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House of Commons Hansard
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22 January 2019
Volume 653
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12. What steps he is taking to co-ordinate the use of soft power in British foreign policy. [908705]

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According to the Portland Soft Power 30 index, the UK is the world’s leading international soft power country. Post Brexit, this will be a vital asset for us to continue to exploit.

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I thank my right hon. Friend for that important answer, but does he agree that, like so many things that we do well in this country, we tend to take that for granted? Will he therefore assure this House that he will pay greater attention to the co-ordination of soft power across all Departments?

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I thank my right hon. Friend for making that very important point. I can reassure him that I have presented to Cabinet on the subject of soft power and written to every head of mission across the world to underline its importance and to ask what they are doing about it. I am also in charge of a cross-Government taskforce aimed at making sure we do everything we can in this area.

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Soft power can be very effective in places where we have a traditional connection, such as Cameroon. Constituents have recently visited me concerned about the ongoing human rights crisis there. Will a Minister meet me and my campaigners to see what more we can do?

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The Minister for Africa is not here, but I am delighted to say in her absence that she would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman.

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20. Soft power in the form of trade can lift billions of people out of poverty. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the opportunity of new trade deals with the Commonwealth, which would give those countries an opportunity to prosper, is one that we should pursue? [908713]

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I absolutely agree. Just as vital is the UK’s support for the international trading system and our belief in free trade, which we continue to champion.

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African visitor visas are refused at over twice the average rate, and this has a negative impact on all aspects of soft power, including trade, business, culture, education and academia. This afternoon, the all-party parliamentary group on Africa, which I chair, is holding an open meeting on African visa refusals. Can I tell the meeting that the Foreign Secretary is speaking to his Home Office colleagues about the negative impact that this broken system is having?

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I understand the hon. Lady’s concerns. If she writes to me following this afternoon’s meeting, I will happily pass them on to the Home Secretary.