Emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the need for repeal of President Trump’s discriminatory, divisive and counterproductive ban on entry to the United States for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries and the indefinite ban placed on Syrian refugees.
May I place on record my thanks to you, Mr Speaker, for granting this debate? It is right that Members from both sides of the House of Commons have a clear opportunity to address these pressing issues. I will seek to keep my remarks brief to allow others to contribute to the debate.
I thank the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) for co-sponsoring this debate. Throughout the past couple of days he has acted with great dignity and great eloquence, as recognised on both sides of the House. He and I are approaching this debate in the hope of sending a clear and united view from this House about President Trump’s measures.
I should say at the start that this debate is not about our respect for the United States or our friendship with that country. I have lived there and I have friends there, and the declaration of independence is one of the most powerful political documents. Since its foundation, the United States has been built on the back of immigrants from around the world. Indeed, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty is the phrase:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
It is precisely the role of the United States historically, and our friendship and unique relationship with America, that gives us a special responsibility, given what has transpired over the past few days.
At the heart of this debate are three simple questions. First, is it right for President Trump to ban indiscriminately people from certain countries of the world from entering the US, and to indefinitely ban Syrian refugees?
The right hon. Gentleman is making an eloquent speech, as usual, but will he tell the House who gives the most funds to support Syrian refugees? Is it not the United States?
The US plays a role and this country plays a very important role, but that is really beside the point of whether the US should impose an indiscriminate and, as the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon—my hon. Friend for the purposes of this debate—said to me over the weekend, an indefinite ban in relation to Syrian refugees. I shall come to that later in my speech, as I am sure will other Members.
The second question is crucial: will the President’s actions make the world a safer place or a more dangerous one? My contention is that they will make the world a more dangerous place, and that on its own reflects our national interest in this matter. The third question follows on from that: what is Britain’s responsibility in speaking up on these issues?
I shall discuss those three questions briefly, but let me say first that Americans and, indeed, people in this country are fearful about the threat from ISIS and wider terrorist networks. Those fears are understandable and we must respond to them. There is no dispute about that. I support measures that keep our citizens, and those of the United States, safe, but it is not enough to say that we are fearful, or that our citizens are fearful; we then have to weigh whatever actions are proposed or taken. Understandable fears cannot be an excuse for the suspension of reason and rationality—that applies to the Trump Administration in a whole number of areas. The only way to understand the ban is that it represents the suspension of reason and rationality. Indeed, it has perversity, discrimination and divisiveness at its heart.
One of the key aspects is the dramatic effect of the ban on those who had boarded aircraft, ready to go to the United States with valid visas, only to arrive and be told that they had to go back. It is that physical, emotional effect that is the most damning part of what is being proposed.
My right hon. Friend speaks with great eloquence on this issue and the wider issues raised. One of the most chilling things—I am sure that other Members found this as well—was that the accounts of what happened to individuals over the weekend sounded like the results of the actions of a tin-pot dictatorship. They did not sound like what we would expect or hope for from the United States.
I share the right hon. Gentleman’s concerns, but does he agree that we have a responsibility to act and speak responsibly in this Chamber? The seven countries of concern were identified by the Obama Administration, and restrictions were placed on migration in 2015.
The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon will perhaps say something personal about that, but I say to the hon. Gentleman—this is very important, because President Trump is trying to sow confusion on this issue—that President Obama’s action was about the visa waiver scheme in relation to those countries. It was most emphatically not about a blanket ban on individuals from those countries coming to the US.
The countries selected for the ban are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. There is no question but that those countries, in their different ways, are extremely dangerous places, but does a blanket ban on people from those countries make any sense? In my view, it does not. If we read the Executive order—it is worth reading it, along with the annotations to it—we see that it falls apart at the first hurdle. Section 1 of the order, right up at the front, states the rationale for the President’s proposals. What does it cite? It cites the 9/11 attacks on America—absolutely appalling events that shocked us all—but none of the 9/11 attackers came from the countries on which the ban has been imposed. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others are not on the list, so the very justification offered in the Executive order frankly falls apart.
Nobody is against the proper vetting of people from those countries—the strongest security checks—but a blanket ban cannot be the answer. I do not think I can do better than to read the words of Chancellor Merkel, who said earlier:
“The necessary and decisive fight against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain belief—in this case people of Muslim belief or people from a certain country. That way of thinking is against my interpretation of the basic tenets of international refugee support and co-operation.”
Chancellor Merkel put it incredibly well. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) said, we have seen the dreadful results of this blanket ban playing out over the past few days.
Does my right hon. Friend share my disappointment that the statesmanship that has been shown by Chancellor Merkel was not shown in our name by our Prime Minister this weekend?
The intention of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon and I is to maintain as much unity as we can in this debate so that we send a clear message. I would have liked the Prime Minister to be much clearer, much earlier, and I would still like a clearer message from the Government.
Is there not a danger that the ban could increase hate crimes in this country and elsewhere? Is there not another danger that it will give ammunition to the violent extremists? It will almost be a recruitment sergeant, as we have learned from other experiences—for example, in Ireland.
My hon. Friend puts it very well, and anticipates what I am going to say. What message does this send to a quarter of the world’s population? What message does it send to Muslims around the world? It sends the message that they are not wanted in the United States because of their religious faith. What more of a recruiting sergeant, as my hon. Friend says, could there be for ISIS and others?
I was saying that we have seen the dreadful results of the order over the past few days, and I will briefly mention some of them. One of the first people detained, I believe for 19 hours, was an Iraqi interpreter who had worked with the US military for 10 years. If that is not a perverse result, I do not know what is. There are instances of green card holders being handcuffed and held in detention for 16 hours. A five-year-old was apparently detained for several hours, and then there is the issue—it is welcome that the Foreign Secretary clarified this—of dual citizens, including our own, such as the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon and Sir Mo Farah, being caught up in this.
As bad as the substance of the Executive order—“cavalier” is not putting it nearly high enough—is the appalling way in which the US Government have gone about this. It is the action of a tin-pot dictatorship. I think that the Foreign Secretary acknowledged in his statement when responding to a question from one of my hon. Friends that people had been caught on the hop. This draconian measure was imposed without even consulting the people responsible for its implementation.
My right hon. Friend is making an extremely powerful speech. I think that everyone in the House loves, admires and respects America and its democratic traditions, and is saddened by what has happened. One concern is the fact that the federal court rulings often do not appear to be implemented in the airports and points of entry. The message about respect for the rule of law is one that we all endorse and want to be heard. We want to get that message out.
My hon. Friend speaks very eloquently. I noticed that the Prime Minister told President Erdogan that human rights and the rule of law were incredibly important. The same thing applies to President Trump. All of us have to make that clear, and it is good to see in the Chamber the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), who—I do not want to cause him trouble—issued a good statement earlier today. He is nodding.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that in one way the Executive order is not a surprise, because it was a key plank of President Trump’s election campaign last year? Simply because it was an election pledge does not in any way suggest that it is right.
That is completely right. The person who coined the phrase that people were taking Mr Trump seriously but not literally has turned out to be wrong, because the President is acting literally. Whether he talked about this in the campaign or not, we all have a responsibility to decide both how we respond and the strength of our response. I will come on to why it is important that we speak up.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
I am conscious of the fact that other Members want to speak in the debate, but I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman.
I do not wish to diminish the topic that we are discussing, but my wife, who is a British citizen, was born in Israel. She will not be able to travel to Malaysia, where many people in this country go on holiday, and she will not be able to travel to 17 countries in and around the middle east. If the right hon. Gentleman cares so passionately about this—and I do not dispute that he does—what does he intend to do about that?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman about what he says. These are definitely important issues. I do not want to sound like the old man of the sea, but I recall the debate on intervention in Libya in which I supported the then Government. A Back-Bench hon. Friend got up and said that they could not support the measure—and different people had different views on intervention—because there were many other terrible things happening in the world, so what were we going to do about them? Two wrongs do not make a right. This is, after all, supposed to be our closest ally and the people who are supposed to uphold human rights and the rule of law all around the world. It is hard to lecture other countries on respect for human rights if the President of the United States fails to do so.
I would like to mention a specific case that brings home the lunacy of the proposal. I read yesterday about the case of an 18-year-old called Mahmoud Hassan from Syria. He was recently accepted for a degree in engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The letter that MIT sent him described him as
“one of the most talented and promising students in one of the most competitive applicant pools in the history of the Institute.”
That young man from Syria who wants to study engineering at MIT said:
“Now Trump's orders will prevent me from going there. My dreams are basically ruined.”
I hope that on the question of students, as on the issue of green cards, the US Administration find a way of changing their position, but that brings home the reason why a blanket ban is nonsense. There are countless other examples, and doubtless other hon. Members will want to discuss them.
I would like to deal briefly with the issue of whether or not this is a Muslim ban. It clearly is. That was the President’s original intention. Rudolph Giuliani said on television yesterday—I paraphrase—“Donald Trump rang me up and asked how we could get a Muslim ban and make it work. I said, ‘Here’s a way we can make it happen.’” As for the Executive order itself, we all recognise the persecution, in particular, of Christians in the middle east. It is important to take special note of that and, indeed, that is already done in the way in which refugees are handled.
The Executive order singles out the possibility that minorities from predominantly Muslim countries will receive special treatment, which draws into the order the idea that this is being done on the basis of religious faith. It is a ban aimed at Muslims.
What my right hon. Friend is describing emphasises why it is important that we as a country can contribute to, and serve as members of, organisations such as the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, otherwise we will lose the ability to join other nations to make exactly the points he is making.
I completely agree with my right hon. Friend. I would like—and perhaps the Minister will ponder this—a more co-ordinated European response on this issue. We are still members of the European Union, and if there is any area where Europe should speak with one voice, this is it. I do not see why there could not be a European Heads of Government meeting to discuss the issue and Europe’s response. It is important that President Trump knows that there is a co-ordinated and clear voice from Europe on this issue.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, along with how abhorrent this is to many people looking on, we must save a thought for the staff in the embassies and consulates around the world? I worked for a time with the US State Department in the consulate in Edinburgh, and I know how strong the feeling is in many offices. It is difficult for staff to have to execute the order and serve on the front line.
The hon. Lady makes an important point. Lots of people who are trying to implement the order are wondering why they have to do so. Apparently, on Friday night some of them were saying to people who were victims of the proposal, “You’d better call President Trump if you don’t like this.”
Like the right hon. Gentleman, I am concerned. Will he clarify the difference between orders from President Obama’s Administration and those from President Trump’s?
Well, there is a huge difference. President Trump’s order is a blanket ban on people from seven different countries. President Obama’s proposal —if I am allowed to say so, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon has had personal experience of this—was a specific issue about the visa waiver scheme. It was not about saying that there would be any kind of blanket ban on people coming into the country.
My final point on why the order is such a terrible thing for President Trump to have done is one that other hon. Members will want to talk about: the ban on all refugees from Syria. I recommend a piece that my brother wrote on the matter in The New York Times. Refugees are the most thoroughly vetted people in the world, with up to 36 months of vetting and screening by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defence and others. There has been summary detention of the innocent, clear discrimination on the basis of faith, and a decision to depart from the UN convention relating to the status of refugees. This ban is neither rational nor fair, and it will not make the country or the world safer; indeed, quite the opposite. I can do no better than to quote Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who yesterday said
“we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism…This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”
I believe they are right.
I am sure that I am not alone in saying that my office has today been besieged by phone calls from tearful, upset constituents asking, “Why has the world abandoned us when someone is basically saying that we are all terrorists?”
My hon. Friend puts it incredibly well. In fact, I was about to come to that point. We already see the implications of the order playing out. We are in partnership with the Iraqi Government against ISIL, and today we have seen their response to the Trump ban, as the Iraqi Parliament has asked its Government to retaliate against the measures of the US Administration. As my hon. Friend said, we should think about what this order signals to 1.6 billion Muslims all around the world. It sends the message that they are not welcome. Indeed, it precisely buys into the clash of civilisations narrative that politicians from across the political spectrum have tried to avoid ever since 9/11.
Regarding our responsibilities, the United States has always been our oldest and closest ally, and some will say that this is not a matter for us as long as our citizens are protected. I profoundly disagree. It is absolutely a matter for us because the fundamental and dangerous betrayal of values that this measure represents is an affront to us all—the Muslims living here and every other citizen of this country—and it will make the world a more dangerous place. Allowing the measure to stand and shrugging our shoulders will amount to complicity with President Trump. These actions are not normal, rational or sensible. President Trump is a bully, and the only course of action open to us in relation to his bullying is to stand up and be counted.
