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European Football Championships

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 19th June 2012.

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Photo of Teresa Pearce Teresa Pearce Labour, Erith and Thamesmead 2:30 pm, 19th June 2012

Whether his Department has issued guidance to Ministers on attending the European football championships in Ukraine.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

I am sure the entire House will wish the England players every success in their match later today. On the question of attendance by Ministers, however, we took the decision that no Ministers should attend group games at Euro 2012. We are keeping the question of attendance at later stages under review.

Photo of Teresa Pearce Teresa Pearce Labour, Erith and Thamesmead

I am pleased to hear that Ministers have been asked not to attend group games, but why are the Government not also making it clear now that they rule out any official ministerial attendance at England matches at all stages, even the final?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

We have consistently said to the Ukrainian Government that the selective use of justice in Ukraine is unacceptable and we want their policy to change. There is still time for improvement to take place, but unless that happens I do not want to hold out much hope that our policy will shift.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Does my right hon. Friend welcome the fact that the England team went to Auschwitz-Birkenau ahead of the tournament to bring home to people, in eastern Europe in particular, the horrors of the Nazi atrocities? What a welcome respite that is from some of the terrible things we have heard about in Ukraine.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

I entirely endorse what my hon. Friend says. It is particularly important that sporting champions—who can, perhaps, cut through to parts of society that will not listen to speeches by politicians—set an example in the way the England players did.

Photo of Emma Reynolds Emma Reynolds Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The trial and ongoing detention of Yulia Tymoshenko has widely been denounced as politically motivated. Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend Teresa Pearce, why do the Government appear still to take the position that human rights do not matter at the knockout stages of the European championships? Is it because they do not have confidence in their own policy, or because they do not have confidence in our team?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

I am afraid the hon. Lady must have written her question before she listened to my answer to her hon. Friend Teresa Pearce. We have made it clear in every conversation at official and ministerial level with our Ukrainian counterparts that if they want to have the democratic future and the closer links with Europe that the Ukrainian Government say they want—and that we believe need to happen—they have to show they are serious about democratic, as well as economic, reform.