Since the last oral questions, I have called on China, with our international partners, to adhere to its international obligations to respect the autonomy and freedom of the people of Hong Kong; we have welcomed President Macron to the UK from France to celebrate and pay tribute on the 80th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s appel; and I met E3 partners in Berlin last week to discuss Iran, the middle east peace process and ongoing negotiations in relation to Brexit.
I say to the hon. Gentleman that on Yemen we absolutely are part of the solution. I visited Saudi Arabia, where I had the chance not just to meet Saudi Ministers and members of the royal family, but to talk to the President of Yemen. We are fully supporting Martin Griffiths’ work as the UN envoy, and this is an exceptional example of where we can bring our aid budget—the significant contributions that we make—to alleviate the humanitarian plight, while also trying to resolve the broader conflict.
I am not going to be drawn down the tempting line offered by my hon. Friend, but he is right to say that the merger of our aid budget, and the heart and soul of our development expertise, with the Foreign Office network, and the diplomatic clout and muscle that we can contribute, will make our foreign policy more effective. I think I can give him a crumb of reassurance, which is that trade commissioners will be directly accountable to the ambassador or high commissioner in the specific post. That will make sure that we are more aligned and joined up, country by country, in the way he has described.
In the wake of revelations about potential Russian exploitation of the covid-19 pandemic here in the UK and press reports in recent days that Russian officials have paid bounties for British troops in Afghanistan—who have served for more than 10 years in that most dangerous region—does the Secretary of State accept that the Government’s failure to produce the Russia report, which everyone in this House has been waiting for, shows just how weak the Government are on national security?
First, I know that the hon. Lady would not expect me to comment on intelligence matters or, indeed, intelligence matters from other countries. I can tell her that right across the board we work with our Five Eyes partners on some of the nefarious activities that Russia is engaged in. We work very closely, through our security presence in Afghanistan, to protect all our staff and British nationals. The Intelligence and Security Committee report of course awaits the formation of the new ISC, but I understand that it will be published shortly.
Not only have we had advice from the JBC in relation to the review of quarantine and the potential exemptions, but it has also helped to inform the approach on travel advice. There are of course strict legal requirements that we must go through when we revise travel advice. We are considering exempting certain countries and certain territories, and we will update our travel advice shortly. Indeed, I believe my right hon. Friend will find that the Secretary of State for Transport will today publish a written ministerial statement that will give further updates.
I know that the hon. Gentleman follows this issue assiduously. I have raised with the Indian Foreign Minister issues in relation to human rights in Kashmir. We continue to regard it as a bilateral dispute that needs to be resolved between Pakistan and India, but the issues the hon. Gentleman has raised are important, we are concerned about them and we do raise them with the Indian Government.
As I set out in my statement on 19 June, in relation to cyber-attacks we stand shoulder to shoulder with our Australian close friends, partners and allies. We work closely across all Five Eyes partners to strengthen our resilience, and that applies in relation to cyber-attacks from not only state actors but, increasingly, non-state actors as well.
The UK Government’s commitment to Yemen is unwavering. We welcome the ceasefire announcement from Saudi Arabia, and we encourage the Houthis to engage with that peace initiative and to cease their attacks into Saudi. As I say, we support the work of the United Nations special envoy and will continue not only to discharge our humanitarian duties to the people of Yemen but to work at a diplomatic level to bring about a permanent end to the conflict.
I thank my hon. Friend, who I know has been a stalwart champion of freedom of speech ever since we both entered the House. I reassure him. I spoke to Amal Clooney about the case; Maria Ressa was her client and worked very closely with her. I know that the Minister for Asia has raised this with the ambassador from the Philippines. I also discussed the case with Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State.
More broadly, there are three elements of our strategy for preserving media freedom around the world. We have a joint campaign with the Canadians to strengthen media freedoms and protect journalists. We are championing freedom of religious belief around the world and I will shortly—certainly before the summer recess—be bringing the new Magnitsky legislation to this House, both the legal regime and the first designations we will be adopting.
I have spoken to President Abbas and Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Ashkenazi, as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu previously. We make clear that the United Kingdom’s consistent position—in fairness, across all sides of this House—is that we want to see a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. We acutely feel that the vacuum without talks is very dangerous. We want to see talks proceed. That is why we are working with those partners in the region, Arab countries and the E3.
Let me be absolutely crystal clear to the House: we have made clear that any annexation, partial or full, in relation to further territory in the occupied territories and the west bank would be both contrary to international law and counterproductive to peace.
The UK’s position on imported goods from Israel remains unchanged. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has highlighted, we oppose annexation. We have made it clear to the Government of Israel that we regard it as contrary to international law, and also not in their own interests. That position will remain unchanged.
I agree with my hon. Friend in relation to the concerns he has raised about Iran’s conduct. We do want to keep the joint comprehensive plan of action. We would like to do better and we think there is an opportunity to do better in the future, but that is what we have got now. In order to hold Iran’s feet to the fire and to hold them to account, the United Kingdom, with our French and German partners, triggered the dispute resolution mechanism. I was in Berlin last week for E3 consultations about how we will approach this issue and how we will continue to hold Iran to account. My hon. Friend is absolutely right; we will strive with all of our international partners to continue the arms embargo on Iran.
I am not sure I caught all of that, but I think I caught the gist. One of the things that covid-19 has shown is the need for global co-operation and, frankly, the good co-operation we have had with some that might ostensibly seem unlikely partners. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I take the opportunity to pay tribute to my Cuban opposite number, who during the coronavirus challenge provided proactive support to ensure that we could get passengers off the Braemar cruise ship—I think I am correct in saying there were something like 600 passengers at very high risk and a significant number of people with coronavirus symptoms—and back to the United Kingdom to the care they needed. We certainly welcome all of that collaboration.
The Foreign Office has put an incredible amount of work in. If the hon. Lady looks at the number of UK nationals who have been returned, it is over 1 million because of the work we did to keep commercial flights going. There were also the special charter flights we commissioned. We put £75 million in and tens of thousands of people got home via that route. I think we have had one of the most proactive and effective responses. It has been very difficult. We have also made sure there are loans for those who would otherwise be stranded. I am proud of the work across Government, but particularly from the consular division of the Foreign Office, to look after British nationals in their time of need.