TUESDAY 19 DECEMBER 2000
Sir Peter Emery Mr Eric Illsley Mr Andrew Mackinlay Sir David Madel Mr John Maples Sir John Stanley Dr Phyllis Starkey
MR PETER HAIN, a Member of the House, Minister of
State, MR TONY BRENTON, Director, Global Issues, DR CAROLYN
BROWNE, Head of Human Rights Policy Department, Foreign and Commonwealth
1. Minister, may I warmly welcome you to the Committee for our annual discussion on the Annual Human Rights Report, this one being the third in the series - the first in April 1998, the second in July 1999 and this current one in July of this year. I welcome with you Dr Carolyn Browne, who is Head of Human Rights Policy Department in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Mr Tony Brenton, who is a Director, Global Issues. We welcome submissions to the Committee by a number of outside organisations in respect of the report, and we are particularly pleased with the comment in the submission to the Committee by Amnesty International that they recommend that the practice of producing a human rights annual report is an important contribution to public debate that should be continued. I assume, Minister, that it is the intention of the Foreign Office to continue to produce such reports?
(Mr Hain) Certainly.
2. They also recommend that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee should maintain its practice of annually taking evidence from the Minister of State on the subject. So far as this Committee is concerned, I am confident that that will indeed be the practice. It is something which we value, and we have given a very high profile to human rights in our several reports.
(Mr Hain) We value it as well, Chairman. I cannot say we always enjoy it, but we value it.
3. Minister, the suggestion of producing this Annual Report on Human Rights came shortly after the euphoria of the election victory in 1997 and in the context of the "ethical dimension" to foreign policy. That seems to have gone off the boil a little. We did not hear any mention of ethical dimension in the Foreign Secretary's speech to Chatham House, and I have not heard Ministers recently talking about the ethical dimension. Why has the Government gone cool on the concept?
(Mr Hain) We have not gone cool on the concept at all of a foreign policy based on a strong commitment to human rights, and pursuing it wherever we can and whenever we can, and an ethical dimension to foreign policy in that context. What we have, however, been concerned with is this obsessive misinterpretation, in the media especially, of what was a misrepresented term when the Foreign Secretary first announced it; he said that there would be an ethical dimension to our foreign policy, which there has been, and I think we have a very fine record in that respect. What he did not say was that you could have an identikit ethical foreign policy applied regardless of circumstances around the world. You had to do the best you could, and I think we have done that.
4. With respect, you yourself delivered certain reservations in an interview with the New Statesman which was published on 3 April, where you said, and I quote: "I think, if there was a mistake made, it was in allowing the policy" (that is the policy on the ethical dimension) "to be presented as if we could have perfection." So who so presented it in that way?
(Mr Hain) I think it was the media. I think the media took that phrase, thought that we could operate, as it were, to perfection in an imperfect world - when you have to set priorities and have different opportunities for engagement on human rights matters - and the whole thing became a ridiculous debate, which has detracted from our record. Our record, whether it is on subjecting arms exports to very stringent criteria or in terms of our ambassadors and high commissioners rejecting human rights in their countries, the decisions we have taken from banning land mines, leading the way on overseas aid and development, assistance and debt relief - on all of these issues, which are crucial to human rights' development across the world, I think we have a very fine record. That record ought to be judged on its merits not on, as I say, an obsessive preoccupation with a phrase.
5. You are citing important particulars, and I imagine that the Committee would be with you on those important particulars. However, in that same New Statesman interview you said this: "The immensity of what it connoted has been too great to bear." That is, as if you would rewrite history if you could and not trumpet the ethical dimension in the way it was done in the early months after the election in May 1997. Do you regret that grand fanfare at the time?
(Mr Hain) I think you may find, Chairman, that that phrase you quoted from the interview does not sound a familiar phrase coming out of my mouth; I think it may have been the ----
6. That was the distillation of what John Lloyd, the editor, thought you were saying.
(Mr Hain) Indeed. He is a very good journalist, but those are his words not mine. I think the Foreign Secretary would want to stand by his commitment - as I would in supporting him - as stated on coming into office, that we intended to pursue a foreign policy that put human rights right at the heart of it. We have done that.
7. Your judgment is that it was not a hostage to fortune and that you would do the same in the same terms now as you did in the euphoria of 1997?
(Mr Hain) I do not think it is a question of being euphoric, I think it is a question of committing ourselves to a foreign policy which was principled and put human rights at the top of the agenda. If we had anticipated the, as I say, obsessive way in which the media, as it were, turned every little genuflection of policy against a criteria of perfection, often in a distorted fashion, we might have gone about things in a different fashion. I do not know.
8. Why has the phrase "ethical dimension" not been used for, perhaps, the last two years? Has it been lost from the Foreign Office vocabulary list?
(Mr Hain) No. Indeed, I had a discussion yesterday
in Berlin with my opposite number, the Deputy Foreign Minister,
and we actually had it under the title of the British Ambassador
arranged fully advertised an ethical foreign policy debate, which
we did, and it was a very good debate. So I do not think there
is any retreat from the principles, just a regret that it is very
difficult in today's climate of reporting to get to the substance
of issues, when people spinning like made - journalists spinning
like mad - get all preoccupied ----
9. Journalists spinning? Come off it!
(Mr Hain) I think journalists spinning. There
are no spin doctors in the Foreign Office that I know about.
10. Good morning, Mr Hain. We will not continue on that line because we would be in a great deal of disagreement. Can I turn to the Foreword of the report where, in dealing with human rights, it is written (and for the sake of accuracy I will read the quotation): " ... there will be times where confrontation is the only option left ... there are cases where isolation is the right course. There will be other times when critical engagement, dialogue and encouragement is more likely to produce results." Is it really the case that confrontation is only an option where the country is, perhaps, militarily or economically unimportant? Is isolation really likely to be considered, when the United Kingdom has considerable economic interests in that country? I wonder if you would explain where the differences come and why they arise?
(Mr Hain) I think it starts from the presumption, which I am sure we would all share, Sir Peter, that you do not seek confrontation, especially if it requires military intervention, as in Iraq, Kosovo or Bosnia. We seek to pursue foreign policy by the alternative means that have been described and are well-known. If confrontation has to come then it has to come, as we have been ready to do as a Government in Kosovo, in Iraq and in Sierra Leone. As for isolation, again, it is not a preferred outcome, we would prefer a stance of critical engagement; if you get a country like Burma, which does not want to have a critical dialogue and refuses to recognise the concerns of the international community over human rights abuses and of a junta nullifying a democratic election and so on, then isolation is the only option - as for example was historically proved to be valid in South Africa's case.
11. You mentioned Burma. I gather Mr John Battle was in Vientiane under a whole host of Burmese Government officials. Can you tell me whether Mr Battle actually had any dealings with the Burmese officials?
(Mr Hain) I think the event to which you are referring is the European Union and ASEAN conference.
12. That is right.
(Mr Hain) Indeed, he felt it appropriate and the Foreign Office thought it correct to make sure that we were represented at his senior ministerial level to make sure that our arguments in the context of that conference were put face-to-face across the table, in the context of the conference, with the Burmese representatives there. We put them very forcefully, as we have continued to do whenever we have had the opportunity.
13. Are you not open to the possible criticism that this is a change of policy, and that instead of complete isolation you are actually getting into a semi-negotiating position?
(Mr Hain) No, what happened there was not a negotiation, it was an exchange of views and, in John Battle's case, very forthrightly expressed.
14. But not isolation.
(Mr Hain) We have still sought to take measures, which may be seeking to persuade British businesses not to invest in Burma because it simply props up the regime, but we have still pursued a strategy of isolation. That does not mean to say we do not ever miss an opportunity to put a strong message across, which we did in that case.
15. Let us go to the other extreme: let us think about human rights for women in Saudi Arabia. We do not really have much confrontation or isolation or take any positive action in trying to deal with that, do we?
