Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Secretary of State was asked—
May I start by paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt) for the exceptional job he did as Foreign Secretary, and for the professionalism and integrity with which he conducted himself?
We are concerned about the situation in Kashmir. I spoke to Foreign Minister Jaishankar on 7 August. We want to see a reduction in tensions in Kashmir, respect for internationally recognised human rights and steps taken on all sides to rebuild confidence.
Doctors have warned that the political situation in Kashmir is leading to a shortage of medicines and that hospitals are being left unable to provide treatment for patients. This is because Kashmir receives over 90% of its medical supplies from India. If this situation is not resolved, Kashmir faces the real risk of a major public health crisis. What steps will the Government take to sort it out?
The hon. Gentleman is right to talk not just about the theoretical nature of the dispute, but about what it means for communities in Kashmir. It is important that internationally recognised human rights are fully respected, and the way through the tensions is with a constructive political dialogue. The dispute between India and Pakistan in relation to Kashmir is fundamentally for them to resolve, as recognised in UN Security Council resolutions and the Simla agreement.
The Kashmiri community in Stockton South are understandably concerned about the safety and human rights of the people of Kashmir. Does the Secretary of State believe that there is a role for the United Nations or other independent parties to monitor and report on the alleged human rights abuses to ensure that the Kashmiri people are protected?
The hon. Gentleman will know that there have been UN Security Council resolutions on the situation in Kashmir in the past, and that this is something that the General Assembly has looked at. Fundamentally, though, the UN also recognises that the dispute over Kashmir between Pakistan and India is for them to resolve. The hon. Gentleman makes the point—as others will and have—that there are internationally recognised human rights at stake. They are duties owed to the international community at large, and we will certainly be scrutinising the situation carefully to see that those rights are respected.
In Sheffield on Saturday, there was a big protest of people who felt that the Foreign Secretary’s response to the crisis has not been good enough. Will he therefore commit to working through the United Nations and the Commonwealth to strengthen international pressure on India to restore Kashmir’s special status, and to working with both India and Pakistan to secure a long-term solution based on the 1948 UN resolution, so that there can be a plebiscite for the people of Kashmir to determine their own future?
The hon. Gentleman expresses his concerns powerfully and I understand how keenly they are felt. I have already referred to the UN Security Council resolutions and to the Simla agreement. It is not correct to say that we have not been seized of this issue. The Prime Minister spoke to the Indian Prime Minister, Prime Minister Modi, on 20 August and the Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, on 7 August. I raised concerns about the situation with Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar on 7 August. We will obviously be monitoring the situation carefully and talking to international partners in relation to it.
The large Kashmiri community in Glasgow Central are deeply concerned about their friends and relatives in Kashmir, particularly given the media blackout and the curfew that has been imposed. What has the Secretary of State done to raise both those issues, and what does he intend to do to ensure that the Kashmiri people have the right to self-determination?
On the issues of detentions, potential mistreatment and communications blackouts that the hon. Lady has raised, I have raised those issues with the Indian Foreign Minister. The Indian Government have made it clear that the measures are only temporary, as strictly required, and we of course want to hold them to that undertaking.
Events in Kashmir are of the most profound and immediate importance to thousands of my constituents, because British Kashmiris often have family and friends on not one but both sides of the line of control, and they are in frequent FaceTime, email and Skype contact, just like anybody else, even to the second and third generations of migrant. Does my right hon. Friend agree that in such circumstances they must have active representation not just from their MPs but from the Government? Will he therefore join me in saying that the time has come to reassure them on the human rights of their families and friends and to ask for independent observers in Kashmir?
I know the scale of the community that my hon. Friend has in Wycombe—I believe it is over 10,000. I understand how keenly this is felt among Kashmiris in Wycombe but also right across the country. The issue of human rights is not just a bilateral, or domestic issue for India or Pakistan—it is an international issue. He is absolutely right to say that we should, with all our partners, expect internationally recognised standards of human rights to be complied with and respected.
