With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the implications for this country of the recent changes in US immigration policy.
In view of the understandable concern and uncertainty, it may be helpful if I describe for the House the consequences for British citizens and dual nationals of the Executive order issued last Friday. Let me begin by saying that it is not UK policy—this is not our policy—nor is it a measure that this Government would consider. I have already made clear our anxiety about measures that discriminate on grounds of nationality in ways that are divisive and wrong.
On 27 January, President Trump issued an Executive order banning citizens of seven countries from entering the US for a period of 90 days. Those countries are Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Sudan. The order makes it 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. The immigration policy of the United States is of course a matter for the Government of the United States, but on the face of it this Executive order has consequences for some British citizens. For that reason, I spoke yesterday to the US Administration and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has today spoken to General Kelly, the Secretary of Homeland Security. I am able to provide the following clarification: the general principle is that all British passport holders remain welcome to travel to the US. 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. In any case, the Executive order is a temporary measure that is intended to last for 90 days until the US system has added new security precautions. This is of course a highly controversial policy that has caused unease and I repeat that it is not an approach that this Government would take.
Let me conclude by reminding the House of the vital importance of this country’s alliance with the United States, which I am sure Opposition Members appreciate. On defence, intelligence and security, we work together more closely than any other two countries in the world. That relationship is overwhelmingly to our benefit. The Prime Minister’s highly successful 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 quail from expressing them, as I have done today—[Interruption.]
Order. Let me just say to the House that it is obvious that there is huge interest in this matter, which colleagues can rely upon me to accommodate. I understand the strength of feeling, but the Foreign Secretary’s statement, and his upcoming answers to questions, must be heard.
Where we have differences with the US, we will not hesitate to express them, as I have done today—if Opposition Members were listening —as the Prime Minister did yesterday, and as she did in her excellent speech in Philadelphia last week. We also repeat our resolve to work alongside the Trump Administration in the mutual interest of both our countries. I commend this statement to the House.
I am sure that the whole House will join me in expressing sorrow at last night’s gun attack on a Canadian mosque, which left six dead and eight injured. They were all victims of hate, and we all have a duty to stand up to hate whenever, and in whatever form, it appears.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for advance sight of his statement. I must say that I thought that it was missing a few pages—apparently not—so I hope, Mr Speaker, that you will allow me to ask about some details that were missing from the statement and about its timing.
First, on the detail, as the Secretary of State knows, thousands of people in Britain live here on a permanent basis but are nationals of the seven listed countries and have no dual citizenship. Many of them are here with indefinite leave to remain, having fled persecution or war. Can he confirm, based on what he has said today, that these thousands of British residents are now barred from travelling to the United States? Dr Hamaseh Tayari, an Iranian national living and working in Glasgow, was told on Friday that she was not allowed to fly home from Costa Rica because she needed to change planes in New York. Similarly, can the Foreign Secretary confirm that a Somali national with a temporary US visa who is currently in the UK visiting their family cannot now return to the US under these rules? I hope he can clarify those points.
On the timing of the announcement, the order was issued at 9.45 pm on Friday, UK time. It then took No. 10 until midnight on Saturday, a full 27 hours later, to say that it would consider the impact on UK nationals. It then took the Prime Minister until Sunday morning to tell the Foreign Secretary to telephone the White House, and it took him until midday on Sunday to call the travel ban “divisive and wrong”—that is 38 hours. It took 38 hours to have the courage to say what everyone else was saying on Friday night.
Forty-six hours after the Executive order, we got clarification that UK nationals and dual nationals would not be affected. If that was because the wheels in Washington were slow to turn, it might be understandable, but Canada was immediately in touch with its American counterparts on Saturday and by that evening it had secured the travel rights of Canadian nationals, a full 17 hours before we had secured the travel rights of ours. Canada is supposed to be five hours behind the UK, so why was it a day ahead of us in resolving this issue?
Finally, on the timing, the order was signed barely an hour or two after the Prime Minister left the White House. Can the Foreign Secretary tell us whether this imminent order was mentioned in the discussions about terrorism and security? I do not know what is worse: that the President has such little respect for the Prime Minister that he would not think of telling her, or that he did and that she did not think it sounded wrong. If it was the first, it would hardly be a surprise; but if it was the latter, we really do have a problem because, when it comes to human rights, when it comes women’s rights and when it comes to torture and the treatment of minorities, President Trump is already descending a very dangerous slope. When that happens, we need a Prime Minister who is prepared to tell him to stop, not one who simply proffers her hand and silently helps him along.
I listened very carefully, and I think the hon. Lady’s most substantial point was about the particular case of a Glaswegian doctor. I appreciate that there will be all sorts of cases—particularly difficult cases, heart-breaking cases—in which people have experienced a lot of frustration as a result of this measure. I repeat, because perhaps Members did not follow it first time, that this is not the policy of Her Majesty’s Government but a policy that is being promoted elsewhere.
What we will do is make sure that all our consular network and all our diplomatic network are put at the service of people who are finding difficulties as a result of these measures, but, as I said, because of the energetic action of this Government, of the Prime Minister and of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary we have an exemption for UK passport holders, whether dual nationals or otherwise. I think that most fair-minded people would say that that shows the advantages of working closely with the Trump Administration and the advantages of having a relationship that enables us to get our point across and to get the vital protections that UK passport holders need. The approach taken by the Labour party, of pointlessly demonising the Trump Administration, would have achieved the very opposite.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. What the interventions of Senator McCain and Senator Graham possibly show is that this is a subject for lively debate on Capitol Hill, as it is here in this House. I repeat that we do not support this—it is not a policy we agree with—and it is clear from what my hon. Friend says that others in the US do not agree with it either.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for advance sight of his statement. Without a thought to the context, on Holocaust Memorial Day President Trump issued an Executive order to ban those who were born in seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the USA, including those “bad ‘dudes’” who are actually the real victims of violence fleeing the conflict in Syria. This action is inhumane, racist and immoral, and I welcome the fact that this House is now treating the threat posed by President Trump with the seriousness it deserves.
