Human Rights

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th June 2018.

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Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Conservative, Walsall North 12:00 am, 26th June 2018

What steps his Department is taking to promote and support human rights internationally.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

Mr Speaker, I assume that everyone is so happy with the smooth operation of Asian and Pacific affairs in the Foreign Office that I have had no questions until now.

Promoting human rights will remain an essential aim of the foreign policy of Global Britain. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and officials relentlessly defend and champion human rights in bilateral engagements, multilateral bodies and conferences and in funding projects, particularly through the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Conservative, Walsall North

I thank the Minister for his answer. What representations have he and the British Government made to the Indian Government in recent months in the case of Jagtar Singh Johal?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue, which I know affects a number of constituents not just in the west midlands but across the country. I recognise that this has been an incredibly difficult and distressing time for Mr Johal and his family, whom I most recently met along with their very assiduous constituency MP, Martin Docherty-Hughes, on 18 June.

We continue to raise Mr Johal’s case with the Indian Government at the highest level. I raised it with the Minister for External Affairs on 7 May in New Delhi, and Baroness Williams has also done so. The Prime Minister, very unusually, brought up this consular issue with Prime Minister Modi at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on 18 April.

Photo of Martin Docherty Martin Docherty Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Industries for the future)

I thank Eddie Hughes for using his good offices to bring this matter, on which the Minister has been assiduous, to the Floor of the House.

The Foreign Secretary has met the hon. Member for Walsall North, whom I have emailed, to discuss this case, and it has been put online, for which I am very grateful because it keeps the case in the public domain. When will the Foreign Secretary now bother to meet Jagtar Singh Johal’s constituency Member of Parliament to discuss this face to face?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

I thank the hon. Gentleman, and I am glad he is in his place. He has worked incredibly hard on this. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary says from a sedentary position that he would be happy to meet him at the earliest convenient opportunity.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

Yesterday’s protests in Tehran demonstrate increasing anger on human rights abuses and economic failure by the Iranian Government. Do this Government agree that we need change and reform in Iran to benefit the Iranian people?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

I thank my right hon. Friend for her question. She is very assiduous on the Iranian issue. Yes, we are obviously looking towards getting reform within that country. A huge amount of work goes on both in the Foreign Office, in relation to the Global Britain agenda, and in that region. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East spends a considerable amount of his time on this, and I am sure he will take it up.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Labour, Cambridge

It is almost two and a half years since the Cambridge student Giulio Regeni was brutally murdered in Cairo, and the truth has had to be extracted from the Egyptian authorities. Can the Minister tell us what pressure he is putting on colleagues to try to get the truth for Giulio?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

I understand. I have worked with the hon. Gentleman, who works extremely hard on behalf of his constituents, on a number of consular matters, including some in Asia. In relation to this desperate case—I understand the distress of Giulio’s family—we are keeping regular contact at consular level. I know these things can be very frustrating, but keeping regular contact sometimes makes a real difference.

Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Yesterday the Foreign Office, rather pathetically, used the cover story of a trip to Africa to throw the media off the Foreign Secretary’s scent. Can I suggest to the Minister that his boss makes a real trip to Africa to focus urgently on the violence in western Cameroon, the instability gripping the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the danger that next month’s elections in Zimbabwe will not be free, fair or democratic?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

May I point out that the Foreign Secretary has visited Africa on no fewer than nine occasions during the past year? Although I assume there will not be too many difficult votes to be dealt with during the course of the year ahead, I am sure he will have that sort of commitment. The hon. Lady rightly points out that, in places like Cameroon and the DRC, we are highly respected as a Government and will continue to be so.[This section has been corrected on 27 June 2018, column 6MC — read correction]