2 May 2023
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Questions

James Cleverly, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, answers MPs’ questions.

Israel and Palestine

Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab)

2. What assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of recent violence in Israel and Palestine. (904712)

Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP)

4. Whether he has had recent discussions with his Israeli counterpart on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. (904714)

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (James Cleverly)

Our strong bilateral relationship with Israel means that we can speak frankly with the Israelis, and whenever I do so I encourage them to ensure that security operations are carried out proportionately and in accordance with international law. I call on all parties to find opportunities to de-escalate tension. On 7 April, I condemned the indiscriminate rocket attacks directed at Israel, and I also condemned the horrific murder of Lucy, Maia and Rina Dee by a terrorist. My deepest condolences go to Rabbi Leo Dee and his family. The UK remains committed to a two-state solution, and we consistently engage with Israel and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority to support that goal.

Alex Davies-Jones 

I share the sentiments of the Foreign Secretary, but last year was the deadliest year for violence in the west bank since 2005 and the cycle of violence continues. There are some trailblazing organisations working in the region using cutting-edge science and artificial intelligence technology to encourage peace and an end to the bloodshed. What recent conversations have Ministers or the Secretary of State had with their colleagues in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology about the value of those collaborative projects and their impact on a two-state solution?

James Cleverly 

I thank the hon. Lady for the points she has put forward. I will endeavour to speak with the Secretary of State or Ministers in that Department. We will constantly explore opportunities to enhance peace and strive towards a sustainable two-state solution, whether through the most traditional people-to-people approach or through the use of AI. Whatever it takes, we are willing to consider it.

Tommy Sheppard 

The Foreign Secretary mentioned the two-state solution. Now that it is the policy of the Israeli Government not to pursue a two-state solution, can he explain how the discussions on trade with Israel will be used to pursue that policy objective and to uphold human rights and international law in the occupied territories?

James Cleverly 

The UK enjoys a trade relationship with Israel; indeed, we have a trade agreement with the Occupied Palestinian Territories as well. We will always put human rights and the pursuit of peace at the heart of our foreign policy when it comes to Israel and the OPTs. We will continue to hold our position on the desirability of a two-state solution and we will continue, in our interactions with the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, to pursue that aim.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the Abraham accords are a huge breakthrough in diplomatic dialogue in the region, that they are a force for good and that they are creating conversations between people who previously did not speak and join together around the same table? Is it not the case that the Palestinian leadership should recognise that the region is changing and that they need to get on board and work with their friends, allies and partners in the region to try to understand the differences of opinion across the region?

James Cleverly 

My right hon. Friend makes an incredibly important point about the changing dynamic in the region. I am very pleased that the Abraham accords were signed. More than being just a single point in time, the accords have unlocked a series of dialogues between countries in the Arab world and Israel. They have also formalised relationships that perhaps would have been informal up until this point, and they are a fantastic stepping-stone towards wider regional security and that peaceful, sustainable two-state solution.

Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con)

Aside from the violent incidents that my right hon. Friend has referred to, does he agree that the fact that more than 1 million worshippers were able to visit the Temple Mount during Ramadan and that the month of April saw the great festivals of Easter, Passover and Ramadan being celebrated so freely throughout Israel marks Israel out as a remarkable example of religious freedom and tolerance in the middle east?

James Cleverly 

On my visit to Israel, I saw people of all religions living their lives freely there, and that is to be commended. Through this rare period when the three great religions celebrate these significant events at the same time of the year—I think these festivals converge once every 33 years—I had extensive conversations with the Israeli leadership, the Palestinian leadership and leadership in the region. I am pleased that opportunities were taken to de-escalate and to support religious freedom. That will always be something that we champion in our relationships.

Mr Speaker 

I call the shadow Minister.

Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)

Last week, the British Consulate General in Jerusalem, joined by other European missions, visited Jubbet ahd-Dhib school near Bethlehem, which along with 58 other schools in the west bank and Jerusalem is at risk of demolition, and implored the Israeli Government to

“reverse the demolition order and protect the right to education for all.”

