Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
TUESDAY 19 DECEMBER 2000
HAIN, MP, MR
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
(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 missionobviously some of them are very
smallthere 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 co-sign 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.
Sir John Stanley
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 leadership in Kuwait have so far been unsuccessful in
getting the Kuwaiti Parliament to agree to extend the right of
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 Amiri 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
non-governmental 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.