The United Kingdom has long promoted its values globally. We are clear that more trade does not have to come at the expense of our values. While our approach to agreements will vary between partners, it will always allow this Government to open discussions on issues, including on rights and responsibilities.
Following on from the Minister’s response, successive UK Governments have believed in the principle that all new trade treaties should contain clauses allowing those treaties to be suspended if the other party engages in serious abuses of human rights, yet the UK recently signed new treaties with Singapore, Vietnam and Turkey, none of which had those clauses, despite ongoing concerns about the records of those countries. Can the Minister please explain why?
The hon. Lady might be misunderstanding the nature of the continuity programme for rolling over existing agreements. I point out that, on Turkey, the underlying agreement dates from 1963, and there were no human rights clauses in that agreement, but that does not mean to say that we do not have a robust discussion with Turkey on human rights. The EU-Vietnam framework agreement was separate and was not necessary to achieve trade continuity, but again we have a good dialogue with Vietnam on human rights. The UK and Singapore have agreed a UK-Singapore political joint statement to reflect our close partnership. Once that is signed, it will be published on gov.uk.
We have spent much time in this Chamber quite rightly talking about the fate of the Uyghurs and China’s treatment of them. Does the Minister agree that that issue needs to be dealt with in any trade deal, to ensure that we are not endorsing such genocidal actions?
I am extremely sympathetic to the hon. Lady’s question. The Foreign Secretary delivered an extensive statement on this topic on Tuesday. Of course, the UK is not negotiating a free trade agreement with China. However, the Foreign Secretary announced on Tuesday a review of export controls, financial penalties for organisations not complying with the Modern Slavery Act 2015, strengthening the overseas business risk guidance and making sure that the Government have the information we need to exclude suppliers complicit in human rights violations in Xinjiang.
May I ask the Minister very simply why he feels it was appropriate to roll over a trade agreement with Egypt, a country that routinely detains and executes political opponents and religious minorities, persecutes its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and suppresses democratic freedoms, and why no effort was made to strengthen the human rights provisions in that agreement?
The continuity programme is all about rolling over the deals that are there. I do not believe that there was any diminution of human rights provisions in the agreement with Egypt, or certainly of the effect of those provisions. We have a regular dialogue with Egypt on these issues. There is an extremely difficult internal security situation in Egypt, which the hon. Lady will know has affected British nationals directly as well. It is careful to get that balance right in all our dialogues with countries such as Egypt.