Absolutely. I commend the report’s recommendation that the UK engage better with international human rights mechanisms, but I do not think that the recommendation for a universal periodic review will help enough. A review conducted every three or four years is not enough to enable us to address some of the freedom of religious belief-related issues.
As my hon. Friend said, we need a solid review plan for a rolling oversight of the FCO’s obligations under the universal declaration of human rights and the international covenant on civil and political rights—international standards—so that we can monitor the situation of the affected communities, tailor the FCO’s response and oversee implementation. For that reason, I am somewhat sceptical about the suggested introduction of a diplomatic code. actually, we have the international standards; we should be judged against those.
I commend the recommendation for the UK to champion the call for other countries each to have a special envoy position for freedom of religious belief—something that I emphasised in my communications with the independent review. I stress that we need to strengthen the mandate of our own Prime Minister’s special envoy on freedom of religious belief, to ensure that he has all the resources and powers that he needs to be effective. I am not sure that that is the case at present. I see the good work that Lord Ahmad is doing, but time and again I see how stretched he is. I wonder whether the role should be distinct from that of a Foreign Office Minister, so that action on many of the review’s recommendations can be held to account independently.