We on these Benches would also like to pay tribute to and support the strong statements made on this issue by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and welcome the work that has already been done by so many—[Interruption.] You can learn some lessons from Scotland’s First Minister. I also pay tribute to the work being done by so many on the ground in Scotland, particularly Women for Independence, who have provided moral and practical support to those who have been unjustly affected by this despicable action. Given the Prime Minister’s blossoming and frank relationship with President Trump, did she know in advance that he was going to issue this order, which has concerned so many of our citizens? Does the Foreign Secretary agree with senior national security experts in the US and elsewhere that this will have national security implications for the UK, given that the US Administration have now adapted Daesh’s false narrative that its conflict is one between the west and Islam? If we want to be a global leader, this Government need to show global leadership—where is it? The Prime Minister has been tested and she has failed on this, her first challenge.
As the hon. Lady will know, when it comes to tackling the scourge of Daesh—she is absolutely right about that—this country is the second biggest contributor to military action in strikes against Daesh in Iraq and in Syria. We continue to be the second biggest donor to dealing with the humanitarian crisis in that region. Everybody in this House should be incredibly proud of the leadership that the UK is showing in that respect. I have already set out my views. It is up to Members of the House of Commons if they wish to exhaust the wells of outrage in the denunciation of this policy. I have made my position clear—I made it clear yesterday. I said it was wrong to promulgate policies that stigmatise people on the basis of their nationality, and I believe that very profoundly. What we have done in the last few days is to intercede on behalf of UK nationals—that is our job—and UK passport holders. We have secured very important protections for them.
President Trump is what we might call a “known unknown”: we know that he will do and say unpredictable things, and often just as quickly abandon those positions. He will learn as he goes along, and what we have to remember is that our security and that of Europe depends on the Atlantic alliance. So does my right hon. Friend agree that there must be no question of our refusing to welcome him to these shores, in the hope of setting him along the right path as soon as possible, to our mutual benefit?
My right hon. Friend is entirely right, in the sense that the Prime Minister succeeded the other day in getting her message across about NATO and President Trump affirmed very strongly his commitment to that alliance; it is vital for our security, particularly the article 5 guarantee, and the new President is very much in the right place on that. [Interruption.] He said so. It is totally right, of course, that the incoming President of our closest and most important ally should be accorded the honour of a state visit. That is supported by this Government and the invitation has been extended by Her Majesty the Queen, quite properly.
This is not just about the impact on British citizens. One of our closest allies has chosen to ban refugees and target Muslims, and all the Foreign Secretary can say is that it would not be our policy. That is not good enough. Has he urged the US Administration to lift this order, to help refugees and to stop targeting Muslims? This order was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day; for the sake of history, for heaven’s sake have the guts to speak out.
As I say, it is open to Opposition MPs—indeed, MPs on both sides of the House—to come forward with yet fresher expressions of outrage about the presidential Executive order. They are entitled to do that. I share the widespread disquiet and I have made my views absolutely clear. I have said that it is divisive, I have said that it is wrong, and I have said that it stigmatises people on grounds of their nationality. But I will not do what I think the Labour party would do, which is disengage from conversations with our American friends and partners in such a way as to do material damage to the interests of UK citizens. We have secured important protections for people in this country, and that is the job of this Government.
Given our new-found closeness to the Trump Administration, what plans does my right hon. Friend have to try to persuade the Administration, after the 90 days, to abandon what to many is a despicable and immoral policy? Would he agree —to paraphrase a far wiser President, John. F. Kennedy —that those who ride on the back of a tiger end up inside it?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend’s words will be heard in Washington, but all I can say is that we will continue to engage with the Administration to make our points about the interests of UK nationals and, of course, to convey our feelings about the global consternation that this measure has caused.
Will the Foreign Secretary clarify what the position would be for an Iraqi national resident in the United Kingdom whose child was a dual British and Iraqi citizen working in the United States, in the event that that child died? Would her mother be able to travel from London to the United States to bury her daughter, under the current US arrangements? If not, would he agree that that would be quite simply inhuman and outrageous?
Of course, it is possible to create all sorts of hypothetical situations that are yet more outrageous. As far as I understand the matter—the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is for the US to explain that aspect of its policy—the answer is that such a case would be treated very expeditiously and particular arrangements would be put in place to ensure that that person was able to travel to the US.
Order. I will do my best to accommodate the extensive interest in this subject, but may I gently and perhaps tactfully point out that Members who toddled into the Chamber after the Foreign Secretary’s statement had begun should not be standing? It is in defiance of the conventions of the place, and I am sure they would not be so unreasonable as to think that they would have a right to be called. That would be perverse, and I feel sure that they would not behave in a perverse way.
The United States Congress and courts, as well as the President and diplomacy, will play a part in arriving at a solution to this question. Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is a universal threat from jihadists? For example, Europol has estimated that up to 5,000 jihadists have come over from several of the relevant countries. Furthermore, we should remember the victims of 9/11 in New York and 7/7 in London, and in Paris, Brussels and Berlin, not to mention Lee Rigby.
Will the Foreign Secretary for a moment try to recall, along with me, what it was like as I hid under the stairs when two fascist dictators, Mussolini and Hitler, rained bombs on towns and cities in Britain? Now this Government are hand in hand with another fascist, Trump. I say to the Foreign Secretary: do the decent thing and ban the visit. This man is not fit to walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela.
I hesitate to say it, but the hon. Gentleman’s memory is at fault if he thinks that Mussolini rained bombs on this country. I hear the comparison that he makes, but I do not accept it; I believe that it is in our interest to work with our American friends and partners, to show our disquiet where appropriate, and to get the best deal for UK nationals and dual nationals.
When President Obama imposed a similar ban on a single country in 2011, American democracy ensured that it did not last, and other action was taken. Can we not rely on American democracy this time to do the right thing and take the right moral pose, and is it not the job of British Ministers to speak for British policy?
