Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
The Secretary of State was asked—
Hong Kong: National Security Law
The national security law in Hong Kong is not being used for its original avowed purpose, which according to Beijing was to target
“a tiny number of criminals who…endanger national security”.
Instead, it is being used to stifle the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and undermine the joint declaration.
I welcome the continuing success of the new visa relief for holders of British national overseas status; it reflects the UK’s historic and moral commitment to the people of Hong Kong in the face of the new national security law, which continues to be used to crack down on freedom of expression, as we have just seen from the recent closure of Apple Daily. Will my right hon. Friend confirm what steps he is taking to ensure that those Hongkongers will be welcomed to Britain and able to integrate into our local communities?
I think that this is the most big-hearted offer that the UK has made since the Indian Ugandans fled Idi Amin. My hon. Friend is right that it is not just about offering safe haven; the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has announced a £43 million dedicated support package to ensure that BNOs can integrate and thrive in our country.
We have watched as the situation has deteriorated in Hong Kong and as genocide is committed in Xinjiang. The Foreign Secretary has issued statements and introduced sanctions while clinging to the absurd prospect of boarding a plane to Beijing next year to participate in a public relations coup for the Chinese Government. He is asking the royal family and senior politicians to stand by while journalists are rounded up, pro-democracy protesters are arrested and 1 million Uyghurs are incarcerated in detention camps. In October, before he was overruled by the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, he said that there comes a point where sport and politics cannot be separated. When is that point?
The hon. Lady knows that the participation of any national team in the Olympics is a matter for the British Olympic Association, which is required, as a matter of law under the International Olympic Committee regulations, to take those decisions independently. We have led the international response on Xinjiang, and also on Hong Kong. Of course, as we have said, we will consider the level of Government representation at the winter Olympics in due course.
While the Foreign Secretary continues to duck the question, the Chinese Government have raised the stakes. Yesterday, he admitted that China was responsible for the Microsoft Exchange hack, which saw businesses’ data stolen and hackers demanding millions of pounds in ransom. He said that the Chinese Government
“can expect to be held to account”.
He might want to have a word with the Treasury, because just two weeks ago, at Mansion House, the Chancellor said that it was time to realise
“the potential of a fast-growing financial services market with total assets worth £40 trillion”.
While the Foreign Secretary is imposing sanctions, the Chancellor is cashing cheques. How does the Foreign Secretary expect to be taken seriously in Beijing if he is not even taken seriously around his own Cabinet table?
I thank the hon. Lady, but she is wrong on two counts. It was yesterday that the UK, along with our EU, NATO and US allies and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, publicly attributed the Microsoft Exchange server attacks to the Chinese; it was not then that they took place. She is also wrong in her characterisation of the Mansion House speech. Of course, we have made it clear right across Government that we will hold the Chinese Government to account on human rights, but also on cyber-attacks or other nefarious activities, while also seeking a constructive relationship.
Sexual Violence in Conflict: Ethiopia
Our priority is to get access for humanitarian actors in Tigray. We have seen some improvements since the Foreign Secretary called for greater access, but it is still not good enough. We have, however, deployed an expert at PSVI to Ethiopia in June for a scoping mission, recommendations from which will outline further support that may be possible, including additional deployments.
I thank the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for deploying a member of the PSVI unit or team—whichever we are calling it. It is particularly welcome that we are stepping forward and providing that assistance, but in the light of the fact that the United Nations cannot consider any of the issues without a resolution, will the UK Government push for a resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council to consider all the ongoing human rights abuses in the Tigray region?
We look at all options. Under the G7 presidency, we issued a joint statement of Foreign and Development Ministers on 2 April; there was also a statement on 2 May and a communiqué from leaders on 13 June. We will continue to work with UN colleagues as well.
I welcome the Minister’s response. The allegations of rape and sexual violence have shocked the world. I also welcome the recent comments by our permanent representative to the United Nations about the shocking attacks on humanitarian workers, including those in recent days. Unfortunately, we have heard increasingly inflammatory language from Prime Minister Abiy, and in recent days fighting involving Tigrayan forces has allegedly spread to the Afar region. With famine, violence and so many needs increasing, will the Minister confirm whether our total support to Ethiopia will increase or be cut this year?
