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Diplomatic Relations: Poland

Volume 638: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2018

8. What recent assessment he has made of the strength of the UK's diplomatic relations with Poland. (904590)

British-Polish relations are excellent and go from strength to strength. We enjoy a strategic partnership that is broad and diverse. The most recent milestone in the relationship was the second UK-Poland civil society Belvedere forum. May I say, Mr Speaker, that we remember with deep respect the Polish citizen who died in Harlow after a violent attack in 2016?

Will my right hon. Friend recognise the suffering of the Poles from Nazism and communism; their efforts, through the extraordinary Warsaw Jewish museums, to build relations with the Jewish community; and their prompt action in expelling Russian diplomats? Will he do everything possible to build relations between Britain and Poland and encourage our education system to recognise the Polish contribution to the United Kingdom?

I wholeheartedly agree with my right hon. Friend. We all have the utmost respect for the significant contribution that the 1 million Poles living in the UK make to our society. He has been very supportive of his own local Polish community and his constituents fully recognise that. May I say on this occasion that we would like to thank the Polish Government for their full and vocal support for the United Kingdom following the attack in Salisbury?

Women’s rights are human rights and they include reproductive rights. Poland already has some of the most draconian abortion laws in Europe, with illegal and potentially unsafe abortions estimated to be in the tens of thousands each year. This weekend, we saw thousands take to the streets to protest against a further crackdown. What representations have Ministers made to their Polish counterparts about these worrying laws and how are the Government promoting reproductive rights, including access to safe terminations, more widely?

I recognise what the hon. Lady says but, obviously, countries across Europe have different laws on abortion. However, where they breach the sort of human rights that she is describing, we will, of course, always make representations when we meet Ministers from other countries.

Will the Minister join me in recognising the contribution made by the million Poles, particularly those who served with RAF pilots and mechanics on the Spitfire in Birmingham? Will he apologise to the community for treating the rights of EU citizens in the UK as bargaining chips during the negotiations on our exit from the European Union?

It is with deep regret that I must say to the hon. Gentleman that he belittles the respect that we have for the Polish community. I have a significant Polish community in my own constituency, in Melton Mowbray, and their contribution during the war remains deeply recognised and appreciated.