Matthew Butt

Bradley Manning: my challenge to Andy Slaughter

Posted in politics by bnathyuw on 3 April 2011

I have blogged previously about my letter to Andy Slaughter MP to ask him to sign Ann Clwyd’s Early Day Motion on the treatement of Bradley Manning, and on Andy’s less-than-satisfactory reply.

I wondered in my second post whether Andy was fobbing me off by telling me that shadow ministers cannot sign EDMs. Recently Naomi Colvin at UK Friends of Bradley Manning has posted a clarification of the rules on (shadow) ministers signing EDMs, and @ITFriendsofBM has drawn my attention to Andy’s parliamentary record of EDMs, which rather puts the lie to the claim that he cannot get involved.

In the light of this information, I have written again to Andy:

Dear Mr Slaughter,

Since our original correspondence, it has been brought to my attention that in the current parliamentary session, you have signed 67 EDMs, seconded 7 and even proposed 4 (http://www.edms.org.uk/mps/11559/). This sits rather at odds with your assertion that “as a shadow minister I am unable to sign EDMs.”

I note (House of Commons Information Office Factsheet P3, ‘Early Day Motions’ http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/guides/factsheets/procedure/p03/) that ‘under the Ministerial Code Parliamentary Private Secretaries “must not associate themselves with particular groups advocating special policies”’; however, the issue at stake is not a ‘special policy’ but a fundamental humanitarian principle, which is clearly laid out in international law.

Of course, I am no expert in parliamentary protocol, so it is very useful to have your own record to hand. It is worth mentioning a few of the EDMs you have signed in the current session:

  • EDM 112 on Human Rights in Burma, which ‘calls on the Government to support a United Nations-led effort to pressure the dictatorship to enter into … dialogue’
  • EDM 127 on Israel and Gaza Flotilla, which ‘notes that UK … nationals have been held by Israel … and calls on the international community to require Israel to end its blockade’
  • EDM 213 on MK Zoabi and the Gaza Flotilla, which ‘views with concern the treatment that MK Zoabi has received from her fellow parliamentarians … and calls on the Government vigorously to support the actions of MK Zoabi’
  • EDM 271 on Lord Trimble and the Israeli Inquiry into the Raid on the Gaza Flotilla, which you sponsored, and which ‘notes that Lord Trimble has been appointed as a foreign observer of the Israeli internal inquiry into that country’s raid on the Gaza … and further notes that … he is one of the founding members of a newly-formed Friends of Israel’
  • EDM 973 on Western Sahara, which ‘expresses its horror at the violent dismantling by Moroccan forces of refugee camps in the Western Sahara … and calls on the Government to signal that it is not prepared for the stalemate to continue in defiance of UN resolutions and international law’
  • EDM 1385 on Brenda Namigadde, which you proposed, and which ‘is concerned by the imminent proposed deportation of Brenda Namigadde, who has claimed asylum because she fears persecution based on her sexuality … and calls on the Government to exercise its powers to allow [her] to remain in the United Kingdom.’

These EDMs show striking parallels with Ann Clwyd’s EDM 1624 on Bradley Manning. In particular, the focus on UK nationals abroad (EDM 127), contraventions of international law (EDM 973), and demands that the government take measures to intervene in humanitarian issues (passim). It is also worth reiterating that not only are you a signatory to these EDMs, but you proposed one, and seconded another, which strongly suggests that the principle of (shadow) ministerial non-involvement is not relevant.

I am rather puzzled by this. I can see from your record that you take a keen interest in Human Rights and international law, and you express shock in your email at Bradley Manning’s treatment, yet you tell me that you are unable to sign Ann Clwyd’s EDM, when your parliamentary record suggests otherwise.

Please could you explain to me why you have proposed, seconded and signed 78 other EDMs during this session, but are unable to sign this one.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Butt

I am genuinely puzzled by this: Andy clearly takes an interest in issues of Human Rights and international law, so why is he refusing to sign Ann’s EDM. I will post an update if I hear back from him!

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