We are committed to helping the community, and our support overall will of course increase, but I think the hon. Gentleman is talking not about support but about finance. Actually, what is critical is our focus on resolving the conflict, because only then can we get humanitarian partners in to deliver the aid. Aid convoys have come under attack and 600 vehicles are needed each week, so without a diplomatic effort to quell that conflict—for the Eritreans to remove themselves from Ethiopia and to quell the types of additional conflicts that the hon. Gentleman is talking about—any more money is not going to get through.
Overseas Humanitarian Work
Humanitarian preparedness and response is one of the Foreign Office’s seven priorities under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and is a priority for the UK’s aid budget spend this year. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will spend £906 million to maintain the UK’s role as a force for good at the time of crisis. We have consistently been one of the largest bilateral humanitarian donors globally: since 2015, the UK has provided over £11.1 billion in humanitarian funding. However, it is not all about money. The FCDO is uniquely placed to bring together diplomatic clout and humanitarian expertise, to ensure the drive for more effectiveness in the response to humanitarian crisis through preparedness, and an example of that is the G7 famine compact.
In that case, what is the Minister’s message to constituents in Glasgow North who have donated in good faith to UK Government aid match programmes such as those run by Mary’s Meals or War Child, who have now been told that the match funding they were expecting for every pound donated by a member of the public will be delayed at least until next year? That is delaying and slowing down vital life-saving humanitarian work, so when are the aid match funds going to be released? Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. [Interruption.]
As my ministerial colleagues have just said, the hon. Gentleman answers his question in his question. I pay tribute to the generosity of spirit of the people of the UK—all parts of the UK—who have contributed to humanitarian relief causes. I also pay tribute, of course, to the excellent work of the FCDO members of staff who are based in East Kilbride; they do fantastic work .
May I ask the Minister specifically what support is being made available to the small island states? They have climate vulnerability—they are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events—and they have been devastated financially by the pandemic, but the metrics that are used to calculate whether they count as least-developed countries often do not take into account those particular vulnerabilities. What is he doing to ensure that aid will get to them, and that debt relief is also considered?
The hon. Member makes an important point, and we take our responsibility to small island nations seriously. That issue does not necessarily fall within the humanitarian spend, which is designed for more acute need, but we will of course, through things like COP26, take into consideration the factors that are difficult for small nations to deal with, whether they be island nations or otherwise, and that will always remain a serious piece of work in the FCDO.
The official development assistance budget, before it was cut, would have amounted to 1% of covid borrowing. We all know that the motion that was passed last week essentially spells the end of the 0.7% commitment. In the absence of the development strategy from the Department, which continues to be delayed, is it now the case for the Government that those who need help the most are relegated to the bottom of the pile to wait for everything else to be done, rather than being put front and centre of foreign policy?
The hon. Gentleman seems to disregard the fact that the UK will remain one of the most generous aid donors in the world, spending £10 billion to help some of the poorest people in the world. We are experiencing the worst economic contraction in three centuries, driven by a global pandemic beyond any of our control, but our commitment to get back to 0.7% has now been set out and the conditions for doing so are now public. We are proud of the work that we do supporting the poorest people around the world, and we will continue to be one of the most generous aid donors in the world.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the work he does as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on air pollution. Air pollution is the largest environmental risk to human health and it results in 7 million premature deaths globally. The UK is showing global leadership in this area, and since 2011 UK international climate finance has provided 33 million people with improved access to clean energy and reduced or avoided 31 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
University College London found in its February report that 8.7 million people die each year due to air pollution from fossil fuels. That is one in five deaths globally, and one in three in eastern Asia, including China, which now produces more emissions than the EU and the US combined. Will the Minister press the Government to show leadership at COP26 by enshrining World Health Organisation air quality limits in the Environment Bill to help prevent tens of thousands of avoidable deaths in Britain, and millions abroad?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise east Asia, but there is also south Asia and the Pacific. We are working closely with the COP26 energy transformation, transition and zero-emission vehicles campaigns to make sure there is closer integration with public health objectives. This will facilitate a global, green, healthy and sustainable recovery from the pandemic. I am happy to work with the all-party group in this regard.