(Mr Hain) We actually take a lot of opportunity, because we have a good relationship with the Saudi regime, in managing to put our views very strongly on human rights abuses and the position of women, especially, in Saudi Arabia, because we have a relationship of critical dialogue in which they are prepared to listen, prepared to respect the arguments put to them and, in some cases, prepared to take action. Although the picture is still very serious there, I think that is in stark contrast to, say, Iraq or Burma or in the case of Milosevic Serbia, where you just cannot have a dialogue with anyone.
16. Let us go to somewhere in the middle. Let us talk about human rights in Chechnya. We do not really seem to be putting much pressure on the Russian Government in dealing with that. The whole aspect of policy seems to be, from the Government, to ignore it.
(Mr Hain) Again, Sir Peter, I do not think that is true. Indeed, the reporting of the meetings between our Prime Minister and President Putin show that Chechnya was raised very vigorously, and, indeed, in the Foreign Secretary's meeting with President Putin and with the Foreign Minister Ivanov earlier this year; Chechnya actually took up three-quarters of the Foreign Secretary's meeting. So we put our point of view very strongly. Indeed, as a result of the pressure we put on Russia they set up an independent national commission to investigate human rights abuses, they agreed to the attachment of three Council of Europe experts and they agreed to the Office of the Russian Presidential representative on human rights in Chechnya, and they agreed to the ICRC having access to detainees, including those held at infiltration camps. That does not negate the fact that the picture of human rights abuses in Chechnya was and still is desperate.
17. You are not claiming that it was the British Government that brought about all these actions, when one looks at what other European nations and what the European Union were doing generally?
(Mr Hain) We were acting as part of the European Union, of course, but in our bilateral contacts our arguments were put very forcefully. I think the fact that they were put to a new president very early on - in the Prime Minister's case before he was actually elected, when he was effectively de facto President during the election campaign - in a spirit of constructive engagement, I think, had a considerable impact. However, I do not deny that the human rights abuses in Chechnya, nevertheless, are continuing at a level which is totally unacceptable.
18. In your answer to my last question you were summing up that we will take positive action where the nation is weak or unimportant to us, but that where the nation is not then we have to be a little more careful.
(Mr Hain) I do not think that is true in the case of Iraq, for example. Iraq is very important strategically, and in other ways and as part of British historical connection. If I could respond to your question - and I understand why you are asking the questions, because these are difficult issues to get right - I do not believe that a "one-size-fits-all" policy is the right one for every country; that you can, as it were, take it out of a box and apply it equally to Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Burma. You have to do your best in order to put your case, and in order to get the desired outcome. I would be very interested to know whether - whether it is from you or whether it is from the Committee's deliberations - there is a better policy for any of these countries. If the Committee came up and said "We think the Foreign Office was wrong and the Government was wrong and that we think" (I do not know, I am not suggesting you would say this because this is a very serious Committee of experts) "that Russia should have been invaded to save the Chechnyans from human rights abuses." If that was a serious suggestion, and I am sure it would not be, or if there was a better strategy for dealing with these countries than the ones which we have adopted we would be very pleased to hear them. We regard you as partners in getting a better foreign policy.
19. What you are saying is that you have to be practical in every case and make a different judgment, irrespective of what your overall principle may be.
(Mr Hain) No, our overall principle, including our commitment to human rights, is very high up at the top of our foreign policy agenda. We have to look at how we can practically apply it and get results.
20. I think that is what I was saying.
(Mr Hain) Then we are agreeing.
Sir Peter Emery: Good.
21. Minister, in that context, we look forward to the Foreign Office reply to our recommendations in respect of China.
(Mr Hain) Indeed. We will be getting those to you, Chairman, in the early part of next year.
Chairman: Generally, the consensus has been that
the reports of 1998, 1999 and 2000 have been a distinct improvement
one on the other and a refinement. However, there are still omissions,
and I would like to call on Mr Mackinlay.
22. We were promised a Green Paper on mercenaries. We have not had it. I cannot find any mention in this report about the whole area of mercenaries. This Government has had some embarrassment from predecessors dealing with this matter. The principal opposition spokesperson, which the Queen's Speech referred to in relation to Sierra Leone, Mr Maud, thought that mercenaries could be acceptable to a Sierra Leone Government. There seems to be a vacuum now as to our thinking on this. It is a cause of some embarrassment to the United Kingdom that we have not got, at least, a Green Paper on where we are going to go. Also, there are some conventions which we have yet to ratify on this, I think. What say you on that?
(Mr Hain) Andrew, I understand your concern about it and I share it. I regret the fact that the commitment we gave to the Green Paper being published - I think we gave it to your Committee - by last month or, at least, the end of this year has not actually been fulfilled. That does not detract at all from our commitment to publishing it, our commitment to getting this right and our commitment will be honoured as soon as we have concluded our own consideration of what is a very complex area, both legally and in other respects. There is no drawing back from the commitment given to the Foreign Affairs Committee that a Green Paper would be published and on which your own views would be invited.
23. When is the next target date, then, or expected time of arrival?
(Mr Hain) I cannot give you that.
24. Why not?
(Mr Hain) I am just not in a position to do so.
25. Why not?
(Mr Hain) Because I cannot do it. If I had the authority to give you the target date, then I would do it.
26. What is the impediment? Just to say it is complicated - I can understand it is complicated but is this months away or is it a year away?
(Mr Hain) Having missed one deadline before, I do not want to give you an answer which I cannot stick to. Whilst we are still discussing it within different departments that have an interest in this and considering some of the complex and other legal issues involved, I think you would agree that you would want a Green Paper which was one that was as good as it is possible for us to have.
27. Of course I agree with you, and I even accept that you cannot give a definitive date. I also accept you do not want to be embarrassed again. However, you have got to get - and it is right for us to say - a grip on this matter - you the Government and, probably, the Foreign Secretary, or the Defence Secretary, or even the Prime Minister. They need to understand that it is not tolerable that matters are allowed to drift. What say you to that?
(Mr Hain) I give a commitment to pass on that very firm view and I think it is a reasonable view, which I understand.
Chairman: Another omission we will come to shortly
is the Palestine/Israel peace process and Dr Starkey. I would
like to begin now with Mr Illsley.
28. Can I ask you, Minister, one or two questions in relation to forced marriages and the protocols in relation to the right of the child? Firstly, on forced marriages, you are probably aware that a Sub-Committee of this Committee did actually visit the Asiatic Continent two or three years ago, where we came across this problem first-hand. Could I ask you whether there have been any tangible results so far from the joint Home Office/Foreign Office action plan which was announced in August to tackle the overseas dimension of forced marriages?
(Mr Hain) The action plan to which you referred has been carried through by ourselves and the Home Office, and we will report on our progress in the new year. Obviously, we would wish to bring to your notice a copy of that report. We have also been working closely with the NGOs involved. We deal with round about 100 cases a year. In every case it is British nationals whose rights are being abused, and we are working with NGOs, the courts and the police. We have raised it, also, with the countries concerned, because it is a matter of real concern to us, as it is for Members, possibly including yourself, who have constituents in this predicament.
29. Has there been any response, so far, from the posts overseas who were asked, under the action plan, to re-examine their procedures for giving assistance abroad?
(Mr Hain) That has been part of the on-going re-orientation of our work on this, on which we will report on next year, because it is not something that we are at all complacent about; it is something we are anxious to get on top of.
30. Turning to the two protocols on the rights of the child, which the United Kingdom, I believe, have not signed. On the First Optional Protocol on the sale of children, and child prostitution (which, incidentally, was featured in the British press over the last few days) what steps will be necessary before ratification of that Optional Protocol can take place?
(Mr Hain) I will ask either of my colleagues to fill in on any details, but we are intending to ratify them. The Prime Minister signed the two Optional Protocols to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in New York on 7 September, the first one dealing with the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the second with the involvement of children in armed conflict. So this is an on-going process of pursuing this matter, getting the final protocol right, and we are continuing to negotiate on that.
