Thank you for your email. I had a very long-standing engagement which meant I could not be present for the vote last night on the “ceasefire” amendments to the King’s Speech motion. The debate on the King's Speech follows the announcement of the government's legislative programme in the new session of Parliament. As with adjournment debates and early day motions, it is not a procedure which can alter government policy or commit it to a given course of action even if an amendment is carried. I am doing other work myself which I feel is productive and the government is well aware of my views.
My concerns long predate the horrific events of October 7th in the Hamas attacks. This is a subject I have often spoken about in Parliament and in my other work as an MP. I have visited Israel and Palestine twice, most recently in May, and I have seen the loss of hope Palestinian people feel. I have set up the Conservative Friends of Palestine organisation. Yesterday morning I chaired a briefing on behalf of Amnesty where we heard from human rights organisations representing both Palestinians and Israelis. That included testimony from people directly affected by these horrendous events. I have attended several other meetings recently where MPs have heard about the experiences of people on both sides who have been caught up in the conflict between Hamas and Israel. Yesterday I also spoke at a multi-faith vigil for peace with representation from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities.
The government is putting pressure on Israel but it is impossible for the UK to legislate to create a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, and that is why amendments to the King's Speech are not effective. Hamas and Israel both have to act in good faith. I was pleased that the Foreign Office Minister, Andrew Mitchell, has this week confirmed the government’s view that the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate war crimes in Gaza.
I agree that Israel must hold off on further attacks on Gaza and Hamas must release all of the hostages. There are British nationals taken hostage or killed and I have received a wide range of correspondence since October 7th on what our response should be. Hamas is a proscribed organisation in the UK and I am concerned at some of the events here which have caused fear in our Jewish communities. I am clear that the rule of law remains paramount in all these matters whether at home or abroad. There is bipartisan agreement between the government and Opposition on our approach, which is to press both sides to de-escalate and to return to the Oslo Accord principles.
We need to get more aid in, get vulnerable people out of harm's way, and to have an end to the shooting so that Israelis and Palestinians can get back to the negotiating table.
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