My Lords, we are working with all key partners, including key players in Africa. The Minister for Africa has discussed the situation in Tigray with the AU’s peace and security commissioner. The Foreign Secretary has also discussed the situation with President Kenyatta of Kenya and PM Hamdok of Sudan, and will continue to work with African partners as well as others to bring about a resolution of this conflict peacefully.
My Lords, I agree with my noble and learned friend. Freedom and human rights, including the right to protest, continue to be suppressed in Hong Kong. On the further actions we can take, I believe it resonates with the Chinese authorities when we act in concert with our key partners, not least because they respond accordingly to the statements being made. While the impact of those actions might for the medium to long term, they are noticed not just in Hong Kong but in Beijing.
My Lords, I assure the right reverend Prelate that we are looking very closely at the operation of the BNO scheme. No apparent issues have arisen. Many BNO holders also have dual passports so their ability to travel is not limited. We continue to monitor the scheme very closely.
My Lords, our primary contact is through the relief efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross. As for specific liaisons on the ground, we are working directly with CDEMA and the St Vincent and the Grenadines government authorities.
My Lords, I fully acknowledge what the right reverend Prelate says about the important role that church authorities play. Indeed, on the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, about the vaccine rollout, I suggested to the high commissioner this morning how the churches can also assist. On the right reverend Prelate’s wider question about long-term impacts, we will obviously remain engaged with the authorities of St Vincent and the Grenadines about their medium and long-term requirements.
The noble Lord is quite right to draw the House’s attention to the situation and the continuing challenges, including the discrimination towards and persecution of the Rohingya community within Myanmar and the suffering that continues, including for those who have managed to escape to Bangladesh. The support we offer them is a key priority for us and we continue to work with international authorities for their safe and voluntary return. However, the situation in Myanmar is dire at the moment, not just for them but for everyone.
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate again brings the focus on to the humanitarian assistance. I assure your Lordships’ House that we are working—not through government agencies but through international NGOs—to ensure that those corridors of humanitarian assistance can be kept open. But we have seen an uptick in violence being perpetrated against protesters in Myanmar. Particularly worrying are the recent actions taken by the military and security forces during the night.
My Lords, I am all too aware of the strong sentiments about the Government’s announcement on ODA spending. Of course, the Government are working through, and we have previously said we will come back to your Lordships’ House on the provisions we need to make in legislation. On my noble friend’s earlier point, I totally agree with him, but I assure him that it is not just our funding of COVAX and the AMC facility. My noble friend will also be aware of the commitment we have given to Gavi, CEPI and the World Health Organization to ensure equitable access not just in our fight against Covid-19 but in other pandemics as well.
My Lords, our initial funding of the AMC was very much based on match funding. We have seen that coming through and there are valuable contributions that other key partners can make. We are working very closely with the Gates Foundation among others to ensure that support for Gavi, the AMC and, particularly, for those most vulnerable is something not just for Governments but for the private sector as well.
My Lords, on my noble friend’s point about strengthening our global relationships across the world, we have specifically talked about the Indo-Pacific region. My noble friend will be aware of the strengthening relationships we have with key democracies in the world, including India. He is right to raise that wider spectrum of relationships. We are looking for strategic dialogue status within ASEAN. On his point about China, I hear very clearly what he says, but I draw his attention to the announcement that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made on 12 January for businesses operating directly with China, particularly with reference to Xinjiang. We continue to keep the situation of business relationships with China under review.
My Lords, I direct the right reverend Prelate to the point I made earlier about the 12 January announcement. We are looking to see how we can further strengthen any action that is required in this sphere. Businesses are also responsible for their own actions, but we are looking specifically at a number of the points that the right reverend Prelate has raised.
My Lords, the noble Baroness and I have often spoken about these important issues. In light of the coup, the Foreign Secretary has today announced a review of all support, including that sent to the Myanmar Government, with a view to suspend it unless, as the noble Baroness has suggested, there is direct exceptional humanitarian reasons not to do so. We will be working with people and NGOs on the ground to ensure that vital humanitarian access.
My Lords, on the issue that the right reverend Prelate raises of freedom of religion or belief in Myanmar, the situation is, frankly and very candidly, dire—there is no other word that I can use for that. On the situation with Bangladesh, as I have already alluded to, we are looking to engage directly with the Bangladeshi authorities, but equally they have stated their support for the democratically elected civilian Government.
The right reverend Prelate is right to raise those concerns. This too is part of the conversations that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has had with the Eritrean Government. They, of course, refute any such programmes or policy, but we continue to raise our concerns directly with them.
My Lords, I commend the work of the noble Baroness’s campaign to eradicate malaria. We have worked together on this, particularly in relation to the last CHOGM. She asks for quite specific details on the programmes and prioritisation. My right honourable friend has laid out the framework for how we will look at those priorities. I cannot give her a specific commitment on a particular programme on a particular issue, but I can say, where we have given commitments in the past, we will ensure that we look at how we can sustain our support, whether technical or financial. In due course, as decisions are made on how we prioritise our aid spend specifically, I am sure that we will return to these questions. I regret that I cannot give her a specific commitment on the issue of malaria at this time.