31. On the Second Protocol, which looks to reduce the number of under-18 year-olds involved in armed conflicts and so on, do we have any problem with that, bearing in mind that this Committee also was on the green line in Cyprus recently being guarded by a 17-year old British soldier who was part of the UN force there? It comes to mind that the figure of 18 might debar us from ratifying, when we have got soldiers on active service.
(Mr Hain) We were in the minority in not being able to accept 18, and we have a policy of recruitment at 16 and deployment at 17. The MOD, I think, have taken note of the whole concern there, which, of course, really came from the exploitation of child soldiers in places like Sierra Leone, Angola and so on. I think we are well aware of the complexities here and want to do as best we can. That is why we have been negotiating to seek a common position on this.
(Mr Brenton) We have signed this protocol and it is our firm intention, of course, to ratify it. As you said, there is a question about deployment of under-18 year-olds. The protocol requires states to take all feasible measures to ensure that under-18s do not take a direct part in military action. The MOD are currently looking at how their procedures can be adapted so that we are confident we meet that requirement. Once they have done that we will be in a position to ratify.
Chairman: I would like to go around several of
the trouble-spots in the world geographically.
32. Compared with the 1999 annual report the 2000 annual report makes only an extremely brief reference to human rights abuses in Israel, and just mentions "administrative detention". It makes no mention of abuses in the Occupied Territories by the Israeli Government, nor, indeed, of the expropriation within Israel of Bedouin land for housing in Jewish and Israeli suburbs (?) and it does not make any mention of abuses in Lebanon under Israeli control. Is this a policy decision to exclude criticisms of Israel from the annual report?
(Mr Hain) No. On these and other matters we consistently raised our concerns with the Israelis. Obviously, since the recent outbreak of extensive violence in the last 11-12 weeks we have consistently been engaged. So there is no policy, as it were, in this respect.
33. You do not find it embarrassing that there is less mention in a British Government document than there is in the United States' State Department report on human rights, even though the United States Government is generally felt to be the most favourable government to Israel in the whole world - apart from the Israeli Government itself, obviously?
(Mr Hain) No, I would not say that because the format of our documents are different - more modest than the US one. I think the US have some 23 staff working on their report on human rights and we have 2 full-time equivalents. So we do not attempt the kind of, as it were, country-by-country analysis, and use the US as a benchmark. There is no attempt, either, to dodge the issues in Israel to which you refer and which I am equally concerned about.
34. Can I take up the point that you and I were discussing this time last year, which was about human rights clauses in trade agreements? At that point, last year, you agreed that if you had a clause in a trade agreement and you never activated it then there is not much point in having it. Why have we not made any attempt whatsoever to activate the human rights clause in our trade agreement between the European Union and Israel, given that clearly those human rights clauses are being abused in the Occupied Territories and within Israel itself?
(Mr Hain) I think the main answer to that question is that what we have sought to do, especially over the last year or two, when there has appeared to be, at least until the three months, a real opportunity for peace, is to focus on the peace negotiations. Whilst constantly raising the human rights concerns, as I did when I visited Israel, in fact twice, this year - and the Foreign Secretary as well and in a bilateral engagement with Israeli Ministers and others - we thought that the really important thing was, rather than get into a dispute between the EU and Israel over this matter, to try and push forward the peace process, because that, in the end, is the best guarantor of human rights protection.
35. I understand that point, but the point that you and the Foreign Secretary seem to be making is that it is an either/or, and you cannot do both. The problem is that some of the human rights abuses we are talking about are the acceleration of settlement building within the Occupied Territories, which has been greater under the Barak Government than under the Netanyahu Government, which positively obstructs the peace negotiations. Yet, the position the British Government seems to have got itself into is that it will talk in private about settlement expansion, but, actually, it is quite willing to see the Israelis give facts on the ground, to change the status of negotiations and that all that matters is getting some sort of agreement even if it means compromising on human rights, even if it means an agreement which is unlikely to be sustainable. Can I add to that that I think there is a particular danger in that there are, within Israel itself, a lot of groups and individuals who, very bravely, speak out about the human rights abuses that their government poses. Is it not true that it undermines them if they cannot point to any government outside which is actually taking any concrete action against these human rights abuses?
(Mr Hain) I met with a number of them - very principled and admirable Israeli citizens - who have a civil society human rights agenda, and we had a discussion in which none of those concerns were put to me about Britain's position. On the contrary, I think we found we had a common agenda. So I do not think that is valid. I do agree with you that the incremental settlement extension is unacceptable. We have made consistently clear to the Israeli Government that we do not recognise any basis in international law for these settlements and that they are not defensible. There is no kind of backing-off that principle, but the settlement issue is one of the issues which is, as you will know - following the processes as you do with great expertise and concern - at the heart of the Land for Peace part of the peace negotiations, and will clearly feature, one way or another, if we do achieve an agreement, as we hope.
36. Can I just then take up another issue about Article II of the EU trade agreement? The Foreign Secretary, on 21 November, before this Committee, said: "Any EU move towards suspension of the Association Agreement on human rights grounds would involve tough and harsh negotiations with Israel." I contrast that with assurances that were given by Mr Hanley in 1997, who I think was your predecessor, by one or two, at the Foreign Office. When he was being pressed by the Honourable Member for Great Grimsby, Mr Hanley said that we may be " ... losing a bargaining counter by accepting the agreement, but in return we are gaining a mechanism in the agreement that could be used as a further item of pressure which, if terms of the agreement were broken, would give rise to a breach of the agreement. If those terms were serious enough the agreement could be withdrawn." There is no mention there about "it could be withdrawn but only after tough and harsh negotiations with Israel". If the human rights clauses are breached, why do we have to discuss it? Why can the European Union not simply suspend the agreement?
(Mr Hain) Well, of course, we could. The issue which the Foreign Secretary was right to identify before you and which I myself said a few moments ago is what would the cost of doing that be? If I am right, and I do not recall exactly when Mr Handley gave that evidence to the Committee
37. It was the Second Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation, so it was in the discussion of the ratification of the trade agreement that those assurances were given.
(Mr Hain) But I do not know whether that was in a period when Netanyahu was in power and there were no negotiations going on of a serious kind. We have been in a situation, which I have tried to explain, without in any sense detracting from the validity of your questioning on this matter, where you have to decide what is the most important thing to achieve at the present time to get into (to use an earlier phrase) an isolationist position with Israel or to seek to engage with its government in order to drive the peace process forward. It has been so desperately difficult and complicated that we took the view (and still do) that to go down this road is got going to achieve what we all want which is peace, prosperity, stability and respect for human rights in the area.
38. Would you not accept that the policy we are pursuing gives the opportunity for an Israeli Government to go on and on negotiating knowing that whilst negotiation continues we and the other European Member States are not going to ever say anything effective about continuing abuses of human rights?
(Mr Hain) No, I do not accept that. I can understand why critics might look at it in that way but I have yet to see a suggestion from anybody, this is in a sense a repeat of the point I made earlier Chairman, of a better strategy, a better policy stance towards Israel which would produce a better chance of a settlement. I think we are positioned exactly where we ought to be, with considerable influence with the Israelis and the Palestinians, and other key players internationally and within the region, to bring precisely the kind of pressure and concern and influence to bear as we do.
Dr Starkey: I guess I will repeat this conversation with you in a year's time and at that point we might know whether you are right or not.
Chairman: Not today.
Dr Starkey: I hope there are not going to be
another 300 deaths before we get there.
39. Surely, the first priority, Minister, is that the violence should stop between Israelis and Palestinians? Does the Government feel and you have laid great stress on bilateral discussions and our general influence in the Middle East that there should then be a commitment from Israel to remove certain settlements?
(Mr Hain) We would have preferred the settlements were not there in the first place; that is absolutely clear. That has been Britain's position certainly under this Government and I think our predecessors. Besides being unjust it is complicating a resolution of this appallingly difficult problem. We want to see a negotiated agreement resolve this matter in the best practical way that both sides can achieve.
