The last British resident still held in Guantanamo Bay
A debate on the plight of Mr Shaker Aamer, the last British resident still held by the US Government in Guantánamo Bay is to be held in Westminster Hall for 90 minutes on Wednesday 24 April at 9.30 am. Mr Aamer’s wife and four children live in Battersea.
The ePetition calling for Mr Aamer's return to the UK, passed the 100,000 milestone on 12 April and last week Jane Ellison, the Aamer family's MP, formally asked the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee to allocate time for a debate. The Backbench Business Committee allocates time for debates on issues brought by backbench MPs and as a result of ePetitions. Jane emphasised the urgent need to have the issue debated in Parliament before the end of the current Parliamentary session, expected to be around the beginning of May.
Commenting, Jane said: "This debate on the Shaker Aamer ePetition is an important opportunity for Members of Parliament to raise many serious concerns about Mr Aamer's ongoing detention and the conditions in which he is held at Guantánamo Bay. A Foreign Office Minister will respond to the debate, which is important as we urgently need some clarity both on Mr Aamer's health and the diplomatic efforts being made to secure his release him back to the UK, which is oft-stated UK Government policy. I congratulate all who have campaigned to get this debate."
The Backbench Business Committee was sympathetic to the bid and keen to ensure the topic was debated at the earliest opportunity. Due to the very limited amount of Parliamentary time available ahead of the House rising, the Committee advised Jane to apply for a debate in the Speaker’s ballot, which can allocate time for topical debates at short notice. Jane applied and was successful in that ballot, although she also hopes to bid for further time in the main Chamber in the next session, where it would be possible to vote on a motion.
Jane said: "This debate is being held less than two weeks after the ePetition passed the 100,000 signature mark because Parliament has recognised the urgency of the situation. I am very grateful to the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, Natasha Engel MP, and Mr Speaker, John Bercow, for their help in ensuring this debate takes place before the imminent end of the Parliamentary session."