Monday 4 November 2019
Petition presented to the House but not read on the Floor
India in the Jammu and Kashmir Region
The petition of residents of Burnley,
Declares that the attached petition calls on the actions of India in the occupied region of Jammu and Kashmir should be resolved to a peaceful conclusion that is acceptable to the residents of Kashmir; notes that the Indian decision to revoke Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution has caused killings and human rights violations in Indian occupied Kashmir; further that the communications blackout in Indian occupied Kashmir has been distressing for residents with families in the region and has stifled journalism on the issue; and further that concerned residents of Burnley many of whom have family in the area have self-organised to create a petition that has received over 1046 signatures to call for action on the issue.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to compel the Foreign Secretary to call for an end to the communications lockdown, lifting the curfew and the compliance of all past United Nations resolutions relating to Kashmir by the State of India.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Julie Cooper.]
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Dispute in Kashmir
The petition of Residents of the City of Glasgow,
Declares that the dispute in Kashmir should be resolved peacefully.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the UK Government to use its international standing to encourage India to engage in a comprehensive and sustained dialogue process with its neighbour Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute, and urge the international community to play its role in securing a just and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Alison Thewliss, Official Report, 4 September 2019; Vol. 664, c. 317.]
Another petition in the same terms was presented by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) [P002524].
Petitions in the same terms were also presented by the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray) [P002516] and the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) [P002529].
Observations from the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon):
The long-standing position of the UK is that it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution on Kashmir, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people; it is not for the UK to prescribe a solution or act as a mediator. We have spoken with the Governments of India and Pakistan on a number of occasions since 5 August.
The Prime Minister has underlined the importance of resolving issues through dialogue to both Prime Minister Modi of India and Prime Minister Khan of Pakistan. The Foreign Secretary has spoken with the Indian Minister of External Affairs to express the UK’s concerns around the situation in India-administered Kashmir and call for calm. Lord Ahmad, the Minister for South Asia, has also spoken on a number of occasions with both the Indian High Commissioner, Ruchi Ghanashyam and the Pakistani High Commissioner, Mohammad Nafees Zakaria about the situation, as well as to Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Minister for Minority Affairs, during his recent visit to New Delhi.
We encourage both India and Pakistan to maintain good relations, but recognise that the pace of progress is for both sides to determine.
Lizanne Zietsman, Isle of Arran
The petition of residents of North Ayrshire and Arran,
Declares that we are deeply concerned by the UK Home Office’s decision to refuse Lizanne Zietsman leave to remain in the UK; further that Lizanne has settled on the Island of Arran with her Scottish-born husband and has built a successful business employing local residents; further that she is a valued and respected member of the Arran community which is bewildered and dismayed that the UK Home Office has rejected her application to stay in the UK; and further that an online petition on this matter has received over 16,069 signatures.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Home Office to grant Lizanne leave to remain in the UK so that she can continue to contribute to the Isle of Arran community.
And the petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Patricia Gibson, Official Report, 9 July 2019; Vol. 663, c. 284.]
Observations from theParliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Seema Kennedy):
The Government does not routinely comment on individual cases.
Reclassification of Ministers of Religion under Immigration Rules
The petition of the residents of Glasgow North East,
Declares that visiting clergy offer respite to dedicated Ministers and bring enormous cultural benefit to the communities they serve; and further that the introduction of severe conditions regarding English language proficiency and the sharp rise in fees for visas for Ministers of Religion would cause detriment to the communities they wish to serve.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Minister for Immigration, the hon. Member for South Ribble, to revoke the decision to reclassify visiting Ministers of Religion as being Tier 2 visitors under immigration rules.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr Paul Sweeney, Official Report, 7 October 2019; Vol. 664, c. 1599.]
Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Seema Kennedy):
The Government recognise the role of faith in our communities, helping to build social cohesion and support our congregations in the UK. The Government recognise too, the value of the contributions, made by members of religious institutions from overseas, which is reflected in dedicated visa arrangements.
The immigration rules for visitors include specific provisions for Ministers of Religion, coming to the UK to undertake pastoral duties. This can include one-off engagements such as conducting ceremonies or leading a service, provided they are not receiving payment.
Beyond this, Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) and Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) offer routes for religious workers who wish to fill positions in the UK, for longer periods. Ministers of Religion play leading roles in our communities and Tier 2 allows them to do so, for up to three years, with the option to stay longer. It is important to ensure that anyone taking up such a role can communicate with both their congregation and the wider community in which they live and serve, which is why Tier 2 visa holders are required to demonstrate a strong command of English.
Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) offers a dedicated subcategory for religious workers undertaking non-pastoral, supporting roles, for a maximum of two years. As a package of routes, designed to facilitate cultural exchange and knowledge sharing, Tier 5 visa categories do not require English language proficiency.
The changes made to the immigration rules in January 2019 better defined what activities may be undertaken by Tier 5 temporary religious workers, and ensure that those filling positions as Ministers of Religion, may continue to do so, via the correct visa category.
The issue of fees has been raised and the Government acknowledge the extra cost of a Tier 2 visa. However, the Government’s policy remains that those who use and benefit most from the immigration system should contribute towards its operation. Tier 2 incurs the greater costs, but, in return it offers the most favourable conditions, whereas, a visit visa for a Minister of Religion carrying out permitted activities for less than six months, attracts the lowest cost of all.
The Government continue to believe that existing visa arrangements for Ministers of Religion and religious workers, strikes the right balance between serving the needs of all congregations and the Government’s wider position on integrated communities.