My right hon. Friend is entirely right; indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) has pointed out that there is already disquiet about this policy on Capitol hill. I have no doubt whatsoever that the American political system will help to introduce the requisite balances in the end. It is our job to intervene now and get the best deal we can for UK nationals.
In November 1938, the then Conservative Government prepared a Bill that led to the Kindertransport that transported Jewish refugee children to this country. Does the Secretary of State not realise that in making his statement he should uphold the Geneva convention and speak truth to power in the United States? He has let the House, and his job, down.
The right hon. Gentleman is taking sanctimony to new heights. Most fair-minded people would say that we have made it clear to our friends in America that we do not agree with their policy and that we disapprove of discrimination on the grounds of nationality. However, we have worked with them to get the best possible outcome for UK nationals and dual nationals. We have also made clear to the American Administration—I am sure that he will approve—the widespread consternation felt by individuals such as him around the world.
I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on condemning America’s policy, which, by any standards, is completely unjustified. Like many of us, I am delighted that Sir Mo Farah can apparently go home and see his wife and children. Does the Foreign Secretary agree with Sir Mo Farah, who described the policy as based on nothing more than prejudice and ignorance?
The Foreign Secretary knows that this policy is counterproductive, immoral and wrong. His attitude and approach is to get an exemption for UK citizens and invite the perpetrator to a full state visit. That does not seem like the wholehearted condemnation that the House deserves to hear given. What will he do to make it absolutely clear, in no uncertain terms, to the American Administration that this kind of discrimination is counterproductive, wrong and immoral?
I commend the Foreign Secretary on the work that he did on Sunday into the night to ensure that Britons had safe travel to the United States of America. Has he had clarification from the Administration on whether they have updated the advice to their embassies, because there is confusion? Some embassies are still turning dual nationals away and not allowing them to enter the United States of America.
The Prime Minister’s primary duty, as the hon. Gentleman will know, is to the safety and security of everybody in this country, and to protect their rights and freedoms. That is what has been achieved by the agreement that we have struck. He will also know that the Prime Minister was first or very early out of the box in saying that she disagreed with this policy.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on making those words in our passports that refer to allowing Her Majesty’s subjects to travel “without let or hindrance” a reality, and on being the first Minister to come to the Dispatch Box to defend domestic policy in the United States since Lord North. May I encourage him to defend our interest, as he is doing, and not seek to tell America how to run itself?
On Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday, the Prime Minister told us:
“Our commitment to remember the Holocaust is about more than words…It is about…standing up to prejudice…wherever it is found today.”
Why, then, was the Prime Minister unable on Saturday to adhere to her own call to action?
The Foreign Secretary is to be congratulated on working to protect the rights of British nationals, but will he also consider that he would not be telling an ally how to run its own country by reminding it, in calm and firm terms, that our shared relationship is based on mutual respect for the rule of law, both nationally and internationally? Persisting with this policy does America no good in that regard at all.
It seems that fake news has come to the House of Commons with a vengeance, because the Foreign Secretary has just said that our Prime Minister was one of the first out of the blocks to condemn the words of President Trump. She certainly was not; we have heard that it took 38 hours. Her failure shames this whole country. I am proud that more people in my constituency of Brighton, Pavilion, have signed the petition to stop the state visit than in any other. They recognise that our Prime Minister has been not involved in diplomacy, but complicit with tyranny. What does the Secretary of State say?
The hon. Lady’s constituents are, of course, perfectly at liberty to sign the petition and express their views. I have expressed my views about the measure, but I also think it would be a good thing for the visit to go ahead, because the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States is the single most important geopolitical fact of the past 100 years, and we are going to keep that relationship going.
I strongly agree with the Foreign Secretary on the importance of this country’s alliance with the United States, but does he agree that, whatever others may do, refugees arriving in this country will be dealt with with patience, courtesy and respect?
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for his point. I am glad to see that the bust of his grandfather has been rightfully restored to its place in the Oval Office. I remind him that of course Winston Churchill took a very strong view on a country being able to control its own borders and immigration policies.
I do not think the Foreign Secretary understands that so many people in this country feel such contempt for what Trump has done. Can the Foreign Secretary clarify what he said earlier? If indeed the visit of this wretched, bigoted man is going to take place, can we be reassured that under no circumstances will he address Parliament in Westminster Hall? That, in itself, would be a disgrace.
I am sure that the mood of the Chamber of the House of Commons will be reflected in all discussions about how the visit is to go ahead, but we should bear in mind that he is the elected Head of State of our closest and most important ally, and there is absolutely no reason why he should not be accorded a state visit, and every reason why he should.
Certainly, if we got the Queen to have tea with the President of China, I do not see why she should not have tea with the President of America. As all our security for 70 years depended on the special relationship, and with regard to our prosperity and a future trade deal, was not the visit of the Prime Minister an absolute triumph? We are all thoroughly proud of her. Is not the first fruit of this special relationship the fact that the Foreign Secretary has ensured the rights of British citizens?
I agree with my hon. Friend about the Prime Minister’s visit. I think it was a very great success, and the two evidently kindled an important relationship. The parallels that were drawn extensively in the US commentariat between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and our Prime Minister and the new American President were very apposite. We can look forward to a new era of security and stability, working together with the US.
The British embassy in the United States has a very important page on a website that shows a list of presidential visits to the United Kingdom. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that George W. Bush and Barack Obama were President for more than two years before they made a state visit, and that many previous Presidents did not have state visits at all, although they did visit this country in the course of their duties? Why on earth has Theresa the appeaser got this President here within a few months? [Interruption.]
Order. The hon. Gentleman will have heard the response to what he said, but my immediate reaction is that the matter—[Interruption.] Order. I do not require any assistance. My immediate reaction is that the matter is one of taste, rather than of order—and I certainly do not need any help from the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen), who would not have the foggiest idea where to start.
May I therefore say, with your guidance, Mr Speaker, that I do find it distasteful to make comparisons between the elected leader of a great democracy and 1930s tyrants? I really have to say that I think it is inappropriate. As for the exact protocol of when the visit should take place—something about which the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) obviously cares very deeply—I cannot give him any guidance about that; it is a protocol matter.