My right hon. Friend is making a powerful case about why the order should be challenged. Does he share my despair that it has become apparent today that our Prime Minister knew about this before she walked into a room, looked President Trump in the face and chose to say nothing?
I heard my hon. Friend ask the Foreign Secretary a powerful question earlier, and she makes an important point. On the wider issue, I understand the need for a trade deal with the United States—although a whole set of issues surrounds that deal—but we cannot, on the basis of our keenness to get a trade deal, shrink from speaking truths to the most powerful man in the world. That would just be the wrong thing to do.
The only course of action open to us regarding this Executive order in the United States is to act on the basis of our values. That is the purpose of the debate, which I thank you again, Mr Speaker, for granting, and that is the purpose of the motion before the House. I hope it will be approved by hon. and right hon. Members.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting the request made by my friend, the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), and I to discuss this critical issue. I thank hon. Members of all parties in this House, and people beyond, for their private and public messages of support during the past 72 hours of anguish for my family.
In February last year, my wife and I had our visa waivers revoked in the wake of heightened security measures undertaken by President Obama’s Administration because of our status as Iraqi-born individuals, although we are both British citizens. The precaution seemed fair at the time. We were required to present ourselves for interview at the US embassy in order to guarantee the future security of our travel to America. That was understandable, but none the less uncomfortable. It was not, though, nearly as uncomfortable as this weekend has been for my family and me.
I learned that ability to travel to the United States—a country that I revere so much for its values, for which I have such great affinity, affection and admiration, and to which I have sent both my sons to university—was to be denied to me. I learned that this great nation had put in place measures that would prevent my family and me from travelling, studying and feeling welcome there. I was concerned about the next time I would see my boys, given our reluctance to let them fly home in case they were prevented from returning to university. My wife and I despaired at the thought that, had one of our sons again been taken as seriously ill as he was last year while at university, we would not be able to go to him when he needed us most. Similar sentiments have been felt by many families in the UK and around the world over the weekend.
I fully recognise that I am speaking from a position of great privilege: I have been very lucky as a businessman, and I am hugely privileged to represent Stratford-on-Avon and to have a strong platform from which to state my views. But we need to remember that many people do not have this platform or this voice, many of whom, through no fault of their own, will be seriously affected by the policy and will still be unsure how it affects them or their families. I praise our Prime Minister for the manner in which she spoke up for those people in the United Kingdom. She rapidly instructed our Foreign and Home Secretaries to make representations to their US counterparts. I am relieved that their endeavours have had some success, at least in the British case, but sadly and regretfully, the order remains in force.
Every country is undeniably entitled to set its own immigration policy, control its own borders and do what it thinks is in the best interests of its citizens’ safety. On those issues alone, no nation should interfere, but the UK has an obligation to speak out and to be a critical friend to the United States of America because of the ramifications of the order for the internal stability and security of our country and the rest of the world. The order undermines what our Prime Minister said so eloquently in her speech to Republicans of both Houses of Congress last week in Philadelphia about the need not only to defeat Daesh on the battlefield, but to defeat its ideology and the ideology of those who support it.
I know that I will have vast amounts of support from hon. Members across the House when I say that the Executive order is not only wholly counterproductive in combating terrorism and the narrative of Daesh, but will worsen the situation, playing into the hands of those who would see more terrorist atrocities, not less. Those sympathetic to Daesh will link the order to abhorrent recent events—most notably, the burning of a mosque in Texas and yesterday’s tragic shootings at another mosque in Quebec, Canada. They will link it to rhetoric surrounding the so-called Muslim ban, and to the President’s comments revealed by the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, to which the right hon. Member for Doncaster North referred. On Fox News on Saturday night, Rudy Giuliani confirmed that the then presidential candidate approached him and, after announcing his intention to impose a total shutdown on all Muslims entering the USA, instructed him to
“Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.”
Over the weekend, pro-Islamic State social media accounts have already begun to hail the order and the President’s comments as clear evidence that the USA is seeking to destroy Islam. They have even called it the “blessed ban”. Articles in Daesh’s English-language publication Dabiq have consistently said that the intention behind Daesh’s attacks on the west has been to provoke an anti-Muslim backlash. This Executive order has done exactly what it wants; it has, in effect, put at the disposal of Daesh and its supporters a useful recruiting sergeant to radicalise more impressionable young men and women, creating the danger of more home-grown terrorism, not less. This blanket order will marginalise many moderate Muslims, warping their perception of the west and giving Daesh’s claims that the US is the enemy of Islam more credibility where there should be none. This marginalisation will continue into the UK, presenting further threats of radicalisation here, too. This must not be allowed to happen.
I was delighted that at their joint press conference our Prime Minister and President Trump pledged to renew the special relationship between the UK and the USA—a relationship that has proven so beneficial for both countries and the world. The uniqueness of the special relationship has meant that the Prime Minister and our Foreign and Home Secretaries have rightly been able to convey their concerns to the President’s Administration, with some success.
If this strategy of calling for a sensible review of the order is to continue, with the intention, I hope, of replacing it with a reasoned, measured, evidence-based alternative, then we cannot accept calls for a cessation of relations with the President—or, I might add, the postponement of his state visit here—until this order is revoked. We cannot possibly have a constructive discussion with the President unless we maintain exceptionally close relations and dialogue. For this reason, I think we should welcome President Trump to the United Kingdom at the earliest opportunity, so that we might personally engage in meaningful dialogue with our closest ally in the hope of a change in stance.
My message to the President would be this. He is a big man—a powerful individual—and what he says and does has profound effects throughout the world. In his last statement, he spoke of his compassion. As a Christian, he should reconsider this order and look at the evidence that suggests that it will have precisely the opposite consequences to the ones he intended to achieve. He should think again on his policy to impose an indefinite ban on thoroughly vetted Syrian refugees who are in desperate, desperate need. The America I know would welcome them; it would be a cradle of comfort, and would not seek to reject them or others like them. Lastly, he should always, in everything he does, remember the values on which his great country was built.
I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) for calling for this Standing Order No. 24 debate, and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) for making such a very moving speech on such an important issue.
There is a brave seven-year-old called Bana Alabed, a Syrian refugee who has drawn the support and praise of the whole world for tweeting from Aleppo throughout the bombing—tweeting about her reading, her friends and the fact that she wants to be a teacher, and tweeting a desperate plea for peace. She and her mother are now in Turkey, and she is continuing, as a seven-year-old, to be an ambassador for peace. She has been tweeting again about her wish to meet up with friends from across the world who have supported her in this. Giving a voice to refugees from all over world, she has already met international campaigners and leaders, yet she has been banned from the United States indefinitely for being Syrian—and she is just seven years old. That is the destructive impact of this ban.
With the flick of a pen, the President has banned not only Bana Alabed but a Syrian family who had spent many years building up their savings, got all the visas correct, and been given clearance to come to the United States as refugees to join family in Pennsylvania; they were turned away at Philadelphia airport on Saturday morning and sent back. They had done everything right, but they were turned away. This comes from a country that has always led the world in welcoming the poor, the hungry, those fleeing persecution and the persecuted—the huddled masses—to its shores. That is what makes this Executive order so tragic for all of us.
What is happening right now also feels so tragic because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North said in his powerful speech, we cherish the values that the United States has always shared with the world—the values that we, too, have tried to champion. The Executive order bans refugees from Syria indefinitely, those from other countries for at least several months, and everyone from several Muslim countries, but there is a readiness to exempt those who are not Muslims.
I congratulate the hon. Members who secured this debate. Does the right hon. Lady share my concern about the case of the Glasgow vet, Hamaseh Tayari, who was denied even a transit visa through the United States because of the confusion that this policy has caused? Does she welcome the support that Glasgow University, where she is a vet, has offered? Is she aware that Glasgow University educated James McCune Smith, who was the first black doctor? He was born a slave in New York in 1813, and after his education in Glasgow returned to the United States and had a very important career as a medic and an educator. Does she wonder what sort of opportunities would be allowed to the likes of him if this kind of policy remains in place?
Order. That intervention was rather long. I encourage colleagues to contribute for approximately five minutes each, but that will not be much help if Members who intervene choose to imitate those who have the Floor.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) is right. There are so many of these irrational cases and personal stories that make no sense for the United States or for us.
For the Foreign Secretary to have said earlier that this is not a Muslim ban is the worst kind of diplomatic obfuscation. The Trump Administration themselves have made it clear that it is a Muslim ban. The fact that it targets particular countries but has a potential exemption for those who are not Muslim shows the prejudice and discrimination that lies at the heart of this, and it is something for which President Trump campaigned for very many months.
It seems that while UK nationals with dual nationality may be admitted to the US, the European Commission cannot at the moment verify whether that would also apply to those from other EU member states. Could my right hon. Friend comment on that?
There is a whole series of unanswered questions about what happens not just in the case of dual nationals or UK citizens, but EU citizens and other nationals who may be resident in the United Kingdom and want to travel to the United States.
The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon described his personal experiences. I know that everyone in the House would want to stand with him against any sense of discrimination that he feels and wrongly faces. I think he would agree that, as he said powerfully, this is not simply about the rights of British citizens—it goes so much further and wider. It is about the shared values that have underpinned generations of co-operation between this country and one of our closest allies. Under our democracy and our common humanity, we have both built into our written and unwritten constitutions a condemnation of discrimination. We have worked together, over very many years, against prejudice and hatred, so it is deeply immoral for this ban to target Muslims in this way, and we should not be afraid to say so.
We have also worked together on international policy on refugees—to support the Geneva convention and the UN’s work, and to resettle refugees, including Syrian refugees from all over the world. The US has always played a historic role in resettling those refugees. For the United States to, in effect, pull out of the Geneva convention and that international co-operation is deeply damaging to a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees programme that all of us should want to champion. We should be prepared to speak out about that.
The ban also threatens our security. It is immediately counterproductive to prevent from entering the US those Iraqi citizens in the Iraqi Government and armed forces with whom the US may need to work in the fight against IS. Inevitably, the Iraqi Parliament has responded by saying that American citizens will be prevented from entering Iraq. We need these countries to work closely together, and with us, in order to defeat terrorist extremists. We should be fighting against them together, and not be divided.
Obviously, most people in this country are appalled by the actions of the President of the United States in relation to the Muslim community. Having said that, on immigration, only about 15,000 refugees have been taken by the United States, so it is not as though it has been swamped.
It is true that, as a proportion of the United States population, the number of Syrian refugees who have gone there is relatively small. However, as a proportion of those who need support and resettlement, that contribution has been important, so it is very damaging to our international support for refugees for the United States to pull out of that co-operation. That is why the United Kingdom Government have a responsibility, not to just say a few words under pressure in this House, but to raise concerns directly with the US Administration, and why so many Members are concerned and frustrated. The Government delayed making any response or criticism. We hear now that the Prime Minister was told about the ban before it happened on Friday, yet she did not speak out about it, even when the Turkish President, standing alongside her, was prepared to do so. The British Government were prepared, rightly, to raise the issue of human rights with Turkey, but they did not raise concerns about what President Trump was doing.
There are limits to what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are prepared to say, even now. When I asked the Foreign Secretary directly whether he had urged the US Administration to drop the ban, he refused to say. Frankly, from everything he did say, we can only conclude that the UK Government still refuse to ask the US Administration to drop this ban, abandon this targeting of Muslims and do their bit again to help refugees. I hope that the Minister will put me right and say that we have got it wrong, and that Ministers have, privately behind the scenes, been urging the US Administration to change their policy. It is crucial that they do so. That is the point of having a special relationship and a good friendship: being able to speak the truth to power and say the difficult things. If Ministers are not prepared to do that, what does that say to British Muslims and others around the world who feel targeted? And what does it say to those whom President Trump may target next? This could be only the start—we do not know. This is what President Trump has done within just a few days of taking office. Where will he go next? What will it take for us to be prepared to speak out, if our Government are not prepared to speak out yet?
Does the right hon. Lady agree that, given that this is a brand-new relationship between our Prime Minister and the President, now is the time to set the ground rules? This is the beginning of the relationship and we need to set out, for all the world to see, what we consider to be appropriate in terms of behaviour and policy.
I certainly agree with the hon. Lady. It is immensely important to establish the principles on which we will work.
