All-Party group starts with 20 members

A group to promote Jewish issues in Parliament put behind it the arguments over its birth and launched in the House of Commons this week.

Hendon Conservative MP Matthew Offord, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews, declared that there had been a “very good response” at its inaugural meeting on Wednesday.

The Board of Deputies, which will act as the secretariat of the new committee, released the names of the first 20 members — 14 MPs and six peers — who have signed up, the minimum required to register an APPG. A further 30 or so other parliamentarians had pledged support, it said.

The members ranged from the new group’s treasurer, Labour MP David Lammy, whose Tottenham constituency has a rising strictly Orthodox population, to the Labour MP for Wrexham Ian Lucas, who said he was “very interested” to know about the Jewish community.

Its three vice-chairmen will be Golders Green Conservative MP Mike Freer, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Palmer and Ian Mearns, Labour MP for Gateshead.

Labour MP Luciana Berger attended the launch, but her front bench post precludes her membership of the APPG.

Board president Vivian Wineman said: “We want to bring the Jewish agenda more to the attention of MPs.”

While other parliamentary groups already covered Israel and antisemitism, he explained, the new APPG would deal with welfare, education, social justice and religious issues such as the defence of circumcision and shechitah.

“Although we live in a tolerant society, we do have to recognise that our religious practices can be under attack and need protecting,” he said.

The Board provoked anger two months ago when it announced its involvement without consulting the Jewish Leadership Council or other major communal organisations.

Last updated: 4:45pm, October 10 2013