Government calls for ceasefire in Ukraine


David Lidington, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has called for a ceasefire to be called in Ukraine.

Speaking at the Luxembourg summit of EU Foreign Ministers he said:

“On the first anniversary of the Minsk Protocol, it is as important as ever that both sides implement a lasting ceasefire. Throughout the last year we have seen repeated violations of the ceasefire and repeated obstruction of the work of the OSCE monitoring mission. The withdrawal of heavy weapons that has been agreed must actually take place, and the OSCE monitors must be given full and secure access to carry out their crucial role. Russia must stop providing arms and equipment to separatist forces and must withdraw its own forces from eastern Ukraine. Without such steps, the appalling suffering of ordinary Ukrainians living in the Donbas will continue.

The Minsk agreements are not just a ceasefire. They are designed to allow Ukraine to regain control of its territory and border. They provide the path to a political resolution of the current crisis. I welcome the progress that Ukraine has made in recent weeks to take forward challenging and vital constitutional reform, including decentralisation. I hope that soon we will see local elections in the separatist-controlled areas of the Donbas. These must be held in line with Ukrainian legislation and in line with OSCE standards and with OSCE/ODIHR observation, as set out in the Minsk agreement. Any elections that do not meet these standards will be illegitimate, and likely to cause further instability.

The weeks ahead will be testing. I welcome the political commitment shown by the Government of Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreement. It is important that MPs and wider Ukrainian society continue to debate these and other critically important issues for Ukraine’s future openly, honestly and peacefully. There must be no repeat of the deplorable violence outside the Rada on 31 August. I urge all sides to engage constructively in the Trilateral Contact Group to ensure progress on the ground”.

Government condemns human right violations in Syria


Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Chairman of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, has written a report published by the United Nations on Human Rights.

Pinheiro said:

“With no end in sight, the Syrian conflict continues to intensify. Civilians, Syrians of all backgrounds, have been the subject of crimes against humanity, war crimes as well as other serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of their human rights.

Our tenth report, released today, examines the impact of the Syrian conflict on some of the most affected groups and communities. This report documents the manner in which fighting-age men, women, children, detainees, the sick and wounded, the besieged, medical and humanitarian workers, lawyers, human rights defenders, journalists and the displaced have been specifically targeted by one or more of the warring parties.

Civilians are suffering the unimaginable, as the world stands witness. Without stronger efforts to bring parties to the peace table, ready to compromise, current trends suggest that the Syrian conflict – and the killing and destruction it wreaks – will carry on for the foreseeable future”.

Tobias Ellwood, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said in a statement:

“This latest UN report describes appalling human rights violations in Syria. The Assad regime is responsible for abuses on a vast scale, with continued indiscriminate use of barrel bombs, artillery, chemical weapons and unlawful detention and torture. ISIL and other extremist groups are brutal and inhumane, with abuses including multiple summary executions, the sexual slavery of Yazidi women and forced recruitment of child soldiers. The report makes clear that women and girls are regularly targeted by various sides to the conflict solely on the basis of their gender.

The UK condemns in the strongest possible terms all human rights violations that are taking place in Syria on a daily basis. We need to hold the perpetrators to account. And we need to see a political settlement to this conflict, ridding Syria of dictatorship, and to help to defeat the scourge of ISIL”.

Prime Minister says UK will take thousands more Syrians


David Cameron, the Prime Minister, speaking in Portugal has said that the UK will take thousands more Syrian refugees in a bid to deal with the growing humanitarian crisis.

Cameron said:

“Turning to migration, this is clearly the biggest challenge facing countries across Europe today. In the first 6 months of this year, more than 220,000 people were detected crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

And in July alone, over 100,000 people made this journey, 3 times higher than the number last year. These people come from different countries and different circumstances.

We know that many are Syrians fleeing the conflict that has raged across their country, that has killed over 220,000 and has forced more than 11 million people to flee their homes. They now face 2 enemies at home – Assad and ISIL.

Britain has a moral responsibility to help refugees as we have done throughout our history. We are already are providing sanctuary and we will continue to do so.

As the second largest bilateral donor to the crisis, we have provided over £900 million in aid to help those affected in Syria and the region – we have funded shelter, food, water and vital medical supplies for millions of desperate refugees fleeing the conflict and helping them to survive in the countries around Syria, like Jordan and Lebanon.

No European country has done more than Britain in this regard. Were it not for that massive aid, the numbers making the perilous journey to Europe today would be even higher.

Now we have already accepted around 5,000 Syrians and have introduced a specific resettlement scheme, alongside those we already have, to help those Syrian refugees particularly at risk.

As I said earlier this week, we will accept thousands more under these existing schemes and we keep them under review.

And given the scale of the crisis and the suffering of the people, today I can announce that we will do more – providing resettlement for thousands more Syrian refugees.

We will continue with our approach of taking them from the refugee camps. This provides them with a more direct and safe route to the UK, rather than risking the hazardous journey which has tragically cost so many lives.

We will discuss how best to design these schemes and the numbers we will take with NGOs and our partners. We will set out more details next week.

Alongside this, Britain will continue to work with partners to tackle the conflict in Syria, to provide support to the region, to go after the smuggling gangs exploiting these people and to save lives at sea. HMS Enterprise remains in the Mediterranean alongside the Border Force cutters and together with HMS Bulwark, they have now rescued more than 6,700 people.

Britain will act with our head and our heart, providing refuge for those in need while working on long term solutions to this crisis. As I said earlier in the week, that means bringing to an end to the conflicts that are driving so many to flee, including the bloodbath that has engulfed Syria”.

