Foreign Office expresses concern over Egyptian sentencing of journalists


The Government has expressed its concern following the sentencing of three Al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt. The journalists were sentenced to three years in prison for not having the appropriate permissions although it had previously been hoped that the sentences would be commuted.

Tobias Ellwood, the Minister for Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign Office, said:

“I am deeply concerned by the sentences handed down today against journalists in Egypt. These sentences will undermine confidence in Egypt’s progress towards strong long term stability based on implementing the rights granted by the Egyptian constitution. We have repeatedly raised this case and the restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt with ministers and senior officials. We note that the case can be appealed, and will monitor future developments closely. It is vital that the Egyptian authorities take urgent action to resolve the position of the two British nationals in this case”.

Amnesty International issued a statement saying that the sentences were “an affront to justice that sound the death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt”.

Prime Minister announces 45 new Peers


45 people have been elevated to the Peerage following the recommendation of David Cameron, the Prime Minister. The appointments bring the number of Peers in the House of Lords to 826.

An announcement was made by Downing Street listing the new Peers and including short biographies.

James Arbuthnot: Member of Parliament for Wanstead, and later North East Hampshire, 1987 to 2015, taking on a number of influential Front Bench and Parliamentary roles in those years, including Minister of State for Defence Procurement; Opposition Chief Whip; a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee and Chairman of the Defence Select Committee.

Rt Hon Gregory Barker: Former Member of Parliament for Bexhill and Battle, 2001 to 2015, during which time he was the longest serving UK Energy Minister for 20 years, serving as Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, 2010 to 2014.

Catherine Fall: Conservative Party professional with 20 years experience. Deputy Chief of Staff to David Cameron as Leader of the Opposition, 2005 to 2010; and to the Prime Minister, 2010 to present.

Simone Finn: Special Adviser to the government, focusing on industrial relations, efficiency and civil service reform. Former member of the Conservative Party’s Implementation Team prior to the 2010 General Election.

Stephen Gilbert: Long standing Conservative Party professional with 30 years experience. Currently Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for campaigning; former Political Secretary to Prime Minister David Cameron, 2010 to 2015.

Rt Hon William Hague: Member of Parliament for Richmond, Yorkshire, 1989 to 2015. Former Conservative Party Leader, 1997 to 2001. Shadow Foreign Secretary, 2005 to 2010; Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State, 2010 to 2014; and Leader of the House of Commons, 2014 to 2015.

Robert Hayward OBE: Board Member and Treasurer of Dignity in Dying and a Trustee of the YMCA. Former Conservative Member of Parliament for Kingswood Bristol, 1982 to 1992, and later Chief Executive of the British Soft Drink Association and of the British Beer and Pub Association. Prominent spokesman on gay and lesbian issues.

Rt Hon Douglas Hogg QC: Member of Parliament for Grantham, later Sleaford and North Hykeham, 1979 to 2010. Former Minister for Industry and Enterprise; Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE: Member of Parliament for South Cambridgeshire, 1997 to 2015 and longstanding member of the Conservative Front Bench. Shadow Secretary of State for Health, 2003 to 2010; Secretary of State for Health, 2010 to 2012; Leader of the House of Commons, 2012 to 2014.

James Lupton CBE: Businessman and leading philanthropist. Co-founded the London office of Greenhill and Co. and with 36 years of business experience, is now Chairman of Greenhill Europe. Recently served as Chairman of Dulwich Picture Gallery; has been a Trustee of the British Museum, and Chairman of the Lupton family charitable foundation, The Lovington Foundation, specialising in arts education and youth welfare. Co-Treasurer of the Conservative Party since 2013.

Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE: Chair of the Women’s Business Council and Chief Executive of Mitie Group plc, the strategic outsourcing company – she is one of a small number of women holding the position of Chief Executive in the FTSE 250 or 100 and is the first Asian woman to be appointed in such a role within that group of companies.

Anne McIntosh: Former Conservative Member of the European Parliament and later Member of Parliament for the Vale of York and Thirsk and Malton constituencies. Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, 2010 to 2015.

Michelle Mone OBE: One of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs, founding several successful businesses, including Ultimo, the UK’s leading designer lingerie brand. Plays an active role in mentoring programmes, with a particular emphasis on encouraging entrepreneurship in the young. Sits on the Board of Directors for The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust.

James O’Shaughnessy: Managing Director of the charity, Floreat Education; former Director of Policy and Research for the Conservative Party, authoring the Conservatives’ 2010 general election manifesto, and Director of Policy in 10 Downing Street, 2010 to 2011.

Emma Pidding CBE: Longstanding senior figure in the Conservative voluntary party. Former Chiltern District Councillor and, between 2012 to 2015, served as Chairman of the Conservative Party’s National Convention, which also led to her being appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Board.