We continue to fully support the UN efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, alongside the US, the Saudis and other international partners. The United Nations has put a fair deal on the table, consisting of a ceasefire and a measure to ease restrictions in Hodeidah port and Sanaa airport. However, the Houthis are not engaging constructively with the proposals to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people. Rather than coming to the table, the Houthis continue their offensive in Marib. We are committed to reaching a peaceful settlement to the conflict. We await the appointment of a new special envoy, and we look forward to working with them when they are in place.
After seven years of violence, suffering and hardship, there is still no end in sight, as the Minister acknowledges. The UN has warned that Yemen faces the worst famine the world has seen for decades. After more than halving their aid to the country, what will the Government do to stop families dying of starvation and disease? As penholder for Yemen at the UN, we clearly have a special responsibility. What further pressure are the Government putting on all the parties for meaningful and inclusive peace talks involving all key stakeholders—not simply the Houthis, who are clearly blocking the discussions, but the Hadi Government and the Southern Transitional Council?
The hon. Gentleman is right that we are concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen. We have given over £1 billion-worth of aid to Yemen since the conflict began. I recently spoke about the food security issue with David Beasley of the World Food Programme in the margins of the G7 in Italy.
The best thing we can do for the people of Yemen is to bring this conflict to a conclusion. We engage constructively with the Saudis and the Government of Yemen but, unfortunately, the people we have the most difficulty engaging with meaningfully are the Houthis, and I publicly call upon them to engage with us, to engage with the UN, to engage with this process and to bring peace to these people who so desperately need it.
Where is the morality and sense in the Government trumpeting at the G7 the importance of fighting famine while, at the same time, withdrawing food aid from nearly a quarter of a million people in Yemen? As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) said, Yemen is facing what the UN is calling the worst famine in decades. I am told by the aid agencies that the Government have said they hope to restart the life-saving programmes at some point next year, which is a year too late for those in need now. It is also totally impractical and wasteful to shut down the delivery infrastructure, which takes years to build, only to restart it from scratch a year later. Would it not be better to maintain the current programmes, which are so badly needed and which enhance the UK’s global reputation, rather than making the poorest pay for the global pandemic?
Despite the worst economic contraction in 300 years, the UK remains one of the largest bilateral donors in supporting the humanitarian efforts in Yemen, but it is not just about money, important though that it is; it is also about bringing the diplomatic power of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to bear. I spoke with the Government of Yemen about making sure fuel ships outside the port of Hodeidah are able to land, so that fuel can be used to mill grain and transport food. That work, alongside our work with the United Nations, the Saudis and the Government of Yemen to bring about peace, is the best thing we can do to help the medium and long-term situation for the people of Yemen.
As set out in the integrated review, tackling climate change and biodiversity loss is this Government’s top international priority. As Minister for Africa, it is integral to my work, and so far this year the Foreign Secretary has raised the issue of climate in more than 100 engagements. We are making progress, as can be seen by last month’s first ever net zero G7, where all countries committed to reaching net zero by 2050.
I warmly welcome the commitment by G7 countries to the Build Back Better World initiative, which will be vital in supporting developing countries with clean infrastructure and could unlock greater progress on climate finance at COP26. While congratulating the UK Government on their leadership, may I ask my hon. Friend how he plans to take this forward and secure firm commitments from our allies?
At the end of March, the COP President-designate and the Foreign Secretary hosted the climate and development ministerial. Ministers from 35 climate-vulnerable and donor countries attended, plus representatives from institutions and civil society. At that, we saw consensus about the importance of practical action, and we will continue to build on this success.
Climate change remains a hot topic across my constituency, and I intend to engage with my local schools in COP26-style roundtables. Does my hon. Friend agree that working with young people across the world will help promote international co-operation on climate change? Should he need a doughty champion to do that around the world, I have my passport at the ready.
A stonkingly excellent idea! I am glad my hon. Friend has her passport at the ready—I am sure the Whips will have heard that. Young people are an important voice, and the UK is committed to involving young people in the planning and hosting of COP26. COP26 will engage civil society and the youth advisory council, which is co-chaired by the Kenyan 25-year-old climate change activist and Bella Lack, an 18-year-old climate activist from the UK.
