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06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics


23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo


15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014


29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011



Universal jurisdiction – debate in parliament

hocExtracts from the House of Commons discussion on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, Second Reading.

Mrs May: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue. The Prime Minister made it clear at Prime Minister’s questions, and I have made it clear separately, that we need to ensure that we can clear Parliament square for the royal wedding on 29 April.

The Bill addresses another important area of law that is not currently working—the whole issue of how we apply universal jurisdiction, which is a key principle of international justice that enables some of the gravest offences to be prosecuted here, regardless of the state in which the offences were committed.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): Does the Home Secretary accept that there are already adequate safeguards in this respect? It is not a question of someone simply going to the magistrates court alleging that a war criminal is on British soil. There is a feeling—she obviously does not share it—that this law is being changed as a result of the pressure that Israel put on the previous Government and is clearly putting on this Government. It does seem unfortunate that we are going to change the law because a foreign country has put such pressure on us.

Mrs May: We are not changing the law because a foreign country has put pressure on us. In relation to this law, the evidential requirement that is needed in order for somebody to go and get an arrest warrant is significantly less than that required for a successful prosecution. We are saying that the Director of Public Prosecutions should be able to look at any such application that is made and give consent to it or otherwise.

Charlie Elphicke: The measures on universal jurisdiction are one of the more important aspects of the Bill, because what we have seen before has made Britain a laughing stock as a place of fishing and trawling for international justice in matters that are better dealt with elsewhere.

Mrs May: I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. It is certainly clear that the current process for applying for an arrest warrant has deterred some public figures from overseas from coming to the UK. The Bill will make the process fairer and safer by requiring the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before a warrant can be issued.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab) rose

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab) rose

Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab) rose

Mr Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op) rose

Mrs May: I am about to come to the end of my speech, but I will give way to the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd).

Ann Clwyd: I am grateful to the Home Secretary. May I ask her what test the DPP will be expected to apply before an arrest warrant is granted under this new proposal that the district judge currently does not apply? What is the difference between them?

Mrs May: The key issue that the DPP will look at is the basis for the request for the arrest warrant and the extent to which there is a genuine basis for bringing it forward. He will look at the prospects for a successful prosecution and balance that issue in the view that he takes. At the moment, the threshold requirement is significantly less than would normally be required in bringing a successful prosecution.

Mr Slaughter rose

Mrs May: I will not take any more interventions because I am about to finish my speech. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to make a contribution later in the debate. I am very conscious that lots of Back Benchers wish to get in.

Mr Slaughter: Just to clarify this point?

Mrs May: As I said, I am about to finish my speech.

The Bill is focused on cutting crime and putting power back where it belongs—in the hands of local people. Directly elected and directly accountable police and crime commissioners will bring reform to the police, ensuring that they cut crime, focus on local priorities and drive up performance. The problems of 24-hour drinking will be tackled by giving our communities greater powers over licensing decisions, and the emerging problems of legal highs will be dealt with through temporary banning orders.

At the international level, our relationships with our overseas partners will be strengthened by the introduction of the key safeguard in the application process for universal jurisdiction arrest warrants. At home, our democracy will be strengthened by the restoration of the right to peaceful protest outside Parliament, at the same time as we take targeted action to deal with the long-term encampments and loudhailers which cause so much disruption and distress.

This Bill is necessary, it is proportionate, and it is right. I commend it to the House.


Ed Balls:

I want to address some of the wider issues in Bill. They cover only one third of the clauses, and our intention, where possible, will be to seek consensus on these proposals. The Bill contains a number of changes to the licensing regime and to powers for councils that build upon, rather than reversing, the licensing reforms of the past decade. If the Bill receives its Second Reading today, we will clearly need to examine the proposals in detail in Committee, but we will support extra powers to enable local communities and the police to keep public order to ensure that people can enjoy a night out in a safe and secure manner.