40. Before you reach an agreement each side has got to say what it will do. The Palestinians are looking, are they not, for a commitment that the settlements will go, Israel is looking for a settlement where the settlements will be recognised within secure boundaries, and the two have to come together?
(Mr Hain) They do and it is one of the many tragedies
of the last few months that both sides were very, very close to
an agreement on this matter and on Jerusalem and on refugees.
There were very deep issues involved but only a very narrow difference
between them. Sometimes when peace negotiations get to the point
when an agreement is about to be secured that is when it gets
most difficult, as we have seen elsewhere in the world, and certainly
appears to be the case here. I think this matter could have been
not resolved as much as satisfactorily agreed between both sides.
41. Are you talking about at Camp David?
(Mr Hain) Yes, Camp David and around that time. Camp David was in its own sense a tragedy.
42. What is your reading of the failure of Camp David? Why did it happen?
(Mr Hain) I do not think it was well-handled.
43. By whom?
(Mr Hain) I do not think it was well prepared for. If you do not mind Chairman, I do not want to start casting blame at any particular individuals or groups or countries because I do not think that takes us very far, but anybody close to the negotiations knew that both sides had been working out on maps and with technical reports in the kind of detail with a lot of consensus by that time and it was just tragic that the diplomatic choreography of Camp David was unable to take it that step further.
44. On page 60 of the report a reference is made to the Conflict Prevention Fund activity in the Middle East. What is the Conflict Prevention Fund? You refer to what it has done but what is it actually doing now?
(Mr Hain) I think I am right in saying that one of the things it is doing now is helping fund although it may be an alternative stream the experts of a legal and technical kind for the Palestinian negotiators because the two negotiating teams have been very lopsided. Obviously Israel has the whole expert team of a state; the Palestinians are not a state. That is one of the things we have been doing.
45. Is it possible that it would fund British observers as to what is going on? Would that be its role?
(Mr Hain) Do you mean, Sir David, in the context of the current discussions about international observers with the United Nations and elsewhere?
(Mr Hain) I am not sure, but I do not think funding for observers would be a problem; I think getting an agreement on the basis upon which they could be deployed is the problem with which we are grappling now.
47. There has been a lot of talk about increasing tension. If we got observers there it would help to lower tension, so are we pushing as a Government that observers should go there?
(Mr Hain) We have, with the French, been very active in the Security Council seeking to get agreement on this. I think inch by inch we are making some progress because it is our view that, as distinct from a UN peacekeeping force to separate the two parties, which I do not think is realistic or would go through the United Nations Security Council even if it were realistic, there is a strong argument, as the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister have made clear to Israel amongst others, for having independent observers able to see what is going on and able to act as a deterrent by virtue of their independent scrutiny on the ground, and we are very much in favour of that.
48. Who is holding things up in the Security Council?
(Mr Hain) There is a whole series of complexities
there which, if you will allow me, I am not going again to start,
in the middle of a very delicate diplomatic tangle, to suggest
who is holding it up or who is not, although everybody might take
a guess, but we are working as hard as we can to get a resolution
hopefully before Christmas, although whether that is achievable
or not, I do not know.
49. Minister, on page 18 of your report you draw attention, rightly in my view, to Iraq's socalled, and you rightly put it in inverted commas, "prison-cleansing campaign" and what you say about the mass slaughter that has been going on in Iraqi prisons is well corroborated, I thought, by the piece in Observer on 3 December under the heading "Executioner tells of mass slaughter in Saddam's jails" where it says: "An exmember of the security service in Baghdad has given chilling details of how he helped slaughter countless prisoners." That article in the Observer ends with this final paragraph: "Foreign Office Minister, Peter Hain, said: 'Nobody should forget Saddam's evil bestiality. Those who want the United Nations to abandon sanctions and walk away are inviting him to terrorise Iraqi Kurds in the north, his neighbours and the region with horrendous violence.'" Can we take it from that, Minister, that there is absolutely no softening in the British Government's position on sanctions as being applied to Iraq?
(Mr Hain) There is no change in our policy, which was set out in Resolution 1284, which we more than anybody else got agreed by the United Nation's Security Council which provides for a suspension in sanctions in return for arms' inspectors going in and identifying whether, as we suspect, there are still stockpiles of chemical and biological capabilities and a latent nuclear capability as well. We want to see sanctions suspended but there is no softening of our position in the sense we have no alternative but to maintain the current regime of sanctions given Saddam Hussein's unwillingness to co-operate with the United Nations Security Council and international law.
50. Do you still feel confident that you will be able maintain international support for the existing sanctions policy, including within the EU where a number of EU Member States, such as France conspicuously, appear to be almost ready to follow a completely different policy?
(Mr Hain) No. I very much take the point that you make. The problem has been, and this bedevils the situation, that the critics of sanctions, first of all, do not have an alternative policy. They are virtually advising Britain and the international community to walk away from Iraq and leave Saddam Hussein to do exactly the things I said in that quote, to attack his neighbours and the Kurds, and to run riot in his own country and the region again. The other thing that I think is deplorable about the levels of criticism that have come from a number of countries, and also individuals, is that effectively they are providing Saddam Hussein with an excuse to just sit tight because he thinks he is winning a propaganda battle and therefore they are colluding in the maintenance of a situation to which they are opposed. What I believe they should do is unite with us in seeking implementation of Resolution 1284 which could within 180 days get sanctions suspended in return for the UN team going in. That is the position that the critics and ourselves could unite around to take the whole situation forward, and that is what I think they should be doing.
51. Do you anticipate that the incoming US administration will continue the previous administration's firm adherence to sanctions in relation to Iraq?
(Mr Hain) I think so although obviously, as our
preliminary discussions have confirmed, they will want to review
the situation, as any incoming administration does, to see how
it can be improved upon and to see how we can get the Resolution
to a position of being implemented, which is obviously the preferred
policy. I do not see any lightening, if that is the right term,
or reduction of resolve on the part of the administration of an
incoming President Bush from the present one, but time marches
on and we all need to review where we are going.
52. Minister, would the Government ever consider inviting Saddam Hussein to Britain on a state visit?
(Mr Hain) No.
53. What about the leaders of the Burmese military regime?
(Mr Hain) No.
54. What about the Pakistan military regime?
(Mr Hain) No.
55. President Mugabe?
(Mr Hain) I do not think that has been top of our list.
56. It is an interesting contrast, is it not, because at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference last year we moved to have Pakistan suspended from the Commonwealth but we put President Mugabe on a high-level Commission to discuss the future of the Commonwealth. Were those both ethical decisions?
(Mr Hain) First of all, President Mugabe is a senior member of the Commonwealth Heads of Commonwealth Conference and obviously Zimbabwe has a claim to such high level membership as others do, and it is a matter for agreement in the Commonwealth. Let me emphasise, in case my reply seemed at all flippant, we do not have any plans to invite President Mugabe on a state visit. We had President Chissano of Mozambique, a very respected African leader and one of his neighbours, only last week one. I think that is the kind of African leader that we want to see received by the Queen and Prime Minister.
57. The President of Pakistan is a senior Commonwealth leader as well and I wonder if there is a slight distinction in the ethics applied to leftwing human rights' offenders and right-wing human rights' offenders. Here we have the Pakistan military regime and Burma which we are very tough on, whereas regarding Castro the Foreign Secretary suggested in a speech to your Party Conference two years ago that the best way to deal with Cuba was to lift economic sanctions, whilst a page later he said the best way to deal with Burma was to impose economic sanctions. Is there a distinction?
(Mr Hain) Before I come to that very direct question, which I will answer directly, the difference between General Musharraf and President Mugabe is that President Mugabe is elected. You and I might not like
58. He lost the election. He rigged it
(Mr Hain) No, he was elected democratically as the President of Zimbabwe some years ago. He lost a referendum and he only narrowly won, after a lot of violence and intimidation of the opposition, a parliamentary election, but he is an elected leader. The point we made about General Musharraf and it applies to Burma as well of course is that here is a military junta overthrowing and nullifying a democratic process and I think that puts people in a totally different position. We do not like what President Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe. I and the Foreign Secretary have been more critical than anybody else internationally of the destruction of the country and the devastation of the economy that his policies are responsible for.