I will explain why I think the state visit matters. I want the Prime Minister to meet President Trump frequently, and I want her to influence, persuade and challenge him. I also want President Trump to hear the views of people across Britain and to understand the strength of feeling about a country that we care about, but with whose actions we disagree. I am deeply worried that it will be not a normal visit by a Head of Government, but a ceremonial state visit involving our royal family, who for so long have united the country and whom we have tried to ensure are kept separate from politics and the deep, divisive arguments that countries across the world sometimes have.
By rushing into this state visit, I fear that the Government will do the opposite of what they want to achieve, and that instead of it being a celebration of friendship and shared values and a sign of increased co-operation, it will show huge divisions and our huge concern about what President Trump is doing. It will look like an endorsement of a ban that is so morally wrong and that we should be standing against.
We should also remember that the Executive order was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day. If ever there was a day to remember why we need to have the courage to speak out against prejudice and hatred, Holocaust Memorial Day is it. The Prime Minister’s words in the book of remembrance on Holocaust Memorial Day state:
“Our commitment to remember the Holocaust is about more than words—it is about action. It is about raising awareness, spreading understanding, ensuring the memory of the Holocaust lives on, and standing up to prejudice and hatred wherever it is found today…Together we will educate every generation to learn from the past and to take responsibility for shaping a better, brighter future in which through our actions, as well as our words, we truly never forget.”
That really is a responsibility not just on all of us, but on our Prime Minister, who was told on Holocaust Memorial Day about this ban, which targets Muslims because of their faith and turns away refugees who are fleeing genocide and persecution. Just as we have been advised so many times to speak out when we see prejudice and discrimination, there is an obligation on the Prime Minister to speak out now.
I, like many, feared that the decision to offer President Trump a state visit was too hasty, because we did not know what he would do or the direction in which he would take his country. Now that we do know, I urge the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office to work with the US Administration to find an alternative way and to make this an ordinary visit, so that they can hold discussions and debates, and so that we can put pressure on the United States to change its position. The United States is proud of its constitution and of the words on the Statue of Liberty, which proclaim:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe…
Send these…tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
It is because we want our countries together to be able to lift the lamp beside the golden door that the Prime Minister and the Government should speak out now.
May I begin by congratulating the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) on securing this timely and important debate? It is with a degree of sadness that we have to have it in the first place.
America has a proud tradition of being a nation of immigrants. People fleeing torture and persecution from around the world have sought refuge on the shores of the United States and, metaphorically, I suspect that Miss Liberty is holding her head in shame because of the events of last Friday. The Executive order is shameful and immoral, but, as I said in my intervention on the right hon. Gentleman, it should not come as a surprise to any of us. Throughout the campaign last year, President Trump made it plain that, as well as building a wall, he was going to ban all Muslims—not security threats, but a religious grouping. It was rather frightening, if one looked at the audiences to which he made that pledge throughout the United States—north, south, east and west—to see the reaction of the crowds. That shows us that not only is he honouring his election pledge, but he is playing to a gallery of people who are prejudiced in favour of this sort of action. That is very sad, because it will not achieve what I assume he wants it to achieve, apart from gaining a potential narrow party political electoral advantage with a core base.
America should be stronger together, and it should be building bridges, not walls. The Executive order will alienate moderate Arabs and radicalise further those on the radical wing of the Arab world, at a time when we should be building bridges to enable us to expose the evil and violence of some of the terrorists who come out of the middle east, and working with moderate Arabs to end the evil threat not only to us, but to moderate Arab opinion in the middle east.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
No; I do not have time. The Executive order will result in further radicalisation. It will do the exact opposite of what some people think it will do. It will not make the United States any safer; it will make it a more dangerous place. That is an irony, and it is unacceptable.
I take issue with some of the comments I have heard during this debate and during the statement, in that I think it is absolutely right that the British Government continue the work of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to build bridges with President Trump so that we can, through engagement, seek to persuade him and to minimise or reduce the danger of his more outrageous policies. We can do that only by being a candid friend, but we have to be a candid friend.
I believe that very little would be achieved by cancelling a state visit to which the invitation has already been extended and accepted. It is part of a process of seeking to engage, encourage and persuade. There is, however, one area at which we should look very carefully. Some will remember that in 1982 or 1983, President Ronald Reagan had a state visit to this country, but it was decided by the then Thatcher Government that there should not be an address to the joint Houses of Parliament.
Similarly, I remember, as a Member of this House, the state visit of President George W. Bush. Apart from a sojourn in Durham at Trimdon Labour club, I believe, for lunch with the then Prime Minister, all President Bush did was to travel in the Beast from Buckingham Palace to No. 10 and back again. There was no address to the joint Houses of Parliament. In the circumstances, I think that that was rather wise. We and the Government —and you, Mr Speaker—should think very carefully before considering such an address as part of the programme for a state visit by President Trump, because it might not go as well as everyone would naturally expect.
In conclusion, this ban is nasty, it is immoral and it will not succeed. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and his deputy, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan), as well as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, have a key role to play because the ban will last for 90 days, which in theory means that it is part time and transitory. I am not convinced that that will be the case in reality. The challenge for the Government is to do all they can to influence President Trump about its counterproductive nature and the danger that it will pose in radicalising rather than pacifying those who espouse radical extremist thinking; and to persuade him that there are better ways than this very blunt weapon to pursue a policy of reconciliation. The best way to do so is to communicate and negotiate with the reasonable elements in the middle east and work together to overcome the threat to this country, the United States and elsewhere.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) on securing this timely debate. I have listened to it, and I now feel rather emotional, speaking as a Muslim Member of Parliament. People have talked about refugees, but I will talk, as a Muslim woman, about Islamophobia. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) asked earlier, how do Muslims feel? The words of the President of America go to the heart of every Muslim in the country.
I will start by sharing an experience from this weekend, when I hosted the Jewish Board of Deputies in my office in Bradford. I shared with them a publication from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, “Path to Genocide”, which sets out the stages along that path. In stage 1, “classification”:
“The differences between people are not respected. There’s a division of ‘us’ and ‘them’. This can be carried out through the use of stereotypes, or excluding people who are perceived to be different.”
Stage 2 is
“a visual manifestation of hatred. Jews in Nazi occupied Europe were forced to wear yellow stars to show that they were ‘different’.”
In stage 4, “dehumanisation”:
“Those who are perceived as ‘different’ are treated with no form of human right or personal dignity. During the Genocide in Rwanda, Tutsis were referred to as ‘cockroaches’; the Nazis referred to Jews as ‘vermin’.”
This weekend, I went to the Holocaust memorial service at Bradford cathedral. Rudi Leavor, who leads the Bradford synagogue, shared his story of how he fled Nazi Germany. His father, who was a dentist, took the family away and they fled persecution. As they left on the train, they saw a family on the platform who were the last to wave them off; that family did not survive.
For me, the matter is very personal. It is personal because if my daughter decides to wear a hijab, what are the chances of her not being persecuted? We have seen videos and read news reports of hijabs being ripped off and of women being thrown down steps just because of what they are wearing, and here is the so-called leader of the free world telling us that it is okay to ban Muslims. Donald John Trump says that he is tackling terrorism with his Executive order, but the fact is that the chance of being murdered in the US in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion each year. More people have been killed in America by gun crime than by people from the countries that have been banned. If the President really wants to save Americans from death, he needs to look at gun crime.
How do American Muslims feel right now? They are as entitled as anyone else to representation by their President, but they are being singled out and victimised by him. What about the 700,000 asylum seekers and 3.25 million refugees who have sought refuge in America since 1975? Having contributed and been accepted, how do they feel about now facing the blame for everything that is wrong? America, the self-proclaimed land of immigrants—proudly and rightly so—now turns its back on those who do not fit the President’s accepted mould, not because they are a threat but because they are deemed to be less worthy than others.
My skin colour is a few shades darker. That does not make me a terrorist, and it does not make me a threat. The colour of their skin does not make the Muslims in this world a threat to America or to western democracy. The thing that poses a threat is the Executive orders issued by the so-called leader of the free world, who incites hatred, demonises Muslims, sees women and others as second-class citizens and courts organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan. That is what creates terrorism—what threatens democracy, the world we live in and our children’s future—not Muslims, and not refugees.
We do not differentiate refugees on the basis of their religion; we support them because they are fleeing persecution and war. They do not choose to leave their homeland or to leave their surroundings. Bradford is a city of sanctuary—I am proud to come from a city of sanctuary—that hosts Syrian refugees. Can hon. Members imagine what they would feel like if we in this House ordered that we would not take any more refugees or any more Syrian refugees? That would fly in the face of what this House stands for.
I am a Muslim from Bradford West, and I have the privilege to stand here today and contribute, as many hon. Members have, but what do we really stand for? Before I get rather emotional, I will finish with the words—the famous words—of Pastor Martin Niemöller:
“First…they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”.
I do not want to be on the wrong side of history when there is another genocide; Srebrenica happened in my lifetime.
Where does the slippery slope really lead when we demonise Muslims and those seeking refuge on our shores? Offering refuge is what being British stands for, and this House cannot abdicate its responsibility and stand silent about what is happening with our closest ally. We must engage with it, and try to stop and reverse this Executive order. We cannot stand by silently: to do so would be the greatest shame of our nation.
Order. May I gently point out that if we are to accommodate all colleagues, it will be necessary to have an informal limit of approximately five minutes? I ask Members not to exceed that limit from now on.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) on securing this debate. It was of course your decision to allow it, Mr Speaker. If the emotion we have already heard in the British House of Commons is anything to go by, what on earth will the effect of the order be right around the world, particularly in those nations on the list or in those that might be on any future list?
The right hon. Member for Doncaster North and the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), carefully put forward the more obvious and ludicrous consequences of such an ill-thought-out measure. I very much want to compliment my fellow member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon, on combining what was undoubtedly an emotional speech with calm rationality and reasonableness in making an immensely powerful case to the American Administration. I want to use the rest of my speech to turn to the case that our country should make to the American Administration as a whole.
I did not agree with the critique of the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee about the actions of the Prime Minister. I am not entirely sure that her suggestion that the Prime Minister was aware of this and had a chance to make her views known during her visit to the United States can be substantiated. As far as I understand it, that is not the case, but the Minister will be able to confirm that in his winding-up speech.
We need a strong voice into the White House, and we have secured it, although it may have taken the prospect of a state visit to ensure that the Prime Minister was the first foreign leader to visit the White House. During that visit, she was able to secure the pre-eminent European requirement of the visit, which was the President of the United States overturning—audibly and verbally, in answer to her challenge at the press conference—his purported position on NATO. That is of immense importance not just to the United Kingdom, but to the whole security of Europe.
This goes to the heart of what we are to do about this particularly unwise Executive order. On the previous day, the Prime Minister had addressed the Republican caucus in Philadelphia, where she was very warmly received. My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon has already referred to the values that she spoke to in her remarks to the caucus. We have to remember that the Administration is not just the President. One of the failures of the order was the failure to consult the other Departments in the United States. There is a separation of powers in America: the President is not the whole Administration. The effect of our Prime Minister’s early visit is that she is in a place to ally herself with the Secretaries of the various Departments that make up the Cabinet in the United States and to be an important ally in internal debates in the Administration. Such a debate ought to have taken place on the order and there should have been proper consideration, but that process plainly did not take place.
We also have allies on the Hill. The success of her speech in Philadelphia is shown by the position taken by Senators McCain and Graham. They have made an outstanding joint statement, which ends:
“Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies. Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”
Those arguments were eloquently made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon in his very remarkable speech.
It is not only in Congress that we have allies. The legal system of the United States is already cranking into action, and judges are already ruling against the legality of the Executive order. I very strongly suggest to right hon. and hon. Members in the House, as well as to the wider public, that we need to be effective in advancing the interests of the United Kingdom and the values of the liberal democracies that both we and the US are. Such values—of the rule of law and, in the United States, of the separation of powers—are already beginning to make themselves felt.
Our Prime Minister is to be congratulated on the fact that she will now be listened to by President Trump because of the actions she has taken, as our Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary have plainly already been listened to as well. There is very much more work to do to get the order rescinded and recast in an intelligent, sensible way so that it advances the interests of both us and the United States, and we need the kind of relationship that will enable that to happen.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) on securing this debate and on putting the case so eloquently, and I join others in congratulating the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) on bringing home so movingly the pain that this has caused to so many people.
My mother was a proud American from Ohio. Her forebears made the journey across the ocean to seek a better life, and they found safety and opportunity in equal measure. Perhaps that explains why those of us who have a family connection with the United States of America felt, I must confess, a sense of shame and rising anger as events unfolded this weekend. We have seen that passion expressed in this debate, which tells us something about the nature of the decision that we are objecting to. It is precisely because we have such respect for the United States of America that we yearn for something better—much, much better—than this, and why we have a responsibility as friends to speak out.
