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Home Press Releases MP makes speech in House of Commons on Trump's Muslim ban - 31st January 2017

MP makes speech in House of Commons on Trump's Muslim ban - 31st January 2017

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MP makes speech in House of Commons on Trump's Muslim ban

6.48 pm

Sir Simon Burns (Chelmsford) (Con)

May I begin by congratulating the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) on securing this timely and important debate? It is with a degree of sadness that we have to have it in the first place.

America has a proud tradition of being a nation of immigrants. People fleeing torture and persecution from around the world have sought refuge on the shores of the United States and, metaphorically, I suspect that Miss Liberty is holding her head in shame because of the events of last Friday. The Executive order is shameful and immoral, but, as I said in my intervention on the right hon. Gentleman, it should not come as a surprise to any of us. Throughout the campaign last year, President Trump made it plain that, as well as building a wall, he was going to ban all Muslims—not security threats, but a religious grouping. It was rather frightening, if one looked at the audiences to which he made that pledge throughout the United States—north, south, east and west—to see the reaction of the crowds. That shows us that not only is he honouring his election pledge, but he is playing to a gallery of people who are prejudiced in favour of this sort of action. That is very sad, because it will not achieve what I assume he wants it to achieve, apart from gaining a potential narrow party political electoral advantage with a core base.

America should be stronger together, and it should be building bridges, not walls. The Executive order will alienate moderate Arabs and radicalise further those on the radical wing of the Arab world, at a time when we should be building bridges to enable us to expose the evil and violence of some of the terrorists who come out of the middle east, and working with moderate Arabs to end the evil threat not only to us, but to moderate Arab opinion in the middle east.

Mr Jim Cunningham

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Simon Burns

No; I have not got time. The Executive order will result in further radicalisation. It will do the exact opposite of what some people think it will do. ‚ÄčIt will not make the United States any safer; it will make it a more dangerous place. That is an irony, and it is unacceptable.

I take issue with some of the comments I have heard during this debate and during the statement, in that I think it is absolutely right that the British Government continue the work of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to build bridges with President Trump so that we can, through engagement, seek to persuade him and to minimise or reduce the danger of his more outrageous policies. We can do that only by being a candid friend, but we have to be a candid friend.

I believe that very little would be achieved by cancelling a state visit to which the invitation has already been extended and accepted. It is part of a process of seeking to engage, encourage and persuade. There is, however, one area at which we should look very carefully. Some will remember that in 1982 or 1983, President Ronald Reagan had a state visit to this country, but it was decided by the then Thatcher Government that there should not be an address to the joint Houses of Parliament.

Similarly, I remember, as a Member of this House, the state visit of President George W. Bush. Apart from a sojourn in Durham at Trimdon Labour club, I believe, for lunch with the then Prime Minister, all President Bush did was to travel in the Beast from Buckingham Palace to No. 10 and back again. There was no address to the joint Houses of Parliament. In the circumstances, I think that that was rather wise. We and the Government —and you, Mr Speaker—should think very carefully before considering such an address as part of the programme for a state visit by President Trump, because it might not go as well as everyone would naturally expect.

In conclusion, this ban is nasty, it is immoral and it will not succeed. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and his deputy, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan), as well as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, have a key role to play because the ban will last for 90 days, which in theory means that it is part time and transitory. I am not convinced that that will be the case in reality. The challenge for the Government is to do all they can to influence President Trump about its counterproductive nature and the danger that it will pose in radicalising rather than pacifying those who espouse radical extremist thinking; and to persuade him that there are better ways than this very blunt weapon to pursue a policy of reconciliation. The best way to do so is to communicate and negotiate with the reasonable elements in the Middle East and work together to overcome the threat to this country, the United States and elsewhere. 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 09:33