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22 Nov 2007 : Column 226WH—continued

My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester rightly raised a number of points, as did other hon. Members, about the British Council, the BBC World
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Service and the Chevening scholarships. Time does not allow me to pay proper tribute to all three, but the British Council does inspirational work throughout the world. I grew up in South Africa during apartheid, and the World Service when I was a child was one of the few sources of objective information about what was happening in the world, as opposed to the version of events that I was invited to believe by the state-controlled South African Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC World Service is about to launch a remarkable Arabic service, which my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester may be aware of, and which parliamentarians may have an opportunity to visit. The investment and reach of that service will be of phenomenal importance.

Last night, I spoke at a reception for Chevening scholars from a variety of countries, not least Iran, China and Mexico. Our relationship with some of their Governments is good, and with others it is not so strong, but it was clear that even during the short time that those scholars have been in the UK we have managed to develop a bilateral understanding through scholarship on one another’s cultures.

My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester referred to Jordan, with which we have much in common. It is playing a progressive and important role in the middle east peace process, and I am sure that it will continue to do so at Annapolis and beyond in the months to come.

The hon. Member for Cheadle, among others, spoke about the importance of the European Union. I do not want to belittle today’s debate by referring to the to-ing and fro-ing on the European treaty issue because that is for another day, but the European Union has a phenomenally important role on almost every issue that we have discussed today. If it makes sense for parliamentarians to come together to share concerns and exercise influence on a wider stage, as it does, it obviously makes as much sense for Governments and nations to come together through the European Union to exert even greater influence, not just in the countries that we have spoken about, but in Pakistan and many other parts of the globe. An important part of the European Union’s soft power is that it has been able to persuade Albania, Kosovo, and in time perhaps Serbia and other nations, such as Turkey, to conform to democratic norms and to introduce important changes.

The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) spoke about the worry, which I occasionally share, that some people, but not those who have spoken today, seem to look at much of the debate about human rights
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and internationalism through the prism of anti-Americanism. That is unfortunate. It is a legitimate perspective, but it is wrong. The hon. Gentleman balanced that in his comments, and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North also balanced that by talking about China and the important work on human rights that must be done there.

The importance of the IPU raising climate change and sustainable development is that it is not seen as coming from the UK Treasury or the Government. It is a legitimate cross-party concern of UK parliamentarians.

Time will not allow me to deal with all the points raised by hon. Members. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North spoke about what might be described as the poorest billion citizens on our planet. He referred to international migrant workers, and the Foreign Office would certainly be interested in his work as rapporteur. Other hon. Members referred to Burundi, and the hon. Member for Cotswold was correct when he referred to the importance of development post-conflict, as a way of preventing repetition of that conflict. In Burundi we are investing in a programme aimed at building Government capacity, and supporting health and education.

Unfortunately, I cannot respond to all the points raised today, but I shall finish with a lighted-hearted point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester. She said that football is the new international diplomacy, and the British Council has also referred to that, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North, but he should have declared an interest, because his son works for Arsenal, and I met him when I visited Arsenal. My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester declared an interest because of her previous employment, and I should declare an interest because I gave my hon. Friend’s son an award.

Despite the events of last night, we continue to support Croatia’s continued aspiration to become a member of the European Union, and as a Scot, I continue to support Italy’s membership, although I am not so sure after the Spanish referee’s decision at the game last week.

I shall be going from the Chamber straight to Wembley to play with the all-party parliamentary football team in a football match to raise money for charity, and I invite all hon. Members—including you, Sir Nicholas—regardless of footballing prowess and experience, to join me in that adventure.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at half-past Five o’clock.


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