Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 119)

TUESDAY 19 DECEMBER 2000

MR PETER HAIN, MP, MR TONY BRENTON AND DR CAROLYN BROWNE

Chairman

  100. You will write?
  (Mr Hain) Yes.

Sir David Madel

  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 law.

Chairman

  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.

Sir David Madel

  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.

Mr Illsley

  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 recognise it.

Chairman

  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.

Sir Peter Emery

  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 much.

Chairman

  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.

Dr Starkey

  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 démarches 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 the others.

Sir John Stanley

  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 not 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.


 
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