spoken of as though they had some kind of republican flavour. They are very old words. In Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress I think you repeatedly find the phrase "Citizen of Heaven"—I do not know whether Heaven is a Republic or a Monarchy…

The word has always been used in America, where you talk about "an American citizen," and the word "citizen" is undoubtedly the right word. We can use it in either sense. But the words "nationality" and "British nationality" have a wholly different conception. The whole point of British nationality is that it is something which applies all over His Majesty's Dominions throughout the whole world, and that was one of the great forces, apart from the allegiance which we owe to the King, which bound us all together”.

A month or so later, with the Bill now under examination in the Commons, the Labour MP for Norwood, Ronald Chamberlain, drew attention to “certain characteristics on the expression ‘citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies,’ which he considered “ a rather regrettable one… The proposed expression is a very heterogeneous and artificial expression, and indeed rather an unfortunate one because if there is one thing which those who live in the Colonies want to avoid, it is any suggestion of a tie-up with Whitehall or Downing Street. They may exaggerate the danger and difficulties of such a thing but it is very real.”(HC Deb 13 July 1948 vol 453 cc1052-119

He went on to argue “By these arrangements in the Bill there will now be a situation that if someone comes from the West Indies or Nigeria  he is a recognised citizen of this country immediately, but if someone comes from Australia or Canada it is not so. …It is clear …that someone coming from Nigeria is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies directly he sets foot in this country, and he is recognised as such immediately, but that someone coming from Australia is not recognised in that way. He is on a lower plane, and much though we esteem and value our friends in the Colonies, we surely do not want to put them on a different and higher plane in this matter to our brothers and sisters in the Dominions.”

The Conservative MP for Abingdon, Sir Ralph Glyn, wryly observed: “This Debate today has made it even more difficult than it was on Second Reading for some hon. Members to make up their minds how to vote. I am impressed by what has been said by some hon. Members in regard to the curious position that will be created for some members of British Colonies if they find themselves in other Dominions…What we must recognise is that all the member States of the British Commonwealth have an independent position. They have that position, and separate votes. They must be perfectly free to pass whatever legislation they like. The dilemma I am in is this. We cannot divest ourselves of our responsibility to all the people in the British Colonies. They are the responsibility of this House; this House sees to it that the Minister for the Colonies is responsible to this House, so that each one of us is responsible for the welfare of all the people in the Colonies.”

Nine years later, another immigration bill was introduced into Parliament by The Earl of home, who later briefly became the Conservative prime minister. (HL Deb 16 December 1957 vol 206 cc1182-97;,  with the aim of updating the 1948 British Nationality Act, would “ serve the needs of the evolving and expanding Commonwealth, and to make such provision as will enable certain individuals, who were not able to take advantage of the provisions of the 1948 Act, to become eligible for citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies”.

Lord Home explained that Clause 3 of the Bill’s purpose was “to enlarge the provisions of the 1948 Act to provide for certain persons who may wish to do so, and who were previously disqualified, to apply for registration as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies…in 1948, the Commonwealth countries had not defined their citizenship laws, and it was difficult, if not impossible, to foresee whether and how everyone would be covered by laws as yet unmade. In the result, the great majority were satisfactorily covered, but some people found themselves given the transitional status of British subjects without citizenship. Some of these were given the opportunity of applying to the Secretary of State to be registered as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, if they passed certain tests, before January, 1950, and. through ignorance of the conditions, or mischance, they missed the opportunity. Clause 3 is therefore framed to try to cover this limited number of cases of real hardship.”

Ten years later,less than two months before Powell’s ‘rivers of Blood’ speech,  the then Labour Home Secretary James Callaghan  introduced a new  Commonwealth Immigration Bill to Parliament. (HC Deb 27 February 1968 vol 759 cc1241-368;

He opened stressing:”We are about to discuss one of the greatest issues of our time, an issue which can tear us apart or unite us. I think it is true to say that, excluding the extremists, it is possible for men who are seeking the same ends to have honest differences of opinion about the way in which those ends should be achieved, and I therefore approach the debate in that spirit.

