The Full Text of the Parliamentary Debate for Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo (2/2)

Members of the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group at a meeting in February 2015. From L to R:  MPs Mike Wood, Andrew Mitchell, John McDonnell (chair), Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Slaughter. Between Jeremy and Andy is Imam Suliman Gani, a teacher and broadcaster and a friend of the Aamer family.On March 17, as I have been writing about over the last few days, a long-awaited — and long fought for — Parliamentary debate took place in the main chamber of the House of Commons, with MPs debating the motion, “That this House calls on the US Government to release Shaker Aamer from his imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay and to allow him to return to his family in the UK.”

I was there for the debate, in the public gallery behind bulletproof glass, along with around a hundred other supporters of Shaker Aamer, including representatives of We Stand With Shaker, which I co-founded with the activist Joanne MacInnes last November, and the long-running Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, with whom I have worked for many years.

I wrote a detailed article about the debate here, noting that Tobias Ellwood, a Tory MP and a junior minister in the Foreign Office, who was speaking for the British government, supported the motion, and stated, “I hope I have made it clear that the UK Government are absolutely committed to securing the release of Mr Aamer. Today I would like to underline that commitment and join the House in calling for the US Government to approve the release of Shaker Aamer to the UK.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Full Text of the Parliamentary Debate for Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo (1/2)

John McDonnell MP, a tireless campaigner for Shaker Aamer and the chair of the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, at the launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign outside Parliament on November 24, 2014, with, to his right, Joanne MacInnes and Jeremy Hardy, and, to his left, Peter Tatchell (Photo: Stefano Massimo).On March 17, as regular readers will know, a long-awaited — and long fought for — Parliamentary debate took place in the main chamber of the House of Commons, with MPs debating the motion, “That this House calls on the US Government to release Shaker Aamer from his imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay and to allow him to return to his family in the UK.”

I wrote a detailed article about the debate here, noting that Tobias Ellwood, a Tory MP and a junior minister in the Foreign Office, who was speaking for the British government, supported the motion, and stated, “I hope I have made it clear that the UK Government are absolutely committed to securing the release of Mr Aamer. Today I would like to underline that commitment and join the House in calling for the US Government to approve the release of Shaker Aamer to the UK.”

Below I’m cross-posting the transcript of the debate from Hansard. I’ve divided it into two parts, as it’s quite long, so the first part is below and the second will follow tomorrow.

As I noted in my article yesterday, the transcript contains some stirring speeches about the importance of the law and the perpetually shocking injustice of Shaker’s continued imprisonment from a variety of speakers, including John McDonnell, David Davis, Andrew Mitchell, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Andy Slaughter, Tim Farron, Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and Gareth Thomas (the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs), with other comments by Kate Hoey, Jim Cunningham, Neil Carmichael, Stephen Timms, Alistair Burt, Ian Murray, David Ward and Dennis Skinner. Others were present, but did not make comments, including Jane Ellison, Shaker’s constituency MP, who is a minister and therefore unable to comment. Read the rest of this entry »

UK Government Backs Parliamentary Motion to Secure Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo

Shaker Aamer's sons outside the Houses of Parliament on March 17, 2015, before a parliamentary debate about his father's case (Photo: Andy Worthington).Yesterday, March 17, 2015, will, I hope, be remembered as a significant day in the long campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is still held despite being told by the US government in 2007 and 2009 that they no longer wanted to hold him.

The main focus of the day was a Parliamentary debate for Shaker, in the main chamber of the House of Commons, at which Tobias Ellwood, a Tory MP and a junior minister in the Foreign Office, speaking for the British government, supported the motion, “That this House calls on the US Government to release Shaker Aamer from his imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay and to allow him to return to his family in the UK,” and stated, “I hope I have made it clear that the UK Government are absolutely committed to securing the release of Mr Aamer. Today I would like to underline that commitment and join the House in calling for the US Government to approve the release of Shaker Aamer to the UK.”

The debate was something that campaigners and supportive MPs have been seeking for the last three years, since an e-petition was launched, eventually signed by over 117,000 people in the space of a year, which was supposed to guarantee the debate that finally took place yesterday. Back in 2013, after the e-petition closed, all that took place was a backbench debate in Westminster Hall, which, although worthwhile, was not what the campaign had set out to achieve. See here and here for the transcript of that debate. Read the rest of this entry »

March 17: Come to the Green Card Lobby of MPs Before the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Debate

An image promoting the Parliamentary debate for Shaker Aamer on March 17, 2015.POSTSCRIPT 11 May 2015: At the General Election on 7 May, 13 of the 41 MPs supporting the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group lost their seats. Seven others had announced their retirement as MPs before the election. These changes are noted in brackets after the MPs’ names. Now the election is over, please ask your MPs to join the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, if they have not done so already.

