The priorities of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for this Parliament will remain the protection of Britain’s security, the promotion of Britain’s prosperity and the projection of Britain’s values in support of a rules-based international system. The three key immediate challenges on which I am focused are the struggle against violent extremist Islamism in all its forms; the containment of Russia’s aggressive doctrine of asymmetric warfare and her incursion in Ukraine; and the renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the European Union.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for his response. The illegal sale of antiquities is not only a crime; it provides significant funding for organisations such as ISIL. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that Britain supports the International Council of Museums updated red list, which classifies endangered archaeological objects and works of art to help to prevent their illegal sale and export?
I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s interest in this area. In an effort to remove connections to past civilisations, ISIL is indeed tearing down ancient monuments and selling them on the black market. The International Council of Museums, to which she refers, and its red list will help tackle illegal sales, and the Government very much support it.
As more and more people try to make the perilous boat journey across the Mediterranean, the dedicated men and women of HMS Bulwark are having to rescue an ever-increasing number of desperate people in very difficult circumstances. Given that about half a million people are now gathering in Libya, does the Foreign Secretary think that there is currently sufficient capacity in the EU maritime force to cope with this crisis?
First, let me join the right hon. Gentleman in recognising the heroic work that the crew of HMS Bulwark, in particular, are doing. They have just landed another 1,200 migrants, bringing to well over 2,000 the total number of people plucked from the sea by that one single vessel. I think the best criterion by which to judge the answer to his question is the number of deaths, and, although we cannot be certain, we believe that since the naval force has been deployed in the Mediterranean the number of migrants’ lives being lost at sea has declined to close to zero. I think that means that the scale of the operation is, for the moment, adequate.
T4. Back to Africa. The people of Africa are not the problem; the resources of Africa are not the problem; but so often, the governance of African countries is the problem. With that in mind, does the Minister agree that next year in the Democratic Republic of Congo it is absolutely vital that there is a peaceful transition and the constitution is respected and upheld? (900168)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is not too dissimilar a situation to the one we find in Burundi, where there is a constitution which should be recognised and should be honoured—and we expect President Kabila to do the same. Until that happens, unfortunately we will have further instability.
T3. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that leaving the EU will damage our economy, undermine business and have devastating consequences for the living standards of people in this country? Will he remind his own party of those facts? (900167)
What I have no doubt about is that having access to the single market contributes significantly to our economy. But we live in a democracy, and the hon. Gentleman would have to be blind, deaf and dumb—although perhaps some of his former colleagues were blind, deaf and dumb in the run-up to the general election—[Interruption.] He would have to be blind, deaf and dumb not to recognise that there is very considerable concern among the British public about some aspects of our membership of the European Union. What we have a mandate to do is to sit down with our partners and negotiate to see whether we can deal with some of the problems that most agitate British public opinion, while retaining the benefits of access to the single market.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right: following the Arab spring, we have seen huge advances in that area of Africa—in governance, prosperity and, indeed, stability. I was able to visit the region two weeks ago, and I hope to return in November with trade missions, taking British companies to that part of Africa in order to promote the prosperity agenda.
T5. Yesterday, Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai called on world leaders to halt the inhuman persecution of Burma’s Muslim minority Rohingya people. It is time for the international community to back up its words with action. Will the Minister unequivocally condemn the Myanmar leadership and tell the House what steps he has taken to secure equal rights and opportunities for the Rohingya? (900169)
The hon. Lady will have had an opportunity to take part in the Adjournment debate last week, on 4 June, on the whole issue of the Rohingya people and Rakhine. If she reads the Hansard report, she will see that this Government have been right at the forefront in urging the Government of Burma to treat the Rohingya in the way to which they are entitled.
T8. My right hon. Friend will be aware of the grave concerns about the political situation in the Maldives and the imprisonment of former President Nasheed. Will he update the House on the work being done by the international community to ensure that the current Government uphold democracy and the rule of law? (900172)
I applaud my hon. Friend’s continuing support for President Nasheed and her interest in the situation in the Maldives. I have raised these concerns several times with the Maldives Government, most recently with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon on 28 May. In April, Charles Tannock tabled a resolution on the Maldives in the European Parliament, and a joint resolution of all seven political groups was overwhelmingly supported by the Chamber. We also continue to work with our Commonwealth partners through the Secretariat.
T6. I was pleased to represent the all-party group on the worldwide abolition of the death penalty to Suriname. Will the ministerial team welcome the fact that Suriname has become the latest country in the world to abolish the death penalty, but does that not contrast with the fact that Saudi Arabia has just advertised for eight executioners? What will the Government do to lobby this supposed ally of the UK? (900170)
I welcome the news from Suriname. It is a slow process, but progress is being made. As I have said many times in the House, Saudi Arabia is an important ally of the UK. Our relationship is vital to our domestic national security and gives us access to senior levels of the Saudi Arabian leadership. That enables us to make our views known on these issues—and we do.
