Pressing David Cameron to act on the reunification of Cyprus

Along with twelve MPs (six Labour and six Conservative), I have written to David Cameron about Cyprus.

The letter is as follows:

“Nearly four decades after the illegal invasion of Cyprus, Turkish troops continue to occupy approximately 38% of the island’s territory. For 37 years, the world has condemned the occupation and Turkey’s intransigence in efforts to find a solution to reunite Cyprus.

In that same time, apartheid came to an end in South Africa, the USSR disintegrated, the Berlin Wall fell, former eastern bloc countries joined the European Union, and the people’s calls for democracy have triumphed over dictatorship in some Arab countries in the Middle East. During the same period, British troops have been engaged in conflicts around the world, fighting injustice, protecting British sovereignty and safeguarding or seeking to deliver democracy.

Since signing the 1959 Treaty of Guarantee, the United Kingdom has been a guarantor power of the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus, with the full weight of responsibility that such status entails. But against the backdrop of the UK’s active role in international political progress around the world, the problem of Cyprus remains virtually at a standstill. While successive UK Governments have paid lip service to delivering justice in Cyprus, these same governments have effectively allowed the Cyprus problem to be downgraded as a foreign policy priority. In addition to the Treaty of Guarantee, Cyprus is a member of, and this country’s partner in, the European Union, Council of Europe and the Commonwealth, as well as a country on which Britain maintains sovereign military bases: these facts alone demand the focus and attention of the British Government to help reunite the island.

Since Turkey’s invasion in 1974, hundreds of thousands of Cypriots have remained refugees, unable to return to their rightful homes, while their properties have been appropriated and exploited by the unlawful regime in the occupied north. In the last 37 years, tens of thousands of Turkish nationals have been moved to the occupied areas by Turkey, as part of an orchestrated policy to change the island’s demography. What is more, cultural and religious sites in the occupied area have been deliberately desecrated. Ignoring relatives’ desperate pleas to respond on a deeply humanitarian issue, Turkey has stubbornly refused to investigate the fate of hundreds of Cypriot men, women and children who disappeared without trace during its military invasion. On top of all this, Turkey has been allowed to disregard numerous UN Security Council resolutions and the decisions of international courts with complete impunity.

Such a situation raises serious questions about the UK’s own role and responsibilities in this continuing tragedy. It is not only on behalf of the sizeable Cypriot community in the UK that we write to you, but on behalf of all other Britons who believe that their country should work, on the international stage, in order to defend justice and human rights.

We are writing to remind you of the clear and irrefutable responsibilities that the British Government holds with regard to Cyprus. We call upon you, as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, to demand unequivocally that Turkey works sincerely for the reunification of Cyprus and that it fulfils its obligations to the EU in relation to Cyprus. Further, we urge you to use Britain’s diplomatic leverage with the United States of America and through the UN, the EU and NATO to press Turkey to end its unacceptable military occupation of Cyprus and the island’s unlawful and unjust division.

To that end, and as a first step in that direction, we, the undersigned, call upon you to extend an urgent invitation to Cyprus President Demetris Christofias to meet with you, in an official capacity, so that he can inform you on the latest political developments regarding Cyprus and so that you can explore with him ways in which the United Kingdom can actively contribute to efforts to bring to an end this continuing injustice.”

Make IT Happy 2011

One of the most enjoyable things that I do in Parliament is to chair the judges for the annual  information technology competition for primary schools, Make IT Happy, organised by PITCOM (the Parliament IT Committee).  Earlier this week around 120 children – the regional winners – came to Parliament with their teachers to receive their awards and to hear which schools had been judged the national winners.

This year the entries were of a particularly high standard and all the regional winners had done extremely well, but especial congratulations went to the national winners:

1st Prize – Wales – St. Julian’s Primary School

2nd Prize – London – Northwood Primary School

3rd Prize – South East – Milbourne Lodge School

Top prize-winners were St Julian’s Primary School in Newport where the children had come up with the idea of making short “how to” videos, addressing common IT problems.

Each video was made by pupils, explaining and demonstrating the techniques needed. They posted the videos on their school website, and then worked to publicise them to a variety of groups in need of IT help.

Among those that benefited locally were an old people’s home, Glyn Anwen, and other schools in the area. St Julians also used the videos to cement their links with a partner school in Rwanda, which had recently received laptops from a charity.

The videos are well worth a look ….

Read More

Launching the Freedom Charity’s book “But It’s Not Fair” at the House of Lords

I was delighted to be joined by Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, this morning when we presented the first copies of the book “But It’s Not Fair” produced by the Freedom Charity to help educate teenagers about the danger of forced marriages and what they can do protect friends who may be facing such a situation to a group of London schoolchildren.  The aim is to distribute the book to all secondary schools in the country to raise awareness of the problem.  At the same time a twenty-four hour helpline is being launched to provide advice to those at risk.

Independence for London?

An interesting piece by Darryl Chamberlain in the Scoop at Snipe argues that the time may be coming when there should be greater indepence for London from the rest of the country.  With the devolution settlement being reviewed in Wales and Scotland, why not London as well?  The piece points out:

“A question: why can’t London have a bit of what they’re having? Isn’t it time for us to break away too?

London is a wildly different place to the rest of England, never mind the rest of the UK. We’re more socially liberal than the rest of the country, we live in communities that are far more mixed. We’re less likely to drive, and more likely to spend huge amounts of time stuck on public transport. We’ve more in common with New York or Paris than Newcastle or Portsmouth.  …

In London, we’re different.  …

Look at the two men we’ve elected to run the place. A newt-loving man with a raspy voice who loves winding up American diplomats on one hand, a floppy-haired fop on a bike with a bizarre line in Latin anecdotes on the other.