UKIP candidate, Peter Bucklitsch, apologises for offensive Tweet

Peter Bucklitsch, who stood for UKIP at the Wimbledon constituency at the 2015 General Election, has apologised and withdrawn a comment on Twitter he had made in response to a photo of a child lying dead on beach.

Bucklitsch had said:

“The little Syrian boy was well clothed & well fed. He died because his parents were greedy for the good life in Europe. Queue jumping costs”.

UKIP distanced himself from the comments and Bucklitsch apologised saying:

“It was an inelegant way of agreeing that the problems lie in the regions where conditions precipitate such a strong desire to reach a place where life can begin again.”

He added:

“Forcing migrants of all descriptions to pay people smugglers to get them into the EU illegally will continue to be the problem, and will inevitably cause death and misery on a large scale”.

Chancellor of the Exchequer recommends Robert Chote to remain as Budget Responsibility Chairman


George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has recommended that Robert Chote should serve a second term as the Chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Chote has already served five years in the role and was previously the Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The decision on whether to re-appoint Chote will be made by the Treasury Select Committee.

The Chancellor said:

“I am delighted to nominate Robert Chote for re-appointment. In its successful first five years, Robert has admirably led the OBR with intelligence, independence and integrity.

Undoubtedly the best person for the job I hope that the Treasury Select Committee will approve Robert’s re-appointment so that he can continue to lead the OBR for many more successful years to come.

I am also grateful to Sir Dave Ramsden for leading this comprehensive review and welcome the Review’s assessment of the OBR’s impressive achievements to date.

The government’s creation of the OBR has meant that for the first time policy is now based on an unbiased view of future prospects.

It is a credit to the OBR’s leadership that in five years it has become an example of best practice that is praised not just in Britain but across the world”.

Robert Chote responded saying:

“I am delighted to have been asked to continue as chairman of the OBR, should the Treasury Committee wish me to do so.

It has been an enormous privilege to succeed Sir Alan Budd and to lead the organisation through its first five years in operation.

In doing so I hope that we have been able to shed light on the darker recesses of the public finances, helping Parliament and civil society to hold the government to account for its management of fiscal policy.

Looking forward, I am very pleased that the government has put forward an ambitious set of recommendations to strengthen our current operations and to widen and deepen our scrutiny of the public finances.

I hope very much that the government will provide us with the resources that we would need to deliver on them”.

EU Referendum question changed


The Government has confirmed that the question asked at a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union is to be changed following advice from the Electoral Commission.

The initial question would have had a yes/no answer to whether the UK should remain in the European Union. The amended question will now have the options of either staying in the European Union or leaving the European Union.

SNP’s minimum alcohol pricing may be illegal under European law


Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, has been told that her minimum price per unit for alcohol may be illegal under European law.

The European Court of Justice said that the measure would only be legal under European law if there was no other way of achieving the same health benefits, such as by taxation.

Yves Bot, the court’s Advocate General, said in a statement:

“A Member State can choose rules imposing a minimum retail price of alcoholic beverages, which restricts trade within the European Union and distorts competition, rather than increased taxation of those products, only on condition that it shows that the measure chosen presents additional advantages or fewer disadvantages by comparison with the alternative measure”.

Sturgeon responded:

“While we must await the final outcome of this legal process, the Scottish government remains certain that minimum unit pricing is the right measure for Scotland to reduce the harm that cheap, high-strength alcohol causes our communities”.

Downing Street has confirmed that David Cameron has met with DUP leader Peter Robinson


Downing Street has confirmed that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, have met for urgent talks with Peter Robinson, the First Minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The meeting comes after the Ulster Unionist Party withdrew from the Northern Executive last week over allegations that members of the Provisional IRA were involved with the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

Downing Street issued a statement saying:

“The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland met with the leader of the DUP Peter Robinson in Downing Street this afternoon. They discussed the current challenges facing the institutions following the murder of Kevin McGuigan and the lack of progress to implement the Stormont House Agreement.

The Prime Minister recognised the gravity of the current situation and the need to rebuild trust and confidence in the political process in Northern Ireland . He reiterated his commitment to the devolved institutions and to tackling any remaining paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister has asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to hold further urgent talks with the political parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government with the aim of agreeing a way forward that builds a better future for the people of Northern Ireland”.

David Miliband calls on the UK to take more refugees


David Miliband, the former Foreign Secretary and current Head of the International Rescue Committee, has urged the UK to take on more refugees to deal with the growing crisis.

Miliband said in an interview:

“Britain was at the forefront of writing the conventions and writing the protocols that established legal rights for refugees”.

He also urged the United States to consider taking more refugees adding:

“Historically the US has taken about 50% of the world’s resettled refugees. It would certainly help the European debate if the Americans were seen to be stepping up”.

The Government has confirmed that it is doesn’t intend to take more refugees and David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said:

“The most important thing is to try to bring peace and stability to that part of the world. I don’t think there is an answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees”.

Guardian confirms Richard Seymour does not work for them after hate post

The Guardian newspaper has confirmed that Richard Seymour does not work them after he posted a hate comment on Falkland’s veteran Simon Weston. The Guardian has though confirmed that Seymour was a regular author on its web-site with a profile at:

Simon Weston suffered serious injuries whilst on active duty on HMS Sir Galahad when the Argentines attacks it. His injuries included severe burns to his face.

Richard Seymour wrote in a comment:

“If he knew anything he’d still have his face”.

Seymour refused to apologise on his comment which appeared on an article written by Simon Weston in the Daily Telegraph.