§ 14. Mr. Forman
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government intend to take in the light of his public pronouncements on the human rights aspect of foreign policy.
§ Dr. Owen
We will systematically take human rights considerations into account and give a high priority to them as part of the many factors that have to be considered when making foreign policy decisions. Our aim will be to protect and enhance human rights everywhere and we shall take whatever action, private or public, we consider will be effective.
§ Mr. Forman
In view of the considerable stress the right hon. Gentleman laid in his speech on 3rd March on striking the right balance between morality and reality, will he now publish his Department's league table of human rights in different countries in the world, so that the House may more accurately assess the way in which the Government are responding to, say, Chile and South Africa on the one hand and the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia on the other?
§ Dr. Owen
I do not intend to publish the list. This was one of the considerations that we had to take into account when we decided to look systematically at the question of human rights. We had to consider whether the mere existence of such a list would cause problems in relationships between the British Government and other Governments. The decision was taken to have the list as 397 the only way of being serious about human rights, on the strict understanding that we would not publish it. That was decided after very careful thought, and it remains my decision.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans
As my right hon. Friend is to meet Dr. Vorster, will he convey to him privately or publicly our abhorrence of the apartheid system in that area, the occupation of Namibia, and the support that he is giving to the illegal régime in Rhodesia?
§ Mr. Maudling
In the light of that answer, what action will the right hon. Gentleman take about those British subjects at present imprisoned in Angola for no crime known to international law?
§ Dr. Owen
It is important to try to get our relations with Angola on a better footing. That is certainly something that I wish to do. Many representations have been made about this issue, so far unsuccessfully. I think that the overall object is to improve our relations with Angola, and then some consequences may flow from that. I certainly understand the right hon. Gentleman's concern, which I share.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Does the right hon. Gentleman's reference to action everywhere include action within the European Economic Community, in regard both to bringing proper pressures to bear outside and to work on the possible formulation of a charter of rights in the socio-economic context within the Community, following the generalised action taken by the common declaration of the three political institutions of the Community?
§ Dr. Owen
A lot of work has been done on the common declaration. which I am due to sign formally in Brussels on 5th April. I hope that we look at human rights everywhere, not excluding the EEC. The price of championing human rights is a little inconsistency at times. There will be occasions when there is a strong case for public denunciation but when, for a variety of reasons—economic, political and social—the 398 denunciation may need to be done privately. Therefore, we shall not always be consistent. No doubt Mr. Bernard Levin will have something to say about the alleged inconsistencies.