Has the right hon. Gentleman noted that Donald Trump’s mother was a migrant? She was not just from Scotland but from my constituency. Donald Trump’s first cousin’s wife was my English high school teacher, but we can leave that to one side.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned shame. As a Hebridean, I feel utter shame at how Donald Trump, the son of Hebridean woman, is behaving on the world stage. It is absolutely disgraceful and shameful. I hope he rescinds and changes the measure—not recasts, but rescinds it.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. We hope he rescinds the measure.
I want to make three very quick points, the first of which is that however much the Foreign Secretary may seek to argue that this is not a ban on Muslims, our fellow Muslim citizens and our constituents, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah) and I, know that it is. Why do we know that it is? We know because Donald Trump said during the course of his election campaign that that is what he wanted to do. The fact is that people listen to that. They see the order. They know he is talking about them. Imagine the conversations in families when children say to their parents: “What is it about us that means that country doesn’t want us?” What message does that send to the next generation? Frankly, the message it sends is offensive, divisive and misguided.
Secondly, I agree absolutely with the point made by the hon. Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) that the order will not help us or anyone else in the fight against the brutal ideology of Daesh. Instead, it will act as a recruiting sergeant for Daesh. I simply observe that our security is too important to be damaged in that way when populism triumphs over reason, as has happened in this case. Our best defence against the lethal obscurantism of Daesh is to cleave ever more strongly to the values that make us proud to be British.
My final point is about the international rules-based system. Why did we create these institutions after the end of the second world war, including the United Nations? We knew that out of the ashes of that terrible conflict, we needed to work together to observe and uphold certain principles to enable humanity to thrive in the world we were seeking to create. Article 3 of the refugee convention states:
“The Contracting States shall apply the provisions of this Convention to refugees without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin”,
and the truth is that the order offends against article 3 of that convention. We have other worries—the Paris climate agreement and the Iran deal—but they are all expressions of the international rules-based system that we have fought so hard to create and sustain.
I conclude by saying this: if we are going to deal with the challenges we face as a world as this century unfolds, we must seek and strive to bring people together and not to drive them apart. That, after all, is the very principle on which the United States of America, which we respect so much, was founded.
It is very difficult to follow the excellent and wise words of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). I add my congratulations to my new friend the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), and my dear friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), who so ably represents his constituency.
Mr Speaker, I agree with everything that has been said, and you will be pleased to know that I do not intend to repeat any of it. One danger of these sorts of debates is that we become like an echo chamber—we fall over one another to agree, exposing in us in some cases large “L” Liberal values, but in most of us small “l” liberal values, as we unite in condemnation of this Executive order for all the reasons that many other hon. Members have expressed.
Sir Mo Farah said that the Executive order was based on prejudice and ignorance flowing from Donald Trump, but many others in that great nation unfortunately no doubt support what he has done. We must be honest that, in this country, we too suffer from much of that prejudice and ignorance. It is all well and good for hon. Members to talk as we do, but we must now ensure that we face up to the reality in our country where, unfortunately, too many people share some of the views we see mirrored in the order.
I would love to say that such things are a fancy in my constituency. We have welcomed four Syrian refugee families to Broxtowe. I am very proud of that. I am a Conservative as it happens—it really does not matter—but everybody on my council has come together to give those four families the sort of warm and generous welcome that we would expect. I do not know whether the situation is the same in America, but it is worth remembering the tough bar for Syrian refugees coming to our country. I praise our Government for the generosity and good work we have done in bringing so many Syrian refugee families into this country, but they have to pass quite a high test. They are among the most vulnerable refugees—they have suffered either sexual abuse or torture.
It gives me no pleasure to say this as someone who has spent almost the entirety of my life in Nottinghamshire, but one of those four families did not come straight to my constituency. They started off in another town in the county of Nottinghamshire and had to leave it, such was the prejudice and lack of welcome and the blatant hostility towards them. I am proud that my constituency has taken them in. I am equally proud that our deputy mayor, Halimah Khaled, happens to be a Muslim. I have always thought of it in that way—somebody happens to be a Muslim, happens to be a Jew, happens to have brown skin, happens to be gay or happens to be straight.
I remember once seeing a documentary that shocked me to the bottom of my boots. I must have been about 11 years old. A black woman explained what it felt like to see a sign that said, “No dogs, no Irish, no blacks.” I understood how she felt, but I found it shocking that anyone would discriminate against someone because of the colour of their skin. When we were in our salad days as student politicians back in the ’70s, I genuinely thought we had made great progress over the decades. The attitude was that nobody cared what colour or race someone was.
All those wonderful things had begun to flourish in our country, but something has happened—and it has happened not just in America, but in our country. I gravely fear that that spirit of tolerance has gone from too many. Seeds that I had thought lay dormant, or had been destroyed by the power of tolerance, have germinated and grown, whether in the EU referendum campaign or the presidential campaign. If we are not careful, they are in danger of flourishing.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir Simon Burns) rightly said that our Government have a role in challenging the American President, taking him on in his views and seeking to change them. Each and every one of us in the House has a duty to stop just agreeing with one another. We have to take those messages out into our constituencies, build the campaigns of tolerance, peace and understanding, and abolish stereotypes. We have to do the hard job that lies ahead of us to ensure that the absolutely fundamental British value of tolerance once again dominates our society. If we do not, we are in danger of finding that too many people in our own nation support this abominable Executive direction from the President. It is our job to ensure that tolerance is always the overriding principle at home and abroad.
I thank the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) for securing the debate. It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry). I have followed her in other debates, but not on anything as important as this.
As a child, a long time ago, I listened to my parents with little understanding when they talked of their lived history. As an adult, I listened in shock to my father when he told me that he had helped to liberate a concentration camp. He told me that only once and never spoke of it again. In spite of the Foreign Secretary’s outrage at the repetition of references to the holocaust, I feel absolutely no shame in linking my family to what happened then and to what is happening now.
My grandchildren will wonder how I felt after this Executive order was signed and what effect it had on people in Scotland, the United Kingdom and across the world. I am able to record in Hansard that I feel fearful, upset, distressed and very, very angry. My condemnation of this vile act will matter little in the great scheme of things, but I expect the UK Government to utterly condemn this Executive order. I do not expect the Foreign Secretary to tell me, as the Foreign Secretary did, that he has mitigated it as far as UK passport holders are concerned. That is his duty. If this Government think that trade with the US matters more than the human rights of refugees and world citizens, then I feel even more affronted. If this Government want to be a world leader, they should show leadership and they should do it now.
I had the great privilege of helping Dr Ghaith Rukbi, a Syrian refugee resident in Lebanon, into my constituency. He spoke to and worked with local GPs to help to prepare them for more Syrian refugees who will be arriving shortly. If a wee place like Motherwell and Wishaw can take in Syrian refugees, what on earth is the United States doing with this order?
In the meantime, does the Minister agree with the former head of the CIA that this order will have national security implications for the UK and the wider world? It is important that we take this into consideration.
I do not agree that the state visit should take place, and I certainly do not agree that President Trump should be afforded the honour of addressing both Houses of Parliament.
Scotland and the US have a deep friendship based on shared values, and we must all speak up for those values, including tolerance, equality and providing for those in need. The Prime Minister must be clear about our obligations, both as a good global actor and under international law. It is important that we take them forward.
I will mention the contributions of only two hon. Members who have spoken. I was deeply moved by what the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said, and by the contribution of the hon. Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah). That in no way lessens what other Members have said. The right hon. Member for Broxtowe is correct: we sometimes just become an echo chamber, but it is important that the word goes out from here. It is important that people take this to heart, and go out and increase tolerance and understanding right across all our constituencies.
I join other hon. Members in congratulating the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) on securing this important and timely debate. It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows).
First, it is important to note that it is entirely for the US Government to determine their immigration policy. During the presidential election campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly stated that he would introduce this measure. In fact, he promised a measure that would go far further than what he is currently enacting. We should therefore be under no illusion that it is both within his power and his mandate to follow it through.
As the Executive order affected British citizens, it was right for the Foreign Secretary to intervene. I was pleased that he confirmed, having spoken to his US counterparts, that UK citizens and dual nationals are unaffected. However, I want to be clear: I believe that this is a misguided policy. The simple fact is that terrorist attacks, committed both in the US and in Europe over the past decade and more, have been carried out not by immigrants and refugees, but by radicalised nationals. It is important to note that on average nine people a year have been killed by Islamic extremists in the US since 9/11. Conversely—this point has already been made—on average 12,843 people are killed by guns in the US every year. Some would argue that the priorities are in the wrong order. Not one refugee from the countries included in the President’s travel ban has killed anyone in terrorist attacks on US soil. Further, the decision to ban refugees from war zones such as Syria and Yemen will serve only to force vulnerable men, women and children to remain at risk of persecution and death. It is also remarkable that the US is banning people from Iraq, a country it is supporting militarily against Daesh.
I have to be clear: the steps announced will not keep America safe. I fear it will serve simply to divide communities and give radical extremists yet another propaganda tool with which to turn vulnerable citizens against the United States. To use the words of the President, this will do nothing more than create more “bad dudes”. As I said, this is a decision for the President of the United States, but I strongly appeal for the Executive order to be revoked. I hope that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary make the strongest representations to that effect.
I just want to raise one final point. Of course we should speak out and I very much welcome this emergency debate, but if we are to speak with authority and credibility then we must be consistent in our condemnation. As I said to the Foreign Secretary this afternoon, 16 countries forbid admission to Israeli passport holders. In recent years, we have granted state visits to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, all of whom forbid admission to Israeli passport holders. If we genuinely believe that banning individuals on the basis of their nationality is wrong—I very much hope we do believe it—then let us condemn these policies wherever they raise their ugly heads.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Colchester (Will Quince), who made an excellent contribution. I, too, want to praise my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi). Both of them do their families very proud. I know that the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon spoke on behalf of all those in our country who have ever travelled abroad and felt that sinking feeling as they approached the immigration desk. It is not something we speak a lot about, but I know, sadly, that it is a common phenomenon. There will be people the hon. Gentleman will never meet, but who will feel comforted by the words he has said this evening. I want to make three brief points on Muslims in this country; on the importance of Syria and Iraq in the middle east; and on populism.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) made a very moving intervention earlier about Holocaust Memorial Day, and on the poignancy and horror of what we witnessed over the weekend. The hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows) said that her own contribution would matter very little, but I profoundly disagree. What I have observed over this weekend is an outpouring of distress and dismay from all quarters. Of course, British Muslims will feel this most keenly, but all of us in this country—whatever our background, whatever our faith, or of no faith—stand with them whether they are British Iraqis, British Syrians, British Somalians or British people who are descendants from the affected countries. I say this to our friends in America: we are Brits, all equal, and we will not be divided on the basis of our faith or wherever we have come from.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) also spoke very movingly earlier. If anyone is questioning, wondering or thinking about whether these events have an effect on Muslims in this country, I would encourage them to listen to the tone of this debate. It is incumbent on all of us, Muslim or not, to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity and in the best traditions of my party, and show them our support.
That is particularly true for those who have been working recently on issues connected with Syria. When I heard about these events over the weekend, my first thought was for the brave and brilliant people whom I have had the honour to come to know as part of our campaign to protect human life in Syria. Many of them are Syrian nationals and would have good cause to want to travel to the United States in order to make representations on behalf of that humanitarian cause for vulnerable people in Syria. Where does this order now leave them?
I would like to ask the Minister for Europe and the Americas—I do not feel that the Foreign Secretary gave a very substantial answer to my earlier point—what representations the Foreign Office has made to the Americans about the need for those representing humanitarian causes to be allowed access to America. That applies whether they are Syrian nationals, Iraqi nationals or even US nationals who will now no doubt face equal trouble accessing places in Iraq, Syria and other areas affected by this ban. We should ask ourselves this simple question: does this Executive order help or hinder peace and security efforts in that troubled region? I think that the answer to that question is glaringly obvious and staring us in the face: it is a total disaster for peace and security in that region.
I understand that a gentleman who played a particular role in the referendum campaign has recently gone on the radio to say that this is just the cause of “loony lefties”. To those commentators who say, “Donald Trump is a perfectly fairly elected President of the United States who is entitled to do this”, I say that this issue will affect the security of each and every one of us, including some of the most vulnerable people on our planet, and it cannot stand.
