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Torture (UN Convention)

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1986.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 12:00 am, 5th February 1986

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will now ratify the United Nations convention against torture.

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

We intend to ratify the convention, which we signed on 15 March 1985, as soon as possible. We need to check that our current legislation and other arrangements accord with its provisions. We must also consult the dependent territories, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It is possible that new legislation will be needed.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

While those negotiations continue—and everyone hopes that ratification will be completed as soon as possible—will the Government take steps to remedy the position? At present the United Kingdom is one of the few European countries that has not made the unilateral declaration against torture, called for by the United Nations more than eight years ago. Because we have not subscribed to it we appear to condone torture, which is unacceptable to most of our European partners and to countries beyond Europe.

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

The hon. Gentleman is less than fair to the Government. We wholly condemn torture wherever and whenever it may occur.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

Arising from my hon. Friend's reply, is there any evidence that Palestinians have been tortured in gaol, by Israelis?

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

I am not aware of evidence on that matter, but, if there should be evidence, we deplore all violations of human rights wherever they occur.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton

While we are waiting for the Government to get round to signing the convention on torture, should we not do more to control the export of implements that can be used in countries where torture continues to be practised? Although the Government have already introduced some legislation in that regard, surely the House deserves more information about the method by which the Government judge the human rights records of some countries to which they allow the export of equipment that is clearly used for repression and torture.

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

The hon. Gentleman should recognise that we were one of the co-sponsors of the convention. We are committed to ratifying it as soon as possible, and we were one of the first countries to sign it. Regarding the specific question about instruments of torture, last year we introduced the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1985, which gives the Government power to restrict the export of instruments of torture. We would not give export licences to any destination or country for leg irons, shackles or gang chains for the restraint of prisoners.