Following the action by the Indian Government in Kashmir, on 15 August, Indian independence day, a group of British Indians gathered outside the Indian high commission in London, but they were attacked by members of another community. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the violence and abuse targeted towards the British Indian community on that occasion are completely unacceptable, as they would be against any community on the streets of the UK?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Any violence is deplorable. It should not be conducted in this country, or anywhere else for that matter, against any individual communities. We now need to try to reduce these tensions but also, on a positive side, to build confidence-building measures to allow proper dialogue between the communities in Kashmir but also between India and Pakistan.
I have met my Pakistani and Indian communities, who are very concerned about the Kashmir situation. The revocation of article 370 of the Indian constitution without involving the Kashmiri people was particularly heinous. If Amnesty International is to be believed, and I think it is, we should have learned from the Rohingya crisis to know that this is another crisis emerging now. We must take the firmest steps to condemn it and do what we can.
We are aware of the implications of the revocation of article 370, which has caused interest and concern not just within India and Pakistan but among communities throughout the UK and internationally. It is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan but also an international issue, given the human rights at stake.
It has been a long-standing policy of the Government that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is a bilateral issue. It has also been this House that stands up for human rights and the protection of minorities. Therefore, does my right hon. Friend agree that the abolition of article 370, which discriminates against women and minority religions, is to be welcomed?
My hon. Friend makes the point that there are different sides to this. But the reality is that there have been widespread reports and concerns about detentions, mistreatments and the communications blackout. There was a UN Security Council discussion on Kashmir on 16 August. As well as wanting to respect the constitutional arrangements within India and in relation to Kashmir, there are implications internationally, particularly as they touch on internationally respected and recognised human rights.
I refer Members to my registered interest.
For over four years, I have stood in this place and warned Members of the ongoing persecution, oppression and injustice that the sons and daughters of Kashmir face daily. That situation has now escalated as a result of the revocation of articles 370 and 35A, and the humanitarian situation as a result of the blockade. The reality is that we see up to 10,000 people arrested without due process, and food and medicine shortages. This is a humanitarian crisis. The United Nations Security Council meeting and not even agreeing a condemnation is not something that this House should welcome. What is the Minister doing to end the draconian blockade, at the very least?
I think it would be obvious to the hon. Gentleman that, as much as I sympathise with his concerns and understand the heartfelt way in which he makes his points, we cannot alone end that blockade. There has been a discussion about it within the UN Security Council. All and any allegations of human rights violations are deeply concerning, and they must be investigated thoroughly, promptly and transparently.
Textbook brevity from Dame Cheryl Gillan.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), I have many constituents who are highly concerned about this. The revocation of article 35A affects property ownership and rights in Jammu and Kashmir, and many of my constituents are very frightened that this could lead to a dramatic transformation from majority Muslim to majority Hindu. The new Prime Minister is famed for being robust. Can he now be robust in defending the rights of these people and their families?
My right hon. Friend raises the issue that others have raised, but in a particularly poignant way. The reality is that we have raised the issues around human rights. We have been clear both in our direct dealings with the Indian Government and at the international level that any reports or allegations concerning human rights must be dealt with transparently, thoroughly and rigorously, and human rights standards must be respected.
Alongside the revocation of article 370, the Indian authorities have detained more than 4,000 Kashmiris without charge in the last month—not just political activists, but ordinary civilians. There are widespread allegations of torture, and many families do not know where their loved ones are being held. This is no way for the largest democracy in the world to behave, let alone a member of the Commonwealth. Can the Secretary of State tell us what protests he has made to India about those detentions?
As I explained to the House—I am happy to repeat it—the concerns and issues that the hon. Lady has raised are very serious, and I raised them directly with Foreign Minister Jaishankar on 7 August.
To answer the shadow Foreign Secretary’s question, yes, specifically the issue of detentions, as well as the blackouts. We have made clear our concern and the fact that we need to see—particularly in a great democracy, as the hon. Lady says—internationally recognised human rights respected.
Amazon Forest Fires
On 27 August, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Brazilian Foreign Minister, Mr Araújo. I will also be seeing the Brazilian ambassador, Mr Arruda, tomorrow, to reaffirm our commitment to working in partnership with Brazil on a range of issues, including the environment. In response to the very serious fires, the Prime Minister announced at the G7 £10 million for protection and restoration of the rain forest. That is in addition to the £120 million of funding we provide through our other programmes.
