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Topical Questions

Volume 664: debated on Tuesday 3 September 2019

Since my appointment as Foreign Secretary, I have visited six countries and met 46 Foreign Ministers. In Helsinki last week, we discussed with our EU partners the middle east, cyber-threats and the challenges relating to Iran. In Thailand, Canada, the United States and Mexico, I have set out our vision for a global Britain as we leave the EU: strong, independent and a force for good in the world.

What actions are the Government taking, both unilaterally and in partnership, to stop the Brazilian Government wiping out their indigenous peoples, as well as poisoning the world’s environment?

We recognise the concerns about the rain forest. I have spoken to the Brazilian Foreign Minister, and the vice-president will be here soon. We will look into supporting Brazil by taking measures to ensure that the rain forests, which rightly attract international interest, are protected in a way that works for the world—[Interruption]—but also—I say this in response to the shadow Foreign Secretary—does not undermine the economy and the poorest people in Brazil.

T4. What conditions were given by Iran ahead of the release of the tanker Adrian Darya from Gibraltar, and how will the United Kingdom respond if and when it is shown Iran has breached those conditions? (912267)

We were given clear assurances that the oil and the tanker would not, in breach of sanctions, reach Syria and we expect those undertakings to be complied with. We want Iran to come in from the cold; the only way it can do that is by respecting the international rule of law, whether on freedom of navigation, the nuclear deal or indeed the treatment of our dual nationals.

Can the Minister of State tell me what clause in UN resolution 2216 provides for Saudi Arabia to bomb captive inmates in a Houthi-run prison in Yemen or for the United Arab Emirates to kill forces loyal to the President that their own coalition is supposed to be there to reinstall? If the answer is that there is none, is it not time for him to bring forward a new UN resolution to replace 2216, demanding an immediate ceasefire by all parties across the whole of the country of Yemen?

This country will always stand up for the rule of law in Yemen, in Saudi Arabia and throughout the middle east. I hope very much that the hon. Gentleman understands that this country is the champion of international humanitarian law, especially in relation to Yemen, where he knows full well we are the pen holder. In my recent visit to the middle east, including to discuss Yemen, that came across loud and clear; I made it clear to my interlocutors that we will continue to hold them to account for activities in Yemen.

T5. Corruption that impoverishes nations is facilitated by financial devices hiding ownership that are created in the UK and other western nations. Will my right hon. Friend do all he can to build an international consensus to end the inappropriate use of these devices? (912268)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and will know that the 2016 London anti-corruption summit agreed new commitments on ownership transparency. He will also be aware of the leadership we have shown on things like beneficial ownership, unexplained wealth orders, the seizure of criminals’ money from bank accounts and new powers to tackle onshore and offshore tax evasion. The UK is absolutely at the forefront of tackling these things and my hon. Friend is right to draw attention to that.

T2. The unilateral revocation of articles 370 and 35A and the associated actions by the Indian Government breach the rule of law, democracy and human rights. Given the imminent UN General Assembly, what specific actions will the Government take to ensure that all Security Council resolutions, especially resolution 47 and the Simla agreement, are upheld? (912265)

I totally share the hon. Lady’s concerns. We will be looking to ensure internationally respected human rights are respected; they have been raised in this Chamber already in relation to detention and mistreatment but also to communication blackouts. We will also be looking to see generally on all sides a de-escalation of tensions and positive measures to build up confidence; that is the only way this issue will be resolved and calmed down.

T7. May I ask the Foreign Secretary to come back on the answer he give me previously? Was he saying—I ask this as someone who wants us to get a good deal to take us out of the EU—that we now have a bigger negotiation team than previously and are they spending more time than previously? (912270)

To be very specific on the understandable question my hon. Friend asks, we have added over 100 diplomats as well as 140 locally engaged staff across capitals as well as in Brussels, and I hope that shows the seriousness with which we are approaching negotiations to get a deal.

T3. The UK Government have pledged £10 million to tackle the Amazon forest fires. That is an embarrassing 14p per person in the UK to ensure they have oxygen to breathe. The Prime Minister has, we know, extremely deep pockets, so what representations has the Secretary of State made to the Prime Minister to ensure we make a realistic contribution to this global issue? (912266)

We are committing £120 million to international climate finance, and on top of that we are committing £10 million extra. This all helps to avoid and stop deforestation; it helps the sustainable agriculture of Brazil.