Stuart Polak CBE: Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) since 1989. Former Youth and Community Worker for the United Synagogue, Edgware. Founding Vice Chairman and creator of the Governors of Hersmere Jewish Primary School; and Trustee of Yavneh College, an Academy in Borehamwood.

Councillor Gary Porter CBE: Long-serving Councillor on South Holland District Council; since 2003 has been Council Leader. Current Chairman of both the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Conservative Councillors Association – the first time any Councillor has been Chairman of both organisations simultaneously.

Councillor Elizabeth Redfern: Longstanding Conservative Councillor, currently Leader of North Lincolnshire Council, where she holds the portfolio for Regeneration and Devolution.

Rt Hon Andrew Robathan: Member of Parliament for Blaby (later South Leicestershire) for 23 years. Served in a number of senior Front Bench and government posts, including as Opposition Deputy Chief Whip, 2005 to 2010, and later as Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence and Northern Ireland Office.

Kate Rock: Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party with special responsibility for business engagement. Non Executive Director of Imagination Technologies plc, the FTSE 250 technology company and Non Executive Director of children’s newspaper First News. Governor of Burlington Danes Academy in West London.

Councillor Jane Scott OBE: Leader of Wiltshire Council unitary authority since June 2009 and, before that, of its predecessor, the former Wiltshire County Council, between 2003 and 2009. Currently sits of the LGA’s Children and Young People’s Board, and is the County Council’s Network Spokesman for Children and Young People.

Kevin Shinkwin: Longstanding voluntary sector professional, supporting charities including The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID, now Action on Hearing Loss); Macmillan Cancer Support; Cancer Research UK; and The Royal British Legion.

Philip Smith CBE: Chief Executive of The Association of Conservative Clubs and the Committee of Registered Club Associations, an association which encompasses all of the main UK’s club organisations, representing all political, social and ex-service personnel clubs.

Philippa Stroud: Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions since 2010, responsible for the development of the social justice agenda and the government’s welfare reform programme. Former Executive Director of the Bridge Project, a voluntary sector project that provided supported accommodation for the homeless, and a founder member and Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice.

Rt Hon David Willetts: Member of Parliament for Havant, 1992 to 2015, during which time he served in a number of key Front Bench roles, including Paymaster General in John Major’s government and, most recently, as Minister for Universities and Science, 2010 to 2014. Chairs the British Science Association; has joined the Advisory Council of the President of the Royal Society; and is a Trustee of the Science Museum.

Rt Hon Sir George Young Bt CH: Conservative Member of Parliament for Ealing Acton, 1974 to 1997, and North West Hampshire, 1997 to 2015. Former Minister for Housing and Planning; Financial Secretary to the Treasury; and Secretary of State for Transport in John Major’s government. More recently, Leader of the House of Commons and Government Chief Whip in David Cameron’s administration.

Sir Alan Beith: Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed for 42 years. Served in a number of Front Bench posts, including Deputy Leader, Chief Whip, and Treasury and Home Affairs Spokesperson. Chair of the Justice Select Committee in the last parliament.
Sharon Bowles: MEP for South East region, 2005 to 2014. Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Economic and Monetary Policy, 2009-2014. Non-Executive Director of the London Stock Exchange, 2014 to present.

Sir Malcolm Bruce: MP for Gordon, 1983 to 2015. Served in a number of Front Bench posts, including Deputy Leader, and Treasury, Environment, and Education Spokesperson. Chair of the International Development Select Committee, 2005 to 2015.
Lorely Burt: MP for Solihull, 2005 to 2015. First female Chair of the Liberal Democrat Party. Served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the coalition government. Variously Northern Ireland, women and equalities, and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesperson.

Rt Hon Sir Menzies ‘Ming’ Campbell CH, CBE, QC: MP for North East Fife, 1987 to 2015. Leader of the Liberal Democrats, 2006 to 2007. Served on the Intelligence and Security Committee. Front bench roles include Foreign Affairs and Defence Spokesperson. As an athlete, represented the UK at the 1964 Olympics and captained the Scotland team at the 1966 Commonwealth Games.

Lynne Featherstone: MP for Hornsey and Wood Green from 2005 to 2015. Served as Minister for the duration of the last coalition government – as Equalities and Home Office Minister and a Minister in the Department for International Development (DFID) – and oversaw legislation for equal marriage and 0.7% DFID spending.

Don Foster: MP for Bath from 1992 to 2010. Highly successful front bench spokesman in opposition, and also served as a Minister for the Department for Communities and Local Government between 2012 to 2013. He was the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip between October 2013 and the 2015 general election.

Jonny Oates: Served as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister for the duration of the coalition government. In opposition in the 2005 parliament he held senior communications and policy staff positions under both Menzies Campbell and Nick Clegg.