Finally, on populism, the past year has been very difficult. I always believe that we should look to the future and think about what our values tell us about how to approach the modern world as it is, not as it once was, but unfortunately I feel that what we are witnessing in our world is an old, old story—that in times of economic trouble, there are always forces in our world, who I think of as the far right and the hard right, who want to turn up and tell ordinary working people in America, Europe or wherever and say, “No, your troubles and your wages failing to rise are not the fault of the economic system or Governments or companies or anyone else; they are the fault of people who are just like you, but happen to be Polish; they are the fault of people who are just like you, but happen to be Muslim; they are the fault of people who are just like you, but happen to be from another part of the world.”
That tendency and the susceptibility of people to want to believe an easy story when the truth is much more complicated is always exploited by the purveyors of hate. Those of us who stand against that cannot give in to populism. We cannot kow-tow to prejudice; we cannot say, “Yes, you are probably right, so let us try to do what you want.” We have to be very clear with people that we are all, underneath it all, fundamentally the same. We need the same ability to work together, to learn together and to have hospitals for when we are sick; it does not matter where people come from, they need the same things in life. No amount of populist rhetoric designed to divide us and make us fight each other rather than work together will change that.
I thank the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) for bringing this emergency debate before us. It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern).
We must stand tall for principles of inclusion and equality, and a ban on individuals linked in a simplistic manner to their religion or country of origin is not evidence based; it is surely discriminatory. I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, because prior to my time here I was accredited by the Scottish Risk Management Authority to undertake violence risk assessments where the courts were considering the order of lifelong restrictions. As part of that role, I was trained to undertake violence extremist risk assessments. This type of risk assessment involves structured clinical judgments and is grounded in research and an evidence base. Assessment is based on risk factors known to predict violence and extremist violence. It has often been utilised in the United States and in Northern Ireland, and some of our security forces have been trained in its application.
The measure of an individual’s risk to the security of a country requires assessment of intelligence information about that individual’s belief systems, their contact with terrorist organisations, their behaviours and activity, their access to arms and a number of other pertinent risk factors. The people qualified to determine who possesses and poses true risk factors are in the intelligence and security forces. They have access to this information and can analyse it formally, as they have been doing over many years in order to highlight individual risk indicators.
A blanket ban on individuals based on heuristic characteristics of race and religion is therefore misguided. In my opinion, it will unfortunately be unlikely to reduce risk, and it may aggravate extremist beliefs and attitudes, feelings of persecution and the marginalisation of individuals who may already be in the United States and able to pose security risks there. This could strengthen extremist views on the part of a few, because it is radicalised groups, not a countrywide phenomenon, that the world has to deal with. This order will only strengthen feelings against the United States and against the west. If we do not condemn it, it will breed contempt.
In conclusion, I believe this is misguided policy. It lacks a true evidence base, it is not a national response, and it may fuel risk and be counterproductive. It does not protect the United States or the west, and we must do all we can to voice our consternation about this policy and its lack of humanity and validity. Let us call instead for evidence-based security approaches as the United States goes forward—approaches that respect human dignity across the world.
I join others in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) on securing this incredibly important debate. There is a reason why thousands of people have taken to the streets of Britain tonight to express their concern about this ban and what it says about our world, and particularly to ask what we are going to do about it.
I do not disagree with a word said by the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry)—it is a shame that she is no longer in her place—about sometimes challenging the agreeability of our debates in this place, so in the spirit of what she said, let me bring some discord to our discussions. I feel very strongly that the central question facing us tonight is what people in positions of power will do. We have seen what the leader of the free world in his first week in office has chosen to do with that power. We now have to ask ourselves as elected representatives in the United Kingdom what we will do by return.
I do not disagree with the hon. Member for Colchester (Will Quince) about respecting the fact that this man is an elected politician, but just because he won an election does not absolve him of responsibility for the consequences of his behaviour—and nor does it absolve us of responsibility for the consequences of not acting. With that process in mind, I wish to make four quick points. We have to speak up, and we must do so not just because of the impact on people in our communities described in the incredibly eloquent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah), but because of what it says about us as a society. When we are indifferent to hatred and intolerance, we are participants in it.
This is about hatred. This is a ban on people on the basis of their religion or their nationality. No form of this ban could be acceptable. There is no way of modifying it to make it plausible. It is simply hatred, and we should be clear about that, because not being clear about it suggests that there are circumstances in which we might seek to ban people and restrict them on the basis of their religion or nationality. It suggests that we would do the same—that we would allow there to be different classes of citizen in our communities, in our country, in our world. We must be very clear about the fact that there is no acceptable form of this ban, and only the need to challenge it.
The question is, how do we challenge that? This is where I disagree with my Conservative colleagues. Absolutely, we must engage; absolutely, we must speak up. That is why I read with despair that our own Prime Minister had the opportunity directly to look the President of the United States in the eye, in a private meeting, and say, “Look, this is not right. This will be counter-productive. This will not achieve what you want, and it will divide our nation.” She clearly has not done that. The opportunity to engage was on the table, and she did not take it. I think that that damages all of us in the United Kingdom who defend the importance of our Government in leading such engagement.
The Minister may disagree with me, but I feel very strongly. [Interruption.] If the Minister wants to intervene and confirm that the Prime Minister raised this issue with the President of the United States directly, I will happily take an intervention, but if he cannot confirm that, what I say stands. I felt ashamed on Saturday night when the Home Office, the Foreign Office and No. 10 refused to make a statement. It was damning for us as a nation when the world was calling out for leadership.
My hon. Friend is making an incredibly powerful speech. Did this not feel so abhorrent to so many of us because it came only a few days after Holocaust Memorial Day, a day on which we pledge that when we see prejudice and hatred we will stand up in the face of it, and was not our Prime Minister’s failure to do that deeply shaming to our country?
I could not agree more. One of the messages that I want to send from the House tonight is that we do not recognise that as the kind of leadership that we want in our country. Something clearly has to change, even if the Prime Minister did not know about the ban before she walked into that room with Donald Trump. What cannot continue is our saying that it is simply a matter for the United States. What cannot continue is our saying, “Well, if we can be sure that it will not affect our citizens, we will not worry about the implications of the ban elsewhere.” That is not good enough. That is not the British way.
The question for us is how best to express that and how best to engage. There is a world of difference between wanting to debate directly with President Trump whether he has done the right thing, not just for his own country but for our world, and rolling out the red carpet and giving him the same treatment that we gave Nelson Mandela, or, indeed, the Queen Mother when we laid her in state. There is a world of difference between wanting to debate with someone and engage with him, and wanting to indulge him. Let me say this to Conservative Members: to many of us, it looks like indulging and endorsing President Trump if nothing changes now that we know of this ban—now that we know of his intention and his deliberate actions to target Muslims in our world. If nothing changes, that will say more about us as a nation than it says about him.
The question for all of us is whether we should use the power that we have, as elected representatives of people in positions of authority, to send that message. It is whether we should join our citizens who are not just on the streets tonight, and who have not just signed that petition, but who are asking what has become of us as a world. They are people who recognise that diversity is a strength. They are people who recognise the words of a former American President, Franklin Roosevelt, who argued that a nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.
I am proud of my country; I am proud to be a patriot; I respect the rights of other countries; but that does not mean that I must be silent when things go wrong. The silence of our Government, the mitigation, the quibbling, the laziness with which people are approaching this issue and the tardiness of the response do not reflect the best principles of being British.
The hon. Lady is making many pertinent points, but does she not think that it is good for British politics that we have a Prime Minister who thinks before she speaks, rather that spewing out whatever comes into her mind on Twitter? Is that not a good thing for British politics and, indeed, for the world?
As one who often goes on Twitter, I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was referring to that.
There are some things that should not take too much thought. Sometimes something is just wrong, and we need to say that it is wrong. We do not need to judge the angles. Of course we need a trade deal with America, but we should not be trading our values to secure it. Indifference to cruelty of this kind damages not just our nation, and not just our nation’s standing, but our world. It makes it harder for us to stand alongside those people in our communities tonight who are fearful of the division that we are seeing as a result of this ban. It makes it harder for us to advocate our values, and to take on other countries that also ban people. It makes it harder for us to do our job. We are people in positions of power. We need to hear the voice of our communities who are saying that this is not the world that they want, and act accordingly.
Order. There are—four, five, six—nine Members wishing to speak. Let me explain to the House that each of the Front-Bench speakers should have an opportunity to speak for 10 minutes or thereabouts, and the Minister should conclude by 8.59 pm, because the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) has the right to reply at that point. We must work on that basis. If everyone speaks for three or four minutes, we shall be fine, but if Members speak for longer than that, they will be preventing others from speaking.
“We should seek to engage with our American friends,” the Foreign Secretary repeated over and over in his statement. He justified that, with no sense of irony, on the grounds that engaging with such powers is the most effective way to influence them—this from the man who led, with great gusto, a campaign to persuade us to turn our backs on our closest and largest economic relationship.
Our actions in this place are inherently passive. As we heard earlier, this is an echo chamber. Passivity is easy. Passivity is amoral. Passivity means risking nothing. However, our passivity will weigh heavily on many others. It will weigh heavily on the people who are trapped, the people who cannot see their families, the people who are stranded, and the people who are fleeing with nowhere to go. This is not even just about the immediate physical ramifications of the policy. The atmosphere of hate, fear and anger that it feeds also stokes the flames of radicalism. It is not a policy that builds peace and security. We are told that this is a relationship that is worth holding on to, but a relationship in which one party stands by and watches with automaton-like levels of dispassion as another wreaks calamitous harm is not a healthy—never mind special—relationship by any stretch of the imagination.
The Government’s approach to the Trump Administration’s draconian policy is, perhaps, a product of their own making. “The only way you're going to make a deal you want is if you are coming from a position of strength”. Those are not my words, but the words of the new leader of the so-called free world. Boxed into a corner by the Government’s self-imposed Brexit boundaries, we are forced to creep, cap in hand, to people whose values now run directly counter to those professed by the House. I will therefore not be compelled by duty to kowtow to Mr Trump and his prejudiced Administration if he is invited to address us. I hope that the Minister will listen to the 1,469,828 signatories of the petition that is lengthening with extraordinary speed even as we speak, and will decide that perhaps this visit should be treated in a different way.
It strikes me that at present the Chamber is, for once, dominated by women, which would be an interesting observation with which to end my speech, but let me end with a question: how many of their great British values can the Government sacrifice in their quest for a new special relationship?
That was a splendid example, to be followed. It is not for me to comment on the content of the hon. Lady’s speech, but the length was admirable.
I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) for securing the debate. We have heard some excellent speeches.
I shall keep my own speech short, I promise, but I want to begin with the timely words of the rather exceptional Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust. She said:
“We’ve spent the past week remembering the Holocaust, reminding ourselves where hatred leads, that words matter, that we cannot stand by. As we see injustice and witness prejudice and discrimination, we should not only feel confident to, but a duty to speak out.”
As Ms Pollock would tell us, the holocaust started with words of hatred and built from there. President Trump has a history of Islamophobic rhetoric. In 2010, he implied that Muslims were a threat to the security of his country and had a collective responsibility for the 2001 World Trade Centre attack. In 2012, he said that the world had a “Muslim problem.” In March last year, he said:
“I think Islam hates us.”
He has spoken approvingly of blanket surveillance of all Muslims and the idea of a registry of Muslims in his country. There are chilling similarities here with the Judenkartei: first words, and now actions.
In recent days, we have seen the attempt to put into place the ban on Muslim movement into the US. This is part of an initial package of measures designed to restrict the freedoms of migrants, and—let us face it—to demonise them. There is an escalating pattern of deeply unjust and very worrying behaviour, and it is clear from this debate that many hon. Members share my concern about where it might lead.
Trump’s behaviour does not only affect US residents; it is a matter of justice, security, and basic dignity, for people here at home. Like many of my colleagues in this House, I am sure, I have received lots of messages from constituents worried that their ability to travel to the US will now be curtailed. If only it was only that, because these words and actions have had a much greater effect: they fuel fear, and provide perceived permission to acts of hatred. Global media coverage extends their reach; they simply cannot be contained.
We must stand up, with a clarity of purpose and in solidarity, in condemnation of these actions and the ideas that underlie them. They are already harming innocent people around the world, whether directly or indirectly by encouraging hatred, but I worry that they could do so more. They reflect, in their beginnings, the injustices that so many of us recently remembered and recommitted to prevent.
