The Government are committed to reinvigorating the Commonwealth and strengthening it as a focus for democracy, development and prosperity. We see the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting as a defining moment for the future of the Commonwealth and we look forward to the eminent persons group’s recommendations.
There are 11,000 people on death row in Commonwealth countries, and four people were executed in Commonwealth countries last year. Will the Secretary of State raise this issue at the meeting to which he referred, place it on the agenda and do something about making the Commonwealth a more civilised place?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. The agenda for CHOGM is not yet decided, but I shall certainly give strong consideration to his point. Since the change of Government, this country has maintained its policy on the death penalty around the world, and we will continue to pursue it with our Commonwealth partners. One of the recommendations that we expect from the final report of the eminent persons group is about strengthening Commonwealth values—and this matter is part of that, so I shall seriously consider his proposal.
May I join Ian Lucas in his bid? May I also commend the Foreign Secretary for placing so much emphasis on climate change? Will he use the next CHOGM to progress the matter so that we can carry the agenda forward in continents such as Africa that are battling with famine now but previously with drought?
Yes. Climate change is an enormously important subject for the Commonwealth, which is a remarkable network now encompassing almost a third of the world’s population across many different continents and climatic zones, so I hope that climate change will continue to be discussed in many different Commonwealth forums and that we can use our membership to promote the legally binding global deal on combating climate change. That is what we need.
We welcome the development of relations between Commonwealth countries and we share the Foreign Secretary’s hopes for CHOGM in Perth. However, we also need to recognise that this should be complemented by relations between the peoples of the Commonwealth countries. In that context, will he press for increasing involvement in CHOGM’s work and the wider work of the Commonwealth by the social partners, business and the trade unions?
Yes, in general. It is important that this is not just about a relationship between Governments, but that the network of nations and peoples of the Commonwealth is felt in many different ways, through the Commonwealth people’s forum, the Commonwealth youth forum and the Commonwealth business forum, all of which will have events surrounding the CHOGM meeting that will take place in Perth at the end of October. We do not yet have the details of all those meetings, but the right hon. Gentleman can be sure that that broad agenda will be in action there.