We in Europe ourselves do not have a good record historically on religious tolerance. I speak as a member of a religious minority myself – a Catholic in Great Britain. For 300 years, we were not allowed to practise our faith. That, you might say, is a long time ago, and we are proud in Europe of our record on religious tolerance, but in the century in which all of us were born there were appalling acts of genocide and intolerance in western Europe.
The reason this report is important, and what we should focus on, is the appalling acts of intolerance taking place on our very doorstep – in the Middle East. A number of speakers have mentioned that, but it is important to keep repeating it and to keep putting pressure on our governments to raise such issues with friendly nations in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
A humanitarian disaster is unfolding in Syria. As many speakers have mentioned, as many as 20 000 innocent people have died and 1.5 million people have been displaced. We say that they are displaced, but what does that mean? It is a dry, technical term, but we mean that the lives of 1.5 million people are a misery. When faced with such a great disaster, it is perhaps impossible in a short speech of less than four minutes to give any general examples, so I hope that the Assembly will forgive me if I discuss just one community. I want to talk about particular examples because it is important that we use the opportunities we are given to put the spotlight on what is happening in particular communities. Once the spotlight is on them, it makes it more difficult for these horrendous human rights abuses to take place. Read the rest of this entry »
Sometimes when one is about to give a speech, one is a bit irritated if an earlier speaker takes one’s best line, although I do not feel irritation in this case. I had not discussed with Lord Anderson what I would say today, but I was going to end my speech with the comment that he made: beware of pointing out the mote in someone else’s eye when there is a beam in one’s own. That is the text on which I wish to speak today. Although Lord Anderson is a Socialist and I am a Conservative, I agreed with much of what he had to say. Read the rest of this entry »
I apologise in advance if what I say may not be popular with everybody in the Assembly, but sometimes you have to say what you have to say. The truth is that, as we know, we in Europe are faced with record deficits. If you have a deficit that is caused by debt, you cannot spend your way out of it. You have to deal with the problem through an austerity package, but you also have to deal with it in terms of your own national needs, as we are attempting to do – with great difficulty – in Great Britain. You cannot have solutions imposed on your country from above.
We heard from the Minister of Economic Affairs of Iceland about the steps that his country took – a balanced set of steps – which were based on tax rises and spending cuts. However, he did not tell us that he devalued his country’s currency by 40%. Sometimes you have to do that to make yourself competitive. This crisis is therefore made infinitely worse by the existence of the single currency, which is preventing countries in the Mediterranean from doing what is necessary for their people. We talk about democracy, but are the people of Europe being consulted? Are the people of Germany, Austria and Holland being consulted about the fact that they will have to make enormous fiscal transfers to the people of the Mediterranean if the euro is to be saved? No, they are not. We are talking, potentially, about €100 billion. Are the people of Greece, Italy and Spain, who face record unemployment, being consulted about what is happening? Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Leigh MP, who has campaigned for the sanctity of life during his years in Parliament, has secured agreement for Euthanasia to be effectively illegal across Europe.
Speaking two weeks ago in the House of Commons Mr. Leigh said:
“There is no doubt in my mind that, if we allow assisted dying, it will eventually become encouraged exit.
“One of the witnesses to the Falconer inquiry said: ‘I think we can only go for terminal illness at the moment, so this doesn’t actually apply to the people who are probably about to go into care homes. But, you know, baby steps’. That is a chilling statement.
“To us, this is a moral issue. We believe that the body is simply the mirror of the soul, and however old, crippled or useless someone might seem to society – our society seems to be dominated by the worship of youth and beauty – they are of immense value to society and should be sustained by society to the very end of their lives.”
Mr. Leigh, who is a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, supported an amendment to a declaration that will have legal implications in the 47 member states, the Strasbourg-based organisation announced that such practices “must always be prohibited”. Read the rest of this entry »
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Çonkar. I call Mr Leigh. We wish you good health and hope that your hand will recover soon.
Mr LEIGH (United Kingdom) – It is an honour to be called in the debate, which is extremely timely. Sadly, there is far too little interest in Europe in this subject. To my shame, it is only because my daughter works for the United Nations in Kenya that I have been kept up to speed on the issue. There has been too little publicity and interest, and it is significant that we are debating the most severe famine crisis this century only towards the end of this week.
The figures are truly alarming. As we have heard, perhaps 12 million people do not have enough to eat, and the situation deteriorates daily. I am told that violence is escalating and that a minimum of 1 000 people every day flee Somalia. Although we talk in terms of millions, we must have some compassion for people as individuals. If the situation were so bad in one of our own countries that 1 000 people were having to flee every day to save themselves from starvation, we would understand the situation more easily. Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Leigh MP raised the subject of Iraq’s persecuted Christian minority in a speech to the Council of Europe on 27 January 2011. Mr Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough was speaking in his capacity as a British delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Representing the European Democrats Group, Mr Leigh pointed out that “while there is pressure on Christians throughout the Middle East and there have been some serious incidents – notably, of course, the tragic incident in Egypt – the real problem lies in Iraq.” Read the rest of this entry »
The following is the text of the speech deliver by Edward Leigh MP to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, assembled at the Palais de l’Europe in Strasbourg, 27 January 2011:
Mr President, it is a great pleasure to be asked to speak to this motion on behalf of the European Democrat Group. We very much share the sentiments expressed by other speakers on the rights of men and women to live their faith in peace. Read the rest of this entry »