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Events at US Capitol

Volume 687: debated on Tuesday 19 January 2021

What assessment he has made of the effect of events at the US Capitol building on 6 January 2021 on the state of democracy worldwide. (910976)

What recent discussions he has had with the US Administration on reports of the (a) detention and (b) assault of journalists covering the rioting in Washington, D.C. on 6 January 2021. (911009)

The resumption of Congress and the certification of Joe Biden’s victory on 7 January sent an essential message that the democratic will of the US people cannot be challenged by a violent minority.

In the wake of what happened on Capitol hill, politicians around the world looked on in condemnation at the incendiary language of Mr Trump—without regretting how close a relationship they had formed with the President. Sadly, though, the same cannot be said for political figures in this Government. So I must ask the Foreign Secretary whether he and his party regret cosying up to Trump, kowtowing to him and legitimising him and his racist, climate change-denying rhetoric, or will they remain eclipsed by any populist leader who comes along?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman’s assertion and caricature are very far from the truth. We made it clear that the scenes by a small but ugly minority in Washington were disgraceful. We also made it clear we had full confidence in the system of checks and balances in the US to provide a definitive result and a smooth transition. We look forward to working with the new Administration.

There were 342 assaults on journalists in America last year and there have been 13 further this year. Will my right hon. Friend work with the new Administration in America to protect the rights of journalists around the world, and also call on social media companies to do more—[Interruption]—not just to tackle harmful disinformation, but to make sure that social media platforms are not used to incite attacks against journalists?

I thank my hon. Friend. I do not know whether that bell came from his end or our end, but in any event it certainly added a bit of flourish to his question.

It’s Amazon, is it? Okay. Thank you, Mr Speaker, as ever.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The press must be allowed to cover events without fear or denial of access. We have discussed our concerns about the violent events that we saw at official level, but also at ministerial level. I have done that myself. I can assure him no British journalists were detained. Of course, working with Canada and others, we have a media freedom coalition, and we certainly look forward to co-operating with the US and many others to pioneer that work through our global leadership year in 2021.

Today, we all utterly condemn the lawless and violent storming of the US Capitol on 6 January, with the FBI identifying the involvement of far-right activists and domestic terrorists. It is clear that, week after week, President Trump’s behaviour, undermining the electoral victory of President-elect Biden, played a key role in inciting the mob. Does the Foreign Secretary believe that this violent episode has damaged democracy, and what urgent steps can be taken to mend the sense that our Government were lukewarm around the election time and failed to uphold the sense of democracy that we all deeply care about?

I say to the hon. Lady that the UK was not lukewarm, and she must have missed the Prime Minister’s statement in which he was very clear that what President Trump should have done—[Interruption.] We do not conduct diplomacy by Twitter, unlike the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy). We were absolutely clear about it. At the same time, we are also confident in the US system of checks and balances, and we are very much looking forward to working with the new Administration.