59. In this scale of human rights' offenders from Saddam Hussein, as probably one of the worst, to President Mugabe, who you seem prepared to tolerate
(Mr Hain) No, I do not accept that. I do not tolerate President Mugabe. What do you mean "tolerate"? We have been vociferous to the point where people have said maybe we were too strong.
60. We agreed to appoint him to a high-level Commission in the Commonwealth.
(Mr Hain) That was a Commonwealth decision.
61. We supported it.
(Mr Hain) Commonwealth decisions are Commonwealth decisions and you are part of them. There is usually a consensus and you do not always like every little detail.
62. If we take the scale of human rights' offenders, with Saddam Hussein as one of the worst and somebody who is not as bad but nevertheless a human rights' offender like Mr Mugabe, where do you think the current Chinese regime fits in?
(Mr Hain) I think President Mugabe is a serious human rights' offender that is selfevident and I do not accept at all your point that there is somehow one law for right-wing dictators and another law for left-wing tyrants, if I can put it that way, to use your comparison. One of the reasons why I personally and the Foreign Secretary have been as vociferous publicly as we have been privately about not condoning events under President Mugabe's leadership and his responsibility for those events in Zimbabwe is precisely because we do not have any double standards. On China the Chinese regime is responsible for a series of human rights' abuses. There is no question about that. And we, as a result, have established a process of critical dialogue with the Chinese Government which is fairly unique, although I think the Americans just recently have followed suit, where we have twice a year in Peking and in London our two teams discuss our concerns, our agenda - whether it is the treatment of the Falun Gong, for example, the crack-down on political activists, or the situation in Tibet - and we have had some positive and practical outcomes from that which I am happy to report to you.
63. I understand the policy of critical dialogue but I asked you where you thought China fitted in on this scale. You said you thought there were pretty bad human rights' abuses. In those circumstances why did the Foreign Secretary refuse to meet Wei Jingsheng, probably the most famous Chinese dissident in London, and only as a result of being called "twofaced" by Wei Jingsheng did the Foreign Secretary agree to meet him the second time?
(Mr Hain) I do not think there was any reason not to meet him. In fact, I met him the Foreign Secretary did before of course on the eve of the Chinese state visit, a couple of days beforehand. I was pleased to do so. We had a very good discussion and we agreed to remain in contact. I did so, I might add, despite pressure from the Chinese ambassador not to because I think it is very important that the voice of leading dissidents like him are heard at ministerial level.
64. Nevertheless the Foreign Secretary did refuse to meet him.
(Mr Hain) You may or may not be referring to a situation some years ago. We certainly did not refuse to meet him
65. While this Government has been in power, in the last three years.
(Mr Hain) On the most recent occasion that I can speak for the Foreign Secretary asked me to do it not for any other reason but that he was involved in other matters.
66. I am suggesting to you that the way we approach China on human rights is very pragmatic. We have serious interests with China, there is not an awful lot we can do about bad human rights there, so we are very, very practical. You are sounding very pragmatic. If I may say so, you are sounding like a Conservative Foreign Minister in this evidence!
(Mr Hain) I do not accept that at all.
67. When it comes to other countries we have a rather different policy. Let's come to the visit of the Chinese President because that is where we have got to. Why was it necessary for Foreign Office officials to hold eight meetings with the Metropolitan Police to discuss the policing of that visit?
(Mr Hain) First of all, can I say for the record
that I reject the suggestion that I am sounding or acting in any
way like a Conservative Minister, as my Foreign Office officials
68. You cannot help it!
(Mr Hain) I will not invite them to but I am
sure they would concur. In fact, this Government is regarded internationally
as one of the most progressive in all respects by people who follow
foreign policy matters and certainly by other states with whom
we have a bilateral relationship.
69. You think it is respected by those people who sought to demonstrate on the streets of London against the Chinese President's visit, who had their flags and banners ripped away from them by the Metropolitan Police and Chinese secret policemen standing beside them pointing out Chinese dissidents, which is what happened to Wei Jingsheng whom you had met the day before?
(Mr Hain) I think that your observations on that were taken very much to heart by the Government. There was a report, as you know, by the Metropolitan Police investigating as to what happened and I think some hard lessons have been learnt. Certainly I would not like to see anything like a repeat of that unhappy series of events, and that is true for the Government as a whole.
70. I am glad lessons have been learnt because I was going to come on to ask what they were. Is not what happened that those eight meetings were effectively a conspiracy between Foreign Office officials and the Metropolitan Police? I use the words of your colleague Mr Battle in answer to a Parliamentary Question sent to me: "Foreign and Commonwealth officials and the Metropolitan Police discussed the proposed programme for the state visit and the concerns of the Chinese authorities about the possible impact of demonstrations on the visit". Were those meetings not designed to conspire to prevent, stop, minimise demonstrations which Wei Jingsheng might otherwise seek to lead?
(Mr Hain) I was obviously not present at those meetings and you are not suggesting I was. My colleague, John Battle, has explained the situation both to Parliament and in public very, very fully. There was certainly no conspiracy, absolutely no conspiracy. Indeed, when I met Wei Jingsheng only a few days before he said to me, "Will we be given the right to protest peacefully?" and I said he would and contacted the Home Office as a result. Obviously subsequent events proved that promise wrong and I regret that, but I think one of the lessons that we learned from that incident is that we make sure in any state visit by any country in future that the right to peacefully protest is upheld, and I am very pleased to see Conservative Members supporting it, which is not always my experience in the past, I might add.
71. You said that there was no conspiracy. There were 35 Chinese secret policemen who accompanied the President here and in the case of Wei Jingsheng, he was forcibly grabbed by policemen outside Buckingham Palace. He says he was grabbed by three Metropolitan Police officers, two of whom pinned his arms and one of whom grabbed his back and he was being pointed out to them by one of these Chinese secret policemen. Is that or is that not a conspiracy to stop him demonstrating?
(Mr Hain) What happened there is not acceptable to me, and I dare say is probably not acceptable to the Committee, which is why the lessons have been learnt. There was no conspiracy between either my ministerial colleague, John Battle, or Foreign Office officials with the Chinese secret police. Some mistakes were made, some lessons have been learnt and that will not happen again.
72. I am very glad to hear it will not happen again because what it seems to say to me is that there were efforts, whether it is a conspiracy or not is another matter - and similar incidents happened in Cambridge and outside the Guildhall in the City when the Chinese President went there to dinner - and while it is clearly our job to protect his security, it is not our job to remove from his sight offensive demonstrations by citizens of his own country, and action was taken to minimise those demonstrations. I suggest to you that the pragmatic approach that you are now adopting to this is partly a result of that and that the "ethical" foreign policy died during the course of the demonstrations on the streets of London.
(Mr Hain) If I may say so, I think that is a flight of rhetorical fancy. I have said what I have to say about those demonstrations and it will not happen again and I think the lessons have been learnt and the right to peacefully protest must be protected at all times. If you look at what we have done on human rights in China, it is a very difficult situation and again I would like a better policy suggestion from you, if I may so ask, and it has not been forthcoming. We have had a whole series of initiatives, for example we have got the agreement of the Chinese to accept three members of the Foreign Secretary's Death Penalty Panel to visit China in September because we are very concerned about the level of executions there. There is some interest from the Chinese authorities in moving on that front. We have also facilitated a comprehensive programme of human rights' projects on the rule of law, human rights' awareness, children's and women's rights and other issues, and we have got British Council and Department for International Development projects there. We have raised a whole series of matters of individual cases of concern about dissidents and others, and again the Chinese have provided significantly more information than ever before as a result of this critical dialogue and they are beginning to co-operate in the international sphere. Their signature on 20 November to a Memorandum of Understanding on technical cooperation with the UN on human rights' matters is a welcome development. We look forward to the ratification on their part of two additional UN Covenants. China has got a long way to go. There are still serious crack-downs on dissidents.