May I offer the Foreign Secretary my commiserations on his being sent out to bat on a very sticky wicket? Will he tell the House whether, when he intervened in Washington, it was through the State Department or the President’s son-in-law?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that ingenious question. I am sure that the House will appreciate that we have very good relations with the US Government at all levels now. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has had an excellent conversation today with General Kelly of the Homeland Security Department, confirming the very important exemptions that we have achieved for UK nationals and dual nationals.
The Foreign Secretary does not like outrage, so does he understand the dismay felt by millions of Britons at the Prime Minister’s failure to condemn immediately and unequivocally Trump’s Muslim ban? Does he acknowledge that the ban may have increased the risk to British citizens in the seven countries affected by it?
I will simply have to repeat what I have already said about 15 times this afternoon about my views on this policy, which I think are exactly the same as those of the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle): it is divisive, discriminatory and wrong. That is our position. The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) can find all sorts of other adjectives, if he chooses to. Let him reach into his thesaurus and exhaust the wells of outrage, by all means. We have made our position clear, and we have also secured an important exemption for UK nationals.
As recent barbaric attacks across Europe demonstrate, we all face a continuing threat from Islamic fundamentalism, which we are all trying to address in our different ways. Although we may not have adopted the same policy as the United States, surely this is a matter for the newly elected Administration in America, its courts and its people. Our position has been immensely enhanced by the fantastic visit by our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Britain now has influence, thanks to her.
May I just say something in defence of that great democracy, the United States of America? If we look at all the migrants in the world—all those who are living in a country other than that in which they were born—fully 20% of them are in the US. Some 45 million people in the US were not born in that country. I do not think that it is possible to say credibly that that country is hostile to those from overseas. Of course, it is vital that we work with the United States in combating terror and that we deepen our relationship, as we are doing.
May I congratulate the Government on a very successful visit to the United States of America, and on putting the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the front of the queue? Does the Secretary of State agree that there is a touch of a double standard here? People from Ulster have been told for decades that they must talk to, and work and be in government with, the most objectionable people, yet they are now being told by the same people that the President of the most democratic country in the world should not come to this country. May I encourage the Secretary of State to ensure that the state visit proceeds? Could he also advise Northern Ireland citizens who hold Irish passports but who are entitled to full British passports on whether they should apply for British passports for ease of travel to the United States?
I completely agree with the point that the hon. Gentleman rightly makes. President Trump and his Administration have not, to the best of my knowledge, been engaged in terrorist offences on mainland Britain, unlike those with whom the hon. Gentleman and his party were asked to negotiate.
Given the reservations that my right hon. Friend has expressed and the mitigation that he has secured, what further opportunities will there be to maximise our influence? May I suggest that a return visit by the President is a rather obvious one?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that very good thought. The presidential visit will, of course, be an occasion for deepening the relationship and having further such conversations. I will meet my US counterpart at the Munich security conference in just a few days’ time.
In addition to the general dismay, does the Foreign Secretary realise that those of us with constituencies with large Muslim populations—my constituency has the largest Arabic-origin population in the country—are feeling deep concern and anxiety? Many of them travel regularly to America for work and family reasons, and they are looking for the strongest possible reassurance from the Government. Can the Foreign Secretary help me on one specific point? A very diverse school party will leave for America in a few days, and a couple of the students have already been refused visa waivers. Will he do what he can to ensure smooth passage for those students, who are going to America to study the great tradition of American democracy?
We will, of course, do everything we can to help the party of schoolchildren that the hon. Lady refers to and to make sure that they have a great trip to the US. If there are any difficulties with their visas, we will assist. As for the Arab Muslim minority in her constituency, of course we must speak up for them and defend their interests and rights. That is why we have made the points that we have about the needs of duals and the needs of UK passport holders.
I commend my right hon. Friend for his statement of condemnation. Is he aware of the speech in 1940 in which Winston Churchill said:
“Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last”,
in reference to the countries that remained neutral in the war? The dangerous trend towards nationalism, which we have not seen since the 1930s, inflicting itself on the western world has wrongly been defined as populism. It is clear that this Executive order needs to be condemned. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that the House must make its stand, here and now, for the weight of history stands on our shoulders?
I completely agree that we must stand up against bigotry and nationalism, but I do draw the line at the comparison that has been made relentlessly this afternoon between the elected Government of our closest and most important ally—a great democracy—and the anti-democratic, cruel and barbaric tyrannies of the 1930s. Continually to use the language of appeasement demeans the horror of the 1930s and trivialises our conversation.
People feel strongly about the matter because of the great love held for the United States in this country and in this Chamber. The Foreign Secretary is right to say that our deep friendship brings with it the ability to be candid. Strength also brings with it the ability to be candid; is not the lesson from the weak response to these announcements that desperation leads to the opposite of candour?
The important point, I stress again to the House, is that the Government have earned the right to speak frankly to our friends in the US. We have done so, and we have made our views about this measure known. As the House has heard, my views are ad idem with the views of the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) and other Members here today. The Prime Minister does not approve of the measure, but the important thing to do is to talk to our friends and partners in the US—to reflect and relay some of the global consternation that we detect, but to get a positive outcome for UK nationals.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on securing the rights of dual British nationals. Will he undertake to look into the case of some middle eastern and other Asian countries refusing entry to dual nationals from this country?
Why did the Foreign Secretary make no reference at all in his statement to the Americans’ suspension of their refugee programme? Should not our Prime Minister have echoed the words of the Canadian Prime Minister by saying that we welcome those who are fleeing persecution, terror and war, regardless of their faith?
Our policy on receiving refugees has not changed, and we have a good record. The United States, to the best of my knowledge, has taken about 12,000 Syrian refugees alone. As I said earlier, I do not think that anybody could reasonably fault the United States of America as a great recipient of migrants from around the world. If we look at the numbers—45 million people in the US were not born in that country—we see that it has a very distinguished record.