Both, in their own ways, engaging ambassadors for the capital. And seen as dangerous threats by their own party leaders. Because that is how many in the rest of England see London—as a threat. Read below the line on any comment piece on the possibility of an English parliament, and within the ?rst few comments someone will sound off about how London leeches off the rest of England, takes all the jobs and investment and produces nothing in return.

Yet if London kept the tax revenue earned within its borders—or at least had more control over raising its own budget – we’d be able to make a much better job of running our transport network, for example.

The Tube’s current woes can be traced back to the last government trying to sell off its maintenance — bitterly resisted by Ken Livingstone before he rejoined the Labour Party. He was right, Gordon Brown was wrong – but London had to pick up the bill.

In the old days, Ken used to taunt the Tories with unemployment figures on the roof of the old County Hall. But Labour wouldn?t even give him the power to empty London?s bins, so we still have 33 different recycling policies. And the Conservatives won?t even give Boris Johnson the Royal Parks, so keen is the UK government to hang onto the prestige of chasing dogs out of flower gardens.

So if they don’t trust us, why don’t we just go it alone?”

I have long pointed out the extent to which London subsidises the rest of the UK.  Irrespective of the present incumbent of the Mayor’s office, there is a strong case for London having more autonomy and being able to invest its revenues in its own infrastructure and its people.  And because London is the engine of the UK economy, this would be good for the rest of the country too.

No confidence in David Willetts is fair enough, but beware of the pots and kettles syndrome

It is no doubt wounding for Universities Minister, David Willetts, to read that his former Oxford tutor says “I have no confidence in him.”
There are plenty of good reasons for not having confidence: the 80% cut in teaching funds, axing investment in research, and the trebling of student tuition fees for starters.
However, for an Oxford academic to claim that academics like him are better politicians than someone who has been repeatedly elected as an MP since 1992 looks like a bad case of pot and kettle syndrome.

Vigil for missing children outside City Hall as Metropolitan Police Authority meets

The Metropolitan Police Authority meets tomorrow at City Hall for the first time since the Prime Minister instructed/encouraged/invited/asked the Commissioner to consider a review of the Madeleine McCann case.  And outside there will be a vigil to remember all missing children attended by relatives and campaigners.  Several MPA members (including Jenny Jones AM and Jennette Arnold AM) have already announced they will be joining them.

I am sure that those campaigners and relatives will be asking whether the cases in which they are concerned can be reviewed by the Metropolitan Police in the same way that the Madeleine McCann case is to be.  And this is hardly surprising.

The Commissioner will no doubt tonight be polishing up his answers as to why he made the operational decision (without being pressurised by a politician, of course) that the McCann case should be reviewed and whether the same factors will apply to the other cases.

He will also no doubt remind the Authority that the Home Office has offered to pay for the costs of the investigation.  This is, I am sure, a welcome contribution to the Met’s budget, but will this cover only the additional costs of the investigation or will it cover the costs of the salaries of the detectives engaged in the review and, if so, where will the replacement detectives be found to cover the work that those detectives would otherwise have done?

And was this offer of financial assistance a factor in the operational decision that the Commissioner made to have this review?  And, if it was a factor, does the offer to pay guarantee anyone else a Metropolitan Police case review?  Might be a nice little earner.

I am sure the Commissioner has also given thought to what will happen after the review has been concluded.  Will the review be shared with the McCann’s?  And, if not, what is the purpose of the review?  I am confident that all will be made clear tomorrow.

Read an interesting review in The Guardian ….

I was going to comment on an extremely perceptive review by David Marquand of Vernon Bogdanor’s “The Coalition and the Constitution” which appears on page 8 of the Guardian’s Review section.  But after ten minutes of unsuccessfully trying to find it on so that I could link to it, the urge has passed…….

Sorry about that.

A triumphant “Three Musketeers” at the Unicorn Theatre

I have commented before that the Unicorn Theatre in Tooley Street, London SE1, offers some serious theatre for young people.

Their latest production, The Three Musketeers, does so again.  This was more than mere swash and buckle, did not duck the darker themes of Dumas’ original, but still left room for panache, verve and humour from the six talented members of the ensemble.

It is on till the 8th May, so there is still time to catch it.

How quickly will GPS and iPhone apps be used like this?

A few months I half-flippantly suggested that now that malware producers were offering their services via Twitter the next stop was an iPhone app.

Now I gather a “game” has been developed that links GPS technology in a iPhone app, so that:

“The application allows drug dealers to post prices for narcotics such as cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana.  A convenient built-in calculator automatically determines the prices in gram increments.  Prices can be set by location, so that the price offered in Bogota is cheaper than than in New York or Paris.  Moreover, the dealer’s prices are visible to their potential clients from within the app and can be adjusted in real-time in response to supply and demand.

Upon launching the app, drug-users can graphically view the location of all the nearest drug dealers on a lovely Google map and dealer and client can each navigate to each other to complete the buy.  The app even allows for price comparisons between dealers and prices can be further negotiated by exchanging private messages between pusher and purchaser.

The app even has an efficient reputation management system built-in so that clients can provide feedback on their dealers, allowing for comparison of quality and service.  “1 star only for Fast Freddy—that powder he sold me was baking powder.  There goes $100 down the drain!  Avoid Freddy at all costs—he’s a cheat.” What an efficient marketplace!”

Watch it here: