Human Rights Covenants

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th December 1973.

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Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth 12:00 am, 19th December 1973

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on Her Majesty's Government's study of the possibilities of ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and publish a list of the countries which have now ratified the covenant.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Rowley Regis and Tipton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish a list of States which have now ratified the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Brighton, Pavilion

On the question of our study of the possibility of ratifying the covenants, I have nothing to add to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) on 14th December.—[Vol. 866, c. 2123.] As at 1st December, 23 States have now ratified the covenants. I shall, with permission, circulate a list in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth

I appreciate the Government's difficulties, but have not they shown extreme tardiness, in direct contrast to the speed with which they recognised reactionary régimes like those in Chile, Greece and one or two other places which I shall not name? Is it not time that the decision of 1966 received more consideration from the Government than has been given to it?

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Brighton, Pavilion

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will realise that we are very keen to press on with this, but the lawyers have to give careful consideration to all the different legal positions that prevail in some countries for which we still have responsibility.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Rowley Regis and Tipton

Bearing in mind the Government's obvious lack of enthusiasm for the covenant, the fact that they permitted the 25th anniversary of the universal declaration to pass entirely without comment, and that even when they did something right and renewed the right of individual petition under the European declaration they announced the matter stealthily in reply to a Written Question, what is it about human rights that the Government find so unattractive?

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Brighton, Pavilion

I am not prepared to accept the assumption in the hon. and learned Gentleman's question. We see nothing unattractive about it. It is simply that we do not wish to put our final ratifying signature to it until the lawyers can assure us that we can implement and carry out what we put our name to.

Following is the information:Barbados, Bulgaria, Byelorussia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, German Democratic Republic, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Norway, Sweden, Syria, Tunisia, Uruguay, Yugoslavia, Ukraine and the USSR.