Does my right hon. Friend share my disappointment that so many Members of this House have got so used to our not having control of our own immigration policy that they appear to resent another sovereign country having control of theirs?
My hon. Friend puts it bluntly, but accurately. Whatever Members may think about this policy—there is a wide measure of agreement about the policy across the House—it is the prerogative of the President of the United States and the American Government to do this.
The world is an increasingly dangerous place and if the special relationship is to mean anything, surely we, as friends of America, should be deploring this in the strongest possible terms and saying to President Trump that he must desist. This is not about making clear our anxiety, as we read in the Foreign Secretary’s statement; it is about the leadership we must show to deliver peace and security in the world.
I know the Foreign Secretary understands the fear that this Executive order has struck into the hearts of some of our British citizens, particularly as during the Obama Administration British citizens of Iranian extraction in my constituency had their bank accounts at UK banks closed, ostensibly because of US banking rules. May I urge the Foreign Secretary not to disengage from the USA, but to seek protections and assurances to ensure that the Executive order does not lead to further personal financial sanctions on British citizens originally from these seven countries?
My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I would just remind the House that the reason the particular seven countries have been singled out—there has been a certain amount of confusion and controversy about this—is that they were in fact the seven selected by the Obama Administration for the withdrawal of the visa waiver scheme for anybody who had been to those countries.
I am sure that the three Members of this House who were born in Yemen are grateful to the Foreign Secretary for allowing us to travel to America, but a British citizen who happens to be an aid worker in Yemen or has visited Yemen for humanitarian purposes will be caught by this ban because— as I understand it, but he may have other information—the United States will not allow those who have visited or worked in Yemen to visit the United States, even though they are nationals of Britain.
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I know that he was born in Yemen, and there must initially have been some anxiety in his mind about exactly how he would be treated were he to go to the US. I am happy to say that he will face no obstacle whatever because he is a UK passport holder; nor will any UK aid worker in Yemen, because that is what we have achieved.
We did not need the Executive order to be signed to realise that this was President Trump’s policy. After all, it was an election pledge in an election he went on to win. Given that we knew, or should have known, that this was going to happen, did the Foreign Secretary raise the issue in his meeting with President Trump’s transition team or did the Prime Minister raise it when she met president Trump? We should have known about it, and we should have raised it.
The reality is that conversations between the new Administration and the UK Government have been going on for many months. I have to say that we became aware of the policy when it was enacted by the President on Friday evening, and since then we have worked very hard to secure the exemptions and protections that we now have.
Given that the Foreign Secretary has said today that the US President’s policy is “divisive, discriminatory and wrong”, can the House safely assume that he will strengthen any representations he makes to our friends in the US on this policy by working closely in co-operation and partnership with our counterparts in the European Union and the Council of Europe?
Many thousands of people will be comforted by the fact that all British passport holders will be able to travel into the US, and that those who have the legal right to be here will be able to apply for a visa. Seven countries are on President Trump’s list—their citizens are banned from entering the US for a period of 90 days. Every one of those countries bans Israeli passport holders from entering their country. Has the Foreign Secretary had any representations from dual British-Israeli citizens regarding that immigration policy, which is similarly divisive, discriminatory and wrong?
I am glad my hon. Friend has pointed that out. I had alluded to it in an elliptical way, but it is right that the House should be aware of that discrimination and the ban that exists. By the way, the House should reflect on the fact that all immigration and visa policies are by their nature discriminatory as between individuals and nations.
The Foreign Secretary is right about one thing: we have lots of friends in America. I stand with our friends there today who are standing up against this ban, which affects Muslims and others from those countries, but may I turn the Foreign Secretary’s attention back to the humanitarian cause in the middle east? Many of those affected will have been striving to save lives in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. What contact has he had with humanitarian leaders to ensure that they can travel to the United States if they need to do so?
What I can say about the conversations we have had so far is that, where people have diplomatic or political reasons to travel, or if they are travelling because they are aid workers, there should be expeditious systems for ensuring that they get through fast. That also applies to some of the people who are resident in this country but do not have either dual or UK nationality.
The Foreign Secretary has touched on this point. Sixteen countries currently forbid admission to Israeli passport holders. What the US is doing is without question misguided and wrong, but does my right hon. Friend agree that we should be consistent in our condemnation?
Many in our academic community are not British passport holders. At the weekend, my constituent Hamaseh Tayari, a specialist vet at Glasgow University, was prevented from boarding a flight because it involved a transfer in New York. The holocaust did not start with the gas chambers. Only days after Holocaust Memorial Day, the parallels are clear. I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s condemnation, but will he condemn the restrictions in any discussions he has with his US counterpart? Will he assure the House that the price of trade with the US will not be our complicit acceptance of the new rules?
I said in my answer to the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), who speaks from the Front Bench, that we are aware of the problem with the Glaswegian vet and will do everything we can within our consular power to help her. The hon. Lady’s repetition of comparisons—they have been made all afternoon—between these events, the second world war and the holocaust trivialises the holocaust.
Will the Foreign Secretary make it clear that, while America pursues this terrible and divisive policy, which I utterly condemn, the United Kingdom will always be a place where refugees are welcome and made to feel welcome? In that spirit, will he join me in praising and thanking voluntary groups such as Refugees Welcome in Richmond, which do great work in this field?
Absolutely. I assure my hon. Friend that we will continue to be a great open society in the UK. I was very proud when I was Mayor of London that 40% of Londoners were born abroad, including me. She has repeated condemnation of the Executive order, which has been heard on both sides of the House. As I have said, it is not my place to defend or explicate that policy, but it is there for 90 days and 90 days only, and will be subject to the full scrutiny of debate on Capitol Hill. As we have heard, there is doubt there, too.
President Trump’s decision to issue this Executive order is deeply divisive and dangerous. It has sent shockwaves around the Muslim world, including in Muslim communities across Europe and here in this country. As a Muslim, I find it deeply worrying and disturbing. Living in this country, I am deeply fearful of reprisals like the attack in Canada. When political leaders amplify tensions, when they fail to show courage and leadership, and when they fail to stand up in the face of division and hatred, we send the wrong message. I appeal to the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister to show courage and leadership, and to take steps to provide protection for those communities across Europe who are feeling very, very worried about their safety after this Executive order.