The UK should feel rightly proud of the progress we are making to cut our carbon footprint and our commitment to net zero, but with less than 1% of global emissions it is clear that the UK cannot fight climate change on its own. So will the Minister assure me that we will use both our diplomatic and commercial influence to put pressure on not only the G7, but other nations that are the most polluting to take urgent action to address this matter and reduce their emissions?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: tackling climate change and biodiversity loss will require a global effort. We are asking all countries to agree ambitious nationally determined contributions that align with net zero and to invest in policies that will phase out coal, which will turn these targets into a reality. We have already made great progress, as has been seen by last month’s first ever net zero G7, which I believe he part-hosted.
We have already heard this morning about emissions from China. Following up on the point from my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), I should say that China generates 60% of its electricity from coal, which compares with a figure of just 2% in the UK. As well as being a major contributor to global climate change, that gives Chinese manufacturers a competitive advantage, because it makes their energy costs lower. What discussions have been held with the Chinese authorities to encourage them to speed up their transition to carbon free sources of energy?
The Foreign Secretary raised this issue with Wang Yi, and at the US climate leaders’ summit President Xi made the commitment that China would reduce its coal use. That is a positive sign, but more information is needed, so we look forward to hearing more about how China will strictly control and then reduce coal consumption, to make sure that its commitments are Paris-compatible.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Bede Academy in Blyth where concerned students questioned me on the steps that we are collectively taking to tackle climate change. Will my hon. Friend assure me that the Government are doing all they can to pursue international co-operation on climate change, so that we can best tackle the serious environmental issues and protect our planet for future generations?
My hon. Friend can return to Bede Academy and reassure students that he has raised this matter in the House and that we will tackle climate change and biodiversity. He can also reassure them that that is the Government’s top international priority. We look forward to delivering a successful COP26 this November. That will be a key focus for Ministers and our diplomatic network over the coming months and, indeed, years.
It is vital that climate action does not come at the cost of further crushing debt for developing world countries. Debt cancellation would be one fast way for those countries to free up resources, achieve the sustainable development goals, and tackle the climate crisis. Will the COP26 President and UK Government be pushing for international agreement on this as the SNP has long called for?
That is something that we have worked and delivered on both in Sudan and Somalia recently. We also had a focus on suspending debt initially during this crisis. However, we need to look at all options going forward as we build back better, sorting the debt issue, but doing so in a climate-sensitive way.
It is clear that low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. Wealthier countries, including the UK, have so far failed to commit to the agreed £100 billion climate finance promise made in Paris to address this. Evidence submitted to my International Development Committee inquiry suggests that only 10% to 15% of the current climate finance available actually reaches the local communities that bear the brunt of this emergency. What steps are the Government taking to secure the £100 billion before COP26 and what is the Minister doing to ensure that local communities in the areas worst affected by climate change are consulted, including in designing programmes, and can actually access the climate financing themselves?
On the numbers, the hon. Lady is wrong. We have doubled our commitment to international climate finance to take it up to £11.6 billion. That is a big commitment to the global number, but we are asking other partners to step up, and we will use events such as COP26 in Glasgow and the G7 to encourage others to step up as we have done.
The newly unelected Baroness Davidson of Lundin Links described her Tory colleagues as “a bloody disgrace” for condemning millions of the world’s poorest people to this Government’s death sentence cuts last week. If those cuts were not stupid enough, vital projects combating climate change across the world are now being immediately cancelled as a result. Does the Minister agree with the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh that the Chancellor has cut the COP26 President
“off at the legs. He will not have any credibility… asking other countries”
to be more ambitious on climate change.
The COP26 President-Designate has done a very good job in engaging international partners and we are already making traction. I am not predicting that the hon. Gentleman is wrong; I am saying that the facts already demonstrate that he is wrong. Is it not good that we have a thriving democracy and a variety of views in this House and in the other place?
We remain concerned about reports of human rights violations in relation to recent protests in Colombia, and we regularly raise our concerns with the relevant state actors. I spoke with the then Colombian acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express my concerns and to welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of excessive use of force by the police. I also spoke with the Colombian ambassador to the UK on 12 July to ask for an update on investigations. I was pleased to learn that more than 200 investigations into alleged misconduct by the police are now open.