We will look into the proposals on drugs in detail, but at this point, we cautiously welcome the temporary banning orders that the Home Secretary is proposing. However, there is a suggestion, in the changes to the role of the advisory committee, of a move away from evidence-based policy making on drugs. That gives us some cause for concern, and we shall need to look closely at the matter in Committee. As we heard from the former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett), the devil will be in the detail, as it was with the reform of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. We will look closely at the detail of the proposals in Committee.

We will also probe the details of the clauses on universal jurisdiction in Committee. The Opposition believe strongly in the importance of universal jurisdiction, and we will support the proposed changes to make it work more effectively in each of the relevant areas. We will seek to achieve consensus in Committee, but, as I have said, these measures add up to less than one third of the clauses in the Bill, and as far as the policing issues are concerned, it has been very hard to be the shadow Secretary Of State.

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): What my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) has said about the attacks on the strength of the police and about the cuts in police budgets particularly affects us in Greater Manchester, where we have an absolutely excellent local police service that will be severely damaged by what the Government propose.

I wish, however, to concentrate on clause 151, which has been smuggled in to fulfil a Conservative election pledge made in a full-page advertisement in the Jewish Chronicleduring the general election, namely the change in the administration of universal jurisdiction in this country. There is no need whatsoever to change the law. To obtain an arrest warrant for a suspected war criminal, it is essential to surmount a high hurdle, and that rarely happens. Such applications are made rarely, and are granted even more rarely. This change in the law would never have been proposed if it were not for the case of Tzipi Livni, the war criminal daughter of a terrorist father, who was scared off coming to this country because of the danger of an arrest warrant being issued for her. She was jointly responsible for the slaughter in Gaza in Operation Cast Lead in which 1,400 people were killed, including 300 children, in a war in which 14 Israelis were killed, some by friendly fire. It is bizarre that a major change in our criminal justice system is being made at the demand of one of the most discredited regimes in the world.

Mr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman specifically identifies Tzipi Livni and talks about the accusations that have been levelled against her, but I am sure that he will agree that, as Foreign Minister, Livni would not have had either direct or ultimate command responsibility for any of the alleged atrocities. Will he concede that what he has just told the House is incorrect?

Sir Gerald Kaufman: Of course not. Tzipi Livni is a war criminal and, what is more, she issued a vocal and extreme statement in support of the attack on the Gaza flotilla. She is not wanted in this country—

Mr Offord: She is in my constituency.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: Without the change in the law she would not dare come here.

The Israeli Administration are one of the most discredited regimes in the world, and have persisted in committing war crimes, right through to the lethal attack on the Gaza flotilla on 31 May.

Robert Halfon: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Gerald Kaufman: I shall give way in a moment. Israel breaches international law and the Geneva convention—[ Interruption. ]

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. Hon. Members should know better. I do not want a debate going on across the Chamber from sedentary positions. If Members want to intervene, they should do so in the correct manner.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: The fact is that Israel breaches international law and the Geneva convention every single day. It has just snubbed the President of the United States by refusing to halt the illegal building of settlements—that in itself is a contravention of international law.

Robert Halfon: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I must say that his hatred for Israel knows no bounds. He explains exactly why universal jurisdiction needs to be changed—it is being used as a political football by people such as him who have hidden agendas.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: There would have been no proposal to change the universal jurisdiction law if Tzipi Livni had not been scared away from this country after committing appalling war crimes against the people of Gaza. It is as simple and as plain as that.

As I said, the Israelis have just snubbed the President of the United States by refusing to halt the illegal building of settlements. The Israeli regime uses its powers of arrest without charge arbitrarily. Two Members of the Knesset, including the Deputy Prime Minister, were scared away by the law, but 30 members of the Palestine National Council are currently held by the Israelis without charge. That is not a threat of arrest, but an actual arrest.