Considering the possibility of violence occurring as a result of such demolitions and the impact of demolishing schools on children in the west bank and East Jerusalem, will the Secretary of State join the calls to demand that Israel reverse these demolition orders? Can he also tell me what steps he is taking to protect the viability of a two-state solution?

James Cleverly 

As I said in answer to an earlier question, one of the advantages of the strong bilateral relationship that we have with Israel is that we are able to speak regularly about such sensitive issues. Israel knows the UK’s long-standing position on settlements, evictions and demolitions, which is clear: they are illegal under international law and they limit the chances of success of a two-state solution. We raise that directly with Israel, and Israel listens when we do.

Iran: Human Rights Abuses

Nicola Richards (West Bromwich East) (Con)

3. What diplomatic steps he is taking to help tackle human rights abuses in Iran. (904713)

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (James Cleverly)

Human rights issues in Iran remain at the heart of the UK’s strategy towards Iran. We raise violations at all appropriate opportunities, as well as via our embassy and directly with the Iranians here in London. In response to the regime’s most recent crackdown on protests, we have announced more than 70 new sanctions, and we continue to work with our partners to hold Iran accountable at the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

Nicola Richards 

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is responsible for grotesque human rights abuses, with reports of 582 executions last year and chemical attacks against 90 girls’ schools in recent months. Vahid Beheshti is on his 69th day of hunger strike and was recently supported by 125 cross-party parliamentarians in his campaign to proscribe the IRGC. Does the Foreign Secretary acknowledge the sense of urgency that so many parliamentarians have about the IRGC’s proscription, which would improve and protect lives both in Iran and here in Britain?

James Cleverly 

Mr Beheshti has met ministerial colleagues in both the Home Office and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. I worry about his health and would urge him to stop his hunger strike. We have responded to Iran’s completely unacceptable behaviour by sanctioning the IRGC in its entirety and certain of its leaders specifically. We will always take action that we believe to be in the best interests of the safety of British nationals at home and abroad, and of course we always keep options available and under review.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)

Professor Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur, recently published his report on the human rights abuses in Iran. There are no surprises in it. We know that what is happening in Iran is atrocious, but we also know that the Iranian regime is doing pretty similar stuff right across the world, including here in the United Kingdom, where it is using the IRGC to bear down on people who condemn Iran in this country. Why will the Government not do what people on both sides of the Chamber want and proscribe the revolutionary guards? That is needed now.

James Cleverly 

As I say, we do not discuss or speculate about future proscriptions. I remind the House that the IRGC is sanctioned in its entirety, as are certain individuals within its leadership. The FCDO of course works closely with the Home Office, which is the Department responsible for such decisions. Any decision of this nature will inevitably be cross-governmental. We always keep our options under review, and we will always take the action that we believe to be in the best interests of the safety of British nationals at home and abroad and in pursuit of our wider objective, which is to put pressure on Iran to improve its human rights record.


Chagos Islands: Sovereignty

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)

6. What recent discussions he has had with his counterpart in Mauritius on the sovereignty of the Chagos Islands. (904717)

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (James Cleverly)

My written ministerial statement on 17 March noted that the UK and Mauritius are continuing negotiations on the exercise of sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory and the Chagos archipelago. I met Foreign Minister Ganoo on 1 March, when we discussed a range of issues, including of course the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Daniel Kawczynski 

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. At the invitation of the Foreign Office, some of us went to the British Indian Ocean Territory in 2019 and inspected the extraordinary naval and military installations on the islands. The Secretary of State will agree with me that the British Indian Ocean Territory is vital for our AUKUS agreement with America and Australia. Why are we negotiating with Mauritius—a third-party country 2,000 km away from the British Indian Ocean Territory? Why are we not putting at the forefront of this issue something that is essential for all British overseas territories, which is the right of self-determination? When will the Chagossians—the indigenous people of these islands—finally get their say?

