Global LGBT Rights

Part of Modern Slavery Act 2015 – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 26th October 2017.

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Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Conservative, Milton Keynes South 3:45 pm, 26th October 2017

My hon. Friend makes an important point. To back up what I just said, we are still on a journey in this country even though we have legislated in many areas, and we have to understand that other countries will also take a long time to get to where we want them to get—they cannot just legislate. We have to use all the tools that are at our disposal, and colleagues on both sides of the House have mentioned some of them. We have soft power that we can exert due to our historical relationships with many countries, and I hope that we put such issues on the agenda for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. For example, the charges have now been dropped in that horrible case in the UAE where a Scottish gentleman was put on trial and, although I do not know, I hope that the exertion of diplomacy from this country helped in that situation.

We should absolutely ensure that the soft power that we can exert through our overseas aid budget is used in the right way; Stephen Twigg was absolutely right about that. We need to ensure that the money is there to help groups on the ground, and I agree with him that we should not take money away from health projects just because of a country’s horrible LGBT+ policies; it should be the other way around. We should be using that soft power to encourage countries down the road.

There is also a lot that individual parliamentarians can do. My constituency has a large Nigerian population, and I do not make any secret of my homosexuality when I go to meet them. By that simple act of being open with them—they can judge me however they like—they will hopefully see that I can act as a politician who is out, and that will filter through their community. I hope that that is something that each and every one of us can do. We also need to make more use of our soft power through sporting and cultural events, such as the upcoming Olympic games in Japan in 2020. I hope that individual sportsmen and sportswomen can be out and proud. I am sure that their sexuality makes no difference to their sporting ability.

As Kerry McCarthy said, trade will also be an enormously important lever. I do not want to get into a Brexit discussion—that is for other debates and there will be many of them—but one consequence of our leaving the EU is that we will be able to develop new trade policies with many African countries, and I hope that that better interlinking of economies will mean that foreign companies realise that there is a huge pink pound market in the UK in which to sell their products. Countries may also realise that tourism might be inhibited by LGBT+ policies. Bit by bit and example by example, I hope that closer economic ties will help to break down some of the prejudices. We should not pretend that things will be easy or quick, but that should not dissuade us from the task of achieving a world in which people, whatever their nationality, religion or background, can love whomever they want.