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Saudi Penal System

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 1:18 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 1:18 pm, 13th October 2015

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising these serious issues and for the appropriately sombre and serious way in which he couched his questions. First, this Government take very seriously questions of human rights, and in particular the obligation to protect the human rights of British citizens abroad. That is why the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend Mr Ellwood, who has responsibility for the middle east, has been talking to Mr Andree’s family, and it is also why the Government have been interceding at the highest level in all three of the cases that the hon. Gentleman raises.

It is important that that sensitive and diplomatic work is carried on in circumstances that ensure that we can influence not just the Saudi Government, but other Governments, in a way that allows them to make progress in a manner consistent with ensuring that our case can be made effectively. That is why I believe that the actions of the Minister for the middle east—and indeed those of the Foreign Secretary and the diplomatic service—in ensuring that human rights considerations can be carried forward have been right and wise.

It is also important to bear in mind that there is security co-operation between Britain and Saudi Arabia, which has, as the Prime Minister and others have pointed out, saved British lives in the past. We would never compromise our commitment to human rights, but we must also recognise that it is in the interests of the most important human right of all—the right to live in safety and security—that we should continue with necessary security co-operation with the Saudi and other Governments.

The hon. Gentleman asks why no letter of reply was written to the Leader of the Opposition. I can only apologise for any delay in writing to him, and I hope that today’s statement goes some way to raising the concerns that he understandably raised in his party conference speech and in correspondence. More broadly, I want to assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that the whole focus of the Ministry of Justice will be on maintaining the rule of law, upholding human rights and making sure that our citizens are protected effectively with a justice system in which all can take pride and have confidence.