*****

On Sunday, I wrote about the recently convened Parliamentary debate, on Tuesday March 17 at 4.30pm, for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, and asked British readers to write to their MPs (via a letter you can cut and paste, or amend as you see fit) to ask them to take part in the debate, and to join the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, chaired by John McDonnell MP.

I now have updated information. Shaykh Suliman Gani, a friend of Shaker’s family, has secured the support of the family for an important event on the morning of March 17 — the handing-in of Amnesty International’s petition for Shaker (signed by nearly 32,000 people) to 10 Downing Street at 11am. Saeed Siddique, Shaker’s father-in-law, will be there, along with his brother-in-law, and, hopefully, all three of Shaker’s sons as well.

In the late morning, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign will be holding a vigil in Parliament Square, and then, at 12.30, supporters will make their way into the Houses of Parliament for a rally organised by John McDonnell MP in Committee Room 11, with speakers including the journalists Andy Worthington (the co-founder of We Stand With Shaker) and Yvonne Ridley, Joy Hurcombe of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, Aisha Maniar of the London Guantánamo Campaign and the neurologist and human rights campaigner Dr. David Nicholl. Then, at 2pm, there will be a Green Card Lobby in the central lobby of the Houses of Parliament, where constituents will have the opportunity to meet their MPs before the debate and to brief them on Shaker’s case, before the Parliamentary debate at 4.30, to which supporters of Shaker are invited.  Read the rest of this entry »

Please Ask your MP to Support the Parliamentary Debate for Shaker Aamer, Mar 17

An image promoting the Parliamentary debate for Shaker Aamer on March 17, 2015.In the run-up the the General Election in the UK, on 7 May, it is important that MPs recognise the importance of the case of Shaker Aamer, and act upon it — by attending a Parliamentary debate on 17 March, and by joining the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, recently established by John McDonnell MP, as well as other requests listed below in a letter I’m asking you to send to your MP — unless, of course, they are already a member of the group.

Shaker Aamer is the last British resident in Guantánamo, and is still held, despite being approved for release by the US authorities twice — in 2007 under President Bush and again in 2009 under President Obama. The British government has also been requesting his return since August 2007.

His continued imprisonment is therefore inexplicable — unless you recognise that certain forces (probably the security services in the US and the UK) are working to prevent his release not because he is dangerous but because he has always stood up for the rights of the prisoners held lawlessly in the “war on terror,” because he knows some of the dark secrets of the last 13 years of high-level US crimes, and because he has the ability to embarrass the governments on both sides of the Atlantic. Read the rest of this entry »

Victory for Labour MP’s Private Member’s Bill To Repeal the Tory Privatisation of the NHS and Exempt the NHS from the TTIP Agreement

Labour MPs, including Andy Burnham and leader Ed Miliband showing their support for Labour MP Clive Efford's Private Member's Bill to protect the NHS from privatisation.Congratulations to Clive Efford, the Labour MP for Eltham and Plumstead, in south east London, and the 240 other MPs who voted for his Private Member’s Bill, the National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill, which aims to repeal the worst aspects of the privatising Health and Social Care Act that the Tory-led coalition government passed in 2012 (which I covered in detail at the time, prior to successfully campaigning to save Lewisham Hospital from destruction), and to protect the NHS from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a planned trade deal between the EU and the US, which, as the #noTTIP protest group explained, will, if it goes ahead, “grant corporations the power to sue governments, threatening to lock-in the privatisation of our schools and NHS. Rules that protect workers, the environment, food safety, digital rights and privacy would be undermined, with harmful industries like fracking encouraged.” See my article about TTIP here, and my media interviews here and here.

Only 18 MPs voted against the bill, and as the campaigning group 38 Degrees noted in an email to supporters, “It looks like the government told their MPs to boycott the vote. Maybe they realised they couldn’t win.” Or maybe they also realised how unpopular their privatising reforms are with the general public, who, for a change, seem to see through their lies. The bill can now move forward in the hope of becoming law — although that is a slim chance, as Private Member’s Bills rarely get that far. As Denis Campbell argued in the Guardian, however, “the admission by an unnamed cabinet minister last month that the [2012 Health and Social Care Act] was this government’s greatest folly (quoted on the front page of the Times) and the fact that 44% of the public think the NHS is under threat from private health companies suggests Efford’s bill has caught a mood.”

