12 December 2023

Lord Cameron ‘unaccountable’ to MPs amid Middle East conflict, Labour claims

12 December 2023

Lord Cameron is “unaccountable” to MPs as the Israel-Gaza conflict escalates, Labour has claimed.

The Foreign Secretary faced continued criticism from shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, who pointed out his counterpart could not appear before MPs as the war in the Middle East risked becoming “still even worse”.

Andrew Mitchell, Lord Cameron’s deputy in the House of Commons, meanwhile claimed that Mr Lammy was “in almost continuous contact” with the Foreign Secretary, joking he could only be closer if they were in a civil partnership.

While (Lord Cameron) is absent from this place, what steps is the Foreign Secretary taking to prepare for further escalation and deter all parties from full-blown regional war?

Labour frontbencher Mr Lammy told MPs: “Another day where the Foreign Secretary is unaccountable in the middle of a war that could get still even worse. West Bank violence is rising, Hezbollah have attacked Israeli positions and Israeli air strikes have hit towns in south Lebanon.

“A widening in this conflict is in no-one’s interests, and all parties must show restraint.

“While (Lord Cameron) is absent from this place, what steps is the Foreign Secretary taking to prepare for further escalation and deter all parties from full-blown regional war?”

Foreign Office minister Mr Mitchell responded: “I fully understand that (Mr Lammy) wishes to have close contact with Lord Cameron as the Foreign Secretary. But he will be aware that he is in almost continuous contact with the Foreign Secretary by text and WhatsApp.

“Indeed, if he was in any closer contact it would probably be a civil partnership.”

Mr Mitchell later said that the Government’s plans for visa bans for Israeli settlers involved in violence in the West Bank Palestinian territories are “moving forward”.

Imran Hussain, the Labour MP for Bradford East, said: “Over the last year we have seen a dangerous rise in the number of attacks by violent, illegal Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property.

“Even the United States announced that they would be imposing a travel ban on violent, extremist settlers last week but all the UK Government has been able to announce is that planning is going on.”

Mr Mitchell replied: “While I can’t give a commentary across the House, I can tell him that our plans in that respect are moving forward.”

Elsewhere in the debate, Labour MPs claimed the number of civilian deaths in Gaza is not proportionate, with some calling for a ceasefire.

Labour MP for Bristol East Kerry McCarthy asked: “What does Israel having to abide by international law actually look like?”

Labour MP Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) meanwhile said: “The proportionate civilian deaths in Gaza is significantly higher than the average civilian death toll in all conflicts around the world during the 20th century, doesn’t that give the lie to any claims that Israel is avoiding civilian deaths?

“As the death toll in Gaza approaches 20,000, isn’t it time now for the whole international community including the UK to support a ceasefire that protects civilian lives?”

In response Mr Mitchell said: “Britain has made it absolutely clear to the authorities in Israel that we expect them to abide by international humanitarian law and understand and accept the rules of law.”

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