I agree very much with a lot of what the hon. Lady says, which is why the Prime Minister and I have taken the line we have on this measure. She speaks of hate crime and is absolutely right to do so. I do not want to see anything that stigmatises, entrenches divisions or causes communities to feel unwelcome, whether in this country or elsewhere. That is absolutely wrong. We take hate crime very seriously in this country. We can be proud of some of the achievements we have made in the past 10 to 20 years in cracking down on those who foment mistrust and division between our communities.
The Prime Minister’s speech in Philadelphia was one of the best expositions I have heard in recent years of the importance of the Atlantic alliance. I urge all hon. Members who doubt that to read her speech and they will see why this is a relationship worth holding on to. Will my right hon. Friend, in considering these issues, recognise the warm response the Prime Minister received from Congressional leaders, and redouble our efforts to reach out to them across the aisle as wise counsel and friends of the United Kingdom in Washington?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. There is a wide measure of agreement across the Atlantic on some of the essentials that unite us: the importance of NATO and our collective western defence; and the importance of promoting our values and our belief in freedom, democracy, the rule of law, equality and human rights. They are shared by many, many people in the Republican party on Capitol Hill. They also share our strong desire to develop our trading relations with a new, free trade deal, one of the great achievements of the Prime Minister’s visit.
I have to say to the Foreign Secretary that the emptiness and hollowness of his statement demeans his great office of state. Given that during President Trump’s campaign he very clearly set out a policy to ban Muslims, does he agree that the Executive order amounts to banning Muslims?
When President Obama came over here during the EU referendum, he voiced his concern about what we were trying to do. We told him in no uncertain terms that it was none of his business—it was entirely ours. Friends should be able to speak to each other, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the American people have voted Donald Trump to be their President and it is their business how they defend their borders?
I agree with my hon. Friend up to this point: it is also our duty, as many Members have said today, to make our views about this measure clear to the American President. We do not like it. We disapprove of it. We think it is divisive, discriminatory and wrong, as I have said repeatedly. As he rightly says, however, this is a sovereign Government of a friendly country and they have taken this decision by due process.
Order. I am keen to accommodate remaining interest. If colleagues have been listening, they will have noticed that the Foreign Secretary has been giving pithy replies, so I would now ask for pithy, single-sentence questions without preamble. If people want to go for preamble, let me politely say, “Keep it for the long winter evenings that lie ahead; we do not need you today.”
What assessment has the Foreign Secretary made of the impact of this Executive order on British foreign policy objectives in the middle east and other areas in the world with substantial Muslim populations, and how will a state visit from President Trump assist them?
I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on standing up for British nationals. It is right that we remain a close friend of the United States, but will my right hon. Friend also point out as a candid friend to the US Administration that we should steer clear of policies that could act inadvertently as a recruiting sergeant for Daesh?
In the hope that he will now answer it, let me repeat the question put by the shadow Foreign Secretary that the Foreign Secretary did not answer. In the light of our special relationship with the United States, why did it take the Government of the United Kingdom over 17 hours longer to get the same assurances that the Canadians got much quicker?
It is our duty to secure the best possible deal for citizens of the United Kingdom. What Canada does is a matter for Canada, and I have no knowledge of what deal the Canadians may or may not have secured. It is important for the House to understand that this is an Executive order that caught many Departments of the American Administration on the hop, as it were, and it has taken them some time to elaborate the policy that we now have.
Given that Donald Trump is the democratically elected President of our closest ally and our single biggest trading partner who is carrying out a promise that he made to the American people in their general presidential election, I commend the Foreign Secretary for standing firm on the state visit, which is absolutely in our national interest. After all, if pursuing policies that the UK Government did not agree with or pursuing policies in a ham-fisted manner barred any country from a state visit, no country would ever get a state visit.
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. To the best of my knowledge, both Nicolae Ceausescu and Robert Mugabe have been entertained by Her Majesty the Queen, and I think most Members would concede that it is our duty and the right thing to do to make preparations now for receiving our friend, our partner, the leader of a long-established great democracy and our most important ally.
I am very aware of that particular problem, and I have already heard representations from Iraqi politicians. There are, as the hon. Gentleman will know, specific exemptions for those involved in politics or diplomacy, and I hope that their applications will be treated expeditiously by the US.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that while we can of course say that we would not have such a policy in the UK, interfering in the affairs of another country can be counter-productive, as President Obama found out when he tried to influence the outcome of the EU referendum last year?
That is entirely right. As things turned out, I was rather grateful for President Obama’s intervention. If I may say so to the House, I think we have got the balance just about right. It is very difficult, and we have had to be clear with our American friends and partners, but we have also had to secure important protections for duals and for UK citizens.
The Foreign Secretary referred earlier to matters of taste. Well, I personally find a man who refers to grabbing a woman by the pussy very distasteful. A tearful constituent called me yesterday to say that he was devastated by the Prime Minister’s failure to condemn the actions of President Trump. Does the Foreign Secretary agree?
I thank the Foreign Secretary for coming to the House and answering questions so fully. I also thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing such a debate so that we can move swiftly on to the Pension Schemes Bill afterwards.
If the Foreign Secretary had a very special friend who had been invited to a big party, which would be the better way of influencing them: banning them from the party, or taking their hand and saying to them quietly what you would like them to do?
My hon. Friend has made the point very elegantly. We do not agree with this policy, we do not support it, it is not something that we would do ourselves, but we think that the best way to effect change and influence the White House is to engage, and to be as positive as we possibly can.
My keenness to accommodate colleagues is undiminished, but may I very tactfully say that if people feel that they are going to add further insight to our proceedings with their contributions they can of course continue to stand, but it is not compulsory to do so?
