MP’s Column - Getting back down to issues

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Members of Parliament have just returned to Westminster after working in the constituencies over the summer recess to be confronted with a number of growing issues. Gaza has also been on our minds over the summer as we all witnessed the terrible suffering of its inhabitants.

I have taken many opportunities in the past to condemn the almost prison-like conditions Palestinians are forced to put up with.

There is a great deal of blamed to be shared between the Israelis and Hamas, but both sides in the conflict are required to distinguish between military and civilian targets as well as to do what is necessary to facilitate humanitarian relief and medical access.

Many constituents have written to me concerned with the plight of the Christian communities in Iraq, as well as that of the other religious minorities there such as the Yazidis.

For some years now, the situation of Christians in the Middle East has been a cause very close to my heart.

Indeed, I have visited northern Iraq, as well as other parts of the Middle East (such as Palestine and Jordan) where there are either long-standing Christian communities or a very large number of Christians among the refugees who have fled their increasingly dangerous homelands.

I am frequently writing to minister to point out the urgency of the situation, or to highlight individual cases which demand government action.

One such case this year was Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman sentenced to death by the government in the Sudan for the crime of leaving the Muslim faith.

A great deal of pressure was brought to bear from all across the globe – including from the British Government – and I am happy to report that the Sudanese government agreed to release Meriam and allow her to leave the country.

Last month she arrived in the United States where she has claimed asylum and has been reunited with her husband and children.

The biggest buzz from the media, however, surrounds the decision by my colleague Douglas Carswell MP to defect to UKIP, resign, and provoke a by-election.

Douglas and I agree on more issues than we can count, but I disagree with his defection. Only one party has pledged to hold an in/out referendum on our membership of the European Union and is also capable of carrying this pledge out by forming the Government of the United Kingdom: the Conservatives.

Sir Edward Leigh MP

MP for Gainsborough