I am grateful for that answer, but the truth is that the UK Government are providing extensive training and support to Colombian police, despite evidence of extensive police brutality, with up to 43 people allegedly murdered, a catalogue of sexual assaults and people being blinded by having tear gas canisters fired in their face. Will the Minister commit to publishing full overseas security and justice assessments for activities under this programme, so that the House can satisfy itself that the Government are not contributing to further abuses of human rights in Colombia?
On police training, our conflict, stability and security fund’s Colombia peace and stabilisation programme launched the £2.1 million police innovations for stabilisation in Colombia project in 2021. The project is supporting the transformation of the Colombian national police, but we are not aware of any police units in Colombia that have received UK training support being involved in human rights violations. Colombia is a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office human rights priority country. We take the growing levels of violence against social leaders and human rights defenders extremely seriously, and we consistently raise our concerns with the Colombian Government and in multilateral forums.
Human Rights: Trade Deals
FCDO Ministers are in regular contact with Cabinet colleagues on a range of trade-related issues and we are clear that more trade does not have to come at the expense of our commitment to human rights. The UK will continue to show global leadership in encouraging all states to uphold international human rights obligations and will hold to account those who violate human rights. Since the inception of the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020, we have used those powers to impose sanctions on 78 persons involved in human rights violations. The UK has a strong history of protecting human rights and promoting global values. By having a strong economic relationship with partners, we can have more open discussions on a range of issues, including human rights. We continue to take a balanced and proportionate approach with partners to deliver the best outcome for the UK and to maximise the benefits of trade, while ensuring that we promote our core values.
The UK has a free trade agreement with Colombia that contains a human rights clause, but we have just heard that in recent months protesters in Colombia have faced brutal violence at the hands of Colombian police, with human rights organisations documenting 43 protesters potentially killed by the police. Given those abuses, and the Colombian Government’s repeated attempts to deny and minimise the crisis, will the UK Government signal their commitment to human rights and, rather than turn a blind eye, ensure that this human rights clause is actually upheld?
Colombia is an FCDO human rights priority country, and we take the growing reports of violence against social leaders and human rights defenders extremely seriously. We consistently raise our concerns with the Colombian Government and in multilateral forums. The point that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), has just made is still very much the case. When we export our products and services, we also export our values and buy the right to have serious conversations with partners around the world.
Will the Minister confirm here and now that it is our foreign policy to defend human rights and the rule of law across the world? Does he agree that, as well as putting UK businesses with high human rights and labour rights at a disadvantage, signing trade agreements with some of the world’s worst human rights abusers without any human rights clauses undermines that policy and our global reputation?
The UK is proud to be incredibly vocal on the international stage about our commitment to human rights. As I have said, having an open and expansive trade policy is not any kind of contradiction to our passion for promoting human rights. If the hon. Member has particular concerns about forthcoming trade agreements and the human rights elements thereof, please feel free to write to the Department.
During an Adjournment debate earlier this year, the Minister for Trade Policy justified the deal with Cameroon on the basis that there had been a reduction in human rights abuses against its own people. Next day in the House, the Under-Secretary of State for International Trade, the hon. Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena), refused to confirm whether he was right or wrong. So can this Minister tell the House what level of abuse the Government are prepared to accept with similar oppressive regimes to grant them a trade deal with the UK?
We continue to monitor the situation in Cameroon closely. We raise our concerns directly with the Cameroonian Government and within multilateral forums calling for an inclusive dialogue and the end to violence. As I say, the Government have always been clear that increased trade will not come at the expense of our values and, specifically, will not come at the expense of our commitment to human rights. We want to have trade relationships with countries around the world, but ultimately the foundation stone on which all Government activity is built is our commitment to human rights.
I spent 16 years in the European Parliament scrutinising and voting on trade policy. Trade policy is not just about trade; it is an opportunity to raise standards on the environment, human rights and elsewhere. It is therefore really concerning that, in 179 pages, the Department for International Trade’s 2021-22 statement makes no mention of human rights, slave labour or workers’ rights at all. This is a missed opportunity. SNP support for future trade deals cannot be taken for granted—it was not in the European Parliament, as often we did not find them ambitious enough. In a constructive spirit, I urge that we have an FCDO statement to ensure co-operation between the two policy areas so that future trade deals can raise standards in these vital areas.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving us due notice that the support of the SNP for future trade arrangements cannot be guaranteed. I had kind of worked that out by myself, because over the past 15 years the SNP has never backed a trade agreement anywhere. There is, no doubt, always a reason for SNP Members to say no to trade agreements. To return to the broader point, our commitment to human rights is a foundation stone of our foreign policy and our “force for good” agenda in the world. We will ensure that we use our trade relationships not just to export products and services but to export our principles and values. He is right that that should be an inherent part of all trade agreements, and indeed it is, but ultimately, given that the SNP will be looking for an excuse to say no to a deal, he, I am sure, will always find one.