Last month, when I was in Jerusalem, I visited three PNC members who are taking refuge from arbitrary arrest by the Israeli police with the international Red Cross. I met and heard the testimony of young Palestinian children who were assaulted by Israeli police—they showed us their scars and bruises—as a result of the arbitrary and illegal way in which the Israeli police treat Palestinians, including Palestinian children. When we met the Foreign Minister of Jordan in Amman, he told us that he had to offer diplomatic shelter to the President of Palestine because when they were driving along one after the other, the President was continually halted at Israeli checkpoints. For all those crimes and many more, the Israelis are answerable to no one. Now, one of the few sanctions on those crimes will be removed. As a result of the Bill, Israeli politicians will be literally allowed to get away with murder.

That comes at a time when the ground is shifting. As I said, the pledge on the measure was made in a full-page advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle in order to get Jewish votes in the recent general election, but there is an upheaval in the Jewish community, as a result of which the across-the-board support for anything an Israeli Government do is no longer available.

Chris Bryant: My right hon. Friend referred to what people said during the general election. Does he recall what position every single Liberal Democrat MP took before and during the general election?

Sir Gerald Kaufman: I am well aware what they said, because week after week, I sat in the Chamber at business questions, when the current Deputy Leader of the House rose without fail to say how heinous and unacceptable it would be for the Labour Government to change the law on universal jurisdiction, and how the Liberal Democrats would be totally opposed to any such change. We have an obligation to remind the electors of Oldham East and Saddleworth of the broken Liberal Democrat pledge of 3,000 more police on the streets, and of their broken pledge to oppose any change in the law on universal jurisdiction. Those things will not go by unnoticed.

As I said, an upheaval is taking place in the Jewish community. The attitudes of leading Jews who have been vocal champions of Israel are becoming deeply critical of the current Israeli Government. One of the most active and vocal supporters of Israel has accused them of being in the process of turning Israel into an “apartheid state”.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) pointed out, the hypocrisy of the Liberal Democrats on universal jurisdiction is unlimited, as on so many matters. Week after week, their spokesman rose and vehemently opposed a change in the law for which he will vote tonight, just as Liberal Democrats voted last week in blatant breach of their election pledges.

Whatever change in the law the Government introduce for the most craven reasons, Tzipi Livni and her ilk will remain unwelcome in this country. What worries me is that without a valid and operable legal sanction—one currently exists, but the Bill will repeal it—and without the legal deterrent that the Bill removes, disapproval of the presence in this country of Livni, Netanyahu and their cronies will take forms that I and many others deplore.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman is at the extreme in his views on Israel? Many of us consider them abhorrent, and Front Benchers on both sides of the House have expressed their support for clause 151. It is interesting that he has used the debate on the Bill as a vehicle to display his political views rather than to debate justice. Does he agree that arrest warrants should be issued when there is insufficient evidence to justify a prosecution, because that is at the heart of this matter of justice, not his political views?

Sir Gerald Kaufman: The hon. Gentleman may wish to behave like a creep to his Front Benchers—I was elected to Parliament not to creep to my Front Benchers, but to speak on behalf of my constituents. Indeed, I persuaded the previous Prime Minister to abandon his proposal to change the law on universal jurisdiction. I went to see him and persuaded him that the proposal was mistaken, and he did not proceed with it. If my Front Benchers do not want to agree with me, that is their business. I state a view that I have stated consistently in the House for very many years, and I shall continue to do so, because it is the Israelis who are in trouble, the Israelis who are turning Israel into a pariah state, and the Israelis who will be overcome by demographic changes—they will be outnumbered by the Palestinians—and this Government are an accomplice to what they are doing. God forgive them.


Tom Brake:

The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton made a point about arrest warrants. I understand his concerns, but I think they can be addressed—I hope this will be made clear in the Bill—if the Director of Public Prosecutions is under strict instructions to ensure that any requests for warrants are processed within a very short period. That would ensure that the process is not used as a means of preventing action from being taken simply because it takes too long to consider a matter. I have had discussions with a previous DPP, whose clear view was that requests can be turned around quickly and that they will not get in the way of action being taken when necessary.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): It is essential that the role is conducted in a timely fashion. However, does my hon. Friend agree that for the public to have confidence in the arrangement the DPP must be able to exercise his or her role without political interference from the Attorney-General, who is an elected politician exercising a supervisory role over the DPP?