Yes, absolutely. In fact, labour market policy is by and large a matter for national Governments, but across the EU there is a clear gap in performance between those who have taken difficult steps to achieve radical labour market reform and those who have not.
Given what the Foreign Secretary has said about the importance of the Iran discussions on the nuclear agreement, what is he doing to ensure greater clarity about the baselines, the extent of the inspection regime and the consequences of infringement? Given that the agreement will allow advanced centrifuge, the infringements might arrive a little earlier than anticipated.
We are working intensively with our E3+3 partners and Iran to conclude the nuclear agreement that we set out in principle in Lausanne a couple of months ago. It is essential that, as part of the agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency can verify all Iran’s nuclear-related commitments, including through access to all relevant locations. We are not going to do a bad deal with Iran. Proper access is central to the deal we agreed in Lausanne and has to be delivered.
Having apparently spoken to his own Back Benchers about the EU referendum, will the Foreign Secretary provide any information about the number of likely Tory Eurosceptics the Prime Minister might describe in the same way as John Major described his Eurosceptics, one of whom of course remains in the Cabinet?
The Burmese Government often give the impression that the Rohingya people are not really Burmese. Will my right hon. Friend the Minister for Asia confirm that the Foreign Office has seen a map from the 18th century that confirms very clearly that the Rohingya people were part of Burma at that time and that this has been shared with the Burmese Government?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have got charts, which we have shared with the Burmese Government, and they show very clearly that there were Muslims, as they were described in the ledger, going right back to the 18th century. It is absolutely certain, as far as we are concerned, that the Rohingya have been in Rakhine for many, many years. Of course they are mixed in with probably more recent arrivals from Chittagong and the Chittagong area in Bangladesh, but a significant number of these people have clearly been in Burma for a significant amount of time.
The Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, is likely to be flogged again this Friday—a brutal flogging. The Minister can boast about our special relationship with Saudi Arabia, but really is there not some hypocrisy at the heart of British foreign policy when we continue to sell the largest amount of arms to the Saudi Arabian Government?
I prefer to focus on the practical steps that now need to be taken. I have raised the issue of Mr Badawi with the most senior levels of the Saudi leadership before. The judicial process has now been completed. That is not the end of the story, because, as in many such countries, there is an Executive power of clemency and commutation. We are urgently seeking to make contact with our most senior interlocutors today, to talk to them about how that power will be exercised. It will be my intention certainly to ensure that nothing happens on Friday, and I hope that nothing happens at all.
Does the Secretary of State share my relief that the Turkish people have, for the time being at least, called a halt to the creeping Islamisation of their country? What assessment has he made of political stability in that important NATO ally?
The fact that there was a turnout of no less than 86% in the Turkish parliamentary election demonstrates the vigour of Turkish democracy. We are looking forward to working with the new Government, once they are formed, as there are many important political, economic and strategic interests that the UK and Turkey share.
It is very important that a nuclear deal with Iran is not made at any price. The P5+1 must stand firm if Iran will not accept any-time inspections of all suspect sites or come clean on possible military dimensions of the nuclear programme, as suspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Should Britain and the P5+1 not engage much more closely with Arab states and Israel, who share concerns about an agreement that in a few years would allow Iran to greatly expand its nuclear programme?
Perhaps for the first time, I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. The reality is that the alternative to an agreement that will restrict Iran’s development of civil nuclear enrichment capabilities for a period of perhaps 20 years is no deal and a free-for-all. We have got to get this agreement right and we have got to carry the Gulf states and Israel with us, and the meeting at Camp David that the US President hosted with the Gulf Co-operation Council countries was part of a process to reassure allies in the Gulf of our commitment to their security.
Yes. I think I have told the House before that there are two issues that we are trying to deal with in order to reopen the embassy. One is around the visa regime and how we deal with Iranian overstayers in the UK, and the other is around the importation of communications equipment that we need to import, uninspected by the Iranians, in order to be able to safely operate our embassy. Until we have resolved those two issues, we really cannot make progress.
Many people, most of all Shaker Aamer’s family, will be pleased that the Prime Minister raised his case again with President Obama this week, but they are dismayed that nothing has happened since the President told the Prime Minister in January that it was a priority. Given that Shaker Aamer was cleared by six national security agencies in 2009 for release, will that process have to be gone through again? If the Minister does not know the answer to that question, can he seek it from the US authorities, so that Shaker Aamer can be returned to his family in the UK?
We continue to raise the issue of Shaker Aamer with the United States authorities at every opportunity. As I think the hon. Gentleman knows, it is the United States Defence Secretary who now has the file on his desk, and there has recently been a change in the occupancy of that position. We continue to press the United States to make progress, and to make good the commitment that President Obama made to the Prime Minister last year.