Covid-19 Vaccines: Global Distribution
Through our investment in the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine, our finance for COVAX and our commitment of 100 million vaccine doses from surplus domestic supply, the UK is a global leader in our support for vaccinating the poorest around the world.
Lebanon has been hit by a succession of crises in recent months, not least the massive explosion in the port of Beirut last year, a deepening economic crisis, and rising political instability. Can the Foreign Secretary assure me that his Department is doing everything it can to support the people of Lebanon with their vaccine deployment so that Lebanese people do not have to endure shortages of covid-19 vaccines on top of the hardship that they are already enduring?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He will recall that, last year, as that terrible disaster took place, we committed $2 million in extra support for medical equipment. In relation to vaccines, in March, Lebanon received its first doses from COVAX: 33,600 AZ vaccines. The UK, through our £90 million commitment, got the AstraZeneca vaccine at cost price to the world, and the vast majority of COVAX doses—some 98%—that will have reached Lebanon have been the AZ vaccine. That demonstrates the value that the UK is providing not just with the domestic roll-out but abroad as well.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. At the G7, by making it clear that we would donate 100 million doses from surplus domestic supply by the end of June 2022, we also leveraged 1 billion doses from other countries. We are committing 80% to COVAX, which will be distributed according to its criteria, and a further 20% on a strategic basis. Allocations will be announced in due course.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in praising the employees of Wockhardt in my constituency of Clwyd South for the indispensable role they have played in our vaccine manufacturing process? It has allowed us not only to roll out doses swiftly and effectively in the UK, but to support countries across the rest of the world that have been badly hit by the covid pandemic.
My hon. Friend can be rightly very proud of the role his constituents have played. It is not only Wockhardt employees, but the wider AstraZeneca collaboration with Government and the £90 million of support that the Government put in for research and development and for getting capacity up that have meant that we not only have this world-beating domestic vaccine roll-out, but have supplied 98% of the vaccine to the poorest and most vulnerable countries around the world delivered by COVAX.
Less than 1% of sub-Saharan Africa has been fully vaccinated, leaving the Prime Minister’s claim that he would vaccinate the entire world hanging by a thread and his credibility in tatters. Having sneaked out cuts to the aid budget, which his Government have now made permanent, he has made the UK the third lowest donor in the G7, and in the middle of a pandemic, this Foreign Secretary has presided over the largest drop in humanitarian aid of any major donor country, apart from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It is clear that the Foreign Secretary’s claim that the UK’s reputation has not been diminished under his watch is unfounded in reality. What does he say in response to the damning comments last week of the former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf? He said that this Government’s cuts will have
“a negative impact on millions of people in less wealthy nations”.
If this Government have a conscience, they will want to know how many lives have and will be lost as a result of these cuts. I urge him to publish the impact assessments immediately so that more lives can be saved, but will he do it?
What I would say to the hon. Lady is that Labour promised it would hit 0.7% in 1974. That was the year in which I was born. Labour has never once hit 0.7%. It only twice hit 0.5%, so we will take no lectures from the Labour party when we are the third biggest G7 donor when it comes to aid.
Israel and Palestine
The UK Government share the objectives of increasing understanding and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. UK officials remain in close contact with the US Government regarding the international fund. The US is at the early stages in its planning and, once more information is available, we will consider options for collaboration.
The UK’s overseas business risk guidance is intended to provide guidance for UK businesses to identify and mitigate security and political risks when trading overseas. The guidance is not aimed at public bodies or Her Majesty’s Government. The UK’s position on settlements is clear, and we have articulated it regularly. We regard them as illegal under international law, and they are therefore a risk to the economic and financial activities in settlements. We do not encourage or offer support for such activity.
