William Hague to promise 'foreign policy with a conscience'

Foreign Secretary William Hague will today declare his commitment to the protection of human rights around the world, insisting it is not in Britain's interests to pursue "a foreign policy without a conscience".







Mr Hague will use the third in a series of linked speeches on foreign policy to announce that he is setting up a new group - including aid agencies and independent experts - to advise ministers on human rights issues.



He will also say that the Foreign Office is reissuing guidance to its staff on the need to report any incidents of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that they encounter 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 is expected to say.



"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."



His comments carry echoes of former foreign secretary Robin Cook's declaration at the start of the last Labour government that it would pursue a foreign policy with an "ethical dimension".



However Mr Hague will also stress that "idealism in foreign policy always needs to be tempered by realism".



While he will say that the Government will raise human rights concerns "wherever and whenever they arise" - including with countries where the UK is trying to build closer ties - it will be guided in its actions by what is achievable.



"Our starting point for engagement on human rights with all countries will be based on what is practical, realistic and achievable, although we will always be ready to speak out as a matter of principle," he is expected to say.



He will acknowledge that Britain's reputation has been damaged by allegations that intelligence officers were complicit in the abuse of suspected terrorists held overseas but insisted lessons would be learned.



"Our standing is directly linked to the belief of others that we will do what we say and that we will not apply double standards," he is expected to say.



"Where problems have arisen that have affected the UK's moral standing we will deal with them patiently and clearly. We will act on the lessons learnt, and tackle the difficult issues we currently face head on."



Mr Hague will confirm that the Foreign Office will continue the previous government's practice of publishing an annual human rights report - although it will no longer be a glossy document but a simple parliamentary paper.



Shadow foreign secretary David Miliband welcomed the confirmation that the report would be retained, but accused Mr Hague of diverting resources away from human rights issues and frontline diplomatic services.



"William Hague has cut programmes on human rights and democracy by £560,000 this financial year, while the Government has watered down Labour's policy for a universal standard for arms sales," he said.



"The last Foreign Office had a ministerial team half the size of this Government's. The Foreign Secretary could protect his resources by spending less on ministerial perks, while retaining the diplomatic front line."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links