He added: “What are the ends? The Government, Parliament, all parties in the country, are fully committed to the development of a multi-racial society in Britain—a society which will be diverse in culture and will be equal before the law; a society in which all communities will have respect for each other; a society in which there will be unity in purpose and common allegiance. Those are the aims, as I see it, of the great debate that is now overtaking the nation, as well as Parliament, on this issue. But this ideal of a multi-racial society, to which all of us except the extremists are committed, will not happen of its own accord. It is something that has to be worked for. Our policies must establish the ends that we will. We have to look to the long term and not Just to the issue or to the group of people who face us today or whose problems we may be considering at a particular moment.”

“We must trust the instinctive sense of fair play of the British people. Our policy, if it is to endure, must be acceptable to them and to their sense of fair play. I cannot separate, in this connection, those who come into the country and the treatment we afford to them after they are here.

This Bill, however some may regard it, must be considered at the same time, and in accordance with, the proposal of the Government to introduce a Race Relations Bill which will establish in this country equality of treatment in the very sensitive areas of housing and of jobs, which is to be introduced by the Government during the next six weeks—certainly before Easter.”

Both these Bills are, in my view and my judgment, essentially parts of a fair and balanced policy on this matter of race relations. I do not discern much tendency to call names. As I have said, everyone is concerned about this issue, and it was no easy decision to introduce a Bill of this sort.

I seek to approach this debate in a sprit of understanding of the emotions of many hon. Members who may find difficulty in accepting what the Bill contains. I hope that they will acknowledge that the others of us, too, are trying to approach this problem honestly and with a view to the achieving of a multi-racial society in all its aspects, and I hope they will acknowledge—if I may pick up a phrase used on the editorial of one of the powerful newspapers this morning—that it is possible that the origin of this Bill lies neither in panic nor in prejudice but in a considered judgment of the best way to achieve the idea of a multi-racial society.”

He then addressed a key aspect of the Bill: “Perhaps now I can finally come to the important question of the immigrants who arrive in this country, because I am not sure that the House is fully aware of what is happening or what is being done. A number of voluntary bodies are playing a very full part in helping with the settlement of those arriving, and I thank them for their hard work and the efforts they are making in this very necessary task. I propose to meet some of them and ask them to continue their efforts. What they are doing through their efforts is making special provision for the arrival of citizens whose language and customs differ entirely from those of the rest of the community.

The Government have a dual responsibility. The first is to establish the conditions under which people arrive. The second is the Government's responsibility for these people during the settling-in period, especially in relation to the needs of the areas where they wish to go.”

We all understand, and we have heard and seen, the great strain placed on local services in the areas where these new immigrants settle. Over two years ago, the Government announced their intention of giving special financial help towards expenditure in these areas.

This help is over and above the grants that are given in respect of services such as schools. Local authorities in such areas are able to claim the cost of engaging extra staff where they are needed to undertake exceptional commitments in order to ease pressures on the social services which arise from the differences in language and cultural background and to deal with problems of transition and adjustment.

For example, the grant is payable—and I want to emphasise this so that the House and those local authorities who may not be aware of the position understand it—to local authorities which have to engage interpreters, specially appointed teachers, ancillary helpers in schools, staff employed in local authority children's 1258 homes, health visitors in respect of visits to immigrant families in excess of the norm for the community as a whole, and public health inspectors for visits to multi-occupied houses. I give this as an illustration of the way in which the Government are making finance available to the local authorities.

The general rule under which the Government are operating is that authorities with more than 2 per cent. immigrants in their area have a prima facie claim for grant. So far, 57 authorities have submitted claims in respect of expenditure totalling over£ 3 million. The grant is limited to 50 per cent. of the approved expenditure and I make it clear that the Government will continue to watch this situation in a positive manner as it develops in order to assist with the integration of immigrants into the community.