As the general political landscape shifts to the right, with UKIP promoted largely unchallenged by the media, the Tories opportunistically drifting further to the right to compensate and Labour suffering a damaging identity crisis, the stage is being set for an election campaign dominated by distractions about immigration, while a dangerous truth is obscured — that, if the Tories can somehow get into power again, perhaps through another Frankenstein’s Monster coalition, they may well take us out of the EU, destroying all our human rights legislation so that we can embark on a policy of ethnic cleansing (the enforced repatriation so beloved by UKIP), as well as furthering, unchallenged, their own disastrous mission, under the guise of austerity, to destroy the taxpayer-funded state and privatise almost everything except their own jobs, with disastrous effects for tens of millions of British people. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Speaks at Parliamentary Meeting Calling for the Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo, November 25, 2014

The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign's poster for the Parliamentary Meeting for Shaker Aamer, organised by John McDonnell MP on November 25, 2014.Next Tuesday, November 25 — the day after the launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I’m working on with my colleague Jo MacInnes, and support from numerous groups including Reprieve and the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign — I’ll be speaking at a Parliamentary meeting organised by John McDonnell, the indefatigable Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, calling for Shaker Aamer’s immediate release from Guantánamo and his safe return to his family in London. [Click on the image to the left to enlarge it].

Shaker Aamer, 47, is the last British resident in Guantánamo, with a British wife and four British children who live in south London. November 24 is the 13th anniversary of Shaker’s capture by bounty hunters in Afghanistan, where he had travelled with his family to provide humanitarian aid.

The details of the event are as follows, and I should stress that everyone is welcome, although if you do come along please allow plenty of time before the 7pm start to clear the House of Commons security. Read the rest of this entry »

Humiliating Tory Defeat in Parliament Over the Reviled and Unjust Bedroom Tax

On Friday, there was some rare good news regarding the British government’s assault on the unemployed, as a Private Member’s Bill aimed at mitigating the worst effects of the hated “bedroom tax” passed a crucial vote in the House of Commons.

Ever since the wretched Tory-led coalition government seized power in May 2010, the very foundations of the modern British state have been under attack. The brain-dead grandchildren of Margaret Thatcher, the modern-day Tories — and their Lib Dem facilitators — have launched a comprehensive assault on the welfare state, under the guise of an artificial “age of austerity,” lying and playing on people’s least savoury instincts to paint the unemployed as shirkers and scroungers, despite the fact that there is only one job available for every five unemployed people, and also to portray the disabled as being fit for work, when that is not the case, as well as imposing caps on and cuts to benefits, driving people out of their homes.

For my articles covering these policies, see here, here and here.

This shameful sleight of hand, which has failed to deliver any savings, also ignores how much of the benefits bill goes not to the unemployed but to the working poor, and, most disgracefully, how by far the biggest part of the welfare bill is for pensions — an area that governments, and particularly Tories, don’t want to touch, as old people vote, in significant numbers, and everyone in politics seems happy that the general movement of money is from the young to the old. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Speaks at a Parliamentary Meeting for Shaker Aamer, with John McDonnell, Bruce Kent and Others, June 17, 2014

Please sign the international petition calling for the release of Shaker Aamer.

On Tuesday June 17, I’m delighted to be speaking at a Parliamentary meeting for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, organised by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and John McDonnell MP. I’ll be joining John, one of a handful of tireless activists in the House of Commons, and other speakers, including Bruce Kent, the journalists Victoria Brittain and Yvonne Ridley, Lindsey German, the chair of the Stop the War Campaign, and US activist Diana Coleman. Jane Ellison, the MP for Shaker’s home constituency of Battersea, where his British wife and four British children live, will provide an update regarding the government’s position, and Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, will chair the meeting.

The meeting, which runs from 7pm to 9pm, has been given the title, “When will they stop Shaker Aamer’s horrific Guantánamo ordeal?” and it is taking place in Room 12 in the House of Commons. This is a public meeting, and everyone is welcome, although anyone who wishes to attend is advised to arrive by 6.30pm to leave enough time to pass through the security process at St. Stephen’s Gate. For further information, please email the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign or call Ray Silk on 07756 493877. Read the rest of this entry »

Rare Good News for the NHS: Government Accepts Lords Amendment Removing Hospital Closure Clause from Care Bill

Last week there was some rare good news about the NHS, which I’m posting belatedly because I was too busy last week, and also because I want to make sure that my approval is on record. I’m also posting it because, let’s face it, those of us who care about social justice have few victories to cheer about.

The victory in question was the government’s acceptance of an amendment to Clause 119 of the Care BIll — generally known as the “hospital closure clause” — which is designed to prevent neighbouring hospitals to those facing grave financial difficulties from having their services cut without local consultation.

The circumstances in which this would have occurred involved hospitals close to those subjected to the appointment of a special administrator because of severe financial problems — under the Unsustainable Providers Regime that was first launched in south east London in October 2012. In that case, the Trust Special Administrator, Matthew Kershaw, proposed savagely cutting services at Lewisham Hospital to help pay off the debts of a neighbouring, but otherwise unrelated trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, which had hospitals in the boroughs of Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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