Campaign response: Amendments to the Trade Bill; Give yourself the power to protect the NHS; This is the last chance to protect the NHS from trade deals/“Please vote for NC4 on the Trade Bill” - July 09 2020
Recently I have received a number of emails from constituents regarding the importance of scrutinising the government’s work on trade deals.
Brexit presents us with a golden opportunity to ensure our trade arrangements work best for the UK and Cornwall, and I am pleased that the Government is making strong progress on trade deals with a number of key partners including the US, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
I fully agree with constituents on the importance of parliamentary scrutiny. I am glad that government ministers already do their very best to make themselves and their officials available for engaging with parliamentary colleagues, in the chamber and elsewhere. In addition to parliamentary questions, urgent questions and statements, they also hosts regular meetings with key stakeholders. Indeed I recently took place in a virtual meeting with the International Trade Secretary to present our constituency’s concerns and priorities in the free trade agreements that she is seeking to strike.
The Government is striving to be clear and transparent with our trade objectives and the progress of our trade negotiations. The policy paper on the UK’s approach to negotiations with the EU, for instance, was published in full and accessible to all members of the public here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-approach-to-the-future-relationship-with-the-eu.
I am certain that there will continue to be many opportunities for MPs to examine and ask questions of the government’s trade policy. If any constituent has any specific issue that they would like to raise with me in regards to trade agreements, they are welcome to contact me as always.
However, what I cannot support is an approach that binds the government’s hands in the trade negotiations. It would not be reasonable to expect the government to provide a running commentary on the progress on their trade negotiations. Anybody who has any negotiating experience will tell you simply can’t reveal your hand or you might risk losing out on the best deal possible. By that logic, while the government needs to be transparent with its trade strategy and approach, it must not reveal every minute detail in the negotiations, as this could risk us not achieving the best possible deal for the UK.
Furthermore, Parliament and parliamentarians do not themselves carry these trade negotiation – this is the government’s role. It would be constitutionally problematic if parliamentarians started micromanaging our trade negotiations.
These are the undesirable outcomes I fear that these amendments to the Trade Bill could achieve, which could only serve undermine our negotiating stance. Therefore I cannot support them.
Nevertheless I would like to thank constituents for taking the time to get in touch with me.
Campaign response - Save Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa in Bahrain - 6 July 2020
Thank you to constituents for emailing in regarding Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa who could have their death sentences upheld in Bahrain on Monday, July 13, 2020.
I am concerned to hear about the predicament of the two men. Britain has a strong record on speaking up against the death penalty and other human rights issues – indeed I am pleased that as I compose this response, the Foreign Secretary is up on his feet in the Commons giving a statement in which he is setting out our new global sanctions regime, which will apply to perpetrators of human rights abuses across the globe.
I know that ministers remain very concerned about the situation with these two individuals. I have been assured by this latest response by an FCO minister, whom I believe is taking the right approach on the matter and one that I will continue to support:
The UK welcomed the investigation conducted by the Special Investigation Unit on the cases of Mohammed Ramadhan and Hussain Moosa and its recommendation that the cases should be re-tried – a first in Bahrain. We are deeply concerned about the death sentences given to Mohammed Ramadhan and Hussain Moosa. The Government of Bahrain are fully aware that the UK is firmly opposed to the death penalty, in all circumstances. The UK has, and will, continue to monitor the cases closely and raise concerns with senior members of the Bahraini Government.
Bahrain remains a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Human Rights Priority Country; there is more to do, but we believe progress will only be made by working with Bahrain. Assistance, which is kept under regular review, is provided in line with international standards, and fully complies with our human rights obligations and the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance process.
Campaign response - Please defend UK Aid - 6 July 2020
Recently some constituents have written to me expressing their concerns over the impact that the DFID-FCO merger may have on UK Aid and its ability to help the poorest and most impoverished people around the world.
Constituent will know that I am a supporter of our international aid and I am proud of the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of our budget in international aid, which is helping to build a safer, healthier, more prosperous world for people in developing countries and in the UK.
British aid goes towards vaccinating children from preventable diseases, enabling them to go to school and helping people work their way out of poverty, as well as providing food, nutrition and medical care.
Foreign aid also provides added value to our security and trade policies. Foreign development assistance can often make an important contribution towards in supporting stability and sustainable development for the recipient country, leading to better foreign relations and prospect for a more preferential trade deal with them.
It is in our interest to maintain our foreign aid policy because it also helps to promote UK interests abroad and ensure our position as the world’s leading soft power nation is secure.
At the same time, I understand the concerns that many constituents have raised with me regarding the inefficiency of certain aid and relief programmes that DFID had been running, and the need for the allocation of this budget to be made accountable to, and provide the best value for money, to UK taxpayers.
I am glad these points were shared by the Prime Minister in his statement on Global Britain in the Commons and in response to my question to him during his statement: “I am grateful to my hon. Friend. What is actually happening, of course, is that DFID and the FCO are now joining together to become a new Whitehall super-Department for international affairs, which will be of huge benefit to our ability to project Britain’s sense of mission about overseas aid. For too long, frankly, UK overseas aid has been treated as some giant cashpoint in the sky that arrives without any reference to UK interests, to the values that the UK wishes to express or to the diplomatic, political and commercial priorities of the Government of the UK.” (https://bit.ly/3hCgsn3)
It would be wrong to suggest this latest merger as cynical move to roll back on our humanitarian commitments to the world. What it does represent, is a new and innovative approach by the UK to international relations, in order to secure our values and interests in a rapid changing world – bringing together this country’s strength and expertise to bear on the world’s biggest problems.
When DFID was created in 1997 it was the right set-up for that era. I pay tribute to the incredible work that DFID officials have done over the years, earning DFID and the UK a well-deserved reputation as one of the leaders in the world when it comes to humanitarian relief and development aid.
But our world has changed since then. At present, the division of responsibility between DFID and FCO means we are unable to always be as effective as we could on the global stage.
This latest merger is about streamlining Whitehall to ensure both its effectiveness and efficiency – Having a single new Department will give the UK the change required to maximise our positive influence around the world without losing any of the expertise.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that we will continue to commit to spending 0.7% of GNI on international development, and that it will be at the core of our new foreign policy approach.
I will continue to support and speak up for our aid efforts around the world and to ensure that they remain effective and sustainable. I will try my best to attend Thursday's estimates day debate on the funding of DFID and the FCO