Tom Brake: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I can assure him that the previous DPP whom I was talking to would have ensured that there was no political interference of the kind he describes, as will, I am sure, the current DPP.

8.4 pm

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): I oppose clause 151, which is entitled “Restriction on issue of arrest warrants in private prosecutions”. I do so as chair of the Back-Bench all-party parliamentary human rights group, of which the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) is treasurer. I hope that my arguments will prevail on him, and that he too will see that to change the position in that regard would be invidious.

Tom Brake : Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Ann Clwyd: Certainly. It appears that the hon. Gentleman has already changed his mind.

Tom Brake: I think that if the Director of Public Prosecutions, having taken on this responsibility, is given resources enabling him or her to process a request for an arrest warrant in a very short time, all the right hon. Lady’s concerns may disappear. If they do not go away, will she explain why?

Ann Clwyd: I hope to, if I am able to develop my thoughts.

Much of our criminal law is territorial, applying to acts committed in England and Wales or by British people, but we have agreed to prosecute those who commit crimes such as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions Act 1957, torture and taking hostages here, wherever or by whoever those crimes are committed. That is universal jurisdiction intended by all the countries who accede to it to ensure that there is no international hiding place for perpetrators of grave crime. We have a duty to seek out the culprits, and either to extradite them or to prosecute them here. For example, in 2005 an Afghan warlord, Zardad, was successfully prosecuted in the United Kingdom for torture offences abroad.

In the United Kingdom, it is not only the police who can initiate proceedings; any individual can apply to a magistrate for a summons or warrant to bring someone to court. The test for the magistrate is whether there is prima facie evidence of an offence on the part of the person named. Many cases involving serious offences cannot proceed beyond that stage without the Attorney-General’s consent. I have a little experience of that, having chaired Indict, a human rights organisation which for seven years gathered evidence against Iraqi war criminals, many of whom are appearing in an Iraqi court or have already been sentenced. I have no time to go into what happened then, but in the current circumstances it is extremely difficult to obtain an arrest warrant. It took two years just to discuss the case of Tariq Aziz with the Attorney-General and with Scotland Yard. It was then thrown back to the Attorney-General, and we did not secure a decision. There was a strong possibility that Tariq Aziz, who travelled a good deal, had come to this country, perhaps to spend Christmas with George Galloway, who had spent Christmas with him in the past.

We did not manage to obtain that arrest warrant. English law does not allow arrest warrants to be granted on flimsy evidence, but although our evidence was very strong indeed, we still could not obtain one. Only two of the 10 private arrest warrant applications made in the past 10 years have been granted. Nothing needs fixing, as nothing has been broken.

Universal jurisdiction is a vital, agreed-on basis for tackling impunity in states that do not sign up to the International Criminal Court.

Mr Slaughter : My right hon. Friend clearly knows what she is talking about. I do not know whether she was as dismayed as I was by the fact that the Home Secretary clearly did not know what she was talking about when she was asked what standard of evidence the DPP would require. Is it the prima facie test, the full code test by the prosecutor, or something in between? Perhaps my right hon. Friend, like me, hopes that the Minister will clarify the matter in summing up the debate. If the answer is a full prosecutorial test, that effectively means that no warrants will ever be issued, because that standard of evidence will not have been gathered at the arrest stage.

Ann Clwyd: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reinforcing that point, on which I attempted to extract more information from the Home Secretary. I am afraid that I did not get an answer however, and I too hope this might be explained further in the summing up.

The 1949 Geneva conventions require us to seek out and prosecute absolutely anybody suspected of committing war crimes. Similar duties exist under the torture convention, where we also have a duty to apply criminal law uniformly. A special legal or procedural system for those cases that is different from the rest of criminal law could breach that obligation. Victims securing the arrest of visiting suspects fulfil an important rule-of-law purpose. No state inference should bar their access to courts. As Lord Wilberforce said in 1978, the right to bring private prosecutions remains

“a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of the authority”.

