The Commonwealth

Part of Estimates Day – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 27th June 1996.

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Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney 4:15 pm, 27th June 1996

I agree with my hon. Friend that the direction and pace of improvement away from non-democratic forms of government to properly democratic ones is important. It would be helpful to have a standard that could be accepted by all countries as to what it means to be a democracy and to safeguard human rights. Britain is hosting the next Heads of Government meeting in 1997 in Edinburgh, and I hope very much that we shall make the extension of democracy and human rights the very centrepiece of the meeting.

There are clear links between us in the Commonwealth. There are economic, trade and investment links, and there are the links that come from our shared historical experience. There are also educational and cultural links, as well as the link through the frequent use of the English language. If we could add to those links another common bond—that all of us subscribe to democracy in politics and to human rights—it would be an added reinforcement to all that the Commonwealth stands for and would help to link it together.