This morning in the House of Commons I asked the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to do all he can to ensure that he and his Government stand up for human rights in this country, as part of our policy of championing them in other parts of the world.
Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab):
I warmly thank the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) for bringing this issue to the House. I am sure that this debate will be watched by people in China, so this is an important occasion. I also thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting the urgent question. Does the Minister agree that our ability to raise our voice and put pressure on China because of its gross violations of human rights is in part based on the recognition that this country has itself made a commitment to human rights? Does he recognise that the increasingly negative tone being used in this country to describe human rights as a problem—even to the point of describing the legislation as “Labour’s Human Rights Act”, which I cannot believe is a compliment—undermines our ability to champion human rights abroad? We cannot champion human rights abroad if we regard them as a nuisance at home. Will he ensure that he and his Government stand up for human rights in this country, as part of our policy of championing them in other parts of the world?
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Hugo Swire):
The right hon. and learned Lady is absolutely right. It is incredibly important to have good human rights in our own country before we preach to others, and I believe that we do. In my travels around the globe—looking after two thirds of the world, as I am obliged to do—I have observed that our own human rights are way better than those in the majority of countries. A second thing that gives us a huge moral case when we go round the world is that this Government have pledged to spend 0.7% of our GDP on international aid. Those two factors give the United Kingdom a good say at any table.