All-party group helps MPs to define strategy

By Marcus Dysch, February 21, 2014

Its launch was mired in cross-communal argument, but a parliamentary group promoting Jewish issues has made a successful start with a series of briefings during its first five months.

Members led the defence of religious slaughter in a Lords debate last month and the group has helped Charedi Jews challenge the government over planned welfare and benefit changes.

The Board of Deputies was criticised by communal organisations for the way it formed the All Party Parliamentary Group last year.

But early indications suggest both Jewish and non-Jewish MPs and peers have benefited from a behind-the-scenes approach, said the Board’s public and parliamentary affairs officer, Sophie Dunoff.

“The group is proving to be a great mechanism for pulling efforts together and creating greater strategy. We are trying to be proactive but sometimes we do need to respond quickly to get all the relevant people round the table,” she added.

When Lord Trees prompted a debate on shechita last month, the APPG gave an emergency briefing to provide peers with facts to defend the practice.

“Shechita UK brought a fantastic briefing pack and presentation. The peers discussed who wanted to say what, so that they wouldn’t repeat each other’s points in the short debate. Lord Sacks and his colleagues all joined in and it was a great forum.”

Ms Dunoff has scheduled briefings for MPs and peers until late 2015.

Each briefing has attracted up to 10 MPs, but in many cases the individuals attending are new advocates for Jewish causes.

Ms Dunoff said: “We have had responses from MPs we did not already have a relationship with. Having the APPG involved says to people ‘this is a legitimate issue’.”

The group will support Baroness Deech as she prepares for a Lords debate on restitution issues later this month.

Last updated: 10:45am, February 21 2014