The Prime Minister wants to do business with President Trump, presumably in the same way that she does business with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Muslim majority countries that are not on the banned list. Not a single terrorist attack on United States soil has come from one of the seven countries on the list, yet 90% of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Has the Foreign Office made any assessment of a potential conflict of interests between the President’s personal business dealings and his domestic policy?
In March, I shall be attending a United Nations conference in New York. Can the Foreign Secretary assure me that I, as a British subject born in Yemen, and others like me will not be detained for questioning at the airport’s immigration area?
Ceausescu, Mugabe and, for that matter, Putin did indeed make state visits, but none of them was invited to address both Houses of Parliament. Whose idea was it that Mr Trump should be invited to do so? Was it the Foreign Secretary’s, the Prime Minister’s, or whose?
The Foreign Secretary has said that British citizens should be treated on an equal basis regardless of religion or ethnic origin. May I say this to him? When I entered the United States before becoming a Member of Parliament, I was stopped by United States immigration officials and asked what country I had been born in. I was born in Pakistan, but I am a British national. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that anyone who experiences the same treatment should write to the Foreign Office, so that we have a record of it and can make the appropriate representations to the United States?
I assume that that took place under the Obama Administration. Obviously I should be happy to receive correspondence about it, but, again, my hon. Friend and every other possessor of a United Kingdom passport will be free to travel to the United States without let or hindrance.
I am sure that, as a man of catholic literary tastes, the Foreign Secretary will be as familiar with that great book “The Art of the Deal” as I am. In the book, Mr Trump says that a good negotiating position is to start with something so utterly outrageous that it will incite fury throughout the world, and then move to something that may initially seem outrageous, but by comparison appears almost reasonable. As a responsible Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman will have analysed possible future actions by the President. What conclusions has he drawn?
I think the conclusion that anybody looking at the President’s electoral rhetoric and what he is in fact doing will draw is that his bark is considerably worse than his bite. I think we have every opportunity to do a very good deal with him on all sorts of things, not least free trade.
What assessment have the UK Government made of the risk to which the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) referred a few minutes ago, namely that the Islamophobia being propagated in America may make it easier for Daesh to recruit terrorists to operate in the United Kingdom?
When it comes to refugees, women’s rights or torture, we are either on one side or the other. Can the Foreign Secretary explain how many refugees we will take to offset the ban and how many women’s organisations will receive additional funding from us to offset the cut in their funding from the US Government, and will he rethink that state visit—that honour, that highest honour?
As I said earlier, this country has a proud record of taking refugees, and, indeed, of funding international organisations and of campaigning for female victims of sexual violence in conflict. We have done, I think, more than any other country in the world in that regard, and we continue those pledges. As for the hon. Gentleman’s point about the state visit, which has been made repeatedly this afternoon, I repeat: Her Majesty the Queen has extended that invitation, it is right and proper that it should go ahead, and it will.
Could the country come to the conclusion that the Government and Foreign Secretary’s response to this abhorrent and pernicious policy shows that they are so desperate for a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States that they are willing to become an apologist for the Trump Administration?
I think that any fair-minded person would, having listened to what has happened over the last 48 hours, understand that far from supporting the policy, far from acquiescing in the policy, and far from approving or agreeing with the policy, we have worked with the incoming Administration to modify that policy and to secure important protections for UK nationals and for dual nationals.
I refer the House to my entry in the register of Members’ interests. Given that a number of psychologists have now suggested that President Trump displays traits of narcissism and may be dogmatic in policy approach, how will the Foreign Secretary seek to reason with him, and will the Foreign Secretary be seeking psychological opinion himself?
Irrespective of the psychological traits of various world leaders, in which I am sure the hon. Lady is an expert—I have not had a chance to consult her register of interests to discover whether she is indeed a psychologist—we will work with the President, and indeed with all our friends and partners, to get the best outcome for our country. The partnership with the US is absolutely vital, not just for our stability and security but for that of the entire world.
This order stigmatises not just on the basis of nationality, as the Secretary of State says it does; it stigmatises on the basis of faith. This is a Muslim ban, and that has been admitted by those the American President asked to help him implement his Muslim ban legally. Why is the Secretary of State persisting in pretending that these people are not doing the very thing that they themselves are telling us they are doing?
To the best of my knowledge, the President has himself dissociated himself from that characterisation of this policy, and I just remind the House that these seven countries do not comprise the entire Muslim world, and indeed, they are the very countries that were singled out by President Obama for thoroughly restrictive visa regulations.
I wonder whether the Foreign Secretary could comment on the blog that has just come up from Gary Gibbon at Channel 4, which states that the Prime Minister was
“told a US refugee ban was coming”
prior to the signing of the Executive order. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm or deny that fact?
I do not comment on confidential conversations between the Prime Minister and the US President, but I can tell the House that as soon as we had a full understanding of the measure that the US had brought in, we decided to intercede to get the protections that we needed.
So when the Prime Minister visited the United States and Trump held her hand, did he whisper sweet nothings or did he tell her what his intentions were? Will the Foreign Secretary remind the Prime Minister that
“no deal is better than a bad deal”?
I was in Washington last week with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. While we were there, members of NATO, high officers of state in the United States, congressmen and senators took us to one side and said, “Stand by us, because our values are under attack under this Administration.” Does the Foreign Secretary not appreciate that what comes out of this Chamber and the statements that we make are important for those Americans who want to fight to retain their values?
I thank the hon. Lady for what she is doing with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. It is important that we talk to our friends and partners in NATO about the vital importance of that organisation. She is right to suggest that we have many friends on Capitol Hill who agree profoundly about the importance of NATO—as, indeed, do many in the new Trump Administration—but the way to nail down those arguments is to engage with that Administration in the way we are doing.
The ban affects the resettlement of refugees from seven countries, many of whom had been waiting in the camps for years and who had been cleared and were ready to go to the US before the ban came in. How will the Foreign Secretary use this much vaunted special relationship to speak up for the rights of those people, who are themselves the victims of war?
Does the Foreign Secretary not share my concern that, although extending this invitation to the President might earn us some short-term brownie points from the new Administration in Washington, it will lose us the respect and trust of many more countries with which until recently we shared the common values of decency, tolerance and respect?
