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Foreign Office Questions

14th May 2019

Harriett Baldwin responds to MPs’ questions to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Chagos Islands: International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)

3. What recent discussions he has had with counterparts at the UN on the International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the Chagos Islands. [910868]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)

The Foreign Secretary spoke to Mauritian Prime Minister Jugnauth about the British Indian Ocean Territory on 27 April. The Prime Minister met Prime Minister Jugnauth and the Mauritian permanent representative to the United Nations in New York in March to discuss a range of issues, including the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Patrick Grady

It must be difficult for Foreign Office Ministers to find the UK’s colonial legacy landing inconveniently in their laps, but what is at stake here is not just Chagossian justice, but the UK’s standing in the new post-Brexit world order. The UK must get on board and work with, not against, the UN, the ICJ and the rules-based order. It has to recognise that it cannot throw its weight around anymore. Will the Department engage constructively with the UN to determine where sovereignty really lies for the Chagossians and, ultimately, accept that sovereignty should lie with the people?

Harriett Baldwin

As the hon. Gentleman knows, that has never been the UK Government’s position. In fact, the Chagos archipelago has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814. But he can deduce from my earlier answer that conversations are ongoing and that we are making strong representations. The whole world benefits from the security provided by having this base in the Indian ocean.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)

Whatever the outcome of the sovereignty situation, another issue is that the marine preservation zone has made it possible to protect fish stocks for large parts of the eastern coast of Africa. Wherever we end up, we must preserve the marine preservation zone.

Harriett Baldwin

We are proud of the UK’s record in creating not just that zone, but others around the world. They are incredibly important for the world’s oceans and demonstrate the importance of working together both globally and through the Commonwealth to preserve oceans and fish stocks.


Topical Questions

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)

T5. Detention without trial for many years is a feature of several countries, in Africa and elsewhere. That does not seem to be core business for DFID. What recommendations does the Foreign Office have on this issue when we engage with other countries? [910895]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s work, both as the former Minister for prisons, with all-party groups and in raising the issue regularly with me. He is right that we have a range of different programmes. Our new Secretary of State for International Development, having recently been prisons Minister, is casting a fresh eye on that important issue.


Robert Courts (Witney) (Con)

What co-ordination is taking place between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DFID to ensure that British aid is given in pursuance of defined foreign policy goals?

Harriett Baldwin

I am the living embodiment of that, as is my hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East.


Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con)

At the start of Christian Aid Week, the focus of the organisation is on its maternal health work in Sierra Leone, where, since the Ebola crisis, 10 women die every day in childbirth and one in nine children die before their fifth birthday. Will the Foreign Secretary put Britain’s weight behind the campaign calling on the IMF to write off the loans it made to the African country to fight the Ebola outbreak?

Harriett Baldwin

My hon. Friend was a superb Public Health Minister, and it is good to hear he is still leading by example with his cycling. On maternal health in Sierra Leone, he will be glad to know that our bilateral programme there will deliver health services to 2 million women and children by 2020.


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Harriett Baldwin
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