There is one further and vital point in relation to our attitude. I have said before that it is not proper to isolate one aspect of this difficult problem and to treat it separately from the rest. It is essential to consider this matter in relation to the rest of the Government's programme and policy—indeed, of Parliament's policy as a whole. I have emphasised before and do so again that it is essential that, after our immigrants arrive, they should be treated in every way as equal before the law, and it is to fulfil this principle that the Government intend to introduce within the next six weeks, a Bill that will define racial equality in this country in a number of important issues, especially in the vital areas of jobs and homes. In this way, by having a fair and balanced policy, I believe that we shall be able to fulfil the obligations that all of us feel towards these new citizens who have come among us and to help to avert the tensions that racial disharmony would result in.

I regret the need for this Bill. I repudiate emphatically the suggestion that it is racialist in origin or conception or in the manner in which it is being carried out. In the light of what I have said, in the light of the full policy the Government are pursuing, which tries to do justice as between citizens overseas and citizens in this country and to those citizens overseas when they come here, I commend the Bill to the House.

Quinton Hogg,( who later became Lord Hailsham) responding observed: “I suspect it has been the objective of every hon. Member on either side of the House, to assist in building at home a homogeneous society of which all of us can be proud, and which will command the allegiance of everyone dwelling within it. We desire no second-class citizens, we desire no race discrimination, we desire no dilapidated areas, housing different communities from the majority”

For the minority opposition Liberal Party, David Steel (later to be Party Leader and elevated to the Lords) intervened saying: “I begin by referring to the discussion which has taken place about the legal situation under the Kenya Independence Act, 1963. As I said earlier, I take issue with the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and with the Home Secretary on one point which they both made, that the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, removed the right of free entry into this country of people of the Asian and African communities in Kenya. This is just not so. It was the amendment in 1965 to the 1962 Act which did that.

The Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, did not apply to a person born in the United Kingdom or a person who held a United Kingdom passport and was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Up to the Independence Act of 1963, people in Kenya were issued with 1286 passports bearing the designation. "British subject—citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies".

Labour MP Roland Moyle, who later became a minister, commented: “ In spite of all the hysteria which has preceded this debate, it seems that there is a lot more common ground on this issue than one would have suspected. …today is a very sad day indeed. When one thinks back to the proud hopes of 10 or 12 years ago, the thought that we could let them all come, the thought that the British people were mature enough to absorb all the immigrants, the thought that we could treat everyone on the basis of equality—all these proud hopes are now dimmed. “


In June 1981 the Conservative Government introduced  yet more immigration legislation,  British Nationality Bill(HL Deb 22 June 1981 vol 421 cc853-69 :

Lord Belstead  introducing the legislation said: “this Bill creates three new citizenships. Those whose connections are with this country would become British citizens. Those who possess connections with our remaining colonies or associated states would become citizens of the British dependent territories, and those who have no relevant links with either the United Kingdom or a dependent territory would become British overseas citizens.

.He explained: “clause 1 of the Bill provides that a child born in this country after commencement shall be a British citizen at birth if either of his parents—and it is of course a great feature of this Bill that it deals on an absolutely even-handed basis with men and women in nationality matters—is a British citizen or is settled in this country. At present, any child born in this country is automatically a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies unless his father enjoys certain kinds of diplomatic or consular status. This means that citizenship is conferred on all who happen to be born here. It is hardly surprising, I think, that many other countries, including all but one of our European Community partners, operate a system whereby children born in their territory are citizens only if one of the parents (and in many cases it is confined to the father only) is a citizen. So I think there can be nothing unreasonable in our adopting the same kind of approach. But our approach is more generous because we would allow the children of "settled" parents who are not our citizens to benefit.”


