Alan Duncan – 2018 Statement on the Foreign Affairs Council

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Duncan, the Minister for Europe and the Americas, in the House of Commons on 22 May 2018.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 April. The Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Luxembourg.​

Foreign Affairs Council – Syria

The Council discussed the latest developments in Syria, including the targeted US, French and British airstrikes on chemical weapons facilities. Ahead of the Brussels Conference on Syria and the region, Ministers discussed the need to relaunch a political solution to the conflict in the framework of the UN-led Geneva process. The Council adopted conclusions on Syria.


Ministers agreed on the need for unity on continuing the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA). They encouraged the diplomatic efforts to ensure that there continues to be strong commitment to the agreement by all the parties involved. Ministers also discussed other issues outside the scope of the JCPOA, in particular the role of Iran in regional conflicts, not least in Syria and Yemen, as well as the EU’s concerns at Iran’s ballistic missiles programme and its human rights situation.


The Council agreed unanimously on the continued relevance of the five guiding principles that were agreed in March 2016. Following the Salisbury attack and the European Council conclusions that were agreed in March 2018, Ministers highlighted the need to strengthen the resilience of the EU and its neighbours against Russian threats, including hybrid threats such as disinformation campaigns. Ministers commended the work carried out by the East StratComms taskforce in the European External Action Service. Ministers also highlighted the importance of supporting Russian civil society and continuing to develop people-to-people contacts.

Western Balkans

Over lunch, Ministers discussed the Western Balkans in preparation for the EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia on 17 May 2018.

External action financing instruments

The Council held a preliminary exchange of views on the future financing of external action instruments after 2020. The Commission is preparing its proposal for the EU’s next long-term budget (the future multiannual financial framework, MFF).

Members agreed a number of measures without discussion:

The Council approved the annual progress report on the implementation of the EU strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which covers activities carried out in 2017;

The Council adopted conclusions on chemical disarmament and non-proliferation ahead of the Fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to review the operation of the chemical weapons convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and on their destruction. This session will take place in The Hague on 21-30 November 2018;

The Council adopted conclusions on South Sudan;

The Council adopted conclusions on malicious cyber activities that underline the importance of a global, open, free, stable and secure cyberspace where human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law fully apply;​
The Council approved the High Representative’s six-monthly report on Operation Althea, which covers the period from 1 September 2017 to 28 February 2018;

The Council adopted a decision approving Mazars and KPMG S.A. as the external auditors of the Banque de France, the National Central Bank of France, for the 2018-23 period.

Alan Duncan – 2018 Speech on Arctic Policy Framework

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Duncan, the Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, on 9 May 2018.

Good morning everyone and thank you for joining us for the launch of the new iteration of UK policy towards the Arctic.

I’m sure it will be an absolute best seller.

This country’s long history of exploration and endeavour in the Polar Regions is the stuff of legends.

With any luck that means you will not mind if I say a few words about ‘Beyond the Ice’.

All of us understand that the Arctic region is of fundamental importance, not only to the people who live and work there but also to the health of the planet.

It is now 20 years since the UK became one of four original observers to the newly formed Arctic Council.

We remain as committed as ever to the Arctic States and the indigenous peoples of the Arctic and to securing a sustainable future for them that benefits us all.

That is what this new Policy Framework is all about.

It is five years since the last one, and as we are all too well aware, a great deal has changed in the Arctic region in that time – most significantly, the unprecedented decline in sea-ice cover and thickness, and the steady rise in average temperatures.

These rapid changes have drawn greater attention to the Arctic – in ways that can present both opportunities and challenges.

The UK takes seriously our responsibility to ensure the security and stability of the region and to work collaboratively to address them.

In ‘Beyond the Ice’, we set out the UK’s three main commitments to the region.

The first is to bring our world-class science to bear in helping to understand the changing Arctic and to find solutions to the challenges that presents to us.

That means supporting our top scientists and their international collaboration on the Arctic – particularly as the new Agreement on Enhancing Scientific Cooperation in the Arctic is implemented.

Already, nearly two-thirds of the UK Arctic research papers have international co-authors. We think this is the right approach, and want to encourage more of it.

The UK Government is investing both manpower and finance in pioneering Arctic research.

Man and woman power in the form of our Science and Innovation Officers in our eight Arctic State Embassies and the Arctic Science Office.

Finance in the shape of £16 million in the 5-year Changing Arctic Ocean Programme and a further £2.3 million for UK-based scientists to take part in MOSAiC, which many of you will know, is a truly international study of the Arctic climate.

The second commitment we make in ‘Beyond the Ice’ is to help protect the fragile environment of the Arctic for the people who live and visit there.

The UK is already a global leader on addressing global climate change and tackling the accumulation of pollutants in the world’s oceans.

Our commitment to the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals is underpinned by our Clean Growth Strategy and we have consistently been at the forefront of international regulatory changes to reduce global greenhouse emissions on land and at sea.

We are also taking great strides to reduce the accumulation of plastic waste in the world’s oceans, including through our 25-year Environmental Plan, which commits us to achieve zero avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.

Given that the nearly all of the litter found in the Arctic comes from elsewhere, it is essential that we all take action to stop it.

We will gain further insights into the impacts of climate and environmental change on the Arctic when the report ‘Polar Oceans: status and change’ – which was jointly commissioned by the UK and Norway – is published later this year.

Our third commitment in ‘Beyond the Ice’ is to support responsible and sustainable development of the region, and ensure that its people are the first to benefit from the increase in prosperity that a changing Arctic may bring.

Changes in the Arctic also present economic opportunities for the UK. Shrinking summer sea-ice could cut the travel time between Asia and Europe by 10 days, bringing benefits in terms of reduced costs, lower fuel consumption and less pollution.

