20.12.23 - Early Day Motion 1
A tragedy is unfolding in the Middle East. Israel has suffered the worst terror attack in its history at the hands of Hamas, and Palestinian civilians in Gaza are experiencing a humanitarian disaster.
Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas. However, the UK has been consistently clear that in doing so it must respect international humanitarian law. There must be a reduction in civilian casualties and I agree with the Government that Israel must take greater care to limit its operations to military targets and avoid harming civilians and destroying homes.
Nobody wants to see this conflict last a moment longer than necessary, and I welcome that the UK Government is supporting a sustainable ceasefire. For a ceasefire to be sustainable, the conditions need to be in place for it not to collapse within a few days.
There is no perfect formula for peace. Clearly, however, leaving Hamas in power in Gaza would be a permanent roadblock to a two-state solution. A ceasefire would also not last if hostages are still being held. A sustainable ceasefire must mean that Hamas is no longer there, able to threaten Israel with rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism.
Ahead of a permanent ceasefire, the UK wants to see immediate and sustained humanitarian pauses. This will allow a window for hostages to leave and more aid to enter Gaza. The suffering that civilians in Gaza are experiencing is unbearable to witness, and it is imperative that more aid reaches them. During a visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories last November, the Foreign Secretary announced £30 million to support trusted partners, including UN agencies on the ground, to deliver lifesaving aid to people in Gaza. It brings to £60 million the additional aid announced by the UK for Palestinian civilians since the crisis started in October.
Work is also ongoing to increase the flow of aid into Gaza. The UK is doing everything it can to get more aid in and open more crossings, and we played a leading role in securing the passage of UN Security Council resolution 2720, which made clear the urgent demand for expanded humanitarian access and made calls for the release of hostages.
The UK Government continues to work with its partners towards a two-state solution, which remains the only viable long-term solution.
12.12.23 Arms Exports to Israel (EDM 177)
As a Minister I do not, by convention, sign any Early Day Motions, as doing so is likely to breach the Ministerial Code’s rules on collective responsibility. Notwithstanding, I will engage with Ministers on behalf of constituents who have contacted me. I know the UK Government takes its export control responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria, based on the most up-to-date information and analysis available.
Further, licence decisions take account of prevailing circumstances at the time of application and include human rights and international humanitarian law considerations. Export licenses are not issued where to do so would be inconsistent with the consolidated criteria, including where there is a clear risk that the items might be used for a serious violation of international law.
I welcomed the recent pause in hostilities, which allowed for an increased flow of vital aid into Gaza and saw a number of hostages released. Ministers have made clear that the pause that took place between 24 November and 1 December should not be a one-off, and should act as a confidence-building mechanism for future pauses. The UK Government is working towards a long-term two-state solution to ensure this crisis never recurs, and I am following developments closely.
16.11.23 Kings Speech Motion: Ceasefire amendment vote
I note calls for the UK to push for a ceasefire. The UK is working via all diplomatic channels—bilaterally and collectively in the region—to ensure that this conflict, which has cost so many lives already, can be brought to a halt. However, the reality is that Hamas have no interest in a ceasefire. They have no interest in resolution, have never attempted to engage in a two-state solution and have made every attempt to collapse the Oslo process. A unilateral and unconditional ceasefire would simply allow Hamas to entrench their position and continue their attacks. Hamas have reiterated their intentions, stating clearly that ‘we will repeat the October 7 attack time and time again until Israel are annihilated’.
The UK recognises the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and supports a lasting solution for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people or their aspirations; it offers nothing for them other than more terror and more bloodshed. I must therefore reiterate that Israel has the right to take action to defend itself and to recover its hostages, and the UK, while respecting that, will continue to encourage it to adhere to international law and protect civilians.
The loss of every innocent life is a tragedy, and Ministers continue to press Israel to ensure that its campaign is targeted against Hamas leaders, militants and military infrastructure, and the UK Foreign Secretary has also called for discipline, professionalism and restraint from the Israeli military. Since 7 October, the UK has made available £30 million of additional aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, more than doubling our existing aid commitment for this year. Funding alone is not enough, while the opening of the Rafah border crossing is a major step forward, the UK will continue to work with international partners to try and increase the flow of support. The UK recognises the need for humanitarian pauses to deliver aid safely and in a sustained way, a point agreed with G7 partners in Tokyo on 8 November.
10.11.23 Healthcare workers in the West Bank
I join the UK Government in strongly condemning all forms of violence and incitement directed towards healthcare workers. The wounded and critically ill in Gaza and the West Bank should be able to access the urgent medical care they need, and I know that the British Embassy in Tel Aviv regularly raises this crucial issue with the Israeli authorities.
Furthermore, in light of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Prime Minister has announced £30 million in humanitarian funding for civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I wholeheartedly welcome this additional funding, which will allow trusted partners, including key UN agencies, to provide essential relief items and services.