It is fascinating to look back to an earlier, simpler period in our history, when things were less complicated. Take the words of someone who was a Minister in the coalition, Francis Maude writing almost exactly 5 years ago “This government has the clear ambition is to make the UK the most transparent and accountable country in the world.” Sadly it is far too easy to find examples where this aspiration has been found wanting. Last Thursday in the House of Commons, one of the colleagues of Mr Maude at the time, Tim Loughton who was children’s Minister asked the Government in the form of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, Hugo Swire a question:
As we have heard yet again, freedom of speech and dissent in China are being brutally repressed, not least in Tibet, where the mere possession of a photograph of the Dalai Lama can result in imprisonment or worse. In the UK, our democracy is built on the principle of free speech, so can the Minister tell me why protesters in the Mall exercising their right to draw attention to human rights abuses in Tibet were this week corralled behind barricades at the back while Chinese state-sponsored cheerleaders were given “Love China” T-shirts, Chinese diplomatic bags and a prime position at the front?
Mr Swire responded: My hon. Friend is an assiduous campaigner for Tibet and he will know that, after the death of the senior Tibetan Buddhist, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, in July, we supported an EU statement and the remarks of a Foreign Office spokesman were carried in the media. Prior to Tenzin’s death, I continued to call for his release, including in parliamentary debates on Tibet in June and in December 2014.
Hugo Swire is being paid to represent us in the House of Commons, he may not agree with Tim Loughton (although he implies he does) but he is surely required to answer a question in a more direct way than this. Perhaps Parliamentary history is full of unanswered questions but surely an old boy of St Aubyns in Rottingdean, Eton, St Andrews and Sandhurst has more honour than to deliberately sidestep such a simple question, or am I simply too naïve?