Focus: Policy and Politics - Amnesty in mass lobby of Commons

Nathalie Thomas

The human rights group is pushing for an international arms treaty.

Amnesty International UK is organising its first mass lobby of Parliament in an effort to maintain support for an international arms trade treaty.

The organisation has been campaigning for a treaty alongside Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms since 2003. It hopes the lobby, to be held on 10 May, will keep the issue high on the Government's list of priorities.

"We also want to impress upon the Government that this is a campaign that cuts across party lines," said Steve Ballinger, a spokesman for Amnesty.

Amnesty is hoping that its detailed campaign mailing, sent out this month, will encourage more than 500 people to contact their MPs and request a meeting at Westminster on the day. The organisation has chosen to hold the event on a Wednesday, when the majority of MPs will be in London to attend Prime Minister's Question Time.

The mailing contains background information on the arms treaty campaign and explains to supporters why it is important for as many people as possible to turn up on 10 May. The lobby will fall one month before a UN small arms conference in New York. Amnesty is hoping the Government will fulfil its promise to champion an arms treaty at a meeting of the UN General Assembly in October.

Amnesty has also sent potential attendees a lobby briefing with a sample question-and-answer session so that, as well as posing questions themselves, supporters will be able to respond to any queries their MP might have.

"We want people to be able to go to their MPs and have them come away thinking 'that was a group of informed constituents who care about this issue and know what they're talking about'," Ballinger said.

Amnesty is anticipating that most supporters will gain entry to the House of Commons. Organisers are hoping that by arranging a meeting with their MP at his or her office in advance, lobbyists won't have to rely on MPs coming to find them outside.

However, the organisation is acting carefully to avoid putting off supporters who can't get hold of their MPs beforehand. Details about 'Green Carding' - where members of the public can request a spontaneous meeting with an MP at Parliament's central lobby - are also supplied in the campaign mailing.

KEY POINTS

- In its first mass lobby of Parliament, Amnesty is calling for an international arms trade treaty

- Amnesty has been working with Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms on this issue since 2003

- The organisation sent out a detailed mailing to encourage supporters to contact their MPs

- The mailing contains a sample question-and-answer session.

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