James Cleverly 

The UK is committed to the agreements made in 1965, and while there are no plans for a referendum, we do of course consult with the Chagossians, among whom there is a range of views. I assure my hon. Friend that the issues that he raised in his question remain at the heart of our thinking during the negotiations.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Ind)

I am sure that the Foreign Secretary accepts that the Chagos islanders were disgracefully treated in the 1970s by the British Government of the day, and that they were forcibly removed from the islands that they love so much. They have fought all these years to be able to go back. They have won international law recognition of their case, as the Mauritian Government won international law recognition for the relinking of the archipelago with Mauritius. As the Foreign Secretary correctly points out, it was agreed in 1965. Will he assure the House that the negotiations with Mauritius will go forward rapidly and in a positive frame of mind, and that he will welcome and endorse the international legal decision on the determination of where the islands should be in the future?

James Cleverly 

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are pursuing the negotiations in good faith and with energy. We have held three rounds of negotiations to date, and we will meet again soon to continue the negotiations on the terms that we have discussed.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con)

In addition to respecting the right of self-determination of the Chagos islanders, will my right hon. Friend agree that the military importance of Diego Garcia means that the islands should remain under British sovereignty?

James Cleverly 

My hon. Friend makes an incredibly important point. I can reassure him and the whole House that their importance to global security has been very much at the forefront of our minds throughout the negotiations and will remain so in whatever outcome the negotiations get to.

Sir Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)

The Chagossians were indeed treated terribly by the British Government in the 1970s, but in the negotiations that are coming up, will the Foreign Secretary do everything in his power to ensure that we protect the marine protected area that we have set up? There are 220 coral species, 855 species of fish and 355 species of mollusc, and this food chain is vital to protect food sources for the whole of the eastern side of Africa. Will he make sure that that is preserved, whatever situation we end up with in terms of sovereignty?

James Cleverly 

I assure the hon. Gentleman that, as one of the leading voices in 30 by 30, we pay close attention to marine environments and habitats around the British Indian Ocean Territory, and more broadly we raise regularly the protection of maritime and marine environments when we speak to small island nations and those other countries around the world that have an influence in the oceans.


Strategically Important Non-aligned Countries

Marco Longhi (Dudley North) (Con)

10. What steps he is taking to increase diplomatic engagement with strategically important non-aligned countries. (904721)

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (James Cleverly)

In December I made a speech in which I committed to a long-term

“effort to revive old friendships and build new ones”,

reaching beyond our traditional alliances, to ensure that we have sustainable, engaged relationships with countries that will make the weather in the forthcoming decades. I have travelled to a number of countries that fall into that category, as have my ministerial colleagues and friends.

Marco Longhi 

Does the Secretary of State agree that we should have strong international relations with countries such as Brazil, which has non-aligned observer status, but is a country with huge wealth in food, energy and precious minerals and is therefore strategically important for a global UK on an increasingly volatile planet?

James Cleverly 

I commend my hon. Friend on the work he has done in building not only trade links but a strong bilateral relationship between the UK and Brazil. I will be seeking to reinforce his efforts on my forthcoming trip to Brazil because, as he says, it is an important and influential country, which has huge natural resources and is the lungs of the world.

Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab)

One of the fastest ways we could transform our influence with non-aligned countries is to step up and help to lead the debate about the availability of green and development finance. One thing the Foreign Secretary could do this year is to make the case that if we are to give our multilateral institutions a bigger task, we must give them a bigger balance sheet as well. We could be using the money we get back from the European Investment Bank, all €3.5 billion of it, to help to lead the argument for a bigger World Bank. Is that an argument that the Foreign Secretary is prepared to lead now?

James Cleverly 

We are, and my right hon. Friend the Development Minister is personally leading the conversation on behalf of the UK Government about international financial institutions’ being more active in that very field, to ensure that they look again at their risk appetite so that we can unlock the trillions of dollars of available finance to help countries to transition from hydrocarbon, high-emitting sources of energy to renewable sources. That is a conversation we have regularly, both bilaterally and multilaterally, and I am proud that the UK is one of the leading voices on that agenda.