My Lords, I cannot go into the details of the legislative proposals that will be coming forward; as I said, I am not party to them yet, but they are being looked at. He asked some specific questions about sunset clauses, as did the noble Lord, Lord Collins, which I have noted, but beyond what I have said about the status of the legislation there is little more that I can add at this juncture.
As I have already said, we are leading the international response on Hong Kong. An increasing number of countries are joining statements through UN human rights bodies, which underscores the success of this approach. We have no plans to establish an international contact group. The Foreign Secretary is leading the way on this issue as a priority.
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right to raise BNO status. It will open for applications at the end of January 2021. On the specifics of people born after a given date, certainly where they are connected to those who qualify for BNO status, our policy is not to separate families—they will also be included in the scheme.
My Lords, the UK is fully committed to the principle that there must be no impunity for the most serious international crimes. We continue to voice our support for this principle and continue to support the work of International Criminal Court and the international tribunals to tackle impunity for these crimes. All allegations of war crimes or other atrocities must be investigated, prosecuted and, if appropriate, punished. We completely condemn any attack on civilians.
My Lords, we support the Minsk principles which ensure that there is an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh and provide guarantees for security and self-governance. However, ultimately, future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh will need to be done through a legally binding expression of will.
My Lords, we are aware of the media reporting and are urgently looking into the situation. I am afraid that I have no further information on that allegation at this time, but these are incredibly worrying reports which underline the desperate need for de-escalation.
My Lords, there are reports of torture and overcrowding in detention centres in Xinjiang, where over a million Uighurs are extrajudicially detained. We have repeatedly condemned the abuses of human rights perpetrated against the Uighurs in Xinjiang and again call upon China to immediately allow UN observers unfettered access to the region and to end extrajudicial detention.
My Lords, as the right reverend Prelate will know, any representation to the IOC would be a matter for the National Olympic Committee. The British Olympic Association operates independently of the Government. However, ensuring human dignity should be the approach of the Olympic committee or, indeed, any Government.
My Lords, the key question underlying this debate is whether the nations of the developed world will rise to the challenges of tackling Covid-19 globally and not just concentrate on their own country. Will we in the developed world in particular raise the $6.7 billion that the UN is trying to collect? Do the Government think this is a realistic, achievable proposal, or will the outcome be dominated by the nationalist politicians in charge of many countries around the world at the moment, elected on the basis that they will put their own country first?
The UK Government have certainly stumbled in how they have tackled the crisis on the domestic front, but—at least on the international stage—they have been one of the good guys, as we heard very well from the Minister. Can she now assure us that this will continue, as we take the difficult and no doubt self-absorbing path towards ending or easing the current lockdown in the UK? Will we keep our focus global as well as national as we tackle the future?
My Lords, I was part of a Lords Select Committee inquiry into international organisations in 2008 which looked specifically at the World Health Organization. We noted that global pandemics occur about three times a century. I shall quote from the then Government’s evidence to the committee:
“Estimates are that the next pandemic will kill between 2 million and 50 million people worldwide and between 50,000 and 750,000 in the UK. Socio-economic disruption will be massive.”
So the situation today was not entirely unforeseen. I wonder whether the Minister or her colleagues in the Cabinet Office have read that report. It may provide them with some useful insights and lessons that might have been learned.
My second point is to do with the WHO’s international health regulations, introduced in 2005 to improve reporting of public health emergencies of international concern. The innovation in them was that, for the first time, non-governmental sources of information were to be made part of the public health surveillance system. This allowed the WHO to collect and use information from multiple sources, including the media and NGOs, rather than relying on responsible behaviour from member states. They were deemed particularly relevant to those states where there was a culture of secrecy. It seems that these surveillance capabilities were not adequately employed in this instance in China, a country that should have been on the WHO’s radar due to previous animal-to-human transmitted diseases.
That brings me to my final point. The WHO’s World Health Assembly is meeting today but has excluded Taiwan from the meeting. It is clearly a political decision to exclude a country that has not only been a model for fighting Covid-19 but is at the forefront of other public health measures to conduct surveillance of it as we go forward. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government have an explanation for why Taiwan has been excluded and what the UK Government’s position overall on Taiwan is?
My Lords, we take any report of rape or sexual assault seriously. Our staff explain local policing and legal procedures. We can attend the police station with and support victims and ensure that they can access medical care. We also work with specialist support organisations, such as our funded partners, and fund bespoke projects to improve the treatment of victims by authorities in other countries.
My Lords, on the second question asked by the right reverend Prelate, obviously I cannot go into specific details because it is ongoing. He raised the important issue of ensuring that, because of the experience we have seen from this case, no victim of sexual violence—be it at home or abroad—feels that there is a barrier or, indeed, feels reluctant to come forward. It is clear that if someone is sexually assaulted or raped, they should come forward. Abroad, we will offer full support, as we have done in this case; here in the United Kingdom, I know that my colleagues at the Home Office will take the issue very seriously. If you have been assaulted, come forward and report it.