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Britain's Place in the World

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 6:39 pm on 15th October 2019.

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Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary 6:39 pm, 15th October 2019

I thank my hon. Friend very much.

My right hon. Friend Liam Byrne talked with great force about the crisis between two of our Commonwealth cousins, India and Pakistan, with the constitutional and human rights of the Kashmiri people being trampled in the middle of that. We heard from my hon. Friend Catherine West about how we have let down the Kurds, and I believe she is absolutely right.

We also heard from my hon. Friend Alex Cunningham. It was not a speech about foreign policy, but it was one of the most passionate speeches that I have heard for a very long time, with his pure, naked anger at the fact that men in his constituency have a life expectancy of 64, whereas men in the Prime Minister’s constituency have a life expectancy of 80. No wonder he is so angry, and his eloquence said it all.

We heard so many excellent contributions—there were many more that I have not had time to mention—but it is left to the Minister of State to close this debate, and I have a number of specific questions for him. They are based on the Foreign Secretary’s recent speech in Manchester, which at least attempted to address some foreign policy issues, as this Queen’s Speech has so brazenly failed to do.

First, may I ask the Minister why, in the course of a speech of 1,300 words, the Foreign Secretary did not once mention these countries or their leaders? He did not mention Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Cameroon, Brazil or Brunei, and he did not even mention Kashmir. These are not peripheral issues, but ones that should be at the top of the Foreign Secretary’s brief, yet he found time to make jokes about Luxembourg and to tell us how much Donald Trump loves Britain. This is of course the kind of love that expresses itself by ignoring everything that our Government say to him—from climate change, trade wars and the Iranian nuclear deal to the unforgivable betrayal of the Kurds in northern Syria. But even though the Foreign Secretary did not discuss any of those countries, I am delighted to hear that he said in Manchester that he would “relish, not shrink” from our global duty to bring the perpetrators of injustice and war crimes to account. So let us put that commitment to the test.

I hoped that in this Queen’s Speech we would hear a commitment to work through the United Nations to end the airstrikes and the atrocities being committed by Turkey and their jihadist death squads in the Kurdish regimes in northern Syria. I was hoping that we would hear a commitment to table a new resolution before the Security Council of the United Nations demanding an immediate ceasefire by all parties in Yemen, in every part of the country. I was hoping that we would hear a commitment to recognise the state of Palestine while there is still a state left to recognise. I was hoping that we would hear a commitment to hold a judicial inquiry into the historical allegations of the UK’s involvement in torture and rendition, and the operation of our country’s secret courts. I was hoping that we would hear a commitment to table a resolution for agreement at the United Nations referring Myanmar to the International Criminal Court for investigation of its crimes against the Rohingya, because of course we hold the pen on that issue as well.

I was hoping that we would hear commitments to correct the historic injustices over the two Amritsar massacres, the discriminatory demob payments from world war two given to non-white soldiers in the colonial regiments, the Chagos islanders’ right of return, and our nuclear test veterans. Those issues would all feature in a Labour Queen’s Speech—the Kurds, Yemen and Palestine, torture, rendition, the Rohingya, Amritsar, demob pay, the Chagos islanders and the debt owed to our nuclear test veterans—but under this Government, those issues go utterly ignored.