73 Those particular developments are in the context of a consensus among nongovernmental organisations that there has been a deterioration in China in the situation on human rights in the past two years.
(Mr Hain) Yes, and I do not deny that, I would
agree with that. In a sense when we have been assessing our policy
of critical engagement we have had to do some very hard thinking
about the advantages I have mentioned, including some major advantages,
partly, at least, as a result of our stance on legal advances
and administrative law and other legal practices which have given
some extra protection through the legal system that was not there
before. As against that, you have had the crack-down on the Falun
Gong and the crack-down on political dissidents, and the treatment
of Tibet, and so on.
74 And trade unionists last week.
(Mr Hain) Indeed. I would not attempt to defend that. I think when we balance that we have to look at the end of the day to the fact that we have made these advances but there is still an awful long way to go and in some respects it has been two steps forward and three steps back.
Chairman: Again on China, Dr Starkey?
75 To put Mr Maples' remarks in context, would the Minister agree that there is a longstanding practice in this country, which I suspect he has been at the receiving end of and certainly I have, of photographing people taking part in entirely peaceful political demonstrations and, indeed, for example in respect of US bases, of the British police cooperating with the US military in allowing them to take pictures of British subjects and then giving them to the US military police outside the military bases? In that context, and as reprehensible though the action on the Chinese demonstration might have been, is it not a trifle rich for persons in the previous Government who did this all the time against other people suddenly getting all upset about it?
(Mr Hain) I think it is and although this is
not a matter for Party points to be made in this arena and you
would not want that, Chairman, I am sure it is the case that because
we have set ourselves higher standards towards an ethical dimension
foreign policy, putting human rights at the very top of the agenda,
in a sense we invite greater criticism. You have never had an
Annual Report published before on which this Committee can quiz
us and encourage us to do better and make suggestions on how we
can do better. Because we have elevated this whole agenda right
up to the top of foreign policy therefore we invite precisely
the kind of criticism, which I do not complain about. I would
say finally on this that I think compared with previous Conservative
Governments, whether it is policing of demonstrations or whether
it is human rights at the heart of foreign policy we have a record
of which to be proud.
76 Finally on the Chinese Premier's state visit, is it not factually incontrovertible that the degree of suppression of the basic human right of peaceful protest in this country, as in any free democracy, during the Chinese Premier's state visit was absolutely unprecedented in relation to the conduct of the policing of any previous state or indeed any senior ministerial state visit in this country? When you say, Minister, there was no conspiracy, it is factually incontrovertible that there were only two Departments that were involved in detailed discussion on the handling of the policing of this and the security dimension; the Foreign Office and the Home Office. Would you not agree that there are absolutely no grounds for thinking that the Home Office would produce a total change of all previous policing arrangements for such visits and therefore there must have been a clear steer? It was widely reported in the press that your Department had said there was going to be basically a zero tolerance policy on demonstrations during this state visit.
(Mr Hain) No, that is simply not true. There was no such statement made and there was no conspiracy. There were a lot of mistakes made. The Metropolitan Police report has identified those and the necessary action was put in place. I also have some personal experience of peaceful picketing myself going back over the decades and I can say that police treatment on occasion was not exactly as one might have expected having a cup of tea in your back garden on a Sunday afternoon. Things go wrong and you learn lessons from them. I think this rather contrived attempt, if I may say so Chairman, to elevate this into some crushing destruction of our whole foreign policy because the policing of those peaceful demonstrators went unhappily wrong is completely unacceptable.
Chairman: I would like to wrap up this part on
China by referring you to the response of the Chinese Embassy
to the recommendations in our own Foreign Affairs Committee report
on China in which they described our Report, which concentrated
very much on the situation on human rights, as "a document
harmful to SinoUK relations." We look forward very
much to the Foreign Office response to our Report in that context.
77 Various matters peppered around the report, if I may. On Kosovo, the European Union and United Kingdom Government and others have welcomed the election of the new President in Yugoslavia and we are looking forward to Parliamentary elections in the next few days' time. Nevertheless I and other members of the Committee were quite surprised to realise that there are still in Yugoslav prisons substantial numbers of Kosovans who might not have even have gone through a mode of trial. One was absolutely flabbergasted because a pre-condition of a relaxation of a regime of sanctions and so on was that these people were released. What say you on that?
(Mr Hain) I think it is right that you raise this. We obviously are very concerned about that. We continue to make representations on it, but we took the view in the European Union context that it was so important to strengthen Kostunica's position in taking Serbia (and the whole of the region therefore) down the road of normality, that that was the priority, and having done that and having established diplomatic relations, as we have now done, then to raise all these issues, as we continue to try to do.
78 I hear what you say, but there has to be a point where it either has to happen or you say, "You are not fulfilling the qualities of a regime which should have sanctions lifted and should have diplomatic representation." It seems to me an extraordinary way to go about it and, if I might say so, all you Western European governments have rather hid this matter. Legislators around Europe and many members of the press assumed that there was a general amnesty. You did not draw attention to this serious deficiency in what is the current arrangement in Yugoslavia. You are all guilty of it, not just the British Government, the whole lot of you.
(Mr Hain) I think that the first thing had to be to get the existing regime, which came into office in very difficult circumstances, bedded down and so on, and then these issues can be pursued. For example, the ICRC now has access to 792 Kosovar Albanians
(Mr Hain) --- Still detained in Serbia, but the releases are continuing and we are continuing to put on pressure for the releases. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia authorities have tabled an amnesty law and initiated discussions on those detained or missing on both sides with UNMIK. The process is continuing. It might be helpful if I just say on the advice I have that the ICRC estimate there are still 3,368 people who remain unaccounted for. This is a desperate situation but obviously the whole region was in a desperate predicament. The idea that we were turning a blind eye to these things is not true. We just thought the priority was to get things moving forward, the country being able to turn round and, and then continuously engage and press for these detainees to be released.
80 It is clearly something we and others would wish to return to fairly speedily I would have thought.
(Mr Hain) Yes, I would welcome that.
81 In relation to Serbia, would the Foreign Office be content if the domestic courts in Serbia were to deal with former President Milosevic if there was a clear undertaking that he would be dealt with adequately within their own courts, or are we still pressing him to release Milosevic for the International War Crimes Tribunal?
(Mr Hain) We are still pressing him to release Milosevic to the International War Crimes Tribunal. He is selfevidently a war criminal.
82 Are there any signs that the new President Kostunica will comply or is he intending to go ahead with a domestic tribunal?
(Mr Hain) I do not have the uptodate
diplomatic views on that, but we continue to engage on that and
continue to press for that.
83 The Chairman's question prompts a further one on this. These people cannot be a hostage to lifting the possibility of prosecution of Milosevic in or outside Serbia, can they? Is there a danger of that? You mention the amnesty law.
(Mr Hain) No, I do not think so. I think that this is one of the matters of unfinished business as a result of Milosevic's fall from power which will still be pursued.
84 It is a very good report on Belorus, but both Mr Trend and myself met the Belorus opposition at the invitation of the Foreign Office recently. They drew our attention to the fact that the British Council have closed down their operation in Minsk. Incidentally, can I say there is no BBC Belorus service but that has not closed down; that does not exist. Whilst I recognise the independence of the British Council, this seems to be quite in contrast to what we should be doing.
(Mr Hain) The British Council has been engaged upon and decided upon a new strategy which has involved decisions like that. What it has also done is expanded hugely, for example, in Eastern and Central Europe, especially in those countries that are likely to come in under European Union enlargement which we think is really important.
85 That is not answering my point, with the greatest respect.
(Mr Hain) There are priorities and the priority was to do that.
