The new Coalition government, or Tory government propped up by Tory Lite if you prefer, is keen to do business with India, China, in fact, any country it can do business with. This is perfectly understandable and some might say laudable. Do I, however, want to buy goods produced under conditions tantamount to slave labour or worse, child labour? Do I want to associate with countries where human rights atrocities are routinely sanctioned by the state? Do I want to associate with one party states where, in the name of a god or some form of deity or prophet, the rights of women are downgraded to have less value to the men than their exotic motor cars and houses? I don’t – but it seems that a great many of us do. But I don’t have a choice, you don’t have a choice - because our government may well force us indirectly to turn a blind eye to these through our need to reduce the deficit and promote the interests of what David Cameron referred to as the ‘sharp elbowed middle classes’. And there was I thinking, naively, that Britain in the 21st century was at last moving away from the class system!
The government proposes to stop recording human rights abuses across the world, a process first established by then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in the name of ethical foreign policy.
My observations on the need to trade with the ‘Good, the bad and the ugly’ will be met, possibly, by the easy retort that the last Labour government caused the deficit and the government needs to put that right. Received wisdom indicates that this bald statement is not entirely true. One can accept that there were instances of over spending, poor management, chaotic procurement policy, lack of control and lack of clear policy (endemic in most governments?) – but the collapse of the world economy cannot be laid at the door of the last Labour government. What would it have been like had the Bank of England not embarked on a programme of quantitative easing? What would it have been like had the Brown administration not continued to spend? What would it have been like had sharp elbowed middle class bankers behaved like honourable human beings instead of avaricious, venal and thoughtless human beings? We cannot, now, know – because all these things happened and others did not.
I will, however, accept that Labour were responsible for many of the oppressive erosions on our civil liberties – a phenomenon I still find puzzling from a party with the core ethic of acting in the wider interests of the less advantaged but stated, by Blair, when he began his premiership to be for all the people of Britain.
Britain scraps annual assessment of human rights abuses across the world
NGOs concerned that ministers are ‘blindly’ pursuing commercial interests in countries where atrocities are taking place
The Observer reports: ” The coalition government is plunged into a major row today over its commitment to human rights amid claims that it will scrap the Foreign Office’s landmark annual assessment of abuses across the world.
The Observer has learned that civil servants have been told to stop working on the next edition of the FCO Annual Report on Human Rights, which highlights incidents of torture and oppression, monitors use of the death penalty and aims to expose the illegal arms trade. The report also acts as a guide to MPs and businesses over which countries it is ethical to trade with.
The former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, broke ranks last night to claim that any move to end the annual report risked “downgrading human rights” and would be met with “fierce resistance”. NGOs said that doubts over the future of the report, which was introduced by Robin Cook in 1997, fuelled their concerns that coalition ministers were “blindly” pursuing commercial interests in countries where atrocities were taking place…..
It makes interesting and sobering reading. Roll on the Great Repeal Act, much trumpeted by Deputy Prime Minister Clegg.