The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury (John Habgood) observed in the ensuing debate: “Along with others who have already spoken, I accept that a new nationality Bill is needed. In the 30 years since the present British Nationality Act was passed, we have seen an enormous change in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the former Commonwealth and Empire. We should also remember that, during that time, our country has benefited immeasurably, and continues to benefit, from the presence of people who have settled here from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Our economy has benefited; our cultural life has been enriched. Even, I should say, our religious perspectives have been widened.”(HL Deb 22 June 1981 vol 421 cc875-956;


A further 18 years later, the Labour Government of the day announced to Parliament a new strategy on Immigration and Asylum through Home Secretary Jack Straw. (27 July 1998 vol 317 cc35-54;

The Government published a White Paper, "Fairer, Faster and Firmer—A Modern Approach to Immigration and Asylum", following what Straw asserted was “a wide-ranging examination undertaken as part of the comprehensive spending review.“

Straw argued that governments have “few more complex and sensitive responsibilities, yet the system has been subject to piecemeal and ill -considered changes that have failed to tackle the real problems. Indeed, the changes have often made the problems worse. The arrangements for supporting asylum seekers are a shambles: huge backlogs have been allowed to develop, and additional complexity and regulation have made the system unwieldy to operate.

“Despite the dedication and professionalism of immigration staff at all levels, genuine applicants have suffered, while abusive claimants and racketeers have exploited delays in the system. It is time for a new approach. The Government are determined to maintain firm control over immigration, but to do so in a way that meets our international obligations and our commitment to strengthening human rights.

Our immigration policy will continue to support family life by admitting the spouses and minor dependent children of those already settled in the United Kingdom. It must also sustain and promote racial equality. It is particularly important for us to acknowledge the huge contribution that immigrants and their descendants have made to our society in all walks of life.”

And finally,  the immigration legislation that underpins the current furore. During the Commons debate on 30 January 2014 ( at Hansard Column 1045) Jeremy Corbyn, then merely the MP for Islington North stated: “ In response to an intervention, the Home Secretary said that at some point a stateless person’s position in the UK could be regularised, which is an interesting concept. If they became stateless, they would in the meantime presumably become destitute in this country, because they would not be eligible for access to any benefits or other aspects of society. Has she considered that, and are there any people in that situation at present?”

Theresa May, the then Home Secretary responsible fo rth e Bill replied:” The answer to the second question is that there are no people in that situation, because I have not been able to deprive anybody of their citizenship and therefore potentially make them stateless. That is the existing situation. If somebody is stateless and either does not apply for citizenship of another state despite having access or is denied permission to do so, but stays in the United Kingdom, we would have to look at the situation and at their immigration status. Crucially, their status would not attract the privileges of a British citizen—they would not be entitled to hold a British passport or to have full access to certain services—so they would therefore be in a different position from the one they were in when they held British citizenship.

A few months ago, one of the few black peers, Liberal Democrat Baroness Floella Benjamin, a former television presenter hailing from Trinidad, asked the Government “what plans they have to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the MV Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks in June 1948 carrying Caribbean” (HL 8 January 2018) (

Communities minister, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, replied: “the United Kingdom has long been a country of inward and outward migration. Post-war immigration, including via MV “Empire Windrush”, which was in many ways at the forefront of this migration, means that we are now a richly diverse society. I will be meeting key figures from community groups over the coming weeks to decide how best to celebrate this anniversary. I would also welcome input from the noble Baroness and from noble Lords throughout the House.”

Baroness Benjamin reacted strongly saying: “I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. “No coloureds welcome” was the sign that the Windrush pioneers faced in 1948 because the Government did not make it absolutely clear that the Caribbean people were invited to come to the UK to rescue the NHS, the transport system and factories after the war. Today, many descendants of those pioneers do not know that part of their history, as it is not generally taught in schools. As the Prime Minister wants everyone to feel included in our society, will the Government create a Windrush Day, recognising the outstanding contribution that the Windrush generation has made to Britain?