While we welcome the £10 million that the UK Government have committed to help to restore the Amazonian rain forest, it is paltry compared with the amount spent on advertising for the Brexit debacle. Can the Foreign Secretary tell me whether the money is spent by local partners in a way that ensures that indigenous people will take charge of the process to reforest their homes and protect our planet? What further funding is he willing to pledge today?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s passion for the issue. I can confirm that we spend £120 million through our international climate finance programme. That goes to help to tackle deforestation and to help sustainable farming, and it complements the trading activities that we have with Brazil, which ensure that the Brazilian economy grows and prospers, including for those farmers, who are part and parcel of the problem, burning some of the rain forest.
Over 120,000 people have already petitioned this Parliament, urging trade sanctions to be used against Brazil to put pressure on it. Given that a Minister was in Brazil recently, what pressure was put on by this Government?
The Minister of State, Department for International Trade, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns), was there as part of our international trade obligations, to ensure that we build trade with our strategic partners, such as Brazil. I will be seeing the Brazilian ambassador tomorrow and making clear that we want to help Brazil with its difficulties in these terrible fires, but also that we want to trade with it, because that is a way of building its economy and ensuring that the sorts of fires that are currently raging are put out and stay out.
Last week, both the Taoiseach and French President said that they will attempt to block the Mercosur trade agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments. Does the Minister agree that the burning of the Amazon is a human and environmental tragedy that requires a global solution and this is no time for fragile male egos or social media spats? What steps has he taken to ensure that situations such as these receive an urgent and immediate multilateral response now and in the future?
I hope that the hon. Lady will not think that my response is in any way macho. My concern is to make sure that the trade with our two countries prospers and that the Mercosur arrangement succeeds. It will result in the removal of something like 91% of present tariffs. That can only be to the benefit of Brazilian farmers and to the benefit of the Brazilian economy. If we help to ensure that these sensible trade arrangements are made, those fires can be put out and they will stay out.
It has been suggested that changes to trade flows between the US and China may be fuelling some of the Amazon forest fires. Does my right hon. Friend agree that all leading nations should be working together to stop that devastation? What conversations are taking place with other leading countries?
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met other Foreign Ministers at Gymnich earlier in the week. He has made clear the concern that we have about those fires. He has also made absolutely clear the importance that we believe trade has to building economies in South America and in the far east, which encourages a better response to such tragedies.
Deforestation in the Amazon is indeed a catastrophe of global and generational proportions. We must of course do the right things about it and I very much welcome the pressure that the Minister has described, but is he not also aware of the fact that the deforestation of the Amazon has decreased quite considerably over the last 20 years, and that while it was very, very bad, it is very much less bad than it was; and equally that the level of decrease, therefore, in the size of the forest has been reduced? Does the Minister therefore agree that this is a domestic matter for the Brazilian Government, and that we must persuade them to do the right thing, rather than confronting or berating them?
I certainly think it is better to talk than to engage in megaphone hectoring. Deforestation has increased over the last few years. It has in fact been increasing in Brazil since 2015—some time before the present Government took office. I think it is right that we engage with them—that we try to persuade them to use sensible methods to reduce and stop this problem. It is an international concern, and that is why we have raised it, and will continue to raise it, with the Brazilian authorities.
I have spent some of the summer in the Ecuadorian rain forest —part of the same Amazon rain forest that we are talking about. What other countries have made representations to Brazil about the damage that it is doing to the world, not just to Brazil?
The fires that are currently raging do not just affect Brazil; they also affect, for example, Bolivia. Bolivia is concerned about this, as is Venezuela, Peru and Colombia. So I think an international response is helpful. Certainly, those neighbouring countries that can help Brazil with its difficulties should be encouraged to do so.
The fires have affected 650 million acres of Amazon rain forest. In his answer just now, the Minister revealed that he did not understand that the problem with the Mercosur trade deal is that cutting beef tariffs incentivises destruction of the rain forest. What proposals will the Government be putting forward at the Chile conference on climate change in November?