Lord Diplock similarly described it as

“a useful constitutional safeguard against capricious, corrupt or biased failure or refusal of those authorities to prosecute offenders against the criminal law”.

Michael Ellis: Does the right hon. Lady not accept that many countries with similar legal systems to our own—Canada, for example—have established a similar system? In the Canadian context, the Attorney-General or deputy Attorney-General has to give leave before the exercise of their universal jurisdiction power. Many other countries have similarly fettered the misuse of universal jurisdiction, which has often taken the course of party political or other politically biased purposes, and they have not had any difficulties in respect of the point the right hon. Lady is making. Where Lord Diplock and others refer to interference of the state, they did not apply it to this test.

Ann Clwyd: I hope the hon. Gentleman will seek to catch Mr Speaker’s eye, as he obviously has a speech in the making. I have experience of trying to get an indictment against some of the Iraqi war criminals in other countries such as Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Belgium. The closest we came to getting an indictment was in Belgium, but that was thwarted at the last moment because somebody brought an indictment against Sharon, and the Belgian Government changed the law. Sometimes the pressures can be very different, but we do not have time to go into the details of this now.

Mr Slaughter:Does my right hon. Friend agree that the difference between what is being proposed and what happens in Canada is that in Canada the DPP is entitled to appear and present evidence for or against the issuing of a warrant, but the decision is a judicial one? What is being proposed here is wholly different, although the hon. Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis) perhaps does not understand that. The decision is made by the state, before the court has a chance to consider the matter.

Ann Clwyd: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s expert knowledge of this issue.

Senior district judges are trusted to deal with highly sensitive terrorism and extradition cases. They are very highly thought of—I would like to hear anybody say they are not highly thought of—and their role should not be undermined, but that is precisely what the Government are attempting to do. These judges are known to have thrown out cases against Israeli Defence Ministers Mofaz in 2004 and Barak in 2009, plus several cases against Mugabe. Eight refusals out of 10 means the system is already robust enough to weed out illegitimate cases. Indeed, there is not a single example of the current system failing to filter out cases that are an abuse of process. What is the evidence that the judge acted wrongly in the two cases in question? Does the Crown Prosecution Service have a view? Perhaps we will hear.

Some people are, of course, wildly exaggerating the real impact of the current law on them and officials from other countries. We know very well that many people from other countries who are currently in government—Presidents, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and perhaps sometimes Defence Ministers—are free from any arrest warrants of this kind and can travel freely. In fact, absolute immunity applies to serving Presidents, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and so forth, so I do not know what the problem is. It is a problem of the Government’s own invention, and I am sorry my Front-Bench team seems to be going along with them at the moment along with their coalition partner—although the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington might like to indicate whether he has changed his mind again. I think they are misled and we do a disservice to the many people all over the world who have been injured in some way by some of the people who can clearly be identified as war criminals.

Several hon. Members rose

9.11 pm

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): I welcome the Bill and the debate. I have four substantial points to make: where there is direct democracy and policing elsewhere in the world, it works; we must do more to support special constables; we must tell the truth about crime in our statistics; and universal jurisdiction must be reformed so that the Director of Public Prosecutions has control over issuing warrants.

We have rehearsed the arguments about police commissioners this evening. I am a passionate support of the policy because I believe that local people should have some say in the policing they want for their neighbourhood. The public want that—they are unhappy with police authorities. Extremist groups have not taken control of the police in north America, where there has been no great backlash against democracy.


Finally, I believe that universal jurisdiction must be reformed so that the Director of Public Prosecutions has control over issuing warrants. Currently, the process for private prosecutions is being abused—it is used as a political tool for campaigning and point scoring—but the purpose of our justice system must be justice, not media campaigns. Therefore, I welcome clause 151, which will ensure that universal jurisdiction cases proceed only on the basis of solid evidence.

