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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 224

Date:- 24 October 2005

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UK GIVES 0.46 MILLION TO HELP VICTIMS OF CENTRAL AMERICAN FLOODS

THERE has been a very important development in the campaign to oppose the Government's religious hatred offence. There is to be a vote in the House of Lords on Tuesday 25 October. This should be made a matter of earnest prayer.

On Friday, 21 October 2005, Lord Hunt (for the Conservatives) and Lord Lester QC (for the Liberal Democrats) tabled a cross-party amendment to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.

Many people would rather not have the Bill at all, but the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats said yesterday that if they simply threw out the Bill, or passed wrecking amendments, the Government would carry out its threat to use the Parliament Acts to force the legislation through the Lords. Faced with this threat, the two opposition parties, along with Lord Carey of Clifton, the former Anglican Archbishop, and Lord Plant of Highfield, a prominent Labour Peer, have tabled a compromise amendment. Their initiative seeks to protect free speech and religious liberties, whilst at the same time allowing the Government to fulfil its manifesto commitment.

For most campaigns on Christian issues it is a back bench politician who takes the initiative. On this occasion the two main opposition parties want to take the lead in a major way. This means that the potential numbers on the Christians' side in any vote are considerably greater than is usually the case. A key factor in all this is the hard work of many and of Christians up and down the country who have been making contact with their MPs. A level of Christian lobbying is currently going on which, is unprecedented. This has undoubtedly triggered a great interest from front bench politicians.

The main points of the compromise amendment significantly narrows the scope of the proposed incitement to religious hatred offence in three ways:-

(1) It provides a robust defence for free speech and evangelism (Clause 29J). The wording states:-

'Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system.'

(2) The loosely worded phrase 'likely to stir up religious hatred' has been removed. It must now be proved that a person intended to stir up religious hatred.

(3) Only 'threatening' conduct would now be covered by the offence. The words 'abusive' and 'insulting' have been removed.

The full text of the amendment can be found by
clicking here.

The amendment removes the most obvious problems with the wording of the religious hatred offence, and is the only one with support of both the main opposition parties.

Any religious hatred offence involves a risk to all religious liberties. That is why Christians say they continue to oppose the Bill and pray that still somehow it will be dropped. It is right and proper to pray for this, whilst at the same time using the practical opportunities which present themselves, bearing in mind that the two opposition parties have decided to hold the first vote at very short notice. Whilst there is no time before Tuesday to step up a letter writing campaign, there is plenty of time to pray!

If the Lords accept the amendment, the Bill goes back to the Commons and MPs must decide whether to accept the Lords' amendment or re-instate the Bill as originally drafted. This will mean future votes in Parliament with the potential
for the Bill to 'ping-pong' between the two Houses. So it is vitally important that, as well as praying, Christians continue to contact their MPs.

Letters To Editor:- "Night Life In Southport Town Center"

"I would like to thank Southport Reporter's Editor Patrick Trollope for all his efforts over the last few years, to support the night life community.   It is interesting that now the ground work has been completed by him and a few others, who are none press, that Sefton Council and also the other newspapers in Southport are now jumping onboard.  What annoys me is that he and the others don't even get a mention.   Please keep up the hard work and keep Southport on the Internet map as the place to go for a good night out.  Your efforts are noted by all of us in the Southport club and pub community." Mark from Southport.  Aged 20.  Note from Editor:- "Thanks for your letter.  It is nice to get some one saying we are doing good.   Sadly Sefton MBC in some departments do not recognise the work we do, but we do it to help the town and not to get press, as some papers do.  But as you say it would be nice to get a mention by them."

ASIA EARTHQUAKE:- UK PLEDGES 20 MILLION MORE FOR RELIEF EFFORT

A further 20 million to fund more helicopters, including three British military Chinooks, shelter, food and other
urgent needs was announced on 20 October 2005, by the International Development Secretary, Mr Hilary Benn, bringing the total pledged by the UK Government to 33 million.

Mr Benn made the announcement during a visit to Pakistan, on 20 October 2005, where he whitnessed for himself the relief efforts being made and discussing with the Government of Pakistan and United Nations what more the UK can do
to help.

Hilary Benn said:-
"The situation in Pakistan is very serious. More people are at risk of dying. The British Government is doing all it can, and todays announcement of more money will help increase our support. The real challenge for all of us is to turn money into immediate assistance in the form of helicopters, medicine, food and tents.

An estimated two million people are homeless and they need tents and blankets to protect them from the cold as winter arrives. We have already sent all of our UK stores of winter tents, sleeping mats and tarpaulins to Pakistan, both by air and by road, and we are now part of the global search to find more and to get them to those in need.

I will be discussing the urgent priorities of the relief effort with the Government of Pakistan. Britain will continue to provide further support both now and in the future to help both in relief and recovery.

9 million of the additional 20 million announced today will fund:-

* 3 million for helicopters including three British military (RAF) heavy lift CH-47 Chinook helicopters, which are in addition to the four helicopters already being funded by DFID through the UN and Red Cross;

* 2 million extra for the Red Cross, to be divided equally between:-

The International Committee of the Red Cross to supply helicopters, winter clothing, tents and food; and the International Federation of the Red Cross for the provision of immediate relief supplies such as blankets, tents and water.

Plus:-

* 1 million extra for medical support and services,

* 1 million extra for water and sanitation

* 1 million extra for shelter

* 1 million extra for transport, logistics and co-ordination services.

In addition, 1,660,000 has been provided by the UK as part of the EUs aid contribution through the European Commission Humanitarian Organisation (ECHO).

Of the 13 million already announced we have allocated 5 million for the UN Flash Appeal; 3 million is expected to pay for in-kind donations and airlifts for the Disasters Emergency Committee; 1.5 million is for the Red Cross; 300,000 is for Save the Children UK for the provision of tents, blankets, clothing, primary health care and services to help reunify families; 300,000 is for Christian Aid for tents, food packages, shelter kits, first aid and medical assistance; 300,000 is for Action Aid for the provision of relief, food packages, shelter, health centres, tents, medical supplies and support.

All remaining funds, around 12 million, will be allocated following needs assessments being carried out in Pakistan.

The UK Government, through DFIDs emergency response team, has already:-

* undertaken 13 relief flights that have carried a total of 900 tonnes of emergency supplies from the UK and Dubai which have included a total of 40,000 sleeping mats, 28,000 blankets, 30,000 tarpaulins and plastic sheets, 19,700 jerry cans and 5,500 winterised tents which are being distributed through UK aid agencies such as Oxfam and Islamic Relief, also 13 vehicles and a trailer, 2 forklift trucks and 50 global positioning system units provided by DFID have been flown out to Pakistan;

* organised and funded 4 Disasters Emergency Committee flights with another 16 planned over the next few days;

* paid for half of the World Health Organisations appeal to provide enough health and trauma kits to support 40,000 people for 3 months;

* provided logistical support to the United Nations including vehicles, airport handling equipment and an Humanitarian Information Centre with computers, printers, map-making equipment and global positioning systems that will help the UN to co-ordinate the humanitarian effort."

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