I will turn the hon. Gentleman’s entire proposition on its head: I think that other countries around the world are looking to us to engage with the new American Administration in order to reflect their concerns and to get across our key messages on NATO, on trade and on the values that unite us.
The shameful lack of an immediate condemnation and the insular, complicit platitudes from the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are a disgrace to this House. The Government often talk about their global influence, but they do not seem to have the necessary influence—or perhaps the guts—to condemn this disgraceful racist order. Why does the Foreign Secretary seem unable to condemn the impact that it will have on some of the most vulnerable people on the planet simply because they are Muslims?
I must say in all candour to the hon. Lady that it strikes me that her question was composed long before she came to the House for this statement and heard what I have had to say. Any fair-minded person listening to what I have had to say about the measure and about what the UK Government have done over the past 48 hours would not conceivably have put things in the way that she did.
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, regardless of the exemption for UK nationals, the Trump presidency is tainted by this bigoted, immoral ban, that the Prime Minister is tainted by her hand-in-hand association and that he is tainted by his craven complacency? [Interruption.]
A ministerial colleague makes from a sedentary position the important point that the leadership of the Labour party is currently in the hands of somebody who advocated talking to the IRA not so many years ago, and possibly still does. We are advocating engagement with the Government of the most powerful nation on earth, on which the security of the world depends.
Can the Foreign Secretary not understand why the measure is perceived as discriminatory against Muslims? The seven countries have Muslim majorities and the President himself said that those of minority faiths from those countries, such as Syrian Christians, will be exempt from the order.
I do not think that there is much between our perspectives on this. I have said repeatedly this afternoon that I believe the measure to be divisive, discriminatory and wrong, more or less parroting the hon. Lady’s words—in fact, she parroted me. That is my view. In so far as the measure may turn out to be counterproductive, which is the view of many hon. Members, we are also making that point.
Does the Foreign Secretary accept that such action is exactly what ISIS wants and plays into its false narrative that the west is anti-Muslim? What President Trump has done is not only immoral, but a threat to our national security. That is why we cannot be seen to endorse it.
Everybody understands the scope and extent of the challenge that we face from radical Islamic extremism. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point about the danger of pushing people into a corner and making them feel more isolated. He is quite right to raise that. However, we are working with a huge coalition of Muslim countries, many of which are completely unaffected by this measure, to defeat that extremism and radicalisation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) raised an important point a few moments ago to which the House did not get a full answer. It would appear that the Prime Minister was told in her talks about the refugee ban, so will the Foreign Secretary confirm whether that was the case? If so, what was her advice to the President?
I think that I gave an answer a moment or two ago. I do not comment on the confidential conversations that take place between the Prime Minister and her opposite number. We have worked with our friends in the White House, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to understand exactly how the measure is to be implemented and to ensure that we secure the protections that this country needs.
James Rottger, my constituent, emailed me to say that being received with the pomp and ceremony of a state visit will be presented by Trump and his cronies as a ringing endorsement from the UK and therefore, unfortunately, Scotland. Does the Foreign Secretary appreciate that we are judged by the friendships we keep and by the way in which we react to our friends?
I understand the feelings of many people in this country and around the world. They have expressed themselves. I have seen the numbers on the petition. I will repeat my point to the House: it is our job as a sensible Government to work with the most powerful democracy in the world, the leadership of which is absolutely indispensable for our security and for the stability of NATO and the western alliance. That is what we are going to do. Just as every other President before him who has come to the UK, it is entirely right that Donald Trump should receive a state visit.
Does the Foreign Secretary realise that the special relationship with the Americans is partly based on the strength of our leadership and its candour, rather than its weakness and compliance? Does he recognise how much it undermines that special relationship when we have a Prime Minister fawning over the President, rather than standing up to him?
It is obvious to the meanest intelligence that we have not complied meekly with this policy but have sought changes and improvements so as to protect the rights of UK nationals and of dual nationals who may have been born in the seven countries that have been identified.
A country must be judged by the company it keeps. How will the Secretary of State answer should history judge that it took the Prime Minister so long to condemn President Trump’s Executive order because, after cosying up to him, she set off to sign trade deals to arm the increasingly dictatorial and out-of-control President Erdogan?
I refer the hon. Lady to what I said earlier, but I would add that, while the repercussions of that Executive order were being felt in the US alone, the Prime Minister was in transit to Turkey for another very important visit where she secured a fantastic deal for this country—an agreement to supply Turkey with British-made fighter planes.
The US has been a leader of so much that is best in the world, and this policy has let the US down and let the world down. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm whether he knew that the Prime Minister knew about it in advance? Was he asked to brief her and, if so, what did he say that she should say in response before the Executive order was signed? If he did know, did he make any preparations in advance of this coming into force?
More than 4,000 of my constituents have signed the petition against the state visit, more than 100 of them in the two hours since the Foreign Secretary took his feet, so he is clearly not convincing many people. If the state visit does go ahead, what opportunity will they have to protest peacefully and visibly?
I am delighted that 100 of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents have been waiting with bated breath for him finally to get that question—I cannot remember what it was—off his chest. I hope he will forgive me. The views of his constituents are important, and they clearly disapprove of the prospect of a visit by the President of the United States. I must humbly and respectfully say to them that I think it is in the interests of this country that, as with every other President of the United States, Donald Trump should come to the UK.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for coming to the Floor of the House this afternoon. Does he agree that it is striking that supposedly the largest democracy on earth has excluded from this Executive order the four nations whose citizens have killed the most American citizens in the American homeland over the past 40 years? If this was a decision of defence, it is clearly lacking because there is not the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there is not Egypt, there is not Turkey and nowhere is there the United Arab Emirates. Is the United States making a big mistake?
The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening when I pointed out—I think I am now pointing it out for the third time—that the list of the seven countries in question was drawn up not by the Trump Administration but by the Obama Administration when they applied their own thoroughly restrictive measures on people travelling from those countries.