T9. With the flow of migrants from Venezuela now at more than 5 million and with their misery ever-increasing, what steps are the Government taking to support our friends in the region, particularly Colombia and Peru? (912272)

The failures of the Maduro regime and of Hugo Chávez have led to what is probably the largest displacement of people in south American history. We need a peaceful transition to democracy through free and fair presidential elections. In the meantime, the UK is providing more than £14 million in aid, and £10 million of that will go to countries around Venezuela that are seeing an increase in Venezuelans fleeing the country.

T6. Thank you, Mr Speaker. What a treat to have two bites of the apple! Will the Secretary of State enlighten me about how the UK can maintain moral authority around the world and criticise leaders in Venezuela and Zimbabwe for their assaults on democratic institutions when this Government are gagging our own Parliament? (912269)

I hope that I have reassured the hon. Gentleman, with whom I served on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, that we will raise human rights issues wherever they lie, whether in relation to Iran, to China or to Zimbabwe. We will be unflinching in doing so, even with partners with which we want to have a positive relationship.

Will the Foreign Secretary consider the early-day motion tabled by 25 parliamentarians today calling on our Government to seek agreement with other Commonwealth countries to offer Hong Kong citizens second citizenship and a place of abode? Could this be applied for as an agenda item at the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting?

As I have made clear to the House, we want to see the one country, two systems model respected. Under those arrangements, reflecting the joint declaration, we have committed to the British national (overseas) status and I think it is important, for now, to stick with that.

T8. The Foreign Secretary has previously campaigned against the Human Rights Act 1998. Now, in his new position, will he confirm that the protection and defence of human rights are at the centre of Government policy both at home and abroad and specifically that protection for citizens of this country will not worsen in relation to those of other European countries? (912271)

In line with the recommendations in the Bishop of Truro’s report, are the Government prepared and ready to impose sanctions on the perpetrators of freedom of religion or belief abuse?

I thank my hon. Friend for consistently raising this topic. As he will know, the Government have accepted all the recommendations in the report and work is under way to take them forward. We have established an implementation team and allocated £200,000 this year to look at concrete actions that the UK can take.

T10. My all-party parliamentary group on deaths abroad and consular services has taken evidence from more than 60 families, including the families of Kirsty Maxwell and Julie Pearson in my own constituency. They are very clear that the system is failing them and other families. I am going to produce a report shortly, but will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss this as soon as possible? (912273)

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I am pleased to have taken over consular services, which assist British nationals travelling, living and working overseas. I appreciate her expertise as chair of the all-party parliamentary group, and I would be delighted to meet her to discuss this further.

We need five more sitting days for parliamentary approval of the accession of the Republic of North Macedonia to NATO. Will this be achieved before the next slightly premature recess?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, but I think that it is probably one for the Leader of the House.

Natalie Jackson has not seen or had any contact from her son Dylan, who is 11, in more than a year because her ex-partner has not returned him home after a summer holiday in 2018. The High Court has made Dylan a ward of court and ordered his immediate return, but his return was denied by the Turkish courts. I have written to the Secretary of State about this. Please will he answer, and meet me urgently so that we can deliver Dylan back to his mother?

As the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reconfigures its global representation by beefing up embassies and opening other embassies post-Brexit, will my right hon. Friend undertake to conduct an audit into other Departments that are represented abroad to ensure that they are all brought under the ambassador or high commissioner in that country?

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend’s expertise in this area. He is absolutely right to stress that when we speak internationally, we do so with one voice.

With climate change becoming increasingly evident and important, what progress has been made in tackling climate change through international co-operation?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. We are absolutely clear that a global Britain would pursue international issues such as climate change. We are seeking to host COP 26 in 2020, which shows the leadership that we intend to take in this area.

Following Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif’s visit to the G7 summit, will my right hon. Friend bring me up to date on what the United Kingdom is currently doing to try to ease tensions with Iran, bearing in mind that that may have provided an opportunity?

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend and his expertise in this area. Our approach to Iran is simple: we want it to de-escalate tensions and to come in from the cold. The Iranians can do that by respecting internationally recognised rights for consular nationals, the nuclear deal and freedom of navigation in the strait of Hormuz.