The UK consulate in Jerusalem has given vocal support to oppose the illegal evictions in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah. What practical action can the UK Government take to ensure that those evictions end? They run contrary to the intentions of the international fund for peace and, as the Minister has just stated, we are opposed to illegal occupations.
The UK enjoys a close and important relationship with Israel, and because we have that close relationship, we are able directly to bring up sensitive issues. I and my ministerial colleagues have brought up with the Israeli Government our opposition to those demolitions.
Given that the Minister has just said that his Department’s policy is not to encourage or support economic and financial activity in settlements, will he at least say that, where public bodies decide that they do not wish to invest in settlements, following his Government’s advice, he will not stand in their way in doing so?
Procurement by public bodies is governed by various public procurement regulations. The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 require contracting authorities to treat all economic operators equally and without discrimination. In addition, the Local Government Act 1988 requires local authorities to exercise their functions in relation to public supply or works contracts without regard to non-commercial matters, which includes the location in any country or territory.
Human Rights Abuses
Under UK leadership, the G7 has committed to work collectively to strengthen the foundations of open societies and to promote human rights, including agreeing new measures to support media freedoms, tackle disinformation and enhance co-ordination of freedom of religion, sanctions and, indeed, arbitrary detention.
[Inaudible]—facing harassment and imprisonment without due cause since the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked by India. The United Kingdom proudly stands for freedom and democracy, so can my hon. Friend ensure that he will use the full weight of his Department, via discussions with the G7 and others, to ensure that these terrible abuses of human rights in Kashmir are put to an end?
I think I got the drift of the question, although I missed the beginning. We recognise that there are human rights concerns both in India-administered Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. We encourage all states to ensure that domestic laws are in line with international standards, and any allegation—any allegation—of human rights violations or abuse is deeply concerning and must be investigated thoroughly, promptly and transparently.
The UK has led international efforts to press China to grant urgent and unfettered access to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Is the Foreign Secretary concerned about the deliberate erosion of trust in America’s electoral system—in particular, what is playing out in Arizona—and what lessons should be learned here, where, as in America, there is no evidence of electoral fraud on anything other than a minuscule scale? Does he really think the Elections Bill is going to help or hinder our democracy?
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for calling me. The line from Kent is pretty terrible, I am afraid, but that is a complaint for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Today, on Eid al-Adha, will the Foreign Secretary join me in welcoming the number of Muslim communities in the UK who have come from abroad to make their lives here, but will he also reach out to Muslim communities around the world and ask them to stand with the people of Xinjiang, who this year will not be celebrating—as, indeed, they have not been celebrating for many years—under the rule of the Chinese Communist party and the authoritarian dictatorship that it has caused?
I thank my hon. Friend, and he is absolutely right. We celebrate the role of all communities and all religions in this country: they make Britain what it is. He is absolutely right to say—I regularly raise it with my colleagues and opposite numbers overseas—that particularly in Muslim-majority countries it seems there is not quite as much concern as in the UK and other western, non-Muslim-majority countries about human rights abuses. This is an actor-agnostic issue; it is merely about treatment—persecution—based on religion, creed or ethnicity. We call on all countries to uphold those basic values, but particularly those most directly affected with the victims in Xinjiang.
Last week, the Government finally gave the EU ambassador the legal recognition they so arrogantly denied him earlier this year, and last month we saw the Government’s needlessly antagonistic approach towards our European partners overshadow the G7 summit and consequently hamper international efforts to tackle pressing global challenges. Does the Foreign Secretary now accept that this was a mistake that has undermined our relationship with Europe, and will he commit to treating our European partners as equals to ensure that we can work together on common concerns such as security, freedom of speech, covid and climate change?
Particularly after the Harry Dunn case, and what we learned about the risk of finding gaps in immunity—including long-standing gaps that date back to the last Labour Government—I will make no apologies for being very careful with EU representation, which falls somewhere between a normal international organisation and a sovereign Government’s mission. We must ensure that privileges and immunities are tailored to their functional need, and that we do not find ourselves with a gap. That means that we can hold people to account for ordinary crimes, as the public would expect. Frankly, given the various voices from the Labour Front Bench who have raised the case of Harry Dunn, I am utterly surprised that the hon. Lady would not expect us to take such a rigorous approach.