As the hon. Lady should know, high agricultural tariffs hurt the poorest. That will only encourage them to do the easy thing, which is to burn land, rather than to farm it sustainably and protect the rain forest. Mercosur is a sensible free trade agreement which should be encouraged, and I trust that in the fullness of time we also will undertake a free trade deal with Brazil—more details of that, I am sure, are to come.
We are seriously concerned, and increasingly concerned, about the situation in Hong Kong. Of course we condemn any violence, but we absolutely support the right to peaceful and lawful protests on Hong Kong. The route to resolution through the current situation is via meaningful political dialogue, taken forward under the high degree of autonomy that Hong Kong has under the model of one country and two systems.
I welcome the new Foreign Secretary to his position and congratulate him on taking up the role at a time of such calm. I asked his predecessor in June whether he would extend an invitation to any Hong Kong citizens at risk of persecution. Will the Secretary of State do his moral duty under the 1984 joint declaration?
I thank the hon. Gentleman and respect the fact that he has a longstanding interest in this issue. Under the one country, two systems model, and its manifestation through the joint declaration signed by the UK and China, which has treaty status, we gave a range of residents in Hong Kong British National (Overseas) status. The importance of that is that we do not want to unpick, at least at this time, one part of the one country, two systems model. If we do that, we risk its not being respected on the Chinese side.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his position. I was pleased to hear his comments about the UK Government’s steadfast support for the joint declaration and the one country, two systems principle. Will he make sure that we continue to reiterate that very strongly, because that is a mechanism for driving peace in the solution?
My hon. Friend is right. I raised those issues with the Chinese Foreign Minister, State Councillor Wang Yi, on 31 July. I also spoke to the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, on 9 August. We support the one country, two systems model. It is important, as reflected in the joint declaration and the treaty-binding obligations that have been made, including to the people of Hong Kong—and including to respect the right of lawful and peaceful protest—that that is adhered to on all sides.
I, too, welcome the Secretary of State to his position. The Hong Kong police recently made further arrests, including of a 12-year-old girl. Violence is escalating, with reports that police are now using live rounds in conjunction with tear gas and water cannons. What representations has he made to the Chinese Government to ensure that violence is met with a proportional police response, and that minors caught up in the protest movement are adequately safeguarded?
My hon. Friend is right. I have raised those issues with both the Chinese Foreign Minister and the Chief Executive. In relation to the conduct of the police, let us recognise some of the violence on the ground that they have to deal with, but in relation to disproportionate actions and overreactions it is very clear: the Independent Police Complaints Council is carrying out an inquiry. The point that I have made is that it has to be credible, and has to command the trust of the people of Hong Kong. That is what international observers will look to see.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s comments on the Sino-British joint declaration and how he is using it to engage with his counterparts in China. Can he give the House any information on whether international forums can be used to support the case that we are making that China should uphold its obligations to the people of Hong Kong, with the one country, two systems approach?
I share my right hon. Friend’s concern. The route through this is to de-escalate the tensions and to respect the one country, two systems model. At the international level, more and more interlocutors are expressing their concern about this matter. It is not just an issue for the people of Hong Kong, or for us, given our historical relationship with China and Hong Kong; it is now an issue of widespread international concern.
Will the Foreign Secretary update the House on whether in his conversation with Ms Lam on 9 August he specifically raised the question of moving towards universal suffrage to elect the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council members?
I talked to Ms Lam about our short-term concerns about violence and protecting internationally recognised human rights standards, which are of course, as the hon. Lady knows, reflected in the joint declaration. We also had an exchange of views about the fact that there are such widespread protests in Hong Kong that they cannot be put down to a small number who are engaged in violence. There needs to be meaningful political dialogue that touches on people’s deeper concerns about the autonomy of Hong Kong being respected.
The demonstrators have acted largely peacefully, but everyone in the House will have seen the footage of the police acting in an unjustified and extremely violent manner. With that in mind, will the Foreign Secretary commit to ensuring that the UK is not exporting crowd control equipment—water cannons, tear gas and so on—until that independent inquiry has been carried out and adequate safeguards have been put in place, and will he encourage our international partners to do the same?
