Britain will maintain its commitment to human rights around the globe, while seeking to promote trade with countries which do not share its values, Foreign Secretary William Hague said today.
Declaring that it is not in the UK’s interests to pursue “a foreign policy without a conscience”, Mr Hague said the British government’s approach would be guided by values like fairness, liberty and justice.
The Foreign Secretary used the third in a series of linked speeches on foreign policy to announce that he was setting up a new group – including aid agencies and independent experts – to advise ministers on human rights issues.
He also revealed that the Foreign Office would publish its guidance to staff on the need to report any incidents of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that they encountered in the course of their work.
“There will be no downgrading of human rights under this Government and no resiling from our commitments to aid and development. Indeed, I intend to improve and strengthen our human rights work,” he said.
“It is not in our character as a nation to have a foreign policy without a conscience, and neither is it in our interests.
“We cannot achieve long-term security and prosperity unless we uphold our values. Where human rights abuses go unchecked, our security suffers. And our international influence will bleed away unless we maintain our international standing and cultural influence.”