I am grateful for the opportunity to express my views on this issue on behalf of the many constituents who have contacted me in the last 48 hours to register their disgust at the actions of President Trump. The petition, which many of my constituents have signed, calling for Donald Trump to be prevented from making a state visit to the UK has to be one of the fastest growing petitions ever, with the number of signatures approaching 1.5 million. The popularity of this petition shows the disdain and horror that the people of the UK feel towards the US President and his hateful and bigoted policies.
When this House previously debated Donald Trump, I called him an idiot. The truth is that he is something far worse; he has in a very short time managed to prove himself an incompetent, unthinking tyrant who in less than two weeks in office has already caused massive disruption to thousands of people, mass demonstrations against his policies and untold damage to the reputation of the United States, a country that I love but whose chosen path is deeply worrying to the rest of the world.
Each and every day, families live in fear because they have had the audacity to flee a war-torn country. Victims of these hateful and poisonous acts look to authority figures and lawmakers to help solve these issues and to protect them, not turn them away from the gates of sanctuary.
Trump’s immigration ban will send a message to bigots, bullies and racists the world over that their views are not only legitimate, but entirely correct. In other words, anyone who may look, speak or act differently is not to be trusted.
We need to be absolutely crystal clear in opposing the imposition of blanket bans on people on the basis of their birthplace, nationality or religion. This ban is divisive, and fails to distinguish between appropriate measures to deal with extremism and terrorism and the millions of people who wish to go about their lives in peace and safety, including refugees who are running away from the terrorists. It will lead to innocent people being detained at airports and, as many Members have said, will play straight into the terrorists’ hands.
The Prime Minister must be clear about our obligations as global actors under international law to oppose a ban based on people’s origin or faith. Securing exemptions for UK citizens is not enough, and if that is the limit of our ambition, I am ashamed.
It is our collective responsibility to speak up for tolerance, equality and providing refuge for those in the greatest need. I strongly believe that it would be wrong for a state visit by President Trump to go ahead while his Administration maintain a blanket ban on refugees and citizens of certain countries travelling to the United States. I commend everyone who has signed this petition and people protesting all over the UK against President Trump tonight.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil), I feel the burn of shame at President Trump’s Scottish roots. I would have hoped that, in this Burns season, Trump remembered the words of Robert Burns in his famous verse, “A Man’s A Man for A’That”, which finishes with the refrain:
“That Man to Man, the world o’er
Shall brothers be for a’ that.”
The vast majority of people right across the UK are crying out for their Prime Minister and Government to exhibit a much stronger and more principled position on this Executive order. We have been told time and again from the Dispatch Box by Ministers that it is imperative that strong or special relationships are maintained so we can make direct representations to our friends on issues such as human rights violations. I disagree, but let us see the Government prove their worth. This so-called special relationship has never been so important. The Prime Minister cravenly rushed across the Atlantic at the earliest opportunity to be the first world leader to meet the President, a decision she was warned against, and one that looks worse and worse as each baffling pronouncement is made from the White House. If this relationship is to mean anything, let this House and the protestors both outside this building and right across the country send a strong message to President Trump that we will not stand in silence and bend a knee to hate, wherever, and from whatever building, that hate emanates.
I also want to thank the right hon. and hon. Members who have secured this debate this evening.
Speakers at Hounslow’s civic commemoration of the holocaust this morning reminded us of the importance of compassion and refuge in the face of hate. Council leader Councillor Steve Curran celebrated the diversity of the people in that room—people from all backgrounds from all over the world—and made the link between Hounslow welcoming people in the room and all the people who live in Hounslow now from all over the world. They have included Sir Mo Farah, who arrived and was welcomed in Hounslow aged eight in about 1990.
We also heard from Susie Barnett, who was born in 1938 in Hamburg. She told us of her family’s moving and incredible story, of fleeing the hate and discrimination of Nazi Germany at the end of 1930s and arriving separately in the UK as refugees. That family story of personal relationships and tragedy brought home to us the link between world events and what happens to families and ordinary people in these circumstances.
After the service this morning, I thanked Susie for her moving story and was able to tell her about the petition demanding that the invitation to President Trump be withdrawn. I told her that while she was speaking the tally on that petition tipped over the 1 million mark. She said, “Right, when I get home this afternoon, I am going to sign it.” That petition is still being signed at the rate of 10 signatures every second, and by the end of this evening the figure could hit 1.5 million.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) referred to the rules on movement and the safety of refugees that emerged from the ashes of world war two. The President of the United States is trying to rewrite these rules. He is fuelling fears, and a local Muslim activist phoned me this morning worrying about the implications of the feelings that President Trump is spreading in the US: what will that mean for the Muslim community here in the UK and in Hounslow?
The Executive order was directed at Muslims and at refugees, but the President is also effectively demonising many others—Mexicans, women, refugees from all over the world and now, we hear today, green activists, who among other things are trying to save the American bald eagle, symbol of the United States. We have to stand up against this prejudice, before it leads to mass injustice.
I shall finish with a quote from Martin Luther King, written when he was in jail:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
What an extraordinary few days these have been, and what an unedifying tack this Government have taken. Every Member of this House will no doubt have heard from large numbers of their constituents who are appalled and concerned, and I am sorry that when the Foreign Secretary had the opportunity to respond earlier, he chose to minimise those concerns. The events in America are alarming. Even in the very recent past, it would have been utterly impossible to imagine this happening. The values that this Government tell us they espouse have been utterly lacking in the statements they have made, and where is the global leadership that they speak of?
If the special relationship is worth a jot, the UK Government should be using it to their full advantage. This Executive order is disgraceful. It is racist, inhumane and dangerous, yet the Foreign Secretary told us earlier that it did not discriminate against Muslims and that it did not constitute President Trump’s promised ban on Muslims. That is frankly ridiculous. What on earth will it take to make this Government really speak out, and why has the Prime Minister so failed to do so? We have heard today that the Prime Minister might in fact have known about the Executive order before it was put in place. We have no idea whether the Foreign Secretary knew, because he repeatedly sidestepped that question here today. If the Prime Minister was aware of this disgraceful, racist Executive order before it was published, and her reaction was simply to say that it was a matter for the USA and, astonishingly, to invite President Trump for a state visit, that is utterly shameful.
To add to the many concerns that people already had about President Trump’s thoughts on groups including women, Mexicans and people concerned about climate change, he has now brought this order to bear. We have responded by looking the other way and inviting him for a state visit. It utterly beggars belief that that is the Government’s priority, when the Executive order is clearly so wrong and so illogical and has such horrible implications for the Muslims caught up in it, for those in peril who would have sought sanctuary and for people all over the world who are going to be affected by this order fostering Islamophobia. This is a disgraceful state of affairs.
To conclude, the national security arguments of the Trump Administration are simply wrong; they are nonsense. Rather than keeping America safer, this measure will make us all much less safe. A state visit in these circumstances is just not appropriate. Let us not look away from what is happening. We say that all the time in this place. Now, let us actually have the guts to stand up to this terrible, dangerous policy. We must do this.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) on securing this debate. I agreed with the entirety of my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North’s speech and with much of what the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said, although I disagree with his more fulsome praise for the actions of this Government over the past 48 hours. I would take issue with that, but I was very moved by his personal experiences and his personal reaction to the ban. I commend his speech and his efforts on this matter.
I want to return to a point made when the Foreign Secretary was taking questions earlier, following his statement, about the importance of recognising that this is a Muslim ban. Other Members have made that point as well, but it is so important that we send a clear message and that we call it exactly what it is. We seem to be living in an era when the truth and facts are challenged at every moment. I was struck by a recent film, “Denial”, which is the story of how Professor Deborah Lipstadt had to take the holocaust denier, David Irving, to court in order to prove the truth about the holocaust. It really focuses the mind on the importance of speaking up for the truth at every moment and calling out those who deny it.
Many people are trying to divert us from the truth by saying that this Executive order is about nationality. It is not about nationality. The President of the United States made it very clear in his campaign that he wanted to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Rudy Giuliani was on Fox News recently—not one of those organisations that the President likes to accuse of distributing “fake news”—saying that he had been asked by the President of the United States to put together a commission to work out how to enact the Muslim ban legally. These people are not hiding in plain sight; they are telling us in clear words on national television that is broadcast around the world exactly what they believe, exactly what they stand for and exactly who they are.
Does the hon. Lady also remember that, during the Democratic national convention in late July last year, Trump was tacky enough to attack a Muslim gold star mother whose son had died in the service of the US army protecting his fellow soldiers from certain death?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making that important point and reminding us about Humayun Khan. In normal circumstances, that action would have been enough to ensure that someone lost an election and received the opprobrium of everyone, everywhere. It is a sign of what we have come to that that did not happen.
It is important that we stick to our principles and that we hold the line in relation to the truth, because that is what is at stake here. Everyone in this House must be unashamed and unafraid to do that. We have to hold the line when people scream at us on social media that things are not as they seem and that the President suddenly changed his mind and does not think that it is a Muslim ban. We also have to hold the line when people try to divert us and when the “alt-right” go on the marches they are now so famous for. We have to hold on to the truth.
Will the hon. Lady give way?
I will not, because of the time. I do apologise.
I want to make a point about British values. As a British Muslim parliamentarian, I have spoken a lot in this House about British values. I have also heard a lot from this Government about British values. In fact, I have often felt that the Government feel that the British Muslim community needs to do more to uphold those values. We have heard famous phrases such as “muscular liberalism”, and we have been told that we need to give strong and vocal support to our respect for democracy, the rule of law, equality and tolerance for everyone and every group in this country. We are told that we as a community have to step up to the plate and call out behaviours that do not match with our British values. If we as a community fail to do that, we have the threat of the Prevent strategy hanging over us. As I watched the Prime Minister’s limp, weak and shameful response to this Muslim ban, I hope I can be forgiven for wondering whether the British Government would consider referring themselves to their own Prevent strategy for failing to provide that strong, vocal, muscularly liberal defence of our British values.
I am reminded of the recent Casey review of integration in our communities, one of whose recommendations was held up by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. It stated that we could increase
“standards of leadership and integrity in public office, by…ensuring that British values such as respect for the rule of law, equality and tolerance are enshrined in the principles of public life and developing a new oath for holders of public office.”
I wonder how many members of the Government would feel, if they had taken such an oath, that they had fulfilled that promise by calling out this behaviour on the part of the American President in the way that they should have done. I feel that they have not fulfilled any such promise, and that they have therefore undermined the very case that they make for our own values. That is a real shame.
I have a final point about the personal impact that the ban is having on Muslims around the world, particularly the almost 3 million British Muslim citizens. As a British Muslim, I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that people among my family, friends and community feel terrified. They fear that this is a portent of what is to come. We live in an age of supremacists. Whether the Muslim supremacists of ISIL or the white supremacists who think they have achieved their life’s dream with the new Administration in the White House, supremacists are on the rise around the world. In this age of supremacists and their success, we have a duty to call them out, to stand up to them and to say, “Not on our watch.” We have a duty to provide comfort and security to all our minority communities. We will not let them down. We will not stand by. We will stand up and be counted.
I thank the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) for securing this debate. Like so many colleagues, I agree that what President Trump has done is absolutely appalling. It is a prejudiced, xenophobic, Islamophobic policy and a horrible, sad episode in the history of a country with such a strong and proud record of welcoming migrants and refugees.
Remarkably, it has not even been six months since President Obama hosted his international summit aimed at encouraging states to pledge more resettlement places for refugees. The background to that summit was that more than 65 million people have been forced to flee their homes—the highest number since the second world war—more than 21 million of whom have had to flee their countries altogether. Presciently, President Obama warned world leaders that
“if we were to turn refugees away simply because of their background or religion, or, for example, because they are Muslim, then we would be reinforcing terrorist propaganda that nations like my own are somehow opposed to Islam, which is an ugly lie that must be rejected in all of our countries by upholding the values of pluralism and diversity.”
That of course is exactly the disastrous mistake that President Trump has just made.
In 2015, the US accounted for 60% of global refugee resettlement places. With President Trump in office, it is now more imperative than ever that other Governments step up to the plate, reject the narrative that he has capitulated to, and send a message loud and clear that we will stand up for and defend to the hilt the precious international system for the protection of refugees established by the Geneva convention of 1951. The question is whether the Prime Minster and this Government will step up to the plate. It is fair to say that I have some doubts, but I dearly and sincerely hope to be proved wrong.
