Tuesday 20 November 2018
Universal Children’s Day
Today is Universal Children’s Day, a day that marks the anniversary of the date that the UN General Assembly adopted both the declaration and the convention on the rights of the child.
The UK is a proud and long-standing signatory of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child (UNCRC) and this Government remain fully committed to the promotion and safeguarding of children’s rights.
The UNCRC sets out an enduring vision for all children to grow up in a loving, safe and happy environment where they can develop their full potential, regardless of their background. This Government share that vision and are dedicated to providing the best possible opportunities for all children but especially those who have the hardest start in life.
It has now been over two years since the UN scrutinised the UK’s progress in implementing the UNCRC and published their concluding observations. Since the last report, the UK Government have continued to raise their ambitions for all children and have made concrete progress in making sure that all children have the opportunity to thrive and develop.
For example, my Department has:
strengthened the quality and range of support for society’s most vulnerable children through the Children and Social Work Act 2017;
revised the “Working Together to Safeguard Children” guidance to better safeguard and promote the welfare of children;
improved support for children’s mental health in schools; and,
we are making relationships and sex education compulsory for all secondary school pupils so that young people learn what healthy, safe and respectful relationships look like.
We, as parliamentarians, all play a role in building a fairer society where children can lead happy lives and fulfil their potential. I urge all Government Departments to consider what more they can do to make sure their policies promote the best interests of the child. To help Government Departments to do this, we are proud to be launching a comprehensive children’s rights training package across Government today, which has been developed with the support of children’s rights experts. I strongly encourage my ministerial colleagues to encourage the civil servants in their Departments to take up this training so that children’s rights are further embedded in policy and law making.
In 2010, the UK Government made a commitment to give due consideration to the UNCRC when making policy and legislation. As we approach the 30th anniversary of the convention on the rights of the child, I would like to reaffirm the value that this Government place on the UNCRC and our ongoing commitment to give due consideration to the UNCRC when making policy and legislation.
Post-Council: EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade)
The EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) took place in Brussels on 9 November 2018. I represented the UK at the meeting. A summary of the discussions follows.
Member states unanimously supported the Commission’s approach to modernising the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The discussion focused on the blocking of new appointments to the WTO appellate body and what this meant for its ability to function as the most urgent and serious issue. The functioning of the WTO more generally was also discussed. I highlighted the significance of these issues, and the need for political engagement to support the international rules-based system. I also highlighted the importance of engaging developing countries in the process of reforming the WTO.
The presidency provided updates on foreign direct investment screening and the bilateral safeguard regulation. The Commissioner is seeking political agreement on both files by the end of November. The Commissioner also called on Council to agree a mandate for the recast of the existing EU dual-use regulation by the end of 2018.
Ongoing trade negotiations
The Commissioner updated the Council on the state of play of ongoing EU trade negotiations. On EU-Vietnam, the Commission had adopted and published the English language text for Council decisions on the signature and conclusion of the free trade agreement (FTA) and the investment protection agreement (IPA). The Commissioner also informed Ministers that the European Parliament was due to vote on the EU-Japan economic partnership agreement (EPA) in December and on the EU-Singapore FTA and IPA in early 2019.
The Commission hoped to conclude negotiations with Mercosur and to present the Mexico agreement at the earliest opportunity ahead of the European Parliament elections in spring 2019.
Negotiations were also progressing with Chile, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Tunisia, and on a multilateral investment court (MIC).
Implementation of EU FTAs
The Commissioner presented the EU’s second annual implementation report. She highlighted how FTAs remove trade barriers and open markets, while allowing protection of sensitive products. She also noted that insufficient preference utilisation rates can leave some of the potential from FTAs untapped.
Member states welcomed the report. I highlighted the UK’s ratification of CETA on 8 November and suggested that more could be done to demonstrate the development impact of economic partnership agreements.