My hon. Friend raises an important point on a very sensitive issue. International child parental abduction is a hugely distressing matter for the parents and families affected, and they have my deepest sympathy. Consular officials can provide support to British people affected by such issues both overseas and here in the UK. Officials can advise left-behind parents about the most effective way to make local authorities aware of the court orders they hold. Where appropriate, the FCDO can express an interest in the case with the relevant court and other local authorities. We can also put families in touch with partner organisations, such as Reunite International, which offers specialised support and mediation services. We can liaise with local authorities and, with the permission of UK courts, present with court orders served in the UK, but it is important to note that the FCDO is not a law enforcement body and is unable to enforce court orders in the UK overseas. We are unable to compel foreign jurisdictions to enforce UK—
We take our responsibilities on those issues very seriously. We have one of the most stringent export control regimes in the world, and we regularly review it. At the same time, with our introduction for the first time ever in this country of an autonomous human rights sanction regime, the so-called Sergei Magnitsky sanctions regime, we have shown that from Xinjiang to the murder of Khashoggi and the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar, we will not hesitate to hold those who violate serious fundamental rights to account.
As I said earlier, the UK values and welcomes means for Israelis and Palestinians to work more closely together, and we call on the leadership of both to do so at Government and Palestinian Authority level. We work closely with our US counterparts, and we will continue working with them as they put more details on that fund. Once they are in a position to engage with us in more detail, we will consider that in due course.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised this very issue with his Israeli counterpart, I have raised it with the Israeli ambassador, and we have consistently called for sensitivity in the security arrangements around the most holy sites in Jerusalem. We continue to call for a permanent ceasefire, and we will continue to work with all parties, both in the west bank and in Israel, to pursue that aim.
We scrutinise very carefully any allegations—the hon. Gentleman has called them allegations—of human rights abuses. I can tell him about the supply of rubber gloves from Malaysia. At the peak of the pandemic, when we were seeking personal protective equipment for our NHS staff on the frontline, in care homes, we of course looked at all possible suppliers, including Malaysia, which is one of the biggest global suppliers of rubber gloves.
AMR is one of the most pressing global challenges we face this century, and the UK is a global leader in taking action on AMR. We champion it as a priority on the international stage, including through our G7 presidency and the work of Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s special envoy on AMR. Since 2014, we have invested more than £360 million in research and development on AMR.
The Prime Minister did indeed meet Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán on 28 May. Co-operation with Hungary, as the incoming president of the Visegrad Group from 1 July, is important for the UK’s prosperity and security. As hon. Members would expect, the Prime Minister raised various values in his meeting, such as media freedom and issues of discrimination. I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that where we have issues of concern, we do not shy away from raising them.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point to the continued systemic non-compliance by Iran with its JCPOA commitments. Of course, Iran is still subject to wide-ranging sanctions. We strongly urge Iran to halt all its activities in violation of the JCPOA and, in line with the new US position, come back to the table and make sure that we can conclude a return to the JCPOA. I would just say that we do not believe that those negotiations can remain open-ended forever.
I totally agree with the hon. Lady. I have been out to both Israel and the west bank twice. We are a stalwart supporter of Israel, but we also, not least because of our principled approach to international law, make it clear, whether on the evictions, the demolitions in Jerusalem or the broader question of settlement building, that they are not just contrary to international law but entirely counterproductive to the peace set-up we need to see for a durable two-state solution for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Labour Members are talking about cuts. We have just made the biggest ever donation to the Global Partnership for Education, a 15% increase on last time. As a result, at the G7 we corralled one of the biggest G7 sets of donations—close to $3 billion. We are hosting, with our Kenyan friends, the Global Education summit in the next few days. The point is that, through the leadership of our official development assistance contribution and our diplomatic leadership, we are bringing the world together in pursuit of two targets: 40 million more girls receiving 12 years quality education, and 20 million more girls literate by the age of 10.
The UK is supporting the joint investigation into abuses and violations in Tigray, which will inform actions against those identified as having committed abuses or violations. I want to be very clear: we will consider all—all—policy options in response. We will also co-sponsor a resolution at the July Human Rights Council, and conflict experts are providing technical advice to guide our response during this crisis.