The Government can start proving me wrong today by putting on the record their unequivocal backing for the refugee convention, by abandoning talk of redefining the convention’s fundamental terms, by emphasising their commitment to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Syrians. If possible, which it is, they should do more and expand the scope of refugee family reunion and provide safe legal routes for those escaping persecution. Most importantly of all, will the Government commit today to ensuring that the Dubs scheme for relocating unaccompanied child refugees from Europe will remain in operation in the long term while the refugee crisis continues to unfold? What could be a stronger and more fitting rebuke for such a terrible and divisive decision?
I begin by saying:
“I am heartbroken that today President Trump is closing the door on children, mothers and fathers fleeing violence and war. I am heartbroken that America is turning its back on a proud history of welcoming refugees and immigrants—the people who helped build your country, ready to work hard in exchange for a fair chance at a new life.”
Those are not my words, but the words of a Nobel prize winner. Her name is Malala. She probably knows more than anyone here the difference between true Islam and the poisonous perversion that we see in the hatred of Daesh and others. It is heartbreaking beyond words that the leader of what was once the free world does not know the difference between them.
Make no mistake, however much his supporters and apologists may want to dress it up, Donald Trump has explicitly made the connection between being a Muslim and being much more likely than anybody else to be a danger to fellow human beings. That is offensive not only to Muslims; as a Christian, I find it an offensive, repugnant way of running a country. I have heard people praise Mr Trump for his Christianity. I am sorry, but I was brought up to see the best in everybody, and I cannot see any Christianity in the early days of his presidency. If the lord and saviour whom we both follow was to turn up today at the American border, he would not be allowed in. He would have a Palestinian passport and no valid birth certificate and would not be able to prove that he was a Christian because he had not invented Christianity yet. That is the extent to which the depraved, racist ideologies of one man have poisoned a once great nation.
I heard Government Members complain about repeated references to the Holocaust, but the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) nailed that point perfectly. There are similarities between how Trump has been talking about Muslims for years and how others talked about Jews in the 1930s. If those similarities are not clear enough for anyone in here to understand, they should not be involved in politics at this or any other level. I found the comments of the hon. Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah) immensely powerful and I want to say something in response to her quote. They came for the Muslims, and I am not a Muslim. They will come for Jews, and I am not Jew. They will come for the gays, and I am not a gay. They will come for the Mexicans, and I am not a Mexican. But, by God, I will speak up and I will join, hand in hand, with the thousands who are in Whitehall right now and in towns and cities the length and breadth of these islands and across the world.
America is our friend, but Donald Trump will never be my friend unless he mends his ways enormously. Friends sometimes do things that are so abominable that we have to say, “You stop that right now or our friendship is over.” We have to ask the Government what is the price of the continued friendship. If we are not prepared to stop that friendship now, how far down the slippery slope does he have to take us before we say, “No more”? If we go too far, it will be too late to stop. Last week at Prime Minister’s questions, I quoted prose by Robert Burns, but I never thought I would have to quote the same words again. He said that that whatever damages society, or any least part of it, “this is my measure of iniquity.” This is an iniquitous action by an iniquitous President, and I will never cease to speak out against it.
I join the others who have commended the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) for the way in which they secured and introduced this debate. Many important points have been made and much has been agreed on, but there is clear disagreement on some points.
My issue with the Prime Minister is not so much that she was holding Donald Trump’s hand when she met him on Friday; it was that she stayed her hand when it came to responding to the Executive order. A clear, unequivocal response should have been given and none was available. That sent a dangerous signal to many people who are worried, fearful and angry, both here and across the world. We have heard hon. Members refer to the fact that the Prime Minister visited the Republican congress before she visited the President. I do not believe that the terms in which she spoke as Head of Government in such a partisan setting were appropriate. She commended them for having swept all before them and for renewing America with strength. Donald Trump’s idea of renewing America with strength was demonstrated the next day by this Executive order. This is the drive-by prejudice, xenophobia and racism that pass for governance in the Trump age, and this President now has the fastest-ever invitation for a state visit, which appals and disgusts many people. None of the excusers here today can answer that point.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if this country goes ahead and welcomes Donald Trump with all the pomp and ceremony of a state visit, that will be seen in the eyes of the world as appeasement of a President whose policies directly discriminate against our constituents? When we come to consider the massive public petition about this visit, we should have the conviction to review and rescind that invitation if circumstances do not change.
I fully accept the hon. Gentleman’s point. To those who are saying that we cannot reconsider the invitation, I say that we should. We should not be afraid of offending the narcissism of this man when we are prepared to offend the fear and disgust that we know many, many people feel about this Executive order and other statements and practices of the early Trump presidency. Let us be very clear that it is about the signal that is sent if it goes ahead as a state visit, with all the pomp and ceremony that that allows. It is not just about the message that it sends to Muslims or to the countries that are subject to the ban; it is about the message that it sends to people here and in America. It is also about the signal that it sends to the people in America who have honestly been trying to stand up and be progressive and supportive of refugees. President Trump is almost indicting the sanctuary cities in the States. He is now listing them as almost un-American for the support they are prepared to accord refugees and the stand that they are prepared to take on human rights. He is criticising civic and pastoral leaders in America. What signal do they get if Donald Trump is received and applauded here?
How many of us have stood at different events in this House and said, “We will show racism a red card. We will show sectarianism a red card”? Well, we are not showing them the red card by inviting President Trump here on a state visit. The invitation should be reversed if we want to send a straight and clear message.
I call the Front Bench speakers to wind up. If each could take no more than 10 minutes, or thereabouts, that would be excellent.
It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan). I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) for securing this debate.
As we stand here this evening, we should remember that, across the country, our fellow citizens have been protesting President Trump’s decisions. It would be remiss of the Government not to take note of the strength of feeling on this issue or of the petition, which now has around 1.5 million signatures.
We heard moans and groans from some Government Members when it has been mentioned that the Executive order was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day, a day when millions join together to remember the Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, disabled and others killed by the barbaric Nazi regime. The Foreign Secretary said earlier that to refer to the events of the 1930s and ’40s in this context was to “trivialise” that tragic period of world history. Well, here is what the Anti-Defamation League, which was set up
“to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all”
said of Trump’s actions this weekend:
“More than most, our community knows what happens when the doors to freedom are shut.”
The holocaust did not begin with mass murder; it began with the demonisation of communities based on their religion and beliefs. It began with “othering” minorities, and it began with institutionalising racism in the laws of the land. To ignore those facts would be a real insult to those who strive so hard today to uphold the values of inclusion, tolerance and freedom in the face of oppression.
Imagine how it feels to be a Muslim on this day, anywhere in the world. Imagine how it feels to be a young Muslim, a Muslim child, in these days, looking at the television wondering about the President, “Is he speaking about me?” Yes, he is. It would give such people great comfort to hear so many of the wonderful speeches that we have heard from both sides of the Chamber today, and I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah), who is now in her seat, for her personal perspective of Islamophobia and hijabs. I am pleased to have secured an Adjournment debate this week on World Hijab Day, which should be celebrated, and on the right of women to wear or not to wear a hijab as they please, without fear or favour. In any event, women should be able to wear what they want, regardless. That is how it should be.
I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon, who said that he would welcome President Trump as soon as possible and that he hopes for a change in President Trump’s stance. I appreciate those sentiments, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that we had a debate in Westminster hall when Mr Trump was a Republican candidate. At that time, many well-wishing Members on both sides of the House suggested that it would be all right and that he would change his ways: “Let’s get him to the United Kingdom, take him for a curry and take him to the mosques, and his attitude will change.” I fear that I do not share the hon. Gentleman’s sense of optimism.
The Government have an opportunity to demonstrate true leadership. Remember that we are speaking up for what is right. It is President Trump who is wrong, so what are we afraid of? What is the point in any of this if we cannot use this platform to say what we believe is the right thing to do? And standing up against what he has done is the right thing to do.
Scotland has taken in more than 1,200 Syrian refugees through the Syrian resettlement programme, and that is more than a third of the total number taken in by the whole United Kingdom. The response by Scottish national and local government and by our third sector to the refugee crisis has been exemplary. In my constituency, Syrian refugees have been involved in Burns suppers and have attended local football matches. That is what this country should be about.
We should compare the Prime Minister’s lack of immediate reaction with the reaction of Angela Merkel or Justin Trudeau, or with the strong statements by the First Minister of Scotland. As I have said, the Prime Minister has failed the important first challenge that she faced.
Over and above all of that, the Executive order does not make the US or the UK any safer; quite the opposite. To quote John Kerry’s remarks prior to the ban, when Trump announced his policy in 2015:
“It exhibits an attitude by one American who is running for the highest office of our land about a willingness to discriminate against a religion… It says to those in Islam who are trying to exploit people and recruit foreign fighters and otherwise, it says look, look at America. Here they’ve got a guy running for president who is waging war against Islam.”
Of course, President Trump’s words have been picked up by the leader of Daesh, who quite disgustingly is referring to this as a “blessed ban”. How appalling.
That is why the Government need to answer the questions from earlier today. What are the national security implications for the UK of this Executive order? Does it make us safer or, as so many experts have stated, does it make us more likely to be at the other end of terrorists whose ideas will be bolstered by Donald Trump’s remarks?
Lastly, I am hugely concerned about the impact of the order on the work of international organisations like the UN and the work to uphold international treaties like the Geneva convention. As Chancellor Merkel said:
“The…refugee convention requires the international community to take in…refugees on humanitarian grounds. All signatory states are obliged to do so. The German government explained this policy in their call yesterday.”
What action have the Government taken to uphold these vital international treaties?
President Trump’s actions are inhumane, racist and immoral, and let us tell him that they are. I welcome the fact that the House is now treating the threat posed by him with seriousness, which is what it deserves, but without leadership from this Government in standing up to these despicable policies, I fear that we may have some very deep and dark times ahead of us. I hope that the Minister will attempt to change my mind.
This has been an extraordinary debate, in which we have seen the House at its best. Let me begin by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) on securing it, and on the immensely powerful and important statements they have both made, not just today, but since this hateful policy was announced on Friday night. Tellingly, they and others, from Chancellor Merkel to Sir Mo Farah, were able to see immediately that this policy is abhorrent and reprehensible, and to condemn it, whereas as far as the British Prime Minister was concerned it was not a matter for comment, and almost three days later she has still not condemned it. She has only told us that it is not a policy she would pursue—that is not condemning it. As my right hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman both know, this is not a time for cowardice. It is not a time for staying silent or for going for trade deals at almost any cost; it is a time to stand up for what is right. So many Members have talked tonight about the desperation that forces people to flee from war, terror and persecution, and the terrible consequences that befall the world when we bar the door and turn our backs on those most in need.
Many have pointed out that it added grotesque insult to grave injury for President Trump to announce this policy on Holocaust Memorial Day. On that day, we among millions of others remember the 900 Jewish refugees on the MS St Louis who were turned away from the United States and forced to return to Antwerp, plunging them back into the holocaust from which 254 of them would never emerge. It was of course in the aftermath of those horrors that the 1951 Geneva refugee convention was agreed, which was renewed afresh and signed by the United States in 1967. That convention enshrines the principle that all signatories should give shelter to those fleeing war and persecution, regardless of their race, religion and nationality. The Executive order could not be a more calculated demolition of that principle.
We learned on Saturday that Chancellor Merkel had to explain the convention in her phone call with President Trump, but we have to do more than explain it. It is incumbent on every other signatory to that convention to press the United States to live up to its commitments and its obligations, so I support my right hon. Friend’s call for a European Heads of Government meeting to consider a united response to this Executive order and to the breach of the refugee convention. I urge the Minister to respond to those calls when he speaks.
Given the response of the Minister’s boss to my earlier questions—perhaps, more honestly, I should say the lack of response—may I ask him to address urgently the issue of the position of UK residents who are foreign nationals and not passport holders but residents? I am thinking in particular of those with indefinite leave to remain, thousands of whom will now find themselves discriminated against simply because of their country of origin, even though many are here precisely because they have fled the terror and religious extremism that the Executive order purports to prevent. Whether these people are Somali or Sudanese, Syrian or Yemeni, Iraqi, Iranian or Libyan, they are our constituents. They work hard, they pay their taxes, they are raising their families here and they call the UK their home. They are part of our communities and we have a duty to stand up for their rights as well. So may I ask the Minister as a first step to tell us how many UK residents he believes will be affected in this way, and what advice his Department and the Home Office are offering them?
Frankly, this is a debate I never thought we would need to have; the very idea that we would be looking at a new American President, just a few weeks into the job, not just aghast at what he has already done, but debating how much worse things could get from here. How long ago it seems since the Foreign Secretary was telling us to be optimistic about the new presidency and was saying that this President shared our values and we were being premature in judging him. How naive that looks now.
