Foreign Secretary Welcomes Action Against Russia

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, has said that the British Government welcomes moves by the European Union, Australia, Canada and the United States against Russian aggression in Ukraine. There will also be EU sanctions imposed against a number of Russian individuals in an attempt to put pressure on Vladimir Putin, the Russian President.

Hunt said in a statement:

“Today, the UK and our international partners in the EU, Australia, Canada and the US have sent an unequivocal message to Russia that their attack on Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait and Black Sea last year was absolutely unacceptable. These sanctions are another example of the international community standing up to Russia as it persistently violates international law. We will continue to take necessary action together in response to Russia’s efforts to destabilise Ukraine.

Russia must immediately release the 24 detained servicemen and return the seized vessels. We remain deeply concerned for the safety and welfare of the servicemen who are unjustly held in Russian custody. Russia must allow free and unhindered passage of Ukrainian and international ships through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov. We, with our international partners, stand with Ukraine in opposing Russia’s ongoing efforts to undermine Ukrainian security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

UK Gives Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Diplomatic Protection

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, has confirmed that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been given diplomatic protection. The unusual move is intended to secure the release of the joint UK-Iranian citizen who the British Government have claimed is being denied medical treatment.

Jeremy Hunt said in a statement:

“Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is an innocent woman who has spent the last three years in an Iranian jail, separated from her daughter and husband. We have been working hard to secure her release but despite repeated efforts have not been successful. We have not even been able to secure her the medical treatment she urgently needs despite assurances to the contrary.

So I have today decided that the UK will take a step that is extremely unusual and exercise diplomatic protection. This represents formal recognition by the British Government that her treatment fails to meet Iran’s obligations under international law and elevates it to a formal State to State issue.

I have not taken this decision lightly. I have considered the unacceptable treatment Nazanin has received over three years, including not just lack of access to medical treatment but also lack of due process in the proceedings brought against her. My decision is an important diplomatic step which signals to Tehran that its behaviour is totally wrong. It is unlikely to be a magic wand that leads to an overnight result. But it demonstrates to the whole world that Nazanin is innocent and the UK will not stand by when one of its citizens is treated so unjustly.

Iran is one of the oldest civilisations in the world. I know there are many in Iran who understand the unjustness of this situation. No government should use innocent individuals as pawns for diplomatic leverage so I call on Iran to release this innocent woman so she can be reunited with her family.”

Foreign Secretary Congratulates Greece on Settling Macedonia Name Conflict

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, has congratulated Greece on passing legislation which resolves a long-standing disagreement on the use of the word Macedonia.

Hunt said in a statement:

“The UK congratulates Greece’s Parliament for successfully ratifying the Prespes Agreement. This is an historic moment bringing a decades-old dispute close to an end. Today’s vote paves the way to the full implementation of the Agreement, which has the full support of the UK.

Both countries have demonstrated great courage and the will to work together to affect real change. The deal brings the prospect of increased stability and prosperity to the wider region. We look forward to continued working with two trusted allies in the interests of European security.”

Guy Verhofstadt, the Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, posted on Facebook:

“A historic moment! Congrats to the Republic of #NorthMacedonia, Greece, Alexis Tsipras & Zoran Zaev for solving this 27 year dispute. A vital step towards reconciliation in the Western Balkans and a breakthrough in Skopje’s EU path.”

Foreign Office Issues Statement on Iran

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has today issued a statement alongside numerous other European countries with regards to the current situation in Iran.

A spokesperson for the FCO said:

“The UK and a number of European partners today jointly raised with Iran our deep concerns about hostile activities and plots being planned and perpetrated in Europe. Such actions are unacceptable and must have consequences.

We informed the Iranian authorities that those responsible for the June 2018 bomb plot planned in France are being included on the EU list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts and will be subject to restrictive measures.

We also condemned other illegal activities, including the recent thwarted assassination plot in Denmark and two assassinations in the Netherlands.

We remain committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, for as long as Iran continues to implement it in full. This agreement remains central to international efforts to halt nuclear proliferation and is crucial for the security of the region. But we are clear that this commitment does not preclude us from addressing other hostile and destabilising activities”.

Foreign Secretary Visits Malaysia as Part of Three Day Tour of Asia

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, is visiting Malaysia today in the first part of his three-day tour of Asia. He praised the progress towards media freedom in the country and said that the UK would help support Malaysian journalists focusing on investigative journalism.

The Foreign Secretary said in a statement:

“The UK is leading international efforts to support and protect media freedoms. At a time when these freedoms are increasingly under threat across the world, I applaud the new Malaysian government for the positive commitments and early steps it has taken. Lifting travel bans on journalists and moving to repeal laws that restrict media freedom demonstrate an intent to support journalists in their vital work and foster a free press.

Later this year I will be hosting an international conference in London on media freedom, which will bring together countries like Malaysia, and mobilise consensus behind the protection of journalists and the environment they operate in”.

The Malaysian Foreign Office added that they thought the visit of Jeremy Hunt would “strengthen the bond of friendship between Malaysia and the UK”.