Shas Sheehan: Served as a Councillor for the Kew ward between 2006 to 2010 where she was Assistant Cabinet Member for Energy and Climate Change. She is currently involved in a number of local community groups in Wimbledon and is a trustee of Merton and Lambeth Citizens Advice Bureau.

Sir Andrew Stunell OBE: MP for Hazel Grove (1997 to 2015). In opposition, held a number of Front Bench roles and from 2010 to 2012 served as a Minster in the Department of Communities and Local Government. In 2010 he played a key role in the Liberal Democrat coalition negotiations.

Dorothy Thornhill MBE: The first ever directly elected female Mayor in the UK when she was elected Liberal Democrat Mayor of Watford in 2002. She was re-elected in 2006, 2010 and 2014. She has held a number of senior roles on the Local Government Association including Deputy Chairwoman of the Association.

Rt Hon David Blunkett: MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough for 28 years. Served in a number of senior Cabinet posts, including as Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1997 to 2001) and Home Secretary (2001 to 2004). Formerly Councillor in and then Leader of Sheffield Council (1970 to 1988). Currently Vice President of the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the National Alzheimer’s Society.

Rt Hon Alistair Darling: MP for Edinburgh South West for 28 years. Served in a number of Cabinet posts including as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1998 to 2002) , Transport (2002 to 2006), Scotland (2003 to 2006) and as Chancellor of the Exchequer (2007 to 2010). Mr Darling was appointed Chair of the Better Together Campaign in 2010.

Rt Hon Peter Hain: MP for Neath for 24 years (1991 to 2015). Served in a number of Cabinet posts including as Welsh Secretary (2002 to 2003), Leader of the House of Commons (2003 to 2005) and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (2007 to 2008). As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (2005 to 2007) he oversaw the implementation of the peace process and the return of self government to Northern Ireland. Co-Founder of the anti-apartheid movement in the UK and leader of the ‘Stop the Seventy Tour’ campaign (1969 to 1970).

Rt Hon Tessa Jowell DBE: Former social worker. MP for Dulwich and West Norwood for 23 years (1992 to 2015). Served in a number of senior government posts, including as a Minister of State in the Department of Education and Department of Health and as Minister for the Cabinet Office (2009 to 2010). As Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport and Minister for the Olympics (2001 to 2009) oversaw the successful bid and preparations for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Spencer Livermore: Leading communications and strategy professional. Senior Labour Party strategist (1997 to 2008) and Director of Strategy to the Prime Minister (2007 to 2008). Senior campaign strategist for the Labour Party, including as Campaign Director of the 2015 general election campaign. Formerly Director of Strategy at Blue Rubicon and Senior Strategist at Saatchi & Saatchi.

Paul Murphy: MP for Torfaen for 28 years (1987 to 2015). Served in a number of senior government posts, including as Secretary of State for Wales (1999 to 2002, 2008 to 2009) and as a Minister and then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1997 to 1999, 2000 to 2005). Former Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Received a Knight Commander of Merit in recognition of his commitment to peace in Northern Ireland.

Rt Hon Dawn Primarolo DBE: MP for Bristol South for 28 years (1987 to 2015). Served in a number of senior government posts including as Financial Secretary to the Treasury (1997 to 1999), Paymaster General (1999 to 2007), and as Minister of State for Public Health (2007 to 2009) and Children, Young People and Families (2009 to 2010). Served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons and Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (2010 to 2015).

Dave Watts: MP for St Helens North for 18 years. Formerly leader of St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council, he served in a number of Parliamentary and government posts, including as a Government Whip and Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury (2008 to 2010). Appointed as Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party (2012 to 2015).

Government said it is disappointed with the high migration figures


Figures released today have shown that net migration to the UK has increased by 333,000 over the last year which is the largest increase in recent decades. The figures are disappointing news for the Government as David Cameron, the Prime Minister, had set a target to cut net migration.

James Brokenshire, the Immigration Minister at the Home Office, said “these stark figures are deeply disappointing”.

He added:

“We have slashed student fraud, struck off nearly 900 bogus colleges, and toughened access to welfare and housing. But with nearly 100,000 non-EU students remaining in the UK at the end of their courses and British business still overly reliant on foreign workers in a number of sectors there is much more to do”.

Foreign Secretary praises new links between Serbia and Kosovo


Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, has welcomed strengthened links between Serbia and Kosovo.

Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative, helped to negotiate the agreements and he said:

“I hosted a meeting of the high level dialogue for normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina with Prime Ministers Aleksandar Vučić and Isa Mustafa and their delegations in Brussels today to finalise implementation arrangements of four key agreements: on energy, telecoms, establishment of the Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities as well as the Freedom of Movement/Mitrovica Bridge”.

In a statement Hammond said:

“I congratulate Prime Minister Vucic, Prime Minister Mustafa and High Representative Mogherini on their hard work and perseverance in securing these agreements.

