Ahmadiyya Community — [Annette Brooke in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:26 pm on 20th October 2010.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 3:26 pm, 20th October 2010

I was going to say that ministerial engagements prevented him from running; but it was a good occasion and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments, which I reciprocate. Although properly partisan we are able, we hope, to put such things to one side when we need to. This is one of those occasions.

In foreign policy there are many areas in which a change in Government makes little difference to what are conceived to be British interests. As to human rights and related matters I think the House can be assured that the view of the House, the Government and the country is reflected in Government. There may be nuances from time to time, but the things that we hold valuable are shared between us. The House will find the Minister and the Opposition speaking together in our condemnation of the attacks that are the subject of the debate and in our concerns about what can be done in the future.

Human rights and the treatment of minorities are obviously of major concern to the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden in seeking the debate, and they are important to us all. She made a powerful and at times distressing case when she discussed circumstances affecting her constituents, and events in Pakistan. Her concerns for her constituents were echoed by the hon. Members for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) and by other hon. Members who spoke.

The United Kingdom Government are concerned about the ongoing discrimination against the Ahmadi Muslim community in Pakistan and around the world. I am grateful for the opportunity to talk to hon. Members about it. We welcome the news about the all-party group and will keep in touch with that. The hon. Lady and her fellow officers will know that they need only make contact with us and we shall respond. She recognises, through the establishment of the group, the importance of the community to many hon. Members in the House of Commons who have relevant constituency interests. I will certainly draw the Home Secretary's attention to the remarks have been made today concerning events that take place in the UK. I will move on to the matters affecting home affairs later, but there is no doubt that the matter has resonance both for our foreign relations responsibilities and for what happens in the UK.

I would like to put our relationship with Pakistan in perspective before dealing with the hon. Lady's specific points, because it is important, and the right hon. Member for Warley referred to that, too. The Government are committed to a long-term, productive and friendly partnership with Pakistan. Our two countries share many strong ties: our history, the deep familial roots in our 1 million-strong British Pakistani diaspora, extensive business links and close cultural connections.

As we have heard, Pakistan is currently dealing with major domestic challenges. The recent devastating floods have caused an immense amount of damage and misery for more than 20 million people-misery on a scale that is difficult to contemplate in the UK, as the area affected is the size of our country. It is one of the worst disasters the world has ever seen. The UK has been at the forefront of the international response to the crisis, committing £134 million for urgent humanitarian relief and to help people rebuild their lives.