Government Issues Statement on Elections in Zimbabwe

Jeremy Hunt

The European Union Delegation, the Heads of Mission of EU Member States present in Harare (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) and the Heads of Mission of Canada, Switzerland and the United States of America have joined together to issue a statement on the elections in Zimbabwe.

The text reads:

“The Heads of Mission of the EU, Canada, Switzerland and the United States of America note with grave concern the eruption of violence and occurrence of serious human rights violations following the peaceful election on 30 July 2018. These tragic events stand in sharp contrast to the high hopes and expectations for a peaceful, inclusive, transparent and credible election in Zimbabwe.

The Heads of Mission express their condolences to the families of the victims.

The Heads of Mission condemn the violence, attacks, and acts of intimidation targeted at opposition leaders and supporters. These human rights violations have no place in a democratic society and contravene the fundamental tenets of international human rights standards.

The Heads of Mission urge the government to respect the rights of the Zimbabwean people as enshrined in the Constitution. All allegations of incitement to violence or violent acts, as well as vandalism and destruction of property, should be investigated in accordance with the rule of law, and perpetrators held legally responsible.

The Heads of Mission welcome the President’s commitment to establish an independent commission to investigate the violence against civilians and look forward to the commission starting its work as soon as possible and reporting its findings in a transparent manner.

The Heads of Mission call on the Government to ensure that the Zimbabwean Defence Forces act with restraint, in full respect of international human rights norms and their constitutional role.

The Heads of Mission call on all stakeholders to act responsibly, to adhere to the principles of the Peace Pledge, to pursue peaceful and legal resolution of their grievances and to uphold the integrity of the political and electoral process”.

Labour Call For Action on Same Sex Wards

Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, has called on the Government to do more to eliminate same sex wards to meet promises which it had previously made. Figures released showed that there were 969 breaches of the rules in September, more than double the 2015 figure.

Ashworth said in a statement:

“In 2012 Jeremy Hunt said mixed sex wards had been “virtually eliminated”. The fact that mixed sex wards are now at their highest level for six years reveals a bigger picture of overcrowded and overstretched hospitals as a result of Tory underfunding and mismanagement.

Yet again we see patients cruelly let down by Theresa May. Ministers simply cannot carry on burying their heads in the sand about the scale of the problems facing the NHS. In the Budget, Theresa May must match Labour’s pledge to deliver an extra £6 billion for our NHS across the next financial year to ensure the best possible quality of care is sustained for years to come”.

Government Wins Public Sector Pay Cap Debate Vote

Jeremy Hunt

The Government has tonight won a vote in the House of Commons after an amendment was tabled by the Labour Party to end the cap on public sector pay increases. There had been confusion during the day over whether the Conservative Party would u-turn, but Downing Street confirmed that there had been no change in policy.

The Conservative Party, with the support of all DUP MPs, won the vote in the House of Commons by 323 votes to 309. During the debate some Conservative MPs, as well as former Ministers, argued that the cap should be reviewed.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said during the debate in the Commons:

“People will recognise that in the very difficult period that we have just had, it would not have been possible to increase the number of doctors by nearly 12,000 and the number of nurses in our wards by nearly 13,000 if we had not taken difficult decisions on pay. What I can say is that we will not make our decision on public sector pay until the pay review body has reported. We will listen to what it says, and to what people in this House have said, before making a final decision”.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, said in a statement:

“You can’t have safety and security on the cheap. It is plain to see that seven years of cuts to our emergency services has made us less safe; it’s time to make a change. Our emergency service workers make us proud at the worst of times for our country, such as the Grenfell Tower Fire and the recent terrorist attacks, and deserve the pay rise they have been denied for seven years. Conservative cuts have failed. Labour has a different approach, which values those who look after us and will transform Britain for the many not the few”.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, said in a statement:

“The government must listen to the overwhelming tide of public opinion and give our police, firefighters and nurses a pay rise. But Labour must be honest and admit we won’t be able to pay for strong public services by crashing the economy through an extreme Brexit. Labour MPs who want to protect funding for our police, schools and hospitals should back amendments calling for Britain to stay in the single market. This is a unique chance to force Theresa May to rethink her extreme approach to Brexit, Labour must not be on the wrong side of history”.

John Godfrey, the Prime Minister’s Director of Policy, calls for care fees rethink

John Godfrey, the Director of Policy to the Prime Minister, has said that the elderly should sell their homes to pay for care fees. This is a change to the policy of the David Cameron Government where Jeremy Hunt talked of the scandal of the elderly being forced to sell their homes.

The Observer has reported Godfrey saying:

“On a 10-year view equity release is going to be hugely important, because if you look at the amount of housing equity across the UK that is owned by people of post-retirement age, that is really where an awful lot of the money sits at the moment”.

David Cameron, the then Prime Minister, said in 2014:

“But the point about care homes is also important, because I know there is a concern that, of course, if you take your money out of your pension pot and have it as your own money, then it counts as your money when you are assessed for care needs. That is true; that is the case. But, again, you have the choice: you can leave money in your pension pot or take it out. And also, we are putting in place a cap on the amount of money that someone can be charged for their care needs”.

Godfrey is a former Conservative Party parliamentary candidate and has worked for senior figures including John Patten and Douglas Hurd.