Sudan: Emergency Situation

Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) (SNP)

13. What steps his Department is taking in response to the emergency situation in Sudan. (904725)

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (James Cleverly)

The long-term viability of Sudan relies of course on a permanent end to the conflict. In addition to undertaking the longest, largest evacuation mission of any western nation—bringing more than 2,300 people out of Sudan—we continue to push for a permanent end to the conflict and a resumption of civilian rule, and we will continue to work with the countries in the region and beyond to pursue that. The Minister of State with responsibility for Africa, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), will make a fuller statement to the House later today.

Anne McLaughlin 

Earlier today, I spoke to someone from the Sudanese community in Scotland, who are all desperately worried. She was one of the organisers of an event at the weekend raising money for the Sudan Doctors Union in the UK. They will use that money to funnel much-needed medical supplies directly to the doctors union in Sudan, where, amid the violence, an alarming 75% of hospitals are currently closed. She wanted me to ask this: what will the Government do, and when, to get food, water and medicine to Sudan, and how can we ensure that it actually gets to people given that supply chains from Khartoum have all but broken down?

James Cleverly 

I commend, through the hon. Lady, the actions of her constituent. She makes an important point about the difficulties in getting humanitarian aid to people in the midst of conflict. That is why we have called—both directly with military leaders in Sudan and via organisations and neighbouring countries in the region—for a permanent cessation of violence. We will, of course, add to the humanitarian support that we already give Sudan, and we will do so in close co-ordination with organisations such as the United Nations World Food Programme and with other donations from around the world.

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con)

Several constituents, mainly with military backgrounds, and I were concerned to hear of British citizens being beaten and robbed on the way to the airport to get out of Sudan. Being an ex-soldier, I would have thought that our military forces, who are superb, would be sent out to escort those citizens to the airport. Did that happen, or were British citizens told to get to the airport with no escort at all?

James Cleverly 

The military practicalities of providing what would, to all intents and purposes, be an armed escort from multiple points around Khartoum and the surrounding areas to a single point of exit, proved insurmountable. That was true for our international partners as well as ourselves—no country in the world was able to provide that level of security arrangement. We kept under review the safety of the various routes from within Khartoum to Wadi Saeedna, and we advised on that accordingly. I have a huge amount of admiration for the military personnel who sustained the longest airhead of any western nation at Wadi Saeedna and are currently supporting British nationals and others in their evacuation through Port Sudan.

Mr Speaker 

I call the Chair of the Select Committee.

Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab)

I welcome the BBC’s pop-up service for Sudan, acknowledging the huge importance of factually reporting and explaining events, but BBC Arabic radio, which already had millions of listeners in Sudan, was closed in January, so this announcement rows back on a bad mistake. BBC Persian radio was closed five weeks ago, even though 1.6 million Iranians relied on it for news of the women-led uprising, and now 382 journalists’ jobs are being cut in the BBC’s language services. Will the Foreign Secretary commission a rapid impact assessment of these cuts, which appear more capitulation to tyrants than providing a lifeline to the people who need it most?

James Cleverly 

The BBC, including the World Service, despite being a recipient of direct Government funding, is autonomous. It makes its own decisions, and those closure decisions were made by the leadership of the BBC. I was uncomfortable with those. I negotiated a package whereby we were able to give the BBC World Service a degree of financial predictability, and in return, it was able to give me assurances that there will be no further closures for the life of this Parliament of any of those language services. We value what they do incredibly highly, and I am very pleased that the BBC’s Sudan service has been able to relocate and continue broadcasting to that war-torn country.

Sir James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) (Con)

In congratulating the Foreign Secretary on the evacuation, could I ask him to look at the state of the airport? My understanding is that so many heavy vehicles were evacuated that there has been damage to the airport runway, which means it will not be suitable for the World Food Programme and others bringing in humanitarian aid. Could he see what the excellent British military could do to resolve that problem, if indeed those rumours on the ground are true?

James Cleverly 

My hon. Friend makes an important point about the state of the runway. I do not pretend to be a military logistics expert, but my understanding is that the British military were doing repairs while they were using the runway to keep it serviceable. He is right that what is basically a military runway has taken an exceptionally high level of air traffic. My understanding—and I am willing to be corrected on this once we have an update later today—is that we have been able to hand back that airfield to the Sudanese armed forces in a usable state, having done repairs as the airfield has been used.