86 To withdraw the facility from Minsk sends all the wrong signals. This is packing up and going home. The map of Europe does not have Belorus in it.
(Mr Hain) I do not accept that at all. What the British Council is also doing, both in that region and elsewhere, is looking at new ways of maintaining a presence there, in some cases certainly in partnership with a British private company which has got commercial interests there so we can maintain a presence and offer much the same kind of services but get additional funding for it. I can understand your irritation on it but British Council decisions are about priorities and the priorities were felt to be elsewhere in the world.
Chairman: Minister, we shall be meeting the DirectorGeneral
in the early New Year and this can be a marker for him and we
shall certainly pursue that further.
87 Can I go to the overseas territories. The report you have published, we have had it for some months, says you will bring forward Orders in Council later this year in relation to homosexual reform, for instance. We have not had those Orders in Council, have we?
(Mr Hain) No, I do not think we have.
88 Why not?
(Mr Hain) I cannot say.
89 What makes me cross is the fact that your Department and to some extent probably not you Minister does not appear to care what it says to Parliament. Earlier you said we were going to get a Green Paper; we do not have a Green Paper. Your Report says we are going to have Orders in Council "later this year" - those are the words - and we have not had them. I do not want to go back over old sores, as it were, but your planted Parliamentary Question on the last day of July talking about the publication of an International Criminal Court was aborted to suit the Foreign Secretary's arrangements. When are you going to say things to Parliament and say what you mean and keep to them? Why have we not got these Orders in Council? Who is stalling? Who has been dilatory?
(Mr Hain) Andrew, I accept your reprimands on this and I am not seeking to dodge them. Incidentally, the publication arrangements for the International Criminal Court Draft Bill were not aborted, but I do accept that the day was shifted by three or four days and therefore the answer I gave before when giving notice of this was wrong by three or fours days and I am sorry about that. But we are wanting to bring these Orders in as quickly as possible and we will do it as quickly as possible.
90 When do you expect the arrival date of these Orders?
(Mr Hain) Soon.
91 We can come back to that.
(Mr Hain) As soon as I have information on that, Chairman, I will write to you with a copy to Mr Mackinlay.
92 Your colleague Ministers or Sir John Kerr really must understand that if they say things to Parliament they have got to stick to them. We are Parliament in this context here. I think that throughout this Parliament there has been a cavalier disregard for this Committee and things which have been uttered to it.
(Mr Hain) Obviously that is a very serious point to make. I will make sure the Foreign Secretary and the Permanent Under Secretary are aware of the vehemence of that thought. I do not think it is entirely fair, but the force of the point is made and must be reported.
93 The other point (which I am not sure I will take my Committee with me on) is looking at Article 21 of the Universal Collection of Human Rights, has it occurred that we are in breach of Article 21 in respect of all our overseas territories in as much as we do not give them representation to government, again in contrast to the United States, the Netherlands, France, Spain which also have overseas territories?
(Mr Hain) It was because we regarded, as an incoming Government, the position of the overseas territories as not being acceptable by maintaining them in this constitutional limbo in respect of the citizenship, in particular, that we brought out the White Paper, and we are committed to legislation as soon as we can to implement the broad policies that were consulted on in the White Paper. I think the idea - and I know you have not suggested that - that we are indifferent to this is not true. We are taking forward this agenda.
94 This White Paper which has not been enacted and legislation has not been brought forward. Again, if you look at the statements of the time, we are overdue on that legislation. I cannot quote chapter and verse on that, but I think we were promised legislation on citizenship in this Parliament and it actually featured some Queen's speeches ago. The point I was coming to was the fact that we are not providing representation in the legislature to overseas territories.
(Mr Hain) On the question of legislation I do not think a timetable was specifically given, but I stand to be corrected. The important point that we can agree upon, and I hope the Committee welcomes, is that we are committed to legislation. We have prepared instructions for Parliamentary Counsel jointly with the Home Office to draft the Bill and we will make available a slot in the legislative timetable for the business as soon as one becomes practically available.
95 Finally on this, what is demonstrably so is we still have got the obligation on Gibraltar, on the European Union franchise.
(Mr Hain) Yes.
96 I know it is a matter for the Home Secretary but it is a matter for you also. Actually, the next European elections are not all that very far away. Your colleague, Mr Vaz, has shifted to new ground, which I welcome. He indicated it had to be done with the agreement of others, he has now said he might do it unilaterally. When do you think we can expect this legislation?
(Mr Hain) Well, as you rightly point out, and
I acknowledge your expert interest in Gibraltar, following the
important announcement of the European Court of Human Rights in
February pretty well immediately, I think within a month, February
1999, we tabled in Brussels an amendment to the 1976 EC Act on
Direct Elections to try and get the provisions of that judgment
carried into effect which would give European parliamentary representation
to Gibraltar. We have not yet been able to get unanimity amongst
Member States, which is our problem. We cannot allow this sort
of history to go on forever because we are in breach of the Court
with, as you say, elections coming up in a few years' time.
97 We will be coming back to it.
(Mr Hain) By all means.
98 On the question of the trial of Milosevic, is that a united position with the European Union that there should be a trial at the Hague?
(Mr Hain) As far as I am aware, Sir David. If I may I would prefer to write back to you on that matter because I do not have the day to day responsibility for the Balkans.
99 Could it be the French tried to change the policy during their Presidency?
(Mr Hain) I do not think that is the case but
I would not really want to speculate on that until I have proper
100 You will write?
(Mr Hain) Yes.
101 Will we raise it with the Swedish Presidency and get the policy redefined? I think it is important in view of what has been said this morning.
(Mr Hain) I will write to you when I am properly informed and answer those questions.
102 It is one of the biggest human rights things you can have.
(Mr Hain) I think Tony Brenton may have something to add.
(Mr Brenton) Would it be helpful for me to say this. The former Yugoslavia Tribunal was established by a resolution of the Security Council and, therefore, it binds all members of the United Nations. It is that Tribunal which has issued the indictment on Milosevic and we are all committed to supporting the actions of that Tribunal. It is not a matter for the EU or anyone else.
(Mr Hain) It is a matter of law.
(Mr Brenton) It is a matter of international
103 In what circumstances can that resolution be overridden, or at least set aside, if there are deemed to be adequate domestic processes?
(Mr Brenton) My instinctive answer is it would
require a further resolution of the Security Council or withdrawal
of the indictment or action within the Tribunal.
104 Which France could propose as a Permanent Member of the Security Council?
(Mr Brenton) Yes - as the Minister has said we
will write - but I have not been aware of any proposal by anyone
to set the resolution aside. The international community is firmly
in support of the Tribunal in taking these actions.
105 Does the new regime recognise the Tribunal? Milosevic never did. He is now making comments that he does not recognise the Tribunal.
(Mr Hain) I think it is a fair point, but I think Milosevic recognised virtually nothing by way of international law or United Nations Security Council Resolution.
Mr Illsley: I just wondered whether any statement
had been made by Kostunica in relation to that, that he does not
106 Will you write to us on that general point?
(Mr Hain) I will. I am not aware of that statement,
but equally President Kostunica has made it clear that he wants
to recognise international law and bring Serbia within its framework.
107 I just wanted to return to a reply that you gave to my colleague, John Maples. I cannot believe it is all you meant to say but you actually said you do not like what Mr Mugabe is doing. Surely we condemn absolutely what Mr Mugabe is doing and we ought to be saying so loud and clear in the Commonwealth because if we cannot speak in those terms in the Commonwealth where we may have some influence, where the devil can we speak in those terms?
(Mr Hain) I did not want to suggest that this was just a matter of like or dislike. I am very happy to condemn the way that ---
108 Good, because you did say "we do not like it".
(Mr Hain) Yes, but it was in the context of a very complicated question about where Mugabe fitted in with the President of China and ---
109 You are willing to condemn absolutely?
(Mr Hain) Well, I think, Sir Peter, to be perfectly fair to be myself, I have been doing that consistently for most of the past year.