Lord Bourne commented with words that may look rather limp and open to  challenge in retrospect: “I think that there have been fundamental changes in this country and the views of most people. Are we yet there with everybody? No, of course not; there are still challenges out there. As the noble Baroness will know, the Prime Minister initiated the race disparity audit, for example, which most people in the House and the country would welcome. We are now entering the next phase, in which departments are being asked to respond to the data and come up with policies and actions as to how we are going to tackle that. So we are not there yet, but most fair-minded people would say that there has been significant progress and continues to be so”

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

When Britain attacked Russian villagers with chemical weapons

On her visit to Copenhagen yesterday, Mrs May asserted: "The UK utterly condemns the use of chemical weapons in any circumstances." ( That may be today's policy, but it hasn't always been so. 99 years ago, Britain attacked Russian villages with chemical weapons, under orders of  Minister for War, Winston Churchill, as the article below reveals

Winston Churchill's shocking use of chemical weapons
The use of chemical weapons in Syria has outraged the world. But it is easy to forget that Britain has used them – and that Winston Churchill was a powerful advocate for them
Winston Churchill speaking at a munitions factory in Ponders End, 1916.
Winston Churchill speaking at a munitions factory in Ponders End, 1916. Photograph: Hulton Archive
Secrecy was paramount. Britain's imperial general staff knew there would be outrage if it became known that the government was intending to use its secret stockpile of chemical weapons. But Winston Churchill, then secretary of state for war, brushed aside their concerns. As a long-term advocate of chemical warfare, he was determined to use them against the Russian Bolsheviks. In the summer of 1919, 94 years before the devastating strike in Syria, Churchill planned and executed a sustained chemical attack on northern Russia.
The British were no strangers to the use of chemical weapons. During the third battle of Gaza in 1917, General Edmund Allenby had fired 10,000 cans of asphyxiating gas at enemy positions, to limited effect. But in the final months of the first world war, scientists at the governmental laboratories at Porton in Wiltshire developed a far more devastating weapon: the top secret "M Device", an exploding shell containing a highly toxic gas called diphenylaminechloroarsine. The man in charge of developing it, Major General Charles Foulkes, called it "the most effective chemical weapon ever devised".
Trials at Porton suggested that it was indeed a terrible new weapon. Uncontrollable vomiting, coughing up blood and instant, crippling fatigue were the most common reactions. The overall head of chemical warfare production, Sir Keith Price, was convinced its use would lead to the rapid collapse of the Bolshevik regime. "If you got home only once with the gas you would find no more Bolshies this side of Vologda."The cabinet was hostile to the use of such weapons, much to Churchill's irritation. He also wanted to use M Devices against the rebellious tribes of northern India. "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes," he declared in one secret memorandum. He criticised his colleagues for their "squeamishness", declaring that "the objections of the India Office to the use of gas against natives are unreasonable. Gas is a more merciful weapon than [the] high explosive shell, and compels an enemy to accept a decision with less loss of life than any other agency of war."
He ended his memo on a note of ill-placed black humour: "Why is it not fair for a British artilleryman to fire a shell which makes the said native sneeze?" he asked. "It is really too silly."
A staggering 50,000 M Devices were shipped to Russia: British aerial attacks using them began on 27 August 1919, targeting the village of Emtsa, 120 miles south of Archangel. Bolshevik soldiers were seen fleeing in panic as the green chemical gas drifted towards them. Those caught in the cloud vomited blood, then collapsed unconscious.
The attacks continued throughout September on many Bolshevik-held villages: Chunova, Vikhtova, Pocha, Chorga, Tavoigor and Zapolki. But the weapons proved less effective than Churchill had hoped, partly because of the damp autumn weather. By September, the attacks were halted then stopped. Two weeks later the remaining weapons were dumped in the White Sea. They remain on the seabed to this day in 40 fathoms of water.