Skip to main content

The Commonwealth

Volume 638: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2018

12. What recent assessment he has made of future political and diplomatic opportunities for the Commonwealth. (904595)

The Commonwealth is a unique global framework. Its members are home to a third of the world’s population, with a combined GDP last year of over $10 trillion. That shows the extraordinary potential of the Commonwealth summit in London next month. We have a fantastic programme and agenda that includes the discussion of cyber, free trade and free trade deals, how to rid the world’s oceans of plastics and how to ensure that every girl in the world gets 12 years of quality education.

Given that this is the first Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London for 30 years, will the Foreign Secretary join me in celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s remarkable leadership of this unique global partnership? Does he agree that this is a great opportunity to promote two very good causes—Malaria No More and Vision For All—across the Commonwealth, alongside what he said about promoting trade and increasing cyber-defences?

Absolutely. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for all the work that he has done. He led a very good debate on the Commonwealth last week. He is quite right in what he says about halving the incidence of malaria, which is a further objective of the summit. He is also right to pay tribute to the absolutely central role of Her Majesty the Queen. The summit has an extraordinary turnout. Virtually every single one of the 53 Heads of State and Government is coming to London, and there is no doubt that the draw is not just our city or our country, but the chance to see the Queen herself.

16. The Government of Sri Lanka continue to flout the obligations that they signed up to under a UN Human Rights Council resolution that they co-sponsored regarding truth, justice and reconciliation in that country. Given that our trade with Sri Lanka is currently conducted on preferential terms under the generalised scheme of preferences plus arrangements agreed with the European Union, will the Secretary of State make it clear to the Government of Sri Lanka that that preferential trade arrangement may not apply after we leave the European Union, and that certainly the Government will not be minded to give such preferential access to our markets unless and until Sri Lanka fulfils the obligations that it has made to its own people and the international community? (904601)

We certainly value our relationship with Sri Lanka, although I perfectly understand the hon. Gentleman’s points about human rights. He can be in no doubt that we will continue to raise those points in our discussions with Sri Lanka.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the upcoming Commonwealth summit is an opportune moment for us to demonstrate the strength and diversity of this unique family of nations?

I passionately agree. [Interruption.] “Say no”, say Labour Front Benchers. That is their attitude. Is that not extraordinary? “Say no”, says the noble and learned Lady, the Baroness, whatever it is—I cannot remember what it is. [Interruption.] Nugee. What an extraordinary thing. The Commonwealth is an institution that encompasses 2.4 billion people and some of the fastest growing economies in the world. We have an unrivalled opportunity to embrace them here in London, and we are going to do it.

Order. I do not want to be unkind or discourteous to the Foreign Secretary, but I say on advice, as the Clerks swivel round to me, two things. First, we do not name-call in this Chamber. Secondly—I am dealing with the matter, and the right hon. Gentleman will listen and benefit from listening—we do not address people by the titles of their spouses. The shadow Foreign Secretary has a name, and it is not Lady something. We know what her name is. It is inappropriate and frankly sexist to speak in those terms, and I am not having it in this Chamber. That is the end of the matter. No matter how senior a Member, that parlance is not legitimate. It will not be allowed, and it will be called out. I require no chuntering from a sedentary position from any occupant of the Treasury Bench. I have said what the position is, and believe me, that is the end of the matter. I hope I have made the position extremely clear to people who are not well informed about such matters.