Since the last oral questions, I have hosted my German and French counterparts at Chevening to discuss Iran and Belarus. I visited Washington where I met Vice-President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo and others to discuss the free trade agreement and a range of foreign policy issues. In late September I visited South Korea and Vietnam to forge closer partnerships and discuss our application for ASEAN dialogue partner status.
My hon. Friend takes a close interest in this issue, and he will know that India and Pakistan are both long-standing and important friends of the United Kingdom. We have encouraged, and continue to encourage, both sides to engage in the dialogue that is necessary to find a lasting diplomatic solution to the situation in Kashmir, and to maintain regional stability. It is, of course, ultimately for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution, taking into account the wider issues of the people of Kashmir.
The Foreign Secretary has said that the Chinese Government must accept the responsibilities that come with being a leading member of the international community, and he has rightly highlighted the egregious human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Since July, he has apparently been gathering evidence to impose targeted sanctions against the officials involved, but so far we have seen very little action. Today China is standing to be elected to the UN Human Rights Council. While I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s willingness to speak out about this issue, surely, today of all days, we should take a clear moral stance and show that the UK has more than words at our disposal. Will he confirm that we will oppose China taking a seat on that council?
I suspect the hon. Lady will know that the UK has a long practice, under successive Governments, of not commenting on voting in UN elections that are conducted by secret ballot—[Interruption.] Never under a Labour Government: the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) is wrong.
The hon. Lady and I stand in total solidarity on the point of principle. We have unequivocally made clear to China our grave concern about Xinjiang. On 6 October, since we last met, the UK joined 38 other countries in the UN Third Committee to call on China to allow immediate and unfettered access to independent UN observers.
May I say to the Foreign Secretary, who is a former human rights lawyer, that it is quite desperate and a sign of our diminished influence in the world that the UK is not willing to take a stance on this important issue? We are deeply concerned about our relations with the rest of the world. Whether it is the covid vaccine, climate change, the Iran deal, west bank annexation, NATO or Scotch whisky, the Government appear to have no influence at all in Washington at the moment when we most need it. We are told that they are now scrambling to repair the damage to relations with Joe Biden and his team. There is no greater indication of why that matters than the case of Harry Dunn. In July, the Foreign Secretary told the House he had reached an agreement with the US about immunity arrangements for the Croughton annex. His repeated refusal to publish that agreement has fuelled the family’s anguish and underlined the widespread belief that his Department has chosen to side with the US Government over its own citizens. Why does he believe that neither Parliament nor the family of Harry Dunn should see the small print of this important agreement with the United States?
We did indeed change the arrangements, exactly as I undertook to the family and to the House. We also issued a written ministerial statement, which set out the terms. When the Labour party was in government, at two points when they reviewed the arrangements for Croughton, they did not make a WMS and they did not put into the public domain the memorandum of understanding. It has been standard practice not to do so, and I think the hon. Lady knows that.
I am going to say to both Front Benchers once again that from today onwards—just a warning—I will be stopping questions that are too long. Topicals are meant to be short and punchy for the benefit of everyone. I have got to get through a list. Please, let us help to make sure that other hon. Members get on it.
I reassure my hon. Friend that the raison d’être of the merger is to bring together our aid clout and heft with our diplomatic reach and muscle. If he looks at the visit I made to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, he will see the support we provided for the Palestinians in dealing with covid alongside our diplomatic support for a two-state solution; if he looks at the situation in Yemen, he will see that we are doing the same; and he will see the same in our response to the explosion in the port of Beirut. I think he will find that we are practising what we preach, which brings together the aid—taxpayers’ money—with our diplomatic muscle to make a real difference on the ground.
We have a European Council this week. The scope and the prospects for a deal are there. I am hopeful that we can close the gap, but ultimately it will require the same good will, the same pragmatism and the same flexibility on the EU side that the United Kingdom and this Prime Minister have shown.
