Bahraini Political Prisoners

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:41 pm on 13th January 2022.

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Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 2:41 pm, 13th January 2022

The hon. Gentleman seems to think that he has clarified his position, but he has made it more chaotic and incoherent. If he does not think that trade deals are about securing an inward flow of money to a country, I dread to think what the trade policy of a separatist Scotland under an SNP Government would look like. However, time is tight and we need to get on.

I also thought it was quite telling that Margaret Ferrier listed and dismissed the oversight bodies—I will come to some of the oversight bodies that the UK has helped to bring into existence later—rather than calling for them to be made more effective. She seemed to want to rip away the organisations that seek, with our support, to improve the legal and criminal justice system in Bahrain, and I think that is perhaps rather telling in respect of her motivations in the debate.

I have genuine respect for my shadow Minister, Bambos Charalambous, but he accused Her Majesty’s Government of being silent on the issues of concern in Bahrain. He is relatively new in post, so I will forgive him for this, but I suggest that if he thinks we have been silent, that is more of an indication that he has perhaps not been listening. I will highlight where the UK Government have brought these things to international attention.

Defending human rights and promoting democracy around the world is a priority for Her Majesty’s Government. We want to work to support countries such as Bahrain that have demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate, a desire to adopt a more progressive and inclusive domestic set of measures, not just in their attitudes and words, but in their actions.

I have heard from a number of Members that we should disengage from working with Bahrain, including on human rights issues, and I cannot possibly disagree more strongly. They should ask themselves about the options before them: do they want Her Majesty’s Government to drive improvements in countries such as Bahrain or would they prefer Her Majesty’s Government just to stand on the sidelines and shout abuse, as they have done? If it is the former, the question we should ask ourselves is how best we influence change. We are better able to influence change through engagement, dialogue and co-operation. It is patently in the UK’s national interest to help countries such as Bahrain to benefit from our experience and expertise as they move on their journey towards essential reform.