We are, of course, supporting the UK Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s plans to hold a detailed forum for Commonwealth parliamentarians in February 2018, before CHOGM. As my hon. Friend will know, we intend to have a range of contemporary issues discussed, including security, prosperity, climate change and all aspects of human rights, ahead of the national debates that will take place at the Commonwealth summit in April 2018.
I thank the Minister for that reply, specifically because it advertises an event this afternoon offering colleagues the opportunity to find out more about the forum. What specific opportunities will there be for parliamentarians at CHOGM and in the two years after CHOGM, when the UK is in the chair?
My hon. Friend, a former Minister, makes a valid point. There is no point having large-scale meetings such as CHOGM if we see them as an end in themselves. We need to have plans for the future, and I think those plans are afoot. Let us be honest: there has never been a more important time for us to be networked in, whether with the Commonwealth or a range of other international institutions, on all the issues—particularly around security and prosperity—that should be close to the hearts of all British parliamentarians.
The nation of Sudan may have expressed its interest in joining the Commonwealth, but will the Minister make it clear that, despite Donald Trump’s recent lifting of sanctions on Sudan—a decision welcomed by this Government—there is no way we will allow into the Commonwealth a Sudanese regime that continues to brutally persecute ethnic and religious minorities and to perpetrate the most outrageous abuses of human rights?
I very much understand the shadow Minister’s concern. My hon. Friend the Minister for Africa made it clear in meeting Sudan people only yesterday that we are pushing for further reforms. As she rightly says, it would be very premature at this juncture for there to be any application to join the Commonwealth, and it would obviously be a matter for other Commonwealth members to approve.
It is also important to point out that the Commonwealth, as a body, is much respected, particularly in Africa. One looks at countries such as Rwanda and Mozambique, which were never part of the British empire, but which have joined the Commonwealth. That is a big sign of approval for it, but obviously these things need to be done in a properly concerted manner.