Kim Howells, the outspoken Foreign Office minister, has ignited a furious row with human rights campaigners after attacking their "condescending liberal" and "colonial" attitude to the Government's policy of signing "no torture" memos with Middle East states.
In an interview with The Independent, Mr Howells was asked to comment on the criticism, voiced by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, that memorandums of understanding signed with such countries as Jordan, Libya and Lebanon are "not worth the paper they are written on".
"They're very wrong," Dr Howells responded. "This is a real leftover from a colonial attitude, quite frankly. You can't ...work with countries to improve their human rights records and when they make great strides to do that, then say 'Oh well, we don't believe them'. This is such a condescending liberal - with a small l - attitude towards these countries."
The controversy arose when the Government announced that to meet the standards of the British courts, it would negotiate agreements with individual states to ensure deported terror suspects would not be tortured on returning to their respective countries.