Mr Speaker 

I call the shadow Foreign Secretary.

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)

I am hugely grateful to our armed forces and civil servants involved in the evacuation of Sudan. With the operation now ended, it is right to examine whether all the correct decisions were made. We know that the evacuation effort was initially stood down once diplomats were out, while other countries continued, and that national health service doctors resident in the UK were initially turned away. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that every national health service doctor who asked to be evacuated was evacuated, regardless of whether they were British citizens or residents?

James Cleverly 

The right hon. Gentleman, who I have a huge amount of respect for, is factually wrong in the points he made in his question. After the initial evacuation of our diplomatic staff—which is not only our moral duty but our legal duty, because they are our employees—we continued the planning for a wider evacuation operation for British nationals, their dependants and others. We planned for a whole range of eventualities, including if there was a ceasefire or if there was not a ceasefire, both through air and by land.

When the opportunity arose, we took full advantage of that opportunity to conduct the largest and longest airlift of evacuees, both British nationals and their dependants and other nations, of any western country. I am incredibly grateful to our civil servants across Government and the military for facilitating that. We maintain a presence at Port Sudan to facilitate the onward passage; we maintain a presence at the border regions, both in Ethiopia and in Egypt, to do so; and of course, we will continue to find opportunities to evacuate people where we can.

Mr Lammy 

The Foreign Secretary did not answer my question, so let me try again. Last week, “Newsnight” reported that there were at least 24 National Health Service doctors who were British residents, but who were not yet on evacuation flights. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that all 24, and any other NHS doctors who would be evacuated—the Africa Minister is helping the Foreign Secretary—were taken safely back to the UK, so that they can do their jobs in the creaking National Health Service that we now have?

James Cleverly 

My right hon. Friend the Africa Minister has given me the most up-to-date figures on this. My understanding is that 22 of the 24 who were identified have been directly evacuated by us. It should be remembered that just as British nationals and others may well have made their own routes out of Sudan, they may well have done so. We keep in close co-ordination, both through the NHS and through direct conversation with us, to ensure that we provide as full a service as possible for those seeking evacuation.


Topical Questions

Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)

T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. (904737)

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (James Cleverly)

Since the last set of oral questions, we have evacuated British nationals from Sudan, and we are pushing both multilaterally and bilaterally for a lasting peace settlement. I want to reassure the House that this does not detract from our ongoing support to Ukraine in its self-defence against the brutal invasion by Russia. I delivered a major speech on how the UK will engage with China, and I visited our Pacific partners and attended meetings of NATO and G7 foreign ministers. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Africa delivered a keynote speech on our international development policy, and other Ministers in the Department have visited allies across Europe, Africa, South and North America and the middle east, including key visits to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Australia, Guatemala, the World Bank in Washington and The Hague.

Mr Dhesi 

Under the new Israeli coalition Government, which contains far-right elements, violence against Palestinians has escalated, including Israeli forces attacking Muslim worshippers at the al-Aqsa mosque and attacks against Palestinian Christians at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We must condemn all forms of violence, including the devastating murder of three British Jewish citizens, but does the Secretary of State agree that the cycle of violence will not end and there will be no prospect of a lasting peace if the occupying forces are busy building more illegal settlements and trying to evict and oppress an entire people?

James Cleverly 

I am not sure the hon. Gentleman was in his place during my earlier response, but our position on settlement demolitions is long-standing. We believe they are illegal under international law and undermine the best possible chances of a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution.

Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)

T5. President Zelensky has said that Tehran has provided Moscow with around 2,000 drones, which are being used to devastate Ukraine. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about the IRGC’s complicity in international aggression, and does he agree with me and many other Members that it is now time to revisit the proscription of the IRGC? (904742)

James Cleverly 

We have sanctioned the IRGC in its entirety. We have also put in specific sanctions on the supply of those military drones to Russia, which have been utilised to attack civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. We will continue to keep our deterrent posture towards Iran under review. As my hon. Friend will know, it is not common practice to speculate on what further action we might take in response, but I take the point he is making very much on board.