110 That is enough.
(Mr Hain) Indeed, some people think that the criticisms have been too condemnatory.
Sir Peter Emery: That is enough. Thank you very
111 I think President Mugabe has said some rather strong things about you personally as well.
(Mr Hain) I think he has and some inaccurate
things as well.
112 Can I bring up two completely separate issues. The first one is in relation to our opposition to the death penalty internationally and in particular in relation to the United States. The report actually mentions representations made to George W Bush when he was Governor of Texas by the European Parliament about the death penalty and, indeed, by the EU Presidency. Did those representations have any effect whatsoever on him as Governor of Texas and do you think he might listen a teeny bit more now he is President of the United States?
(Mr Hain) I am not aware of them having any impact on Texan practice and wait with some anticipation to see whether, on assuming the Presidency, that might change.
113 I am tempted to ask whether you have got any human rights agreements with the United States on that but I had better leave that one. Has there been any impact then on representations made to the United States about the execution of minors and what representation or other action is the Government planning for the future?
(Mr Hain) Of course, we have joined, Phyllis, our EU partners on regular day marches over the last 18 months with the US Administration both at State and Federal level and we make those public. Also, we have raised specific cases, including the execution of minors both in terms of federal executions and there are some problems in the US judicial system in their respect. This is something that we are on the case about. As on other matters of diplomacy, including ones you have mentioned earlier in this hearing, you cannot always achieve immediate success. Therefore, it may look like a failure but actually you just keep trying to do it.
114 The other issue I want to raise is actually relating to this country and not the direct responsibility of your Department but this Human Rights Report, of course, does report across Government. Citizenship education is going to be introduced by the Department for Education and Employment very shortly. This might be my one success this morning. Could you agree that in next year's report there will be a description of how citizenship education is promoting human rights awareness amongst UK pupils?
(Mr Hain) Yes.
115 Excellent. I shall build on that in future years.
(Mr Hain) Just ask me questions I can say yes to.
Dr Starkey: You could have said yes to some of
116 Minister, starting on page 79 of the report there is a section headed "Slavery and Bonded Labour". I am glad to see the detail which you have given as to what the British Government is doing to try to combat the evil of bonded labour in both India and Nepal. However, I am struck by the fact that the third country in which bonded labour is conspicuously present is not mentioned, namely Pakistan. I should be grateful if you could tell us why Pakistan is omitted? Is this for some reason a no-go area between the British Government and the Government of Pakistan? I do find this a most inexplicable omission from this report.
(Mr Hain) I cannot myself account for the omission, Chairman, but - and this may be the explanation - we have very close relations with the Governments of both Nepal and India. We do not enjoy the same proximity diplomatically with Pakistan and, therefore, we have been unable to raise bonded labour ---
117 You have been unable to?
(Mr Hain) No, as I say, we have been able to raise that because of that diplomatic proximity as actively as we can. In the case of Pakistan, we have obviously continued to urge on the Pakistani authorities to implement fully its legislation abolishing bonded labour and the Department for International Development are funding a project to protect the rights of working children by tackling child labour, in particular the football stitching and carpet making industry and Sialkot. So it is not something that we are silent upon. On the contrary, it is a matter with our ambassador and in a number of ways we continue to raise this with the Pakistanis. I do not quite know why Pakistan was mentioned there. I will have a look at that, certainly. Is there an explanation?
(Dr Browne) They are illustrative, not exhaustive.
(Mr Hain) Illustrative, not exhaustive. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.
118 I just put the point to you, Minster, as there are three countries where this great human rights evil is practised. You may agree that in this case the illustration should be comprehensive and cover all three countries rather than just two in future years?
(Mr Hain) I think I can say yes to that as well.
119 Thank you. The second point I would
like to ask you is this. Next year in June there is going to be
the ILO meeting at which this issue will certainly feature and,
Minister, can you tell us what the British Government will be
trying to achieve at the ILO meeting in June in terms of getting
greater international action, particularly in the three countries
to which I have referred, to try to eradicate this really gross
evil in the 21st century, this basic form of human slavery?
(Mr Hain) I agree with you, Sir John, and at
that meeting we will be taking forward that agenda. In fact, such
has been the strength of our commitment, and mine to this whole
area, that I received and had hearings on reports in the Foreign
Office on a "Children's Select Committee" of young people
who made strong recommendations on this and on a number of other
issues as a result of their own investigations internationally
and their contact with young people abroad as well.
120 Minister, back to the report. There have been two elements in the past which the Foreign Office have claimed as showing higher profile human rights, one is specific policy, like land mines, international criminal courts, indeed, the publication of the annual report, and the other is changes within the Foreign Office itself. We have had the promise in the past that all heads of mission when reporting back to the Foreign Office will have a human rights' element in their report. Is that, in fact, now being implemented?
(Mr Hain) Yes, it is certainly being implemented. We have just reminded our heads of mission to include a human rights' assessment and a report within their annual reports. At the end of the year each head of mission provides an annual report on his or her assessment of the country in question in every sense and British relations with it, and human rights has to feature in those annual reports.
121 In every mission is there now a specific individual charged with the responsibility for human rights?
(Mr Hain) Usually the Ambassador, or the High Commissioner, has always a very clear responsibility here. Often, depending on the size of the mission - obviously some of them are very small - there is a designated individual with that responsibility.
122 Finally on this, this report for the first time does not have the joint signatures of the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary for International Development, was she invited to cosign this report?
(Mr Hain) I do not think there is any mystery here. DFID felt they will pursue their human rights' agenda through their development programme and we were better placed ourselves to make an assessment of human rights' foreign policy.
123 We cannot read anything of significance into this change?
(Mr Hain) None at all.
124 Minister, on the issue of rights for women could you give us, first of all, any general view of the progress which the Government is making in the area of rights for women, particularly in Muslim countries and the other countries where there are religious or cultural practices which we would find in this country as being unacceptably discriminatory against women? That is the general point I wanted to put to you. On one specific point, earlier in this Parliament members of this Committee visited Kuwait, and we are extremely disappointed that the ruler of Kuwait and the leader in Kuwait have so far been unsuccessful in getting the Kuwaiti Parliament to agree to extend the right to franchise to women in that country. Could you tell us whether the British Government is continuing to try to do all it can to see that that legislation goes through the Kuwaiti Parliament so that that country can be amongst those in the Gulf who are prepared to break the existing mould and to allow women to have equal franchise rights to men?
(Mr Hain) I very much take the point and agree
with the sentiments behind it. When I was in Kuwait only last
month I specifically raised it with the most senior level in the
Kuwaiti Government and said publically, such is the strength of
feeling we have on this and share with you, that the Emir Decree,
granting women the right to vote, should be endorsed by the Kuwaiti
National Assembly. There is still a lot of opposition. I am afraid
in that sense democracy has triumphed over principle, that is
to say male democracy, and we will continue to work with the Kuwaiti
people to achieve that. I have also done a lot of work on this.
I spoke at the first ever conference on women's rights in Morocco,
in Rabut in October 1999, and have been struck when visiting Gulf
countries, for instance, and other Muslim nations, that there
is a demographic momentum here which is going to assist with the
enhancement of women's rights. I was very struck in Abu Dhabi,
in the Emirates or in Saudi Arabia, that there are increasingly
large numbers of very highly qualified women graduates coming
on to the labour market, coming into society with much more confidence,
much more educated, much more professionally qualified in a way
which I think is going to push forward this frontier in a very
125 Minister, that is a good note of consensus on which to end. On behalf of the Committee I would like to thank you and your two colleagues. We found our continued dialogue with nongovernmental organisations and our dialogue with you and the Foreign Office on this key issue of human rights very helpful.
(Mr Hain) Can I thank you very much. I value these opportunities in order to try and make sure not that we just report to you but that we get feedback from you to try and make sure we can improve upon things. This is a partnership, even though I am sometimes subjected to uncomfortable questions, we welcome it as getting the policy right. Thank you.