I urge both Serbia and Kosovo to maintain this positive momentum. Completing the implementation of all their agreements will be an important step towards normalising relations between the two countries and increasing regional stability and security.

I also encourage both leaders to maintain the commitment necessary for both countries to continue on their respective EU paths and towards a stable and prosperous future for all their citizens”.

The Ulster Unionist Party withdraw from the Northern Ireland Executive


The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) have confirmed that they will be withdrawing from the Northern Ireland Executive. The decision comes following the murder of Kevin McGuigan which the Police Service of Northern Ireland said was committed by members of the Provisional IRA.

Mike Nesbitt, the leader of the UUP, said that he supported the decision to withdraw from the Executive. He added that:

“Sinn Fein no credibility and we have no trust and without trust we have nothing”.

Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said:

“This is a matter for the Ulster Unionist Party who take their own decisions. The Government remains fully committed to the devolved political institutions and to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement. Over the coming days, I shall be continuing my discussions with the parties about fallout from the murder of Kevin McGuigan”.

Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, had previously said:

“The IRA has gone and is not coming back”.

Three Labour leadership candidates reject Jeremy Corbyn’s call for all-women train carriages


Yvette Cooper, one of the four candidates for leadership of the Labour Party, has rejected a proposal by Jeremy Corbyn, who is also standing, for all-women carriages to be introduced onto trains.

Cooper said on Twitter:

“Why should we [women] have to shut ourselves away to stay safe?”

She later said in a statement:

“The staff needed to enforce the segregated carriages should be keeping all the carriages safe instead. Transport bosses and police need to do far more to crack down on harassment and abuse – and that means we need more visible police and staff on tubes, trains and platforms, better lighting and CCTV, tough action to follow up abuse (which too often doesn’t happen), and a complete change in culture on buses, railways and tubes”.

Liz Kendall, also standing in the leadership contest, said:

“But I don’t believe that gender segregation is the answer. That’d be an admission of defeat, rather than a sustainable solution”.

Andy Burnham, the fourth candidate for the leadership, said:

“In this day and age we shouldn’t even considering the idea of segregated train travel. As a dad of two young girls, I want to see a proper society-wide strategy on tackling violence against women”.

Anber Raz from the Equality Now group also criticised the proposals saying:

“Having women-only carriages on public transport does not solve the fundamental problem of sexual harassment and hides women away. Instead, the focus should be on ending the harassment and teaching boys and men not to do it, rather than putting the onus on women to ‘stay safe’. The justice system should be held accountable too, to take this issue seriously and pursue prosecutions, thereby sending a strong message that the continued harassment of women and girls will not be tolerated”.

Corbyn’s campaign team said that he had raised the issue only to encourage debate on protecting women and that it was only for discussion at this stage.

Further controversy hits Labour leadership contest after union leader banned from voting


Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade union, has been banned from voting in the Labour leadership election. Serwotka has led the union since 2000 and has been backing Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership campaign.

His wife Ruth Serwotka said on Twitter:

“Mark been prevented from voting in a Labour Movement election as an affiliated member. I’m very interested to hear the reasons”.

The Labour Party has yet to comment on why Serwotka’s ballot was rejected.


British Government welcomes agreement between North and South Korea


Hugo Swire, a Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, has welcomed an agreement between North and South Korea on the matter of the Korean Peninsula.

The agreement comes after days of localised disagreements including artillery and propaganda spread on loudspeakers. There had been concerns that North Korea had been increasing its armed presence on the border and that the situation could escalate.

In a statement Swire said:

“This is a welcome development which demonstrates the importance of dialogue and diplomacy. I am especially pleased both sides have committed to hold further talks to try to improve inter-Korean relations. Both countries working together to improve stability is a positive step which I hope, in time, will realise the international community’s vision of a de-nuclearised Korean Peninsula, free from the fear of conflict”.

Foreign Secretary confirms four British nationals have died in Canadian air crash


Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, has confirmed that four British nationals have died in an air crash in Quebec, Canada. He said:

“This terrible incident has taken the lives of all on board, including four British nationals. My thoughts and sympathy are with their family and friends at this difficult time.

Our High Commission in Ottawa is in close contact with the Canadian authorities and we are providing consular assistance to the relatives of those who were killed”.

Theresa May in Birmingham in bid to tackle extremism


Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is in Birmingham today to highlight work being done to counter extremism.

One organisation the Home Secretary visited was Odara which calls for women to engage with other women in conversation and companionship. This allows issues to be discussed which include grooming, mental health, domestic violence and extremism.

May said:

“I am proud to be in Birmingham today to support organisations like Odara who work tirelessly to stand up against the extremists who seek to divide us.

Their work is vital because tackling extremism is not something that Government can do alone, which is why we are building a stronger Britain together.

We must work in partnership with local people and communities to challenge those who spread hatred and intolerance. Together we can defeat extremism”.