This is something we are now discussing more and more with our international partners in all parts of the world. It is not just a European issue; transatlantically there are concerns, too. We have raised the issue, to which the hon. Gentleman refers, of a disproportionate response. We also recognise that there has been violence. The answer and the solution is to reduce tensions and to respect the lawful and peaceful right of protest of the people of Hong Kong, but also to have moves and stepping stones towards the dialogue that will actually resolve the issue.
My hon. Friend is very knowledgeable in this area and I respect the fact that he has huge expertise. It is not clear, in truth, what the position in Beijing is. Actually, if we look at all its public statements, we see that it sticks and adheres to the position of one country, two systems. That provides the model that can resolve this situation, but we need to have respect for the lawful right of protest. We need to have stepping stones to build confidence towards a track of political dialogue. That is the route through the current situation and to avoid it escalating any further.
We are gravely concerned at the heavy-handed response to protests in Harare on 16 August, and the recent arrest and abductions of Opposition figures. President Mnangagwa must hold to account those responsible for human rights violations. We have made our position clear to the Zimbabwe Government that UK support depends on fundamental political and economic reform. Zimbabwe must now translate its commitment into actions.
Does my hon. Friend agree that President Mnangagwa and his Administration have been a grave disappointment to this country and indeed to their own countrymen? Does he nevertheless also agree that the aid we give to Zimbabwe, particularly the DFID aid that goes into education, is absolutely vital and plays an extraordinarily good role in Zimbabwean education? Will he assure me that at the same time as keeping up the pressure on human rights and making absolutely clear our horror at the behaviour of President Mnangagwa and his gang of thugs, we will continue to support the education system in Zimbabwe?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. The UK provided £94 million of aid to Zimbabwe in 2018-19. None of that money is channelled through the Zimbabwe Government. I reiterate the point that the UK’s ongoing support through our DFID work depends on fundamental political and economic reform in Zimbabwe.
Does the Minister agree that any semblance of the rule of law has now broken down in Zimbabwe? We saw that just last week when a peaceful protest was banned at the very last minute by Mnangagwa. What more are Her Majesty’s Government doing to get the Southern African Development Community and the African Union on board to make their views known about the appalling way that Mnangagwa is treating the people of Zimbabwe?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I know she has considerable expertise as the chairman of the all-party group on Zimbabwe. We are very concerned about the current human rights issues in that country. The violations, such as those seen in January and August 2019, have no place in a democratic society. We will continue to work with all international partners to ensure that those responsible are held to account.
Leaving the EU: Gibraltar
I have spoken to the Chief Minister, Mr Picardo, by phone on a number of occasions in the past month and I will speak to him again later this afternoon. We have regular ministerial contact, including through the Joint Ministerial Council with Gibraltar, which has met nine times since its formation three years ago. Ministers and officials across the Government are working closely with the Government of Gibraltar in preparation for Brexit. Gibraltar is and will remain a vital part of our family, whatever the shape of our exit from the EU on 31 October.
I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post and his early engagement with Her Majesty’s Government over Gibraltar. Will he bear in mind and make it quite clear that we fully support Gibraltar politically and in practical terms as we leave the European Union? In particular, will he deal with the practical measures relating to the vast number of foodstuffs and the workforce that currently come across the border, which must be resolved before we leave?
No one is more doughty in his championship of Gibraltar than my hon. Friend, and I am grateful for his kind words. Let me assure him—as the Prime Minister has assured the Chief Minister—that the United Kingdom will protect Gibraltar’s interests as we leave the EU. From 1967 to 2002, at all points in between and since, we have said that Gibraltar is going to remain a vital part of our family. The Government of Gibraltar are responsible for their own contingency planning, but, as I have said, the UK Government regularly speak to and meet Ministers to ensure that their robust plans are in place.
Is the Minister not aware that whether it is Gibraltar, Hong Kong or Zimbabwe, people are struggling for the rights that they thought they had and that they find common cause with people in the United Kingdom who are struggling to get the political rights that they thought they had in this country? Is it not about time that we showed as an example that we believe in parliamentary and political democracy in this House?
That was quite a wide-ranging question. Let me put it to the hon. Gentleman in this way: this Government are standing up for the rights of people—the 17.5 million people of our country who voted to leave the European Union—and respecting those that did not. We will make sure that we leave—no ifs, no buts—on 31 October.
