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Proposed Trade Deal with India: Human Rights

Volume 744: debated on Thursday 25 January 2024

4. If she will take steps to ensure that the proposed trade deal with India includes legal commitments on upholding human rights. (901138)

The UK is a leading advocate for human rights around the world. When we have concerns on human rights, they are raised directly with partner Governments, including at ministerial level, and that includes India. Trade negotiations with India are continuing, to build on our £38 billion trading relationship and get better access to 1.4 billion consumers.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but an industry risk analysis dataset shows that India ranks among the worst performing countries for human rights abuses across a host of key industries. My question is a specific one and I would like an answer please: have the Government consulted human rights monitoring bodies and experts, and are the Government actively considering the impact of this deal on human rights abuses in India?

I congratulate the hon. and learned Lady on her recent election as Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The UK engages regularly with the Indian Government and other Governments around the world, bilaterally and multilaterally. Where we have concerns on human rights, we raise them directly with the partner Government, including at ministerial level.

I must say, though, that I am not entirely sure that whatever we do on human rights will make any difference to whether the SNP will support this trade deal. It is not only fans of free trade agreements who have noticed; we have all noticed that the SNP has never supported any trade deal negotiated by either the EU or the UK. It has abstained on Japan and Singapore and has been against Canada, Australia and South Korea—and even against Ukraine. [Interruption.]

I would like to give the Minister another chance, because that was pretty dismal stuff even by his standards. India has one of the poorest human rights records in the world when it comes to child labour. To give the Minister an opportunity to get us to a position where we could potentially support a deal, will he explain how Ministers and the Government are engaging with negotiators in India to tackle child labour there and to ensure that the United Kingdom does not become complicit in that exploitation?

Of course the UK has a very proud record on labour standards and on raising these issues with counterparts at all levels. Lord Ahmad was in India just a couple of weeks ago raising specific human rights issues, including a case that the SNP has raised frequently. The Government are proud of our record on labour protections and have been clear that an FTA with India does not come at the expense of labour standards. But may I refer the hon. Gentleman back to the rhetorical question: when will the SNP ever support a trade deal with anybody?

Minister, you know it is not your responsibility to ask the question. It is for others to ask you the questions. Come on—you know better than that as an ex-chair of the Conservative party.