I share the hon. Lady’s view about the importance of scrutiny. We have made clear our commitment to not just maintaining but strengthening the Independent Commission for Aid Impact. Select Committees of the House are ultimately a matter for the usual channels and for the House, but we will make sure that the FCDO is willing to be scrutinised whatever the House decides.
I thank my hon. Friend and pay tribute to her work in government; I know her commitment on this issue. She will know that since 2015, the UK has supported 8 million girls to gain a decent education. What is important is not just the number, but the quality of education. Our global objective is to help 40 million girls into a decent education. That is a key focus of our use of ODA—this touches on the point about merging DFID and the Foreign Office—and it is also one of our top priorities for 2021, in the context of both the summit that she mentioned and our G7 presidency.
I absolutely agree with the concern that the hon. Lady has raised. Bringing ODA into the FCDO gives us the opportunity to raise these issues diplomatically, as well as to look very carefully at our aid budget. We are a member of the International Religious Freedom Alliance. We are looking to co-host one of the next summits, whether that is next year or the following year, depending on covid, and the issue that she raises will be very much at the top of our agenda.
We continue to hold Iran to account for its destabilising activity in the region. We currently have over 200 EU sanctions listings in place against Iran, including sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and FCDO officials take every opportunity to discuss Iran with our US counterparts. As part of this regular dialogue, the Foreign Secretary last spoke to Secretary Pompeo on 16 September.
I agree with the hon. Member about the importance of raising human rights. The most recent thing we did, with my French and German counterparts as E3, was issue a démarche to Tehran on the human rights situation, including not only the case that he raises but the fate and arbitrary detention of the UK dual nationals held in Iran.
My right hon. Friend makes a good point about the shifting economics and the shifting geopolitical centre of gravity. We have more co-operation with South America, as well as other regions, and that will be crucial if we are to shift the dial on climate change. Earlier this week I had a strategic dialogue with my Brazilian opposite number that was very much about not only the issues he raises but tackling deforestation and sustainable commodity use.
Turkey is a close partner and a strategic ally in NATO, and has Council of Europe obligations. We raise the whole suite of international obligations that apply as a matter both of customary international law and of the conventions that Turkey itself has signed up to.
That is a good example for all the other challenges we have; it is an area where we must work with China if we are going to shift the dial on climate change. China is the largest emitter, but also the largest investor in renewables. My right hon. Friend will have seen the welcome recent commitment by China to be carbon neutral by 2060. In that and other areas—including, for example, the recent UN General Assembly leaders’ pledge for nature on biodiversity, co-led by the UK—we want to work with China. We will not persuade others to step up to the plate unless we can shift the dial with China.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an important strategic partner, and we recognise its right to defend itself against attack from parties within Yemen. The UK has a stringent arms control regime, and it is used whenever we work with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in terms of arms trade with the Kingdom.
My hon. Friend brings the passion for journalism that he had outside this House to the core of this issue. He is right to say that we value the role of the BBC World Service in projecting UK soft power around the world, and I will look very carefully at future funding in the context of the spending review.
Saudi Arabia has been an ally of ours against terrorism for some time. Foremost among Saudis, the erstwhile crown prince Muhammad bin Nayef was a great friend of this country. He has now disappeared from public life, with great concerns over his safety. Will the Foreign Secretary make plain the importance of Prince bin Nayef’s safety to the United Kingdom Government?
Canada and the Netherlands have formally joined the International Court of Justice case, led by Gambia, on the genocide against the Rohingya people by the Myanmar Government. Can the Foreign Secretary explain why the UK Government, despite being a penholder on the UN Security Council, for instance, in relation to Burma, have not done so, and when he plans to change that? Will he meet me and my co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the rights of the Rohingya to discuss this matter further?
We have a Commonwealth Foreign Ministers’ meeting coming up, where we will be looking at the further amount of support we are providing to ease the humanitarian plight of the Rohingya. We have looked at the ICJ proceedings and will continue to keep those under close review.