What assurances has the Minister sought from the Spanish Government that they will respect Gibraltar’s territorial waters both before we leave and after?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We reject and object robustly to all incursions into Gibraltarian waters. I think that since the start of this year, there have been 499 such incursions and we have made 499 objections. He can be confirmed in his belief that we will support the people of Gibraltar.
The Minister, I believe, supports a no-deal Brexit. How will the Minister assure the people of Gibraltar that there will be no disruption of the supply of goods, including food and medicine? News about delays of four hours at the border, resulting in huge economic loss, has leaked in the Yellowhammer document. If the Minister believes that the Yellowhammer document is outdated, what is the updated solution?
The hon. Gentleman is misinformed. I do not support no deal; I want a deal with the European Union that works for Britain and for Gibraltar, but I am prepared to leave with no deal if we cannot get the deal that is good for us by 31 October. We engage regularly with the Spanish Government. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to Foreign Minister Borrell very recently about this matter. As I said, I engage regularly with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar. He assures me that Gibraltar is ready. We will make sure that Gibraltar is ready and that we continue the dialogue with the Spanish Government to ensure that there is a free flow of traffic, people and goods across the border after we leave.
Leaving the EU: Diplomacy
Last week, I attended the Gymnich meeting of EU Foreign Ministers. I met the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Cyprus and Finland. We discussed Brexit but also the wide range of international foreign policy issues on which we will continue to co-operate beyond 31 October, from Hong Kong to Iran.
I welcome the Foreign Secretary to his place. Will he confirm whether the 90-strong negotiation unit has been disbanded? If that is the case, with regard to our foreign resources and diplomats what more is being done across the EU27 member states for us to get a deal to leave the European Union?
We have actually strengthened and increased the resources in Brussels and across capitals to make sure we are going to the EU with a clear and reasonable ask, backed up by the commitment and resolve to leave at the end of October, and with the staff and personnel to navigate the nuances and explain our message very clearly to our EU friends.
Does the Secretary of State agree that trust is critical to international diplomacy? If so, does he agree that by threatening a catastrophic no deal and non-payment of the EU divorce bill, instead of a global player on the world stage, he paints us as a dishonest and disreputable nation—much like his Prime Minister?
Let us agree on trust and the importance of being very clear with our international partners on both our reasonable ask and our commitment to leave the EU at the end of October. Trust with the voters of this country is also important. Both Labour and the Conservatives said they would respect the referendum, and on our side we are serious about fulfilling that promise.
Nobody voted to leave with no deal, and the very threat of no deal is leading the pound to tank to historic lows, which is nothing to be proud of. Is it not the case that if we crash out without a deal, as the Government seem to want, it will diminish the United Kingdom economically, culturally and diplomatically?
I respect the hon. Gentleman’s views. I think he would say the same whatever the Government’s position. I would point him, for example, to the views set out on the BBC, on the “Today” programme, by Mervyn King, a former Governor of the Bank of England. He is not known to be in hock to the Tories or Brexit, but he said very clearly that we should get on with it, that the short-term risks were manageable and that there were also opportunities. That is the approach we take.
I will welcome the Foreign Secretary to his place—for now, of course. Has he discovered that, as well as being particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing, we are also reliant on good relations with our other European partners? What impact will no deal have on our relations, and will he reassure our partners that this Government still respects the rule of law?
Yes, I can reassure the hon. Gentleman on all counts. As well as making the reasonable offer that replaces the backstop, which would allow us to get a deal that is acceptable to this country, we have made the point to our EU partners that we are willing to co-operate on all the no-deal planning and preparation to reduce the risk on all sides. Of course, however, that will require the EU to engage to the same level.
I am glad the Foreign Secretary says he will respect the rule of law and any legislation passed in this place, but there is no mandate for a no-deal Brexit. He himself was among those who told us these deals would be really easy to sort out, and a no-deal Brexit, which he never mentioned, as Channel 4 found out, was never on the cards. So it is clear, is he willing to do this damage to our relationships with our closest partners? The Prime Minister, the Brexiteers and the Foreign Secretary have no idea what they are doing.
