Civil Society Space — [Mr Andrew Turner in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 26th January 2017.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality) 1:30 pm, 26th January 2017

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. She is vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary human rights group, so I know the good work that she does. She has been a focal person in speaking out on such issues, and I wholeheartedly endorse that. She has outlined a number of the things that she, I and others have written about to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The nature of restrictions on civil society varies, but common elements of such laws include: targeting activists who scrutinise Government policies; increased scrutiny of NGO activities and sources of funding, which is all very investigative and focused on making life difficult for the NGOs; and, in some cases, the targeting of organisations that work on issues such as women’s rights, freedom of religion or belief, LGBTI or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights, migrants’ rights, and the environment. Those are all critical and important issues in civil society throughout the world. It is important to retain such organisations.

Repressive practices are not limited to states such as Russia, Egypt or Pakistan: they are in danger of spreading across the world, as Margaret Ferrier said in her intervention. Civil society experts have spoken of a contagion effect, whereby repressive laws introduced in one country are copied by its neighbours, who might think, “That’s the way to do it.” It is not.