Mr James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that there is evidence that the current process was abused in the past, and that it got in the way of peaceful discussions and an understanding of different points of view?

Robert Halfon: My hon. Friend is exactly right. The problem is that the current arrangements have been used as a political tool. A disproportionate number of arrest warrants sought for war crimes are directed at Israeli officials and politicians. It is worth remembering that Israel is a democratic country with the rule of law, and that it has a thriving judiciary and a Supreme Court that often rules against the state in cases with sound legal bases. If we want to promote peace in the middle east, Israel’s leaders must be able to come to Britain for talks with the British Government. The current misuse of universal jurisdiction actually hinders reconciliation efforts. That applies not just to Israel—for example, I understand that an arrest warrant was issued against Henry Kissinger.

In conclusion, I am hugely supportive of the Bill. The more democracy, the better. I hope that the Minister and colleagues consider my amendment on special constables and reforming the flaws in our crime statistics, but I welcome the Government’s reforms, especially on universal jurisdiction and elected police commissioners. The Bill is in the same vein as all the Government’s policies and can be summed up in four words: power to the people.

9.17 pm

9.27 pm

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): I am delighted to follow the speakers who have recently been addressing the House. I completely support and commend the Bill. I intend to refer in the few minutes available to a couple of its clauses, but it strikes me very much that the Bill as a whole tremendously empowers people in our country, drawing power away from the state. As such, it is to be highly commended, and I congratulate the Minister on that.

The handful of Opposition speakers—and it is a small number—who have spoken on the issue of universal jurisdiction and the safeguard in the Bill have confirmed why it is so necessary to improve the law on universal jurisdiction as it stands. This issue is not just about Israel: the Chinese Trade Minister has apparently been threatened with arrest because of the current provision, as has Henry Kissinger. There have been difficulties in Europe with Donald Rumsfeld’s freedom of movement, and I believe that White House staffers have been threatened with arrest in Spain because of the principle of universal jurisdiction. I am given to understand that even the former Prime Minister Tony Blair has had a large number of petitions levied against him in the International Criminal Court, so this issue is not unique to the United Kingdom or Israel. It is an area that has needed reform for some considerable time.

The principle of amending the law on universal jurisdiction is in no way about stifling meritorious complaints. However, where jurisdiction is very wide, as it currently is in this country, it will tend to act as a magnet for complaints that are rooted in political vendettas, regardless of their merit. Universal jurisdiction has tended to mean that high-level consultations and meetings have been disrupted, and at times even cancelled. London has a long-established and important reputation as an effective venue for warring parties around the world—indeed, it has a cherished ability to act as such, serving as a diplomatic hot spot.

Henry Smith: My hon. Friend makes an important point. Ironically, universal jurisdiction is getting in the way of diplomatic efforts to engender peace and in the way of peace talks and discussions, particularly in this international venue that is London. The Bill’s provisions are thus absolutely correct.

Michael Ellis: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. There have been literally dozens of examples in our recent history where London has been a centre for the negotiation and conclusion of important international agreements between warring factions, and we are in danger of losing that ability because universal jurisdiction has been misused, misapplied and inappropriately applied as a means of pursuing political vendettas. All that is required for the proposed changes is the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions—it is, incidentally, already required in certain other routine prosecutions—which would enable the system to withstand attempts to exploit the law for settling political scores. I very much welcome that provision.

9.37 pm

Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab): We have had an interesting and wide-ranging debate to which many Members on both sides of the House have contributed. At the heart of the Bill is disagreement about whether the reforms will lead to politicisation. Government Members may assert that they will not, but there is real worry among not just Members of Parliament but many outside organisations.

The hon. Members for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage), for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) and for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills), as well as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), discussed the measures to deal with alcohol. Many of us welcome those measures. Let me say to the Home Secretary and her Ministers that I consider it important to enforce not only the new laws in the Bill, but the existing laws.

Although we are in favour of universal jurisdiction, I repeat to my right hon. Friends the Members for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) and for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) something my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary said: we will look at its implications in Committee.

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