It is the usual froth and frenzy from the hon. Gentleman. The reality is that no deal was debated on both sides, including by me, during the referendum—and it has been sourced—and that it was an in/out referendum. We remain committed to a deal with the EU, but the one thing that would undermine our prospects of getting a deal would be passing the Bill proposed by the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). It would undermine our chances at this critical moment of the negotiations.
I welcome the new Foreign Secretary to his position, and indeed his seemingly entirely new team—it is certainly position churn—and pay tribute to his predecessor, who served for 12 months with a concern and diligence that had been so sorely lacking for the previous two years. I hope the new Foreign Secretary will follow the right example.
The Foreign Secretary will be aware of the concern of people across the country with health conditions such as schizophrenia and epilepsy for whom, as the Yellowhammer leaks reveal, it will not be possible to stockpile medicines. They will be left exposed and at grave risk because of the shortages that will follow a no-deal Brexit. Can I ask him a simple question? Have the Government asked for legal advice on how coroners would be expected to record the deaths of anyone who loses their life after 31 October as a result of the entirely preventable medicine shortages?
I thank the shadow Foreign Secretary for her generous welcome to the Dispatch Box. On no deal and medicines, the UK has a long-standing relationship with pharmaceutical companies, through the NHS, involving hundreds of vaccines and medicines, whereby we do stockpile, without any context of Brexit, but in the ordinary course of events. Both the Health Secretary and the head of the NHS have made it clear that the plans and arrangements are in place to make sure that people can receive their medication supplies in all circumstances. I am sure she will not want to engage in irresponsible scaremongering. It is very important that this be a fact-driven risk analysis.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for his answer, but the truth is this: the whole point of the Yellowhammer leaks is that some essential medicines—the ones about which I am asking—cannot be stockpiled, which is why there is genuine concern for these individuals.
As a lawyer, the Secretary of State knows his case law as well I do. He will know that if dependent individuals are denied their medicine and die as a result, their cases may meet all the tests in the watershed cases of Jamieson, Khan and Staffordshire and justify a coroner’s finding that they died as a result of neglect. I will submit a freedom of information request today to obtain the advice that the Government have been given to that effect.
Is it not a shameful disgrace that, in 21st-century Britain, we are having to talk about people who are denied their medicine, and about people having access to “adequate’” supplies of food—the Foreign Secretary’s own words—so that this shameless, shameful Government can play games of brinkmanship with Brussels and generate the pretext for a general election? This is no way in which to run a country.
Let me gently say to the shadow Foreign Secretary that what is shameful is to take a potentially vulnerable group in our society and scaremonger in such an appalling way. I think that she should listen to what the Health Secretary and Sir Simon Stevens have said, and take into account the reassurances that medical supplies will be protected in any scenario.
I will allow the next question—on the grounds that extreme brevity is required.
Defence and Security Equipment International Exhibition
No Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers are currently scheduled to attend the exhibition. However, FCO officials will attend. The Export Control Joint Unit will be on hand advise companies on the United Kingdom’s export licensing procedures, which, as the right hon. Lady will know, are among the most rigorous in the world.
I wish that that were true, but it is not.
I note that Saudi Arabia has been invited to the arms fair once again. Will the Minister tell the House whether the Government are now reviewing all current arms licences to Saudi Arabia following the recent judgment by the Court of Appeal, which instructed them to determine the likelihood of the use of that equipment in serious violation of international humanitarian law, given past violations?
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her question. The UK Government have sought leave to appeal, and have been granted it. We disagree—with respect—with the court in its determination, and note the lower court’s determination that the process was “rigorous”, “robust” and “multi-layered”. The right hon. Lady will, I believe, understand that our processes in this country are among the most robust in the world. I am proud of them, and she should be too, because of the Export Control Act 2002 and the statement made on 26 October 2000, which underpinned the licensing process that we have—under, of course, a previous Government.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One sentence each, please. There are lots of Members trying to get in.
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.
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.
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?
Given the urgency of this matter, I will of course meet the hon. Lady.
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 Government 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.
For one sentence—in hope, not expectation —I call Alistair Burt.
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.