Mr Speaker 

I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)

Scottish Government Minister Neil Gray MSP along with the agencies Scottish Development International and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have proved that direct foreign engagement works for Scotland by securing a £300-million manufacturing investment for subsea cables in the renewables industry, working with Sumitomo in Osaka. It is a game changer that has been welcomed across the highlands, so why does the Foreign Secretary seek to sabotage such vital economic activity by instructing UK diplomatic staff to hinder Scottish Government direct engagement?

James Cleverly 

The competences of the Scottish Government and the reserved position of the UK Government are absolutely clear. I would say to the hon. Gentleman and the House that Scotland has an excellent advocate overseas—it is me.


Boris Johnson (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con)

This summer’s Vilnius summit will be an important test of NATO’s willingness to fulfil its long-standing promises to Ukraine. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is now ludicrous to say that Ukraine’s NATO membership might be in some way provocative to Russia, since Putin has shown what he is willing to do when Ukraine is not a member of NATO and because Ukraine is not a member of NATO? Does he agree that it should therefore be the policy of the Government that Ukraine should be invited to make the necessary preparations to join as soon as possible under the rules, for the sake of clarity, stability and peace in Europe?

James Cleverly 

Before I answer fully, I place on record the gratitude that I and others have for the leadership that my right hon. Friend showed at a vital point in time, ahead of the explicit, most recent escalation of aggression from Russia towards Ukraine. I know that Ukrainians hold him, as I do, in very high regard because of the decisions that were made.

NATO’s position on Ukraine is unambiguous—that the invitation has been put out for Ukraine to join NATO. I think it is incredibly important that that is not taken off the table. Of course, Russia’s aggression into Ukraine was the provocative action. Ukraine’s desire to join NATO was an entirely understandable defensive posture, because of that threat from the east.

Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)

T3. Will the Foreign Secretary explain exactly how on earth he thinks the diplomatic staff now to be overseeing meetings between Scottish Ministers and Ministers from other countries and Governments will prevent discussion of whatever topics his Government decide are forbidden? Given that foreign direct investment growth was so much higher in Scotland than the rest of the UK last year—14% against the rest of the UK’s 1.8% —why does he think that such draconian interference is useful or necessary? (904739)

James Cleverly 

I would have thought that Scottish Ministers were better served ensuring that the people of Scotland are supported, rather than seeing health outcomes head in the wrong direction and seeing tax rates head in the wrong direction. I can assure the hon. Member that every one of the diplomatic staff in the FCDO promotes Scottish interests overseas. I am very proud of the work that our officials do from Abercrombie House, which is part of our UK headquarters in Scotland. I can assure her that, when it comes to promoting Scotland’s interests overseas, we continue to do so at all times.

Simon Baynes (Clwyd South) (Con)

Please could my right hon. Friend comment on how the Windsor framework will improve trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of mainland Britain, particularly Wales, and say whether the framework will also facilitate UK trade with Ireland and the rest of the EU?

James Cleverly 

The Windsor framework makes sure that trade from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, these constituent parts of the United Kingdom, is improved, increased and unhindered. That will be massively to the benefit of people in Northern Ireland, and of course to those businesses and traders in Wales producing such fantastic products that the people of Northern Ireland will want, as indeed will people across the whole world.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab)

T4. On 15 May, it will be 75 years since the Nakba—the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and the destruction of 500 Palestinian villages. Given Britain’s historical role in Palestine, what message does the Foreign Secretary have on this anniversary for the millions of displaced Palestinians in the occupied territories, refugee camps and the wider diaspora? (904740)

James Cleverly 

The UK’s position on this is of long standing, and I have discussed it at the Dispatch Box today. We strive to create or to support the creation of a sustainable two-state solution so that the Palestinian people and the Israeli people have safe homes in which they can live, and that will remain the cornerstone of UK foreign policy in the region.