Yet this is the President for whom the Government are preparing to roll out the red carpet and welcome on a state visit. I was checking the figures today and I found that since the first state visit of President Reagan in 1982 the quickest period between inauguration and making a state visit to Britain was 17 months—that was for President Obama. The average has been 25 months, with both President Clinton and President George W. Bush having to wait almost three years. So why the indecent haste for this most indecent of Presidents?
This is a President who has made lewd and vile comments about the Duchess of Cambridge; who has said that he does not want to meet the Prince of Wales, because someone might finally stand up to him about climate change; and who has banned thousands of our residents and millions worldwide from visiting America simply because of their nationality and their religion. And President Trump thinks that we should put on a parade for him while that grotesque ban is still in place! If it goes ahead, it will be a national shame, which is why the Opposition will oppose having a state visit in such circumstances. We will certainly oppose any suggestion that President Trump is given the honour of addressing both Houses of Parliament.
Last week, the Prime Minister promised to speak frankly to President Trump and tell him where she disagreed with him, but we heard nothing of the sort from Washington. We heard nothing about climate change or respect for human rights and women’s rights. We heard nothing about punishing war crimes in Syria, the nuclear deal with Iran, or the illegal settlements in the west bank. We got the same stony silence from the Prime Minister when she was asked about the Executive order. Three times she was asked the question in Ankara, and three times she ignored it. Was she told about it by President Trump? There have been reports on “Channel 4 News” that she was. The Secretary of State ducked the question; perhaps the Minister will enlighten us and answer directly: did the President tell the Prime Minister about the Executive order when they met?
The Prime Minister referred in Washington to a special relationship based on our shared history and interests, but she has to realise, and needs to make President Trump realise, that it is also a relationship based on shared values. If the President is going to discard those values, whether by embracing torture or ignoring climate change, or by demonising people as aliens and terrorists based simply on their religion and nationality on the very day on which we remember the holocaust, the Prime Minister must be willing to tell him frankly: “Mr President, you are wrong. This is not who we are.” The fact that, almost three full days after the announcement, we have yet to hear a word of condemnation from her own mouth is not just shameful, it is cowardly. Some iron lady she has turned out to be.
First, I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this special debate, even though it followed 90 minutes of questions to the Foreign Secretary on the same topic. It is important that we have been able to air our views. It is no part of my comment tonight to find partisan difference or to argue with the fundamental moral arguments that have been put to the House today.
I commend the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) for pressing this issue. The House has every right to speak out. We are seen throughout so much of the world as the voice of democracy and as a lighthouse of justice and decency. It is in that vein that we have witnessed a debate of the highest quality that I hope will be noticed and listened to, and I hope that all those who have participated will feel proud of the contribution they have made on a very important issue.
We witnessed the most deeply moving speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi). It was clearly a moment of deep personal emotion for him. It illustrated what has fired us up today, along with millions of other people. There is a moral dimension to this issue, as we have been discussing, but perhaps we have not emphasised quite enough the intensely personal dimension for the individuals whose lives are going to be affected. That is what we must understand when we debate this issue.
From my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir Simon Burns), with his encyclopaedic knowledge of US Presidents, we have learned about previous presidential visits to the UK. I acknowledge my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) for mapping out some of the broader strategic issues within which this very difficult issue has to fit. One of those is, of course, our relationship with the one superpower in the world, our closest historical ally, with which we have very close interests that affect all our constituents. I urge the House to appreciate that the Government have to see it from that perspective.
Perhaps, in addition to the fervent moral arguments we have heard, I can map out some of the practical side. On Friday, after the Prime Minister had left Washington, the President issued his Executive order banning the citizens of seven countries from entering the US for a period of 90 days. We know which countries they are: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Sudan. The order makes clear that no US visas will be issued to citizens of those states, and that anyone who already has a visa will be denied entry. I acknowledge the point made by the right hon. Member for Doncaster North that that is a significant extension of and is different from the list drawn up by the Obama Administration when those countries were withdrawn from the US visa waiver programme in 2016. What President Obama did in December 2015 was amend the visa waiver. From January 2016, it did not include individuals or dual nationals who had, in the previous five years, been to Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan. In February last year, the new provisions were extended—this is the origin of the list—to people who had travelled in the previous five years to Somalia, Yemen or Libya, but were not dual nationals of those countries. It is true that President Trump’s Executive order is more extensive and sweeping, and it is altogether of a different order.
The House has yet to debate what Brexit means in practice, but after the events of this weekend can we at least all agree that the last thing that it should mean is biting your tongue in the hope of doing trade deals and thereby abandoning all the values that this country has long held dear?
I do not think anyone would disagree with that. This is not just about trade deals, although trade deals matter; it is part of a broader relationship in which many other things matter, too. But let us focus on the one topic of this emergency debate, which is the immigration policy of the United States in what is only the second week of the presidency of President Trump. Obviously, we have very strong views, but we are not empowered to make a decision as such, because the immigration policy of the United States is a matter for the United States.
I grew up listening to my father talk about the dangers of powerful and deeply divisive rhetoric like that of Enoch Powell. Is the Minister not concerned that when the President of the United States is invited on a state visit, there is a real danger that his rhetoric will be deeply divisive and threatening to many Muslims in this country? Will the Minister ensure that if the Government pursue the policy of rolling out the red carpet rather than having some other sort of official visit, there is proper protection against dangerous rhetoric that incites people to violence?
I fully appreciate what the hon. Lady says. Indeed, we have debated such issues on many occasions. I have been in the House for nearly 25 years, and I think I am well known as someone who has defended Muslims at home and abroad throughout that period. To turn on a sixpence, when I was Minister of State, Department for International Development, I had to focus more than £1 billion from the growing DFID budget on Syrian refugees; perhaps my one pleasure amid the challenges that we faced was being able to say that that was 25 times more than was provided by the French.
Let me concentrate on what the Government had to do in response to the announcement of the Executive order. It had a serious effect, and there were serious consequences for some British citizens. It is the Government’s duty to protect the interests of British citizens and, where we are able to do so, make sure that we get things changed so that they are not detrimentally affected. That is what we decided we primarily had to do, why the Foreign Secretary spoke to the US Administration, and why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke to General Kelly, the new Secretary of Homeland Security, to seek clarification.
One of the points that I ask the House to understand is that we did not appreciate right from the start all the implications of the Executive order. It was announced as the Prime Minister left Washington to fly overnight to Turkey, and during the next day it was full steam ahead in Turkey, so I think the House ought to row back from the personal attacks on the Prime Minister.
Let me make it clear what has resulted from those contacts: we have successfully protected British citizens. It would have been ill advised to be diplomatically offensive in a way that would have reinforced any detriment to British citizens. Instead, we have achieved something.
Get out of it! Achieved what?
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman exactly what we have achieved. We have achieved an outcome in which all British passport holders remain welcome to travel to the United States, which would not have happened if my colleagues in Government had not made the contacts they did.
No, I will not give way. I am going to explain this.
We have received assurances from the US embassy that the Executive order will make no difference to any British passport holder, irrespective of their country of birth or whether they hold another passport—[Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) has asked, “What about residents?” I am holding her back from intervening so that I can answer her question. We are advised that the only material change for the UK is that citizens of any of the seven designated countries who do not hold a British passport but are legally resident in the UK will still be able to apply for visas, but that they may face additional screening at their port of entry into the United States. I apologise for making the right hon. Lady wait to intervene.
The Minister is making a thoughtful speech, and I welcome the work that Ministers have done to safeguard the interests of British citizens. However, may I ask him about the wider points? Has the Foreign Office made representations to the US Administration to lift the refugee ban in the interests of international refugee policy, and to stop the targeting of Muslims in the interests of our shared values and common security?
Given that the emergency debate has had me rushing to the Dispatch Box at short notice, I have not been involved in any such discussions so I cannot give the right hon. Lady a categorical answer, but one can speculate on what political events might now unfold. Executive orders are, at least, limited for 90 days. They are a command from the president to instruct Congress to do something, so the order will now move to Congress within the democratic process of the United States. They have their democracy as we have ours, and this will ultimately be their political decision. I have no doubt that there will be strong political voices within the United States, as we have heard today in this House and, indeed, outside it.
I reiterate that the order is not the kind of policy of which this Government approve or would ever introduce. As the Foreign Secretary said in his statement earlier, we have already made very clear our anxiety about measures that discriminate on grounds of nationality in ways that we consider to be divisive and wrong. Indeed, it does not really help—although it is true—to say that, although all the countries listed are Muslim countries, the list does not include all Muslim countries. In fact, the vast majority—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) might just listen to the point I am trying to make. Although the vast majority of the Muslim world is not mentioned in the Executive order, the political language around it is unacceptably anti-Muslim. As such, it is divisive and wrong, and will cause an effect in the entire Muslim community.
As the Prime Minister expressed during her visit to the States last week, the point of having a special relationship is to have frank and honest discussions on all issues, whether we agree or disagree. We do not hesitate to state that, although US immigration policy is ultimately a matter for the US Government, we do not agree with this kind of approach. It would be wrong to think that the relationship means that we agree on every issue. That has never been the case throughout the history of the special relationship. One could cite the example of former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson not joining the US in fighting in Vietnam.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon clearly said—frankly, he has spoken in today’s debate with extraordinarily personal and moral authority—we should not forget the indispensable nature of this country’s alliance with the US. In defence, intelligence and security, we work together more closely than any other two countries in the world. America’s leadership role in NATO, which the Prime Minister was able to reaffirm and reconfirm in her visit, is the ultimate guarantor of security in Europe. The President told the Prime Minister of his 100% commitment to NATO. The trade relationship is of importance; we export more to the US than any other nation. The relationship is overwhelmingly to our benefit. I believe very strongly that the Prime Minister’s visit to the White House last week underlined the strength of that transatlantic alliance. Where we have differences with the United States, we will not shy away from them, and we will express them clearly, as I have done today, but I also echo the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister in repeating our resolve to work alongside the Trump Administration in our mutual interest.
First, I thank all right hon. and hon. Members for contributing to this debate. I thank you, Mr Speaker, for making the debate possible, because it showed a wish to make sure that this House was relevant to the issue of the day and the issue of the moment. I particularly commend the speeches—forgive me if I do not mention all the excellent speeches we have heard—by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah), my right hon. Friends the Members for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), and my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern). My friend, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), spoke incredibly movingly and eloquently. We also heard from the right hon. Members for Chelmsford (Sir Simon Burns) and for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), and the hon. Members for Colchester (Will Quince) and for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows). There were many other excellent speeches, including from the Front Benches—my own and others.
The main thing I take out of this is that we achieved our purpose, which is to show that on the merits of this issue there is remarkable unity across this House. There is no division on the Government or Opposition Benches about the fact that this ban is basically a repugnant, abhorrent thing. It is a very good achievement for the House to have set that out.
The second question, though, is what happens next? In a good contribution, the Minister came a bit closer to raising that issue. The question is whether we classify this a kind of normal, run-of-the-mill disagreement—“They do their thing, we do our thing”—or as something much, much more serious. I urge the Minister to take back to the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister the strong feeling across this House that this is not some run-of-the-mill thing—“They do our policy and we do ours”—but incredibly serious. It is incredibly serious because of the values that it speaks to, which offend this House of Commons, and because it takes us down a slippery slope. Someone pointed out that we are only two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency. My goodness, it feels like a year, really, and we still have at least three years and a lot of a year to go. There is a real danger of a slippery slope.
Thirdly, this policy is going to make us less safe, not more safe—it is more dangerous for our world. I really hope that the Minister takes back the message that this is not run of the mill but deadly serious, and that we expect a response from the Prime Minister, including speaking to the President, that is proportionate to the feeling of this House of Commons.
I apologise for having briefly gone outside because I was due to speak at the event that was taking place, although I never quite made it to speak. There were tens of thousands of people, I think, or thousands of people. One must not get into crowd size estimates given recent experience; I do not want to do a Trump—[Hon. Members: “Millions!”] There were millions of people outside. I think there is a feeling across this country, from the petition to the people outside, that this ban is not in our name. This House of Commons has said that today and I hope that the Government will reflect that in the weeks and months ahead.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the need for repeal of President Trump’s discriminatory, divisive and counterproductive ban on entry to the United States for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries and the indefinite ban placed on Syrian refugees.
For the record, that was passed unanimously.