Human Rights in Saudi Arabia — [Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 4:36 pm on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:36 pm, 18th July 2019

Thank you, Sir Henry, and Mr Evans before you, for chairing our proceedings. I thank all right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions to this excellent and thoughtful debate. I thank the Minister for his very substantial reply. I had not realised that he had been a Minister in this post for two months, which by contemporary standards is a record of durability and longevity. I wish him well in the weeks ahead.

I will take up the Minister’s kind offer of further correspondence regarding the force required in relation to the detainees, especially those from November 2017, and to the detail of the IAF funding and the College of Policing. I was perhaps remiss in not giving him advance notice of what I was going to say about that. Rest assured, if the correspondence is not fruitful, I suspect that we will be back here at some point in the future.

In particular, I thank the Minister for his clear and strong reaffirmation of the policy on the use of the death penalty. I suspect this was no accident. I say that because I have been on this beat for quite a few years. I set up the all-party parliamentary group on the abolition of the death penalty more years ago than I care to remember. I have campaigned against it in different parts of the world including the United States, South Korea and Japan. Most recently, I was in Japan at the end of February, working with the bar association there on its policy for the abolition of the death penalty in Japan. The embassy staff in Tokyo engaged on that issue in an absolutely exemplary manner. I could not have asked for better, more committed or more energetic support than I got during my time there. That has been my experience wherever I have gone, working with embassies and consulates in any part of the world in relation to this issue. To hear the Minister reaffirm that policy in the strongest possible terms is welcome and I commend him for it.

Dr Lewis referred to this issue as a moral maze. I think that is absolutely correct. Crispin Blunt spoke of the danger of pushing Saudi Arabia into the hands of other global powers, most notably China and Russia. I completely understand the tensions at play there. There is an element of competition when we consider not just human rights records, but our trading aspirations. We have to deal with that tension all the time. The Minister dealt with that in some detail.

I will leave the House with this thought. As we know, the G20 is heading to Saudi Arabia. Before that happens, there is time for this country to give a lead in talking to other members of the G20, so that we can all go to Saudi Arabia ahead of that meeting and say, “Here are our concerns. These are the matters that will be in our newspapers and television stations when the media of the world come to Saudi Arabia for the G20. You have time on your hands now and the opportunity to do something about it.” It strikes me that that would be a useful multilateral initiative that we could take, which would avoid some of the other tensions that come into play. I hope that is the sort of approach that our Government, which are committed in a meaningful way to human rights in other parts of the world, could take.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered human rights in Saudi Arabia and the detention of opponents of the regime.

Sitting adjourned.