Kim Leadbeater (Batley and Spen) (Lab)

T6. It is almost a year since the killing of the Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the Jenin refugee camp. Will the Foreign Secretary join me in supporting her brother Anton’s call for a thorough independent investigation into her death, and agree with me that that is now long overdue? (904743)

James Cleverly 

It is tragic when we see the loss of life in the region. We always call for the swift and transparent investigation of any fatalities, and that is very much at the heart of our policy. I will ensure that I get more details on the case the hon. Member has raised. I was familiar with it at the time, but I will make sure I am back up to speed with that.


Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)

Further to the excellent question from my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East (Nicola Richards), Vahid Beheshti has now been on hunger strike for 69 days. He has had a meeting with the Foreign Office Minister for the area responsible, but he has not had a meeting with the Foreign Secretary, so may I urge my right hon. Friend—Vahid Beheshti is just across the road from the Foreign Office—to have a meeting with him on his route back to the Foreign Office? He will tell my right hon. Friend about the malign activities carried out by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in this country and about the threat to UK citizens.

James Cleverly 

As I say, my heart goes out to Mr Beheshti. I urge him to bring his hunger strike to an end. We know very well the threats the IRGC poses to the people in Iran and the region and here in the UK. We work very closely with the Home Office on how best to protect ourselves and our friends in the region against that activity. I assure my hon. Friend that remains a top priority for us. I am glad my ministerial colleagues have had meetings with Mr Beheshti on this issue. As I say, any decisions about designation will be taken conscious of our absolute commitment to protect British people and British interests both overseas and in the UK.


Dan Carden (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab)

I think the Foreign Secretary will agree that the voices of young people should be heard loudly in climate negotiations, so will he speak with Cabinet colleagues and set out a plan for how youth negotiators can form an integral part of this country’s delegation to COP28 later this year?

James Cleverly 

I commend the hon. Gentleman for his action in this area, particularly in his new role, which I had the opportunity to congratulate him on at the time. He is right: the future of this planet is very much in the forefront of the minds of young people particularly. They seek to inherit it and their voices are incredibly important. I took the opportunity at COP26 and COP27 to meet young climate activists, and it is incredibly important that we find some way of both formally and informally having—

Mr Speaker 

I call Richard Graham.

James Cleverly 

Having their voices injected into the agenda.


Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con)

The World Bank has suggested that the minimum amount of money needed for post-war reconstruction of Ukraine is £411 billion. While it is for the Ukrainian Government and people to decide whose money will be used and on what terms, what is the Foreign Secretary doing to ensure that the United Kingdom is on the front foot in planning how to fund the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine?

James Cleverly 

I thank my right hon. Friend for that point. I am proud that the UK will be hosting the Ukraine reconstruction conference in June. We are doing what the UK perhaps does best: bringing together influential voices and, more importantly, finance, and ensuring that they meet and talk. Underpinning all of that has got to be the belief that any investment in Ukraine will be protected. That is why it is very important that we make it clear that we will put that arm of protection around the Ukrainians for the foreseeable future.

James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

Ahead of the Joint Ministerial Council next week, could the Foreign Secretary please outline what he is doing to support the overseas territories? Will he be rolling out the red carpet?

James Cleverly 

Metaphorically speaking, yes. The overseas territories are part of the immediate family. All relevant Departments will have a nominated Minister with responsibility for the relationship of their Departments with the OTs. We are launching a new OTs strategy and of course I will make myself available for the forthcoming JMC.

Paul Bristow (Peterborough) (Con)

I am the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Hazaras. Hazaras are one of the most persecuted groups in Afghanistan and, since the return of the Taliban, they have been regularly subjected to targeted violence, killings and discrimination, all based on their ethnic and religious identity. Does my right hon. Friend accept that that targeting is happening? If he does, will he please do something about it?

James Cleverly 

I commend my hon. Friend’s work on this community. He is absolutely right that the Hazara community are being specifically targeted by the Taliban. Obviously, our ability to support people in Afghanistan at the moment is limited, but we keep them absolutely at the heart of our thinking with regard to preventing human rights abuses in Afghanistan.