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Human Rights

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 26 June 2018

Mr Speaker, I assume that everyone is so happy with the smooth operation of Asian and Pacific affairs in the Foreign Office that I have had no questions until now.

Promoting human rights will remain an essential aim of the foreign policy of global Britain. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and officials relentlessly defend and champion human rights in bilateral engagements, multilateral bodies and conferences, and in funding projects, particularly through the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy.

I thank the Minister for his answer. What representations have he and the British Government made to the Indian Government in recent months in the case of Jagtar Singh Johal?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue, which I know affects a number of constituents not just in the west midlands but across the country. I recognise that this has been an incredibly difficult and distressing time for Mr Johal and his family, whom I most recently met along with their very assiduous constituency MP, the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin Docherty-Hughes), on 18 June.

We continue to raise Mr Johal’s case with the Indian Government at the highest level. I raised it with the Minister for External Affairs on 7 May in New Delhi, and Baroness Williams has also done so. The Prime Minister, very unusually, brought up this consular issue with Prime Minister Modi at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on 18 April.

I thank the hon. Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) for using his good offices to bring this matter, on which the Minister has been assiduous, to the Floor of the House.

The Foreign Secretary has met the hon. Member for Walsall North, whom I have emailed, to discuss this case, and it has been put online, for which I am very grateful because it keeps the case in the public domain. When will the Foreign Secretary now bother to meet Jagtar Singh Johal’s constituency Member of Parliament to discuss this face to face?

I thank the hon. Gentleman, and I am glad he is in his place. He has worked incredibly hard on this. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary says from a sedentary position that he would be happy to meet him at the earliest convenient opportunity.

Yesterday’s protests in Tehran demonstrate increasing anger on human rights abuses and economic failure by the Iranian Government. Do this Government agree that we need change and reform in Iran to benefit the Iranian people?

I thank my right hon. Friend for her question. She is very assiduous on the Iranian issue. Yes, we are obviously looking towards getting reform within that country. A huge amount of work goes on both in the Foreign Office, in relation to the global Britain agenda, and in that region. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East spends a considerable amount of his time on this, and I am sure he will take it up.

24. It is almost two and a half years since the Cambridge student Giulio Regeni was brutally murdered in Cairo, and the truth has had to be extracted from the Egyptian authorities. Can the Minister tell us what pressure he is putting on colleagues to try to get the truth for Giulio? (906058)

I understand. I have worked with the hon. Gentleman, who works extremely hard on behalf of his constituents, on a number of consular matters, including some in Asia. In relation to this desperate case—I understand the distress of Giulio’s family—we are keeping regular contact at consular level. I know these things can be very frustrating, but keeping regular contact sometimes makes a real difference.

Yesterday the Foreign Office, rather pathetically, used the cover story of a trip to Africa to throw the media off the Foreign Secretary’s scent. Can I suggest to the Minister that his boss makes a real trip to Africa to focus urgently on the violence in western Cameroon, the instability gripping the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the danger that next month’s elections in Zimbabwe will not be free, fair or democratic?

May I point out that the Foreign Secretary has visited Africa on no fewer than nine occasions during the past year? Although I assume there will not be too many difficult votes to be dealt with during the course of the year ahead, I am sure he will have that sort of commitment. The hon. Lady rightly points out that, in places like Cameroon and the DRC, we are highly respected as a Government and will continue to be so.[Official Report, 27 June 2018, Vol. 643, c. 6MC.]