However these potential benefits do not give us – or anyone else – the right to run roughshod over the needs of the region and its people.

That is why our priority will be to encourage development that is both sustainable and responsible.

To sum up, the UK remains a global leader in supporting environmental protection, international cooperation and the rules-based system. We are home to world-leading research scientists and cutting edge business investment. ‘Beyond the Ice’ demonstrates our continued determination to harness and share these assets and to work together to understand, protect and improve the Arctic, for the benefit of all, for generations to come.

Alan Duncan – 2018 Speech at Gallipoli Commemoration

Below is the text of the speech made by Sir Alan Duncan, the Minister for Europe, on 24 April 2018.

I stand before you as the son of a Royal Air Force officer who just saw the end of the Second World War and as the grandson of an army corporal from Scotland who fought in the First.

Respect and admiration for those who have lived and died for their country rests deep in my soul. It is therefore a profound personal honour to be here today to represent the former Entente Powers as we remember the service, sacrifice and suffering of those on both sides of the seismic military encounter which took place here over a century ago.

War exaggerates the natural qualities of its combatants: it turns the bad into monsters and the brave into heroes. And there were many heroes amongst the hundreds of thousands who died fighting on the beaches, in the gullies, and in the pine woods of this beautiful peninsula.

For the school child of today, Gallipoli – like Passchendale – is the image they hold of what war was like a hundred years ago. May they also learn of the remarkable moments of decency within the many months of misery, such as when Turkish and Australian soldiers in May 1915 at Anzac Cove suspended hostilities in order to allow both sides, with dignity, to bury their dead.

As a Turkish Captain said of it: ‘At this spectacle, even the most gentle must feel savage; and the most savage must weep.’

Today we salute those from Turkey, from Australia, from New Zealand, from other Commonwealth countries, and from the Entente Powers, who died or were injured during the lengthy sufferings of the campaign.

The pain and losses endured here were a source of grief, but also of pride and inspiration for the young and new nations that have since emerged from the sand, the mud and the ashes of the First World War.

The good that has arisen out of the foulness of conflict teaches us that it is the duty of all of us here today to learn from the past and look to the future.

That vision was no better expressed than by the words of Kamal Ataturk who called on all people to aim for ‘peace at home, and peace in the world.’

It is a fitting legacy of what happened here at Çanakkale that, despite such ferocious battles, the historic bitter enmity that used to exist has so widely been replaced by binding friendships and steadfast alliances.

It is a remarkable testament to the value of reconciliation that a century after Turkey and Great Britain were on opposite sides, we now stand shoulder to shoulder as NATO allies and trusted friends.

Whereas my grandfather then could have found himself standing here looking at a Turkish soldier as an enemy, I can stand here now as a British minister looking at all of you as friends.

Together, we all must honour those who fought in the past, and we must strive together for a better world in which there is less need to fight in the future.

Let us be a common voice for adherence to the international rule of law, and to treaties and binding conventions. Where we see what is right, let us prove robust in defending it: where we see what is wrong, let us prove steadfast in correcting it.

After the hideous experience of gas in the trenches a century ago all nations resolved to rid the world of chemical weapons. Let us, a hundred years on, renew and uphold that wisdom.

I pay a heartfelt tribute to all the nations represented here today. May we all turn enmity into empathy; and wounds into bonds.

May this ceremony mark remembrance and reconciliation, each to the full.

May we all respectfully embrace the memory of the fallen, and the future of the living.

On behalf of the Entente Powers I salute the memory of Gallipoli Çanakkale, and look to our future together.

Alan Duncan – 2017 Speech to Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Below is the text of the speech by Alan Duncan, the Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on 2 October 2017.

Good afternoon, I am delighted to be back in the US and to have the opportunity to speak to such a distinguished and well-informed audience. Rather more deeply informed, I suspect, than the Chicagoan who responded to a survey a few years ago on how the British are perceived in other countries. His answer was “better dressed than the Americans but with very bad teeth”.

I was pleased to see in your most recent survey “What Americans think about America First” that Americans consider the UK to be the most responsible country in dealing with the world’s problems.

I know that in a few days you are holding an event which poses the question “Is this the end of the Transatlantic Era?” I am sorry that I wasn’t able to accept your invitation to speak then too. However I do think that that question is a good place to start this afternoon. The short answer to it, from the UK perspective, is no.

The most mentioned word of the year, is probably Brexit. The British exit from the EU poses millions of questions about what affect it will have on so many established relationships.

The point is this – the UK is leaving the European Union but it remains a global player in its own right, and one with global interests. Brexit does not mean we are stepping back from the world: that would be to misunderstand the choice made by the British public, as our Prime Minister Theresa May made clear in her speech last month in Italy.


When the British people voted last year, their decision was based on a desire for more direct democratic control; something they felt was being lost in the pooling of sovereignty that membership of the European Union requires. So their vote was an expression of how they want their democracy to work. The referendum was most definitely not about calling into question the UK’s role as a globally active country. Indeed, for all their differences on everything else, the importance of the UK’s global role was one point around which both the Leave and Remain campaigns converged.

There is a reason for this consensus: in today’s interconnected world, no-one in the UK seriously believes that it makes sense to turn inwards. Promoting free trade; protecting the rules-based international order; and enhancing global development are all in our national interests. Terrorism, crime, and climate change respect no borders. We must work in partnership with others to address all of these issues and more.

We also strongly believe that the UK has much to contribute to international efforts to tackle these challenges, in our immediate neighbourhood and beyond.

In our neighbourhood that means continuing to work closely with the EU in those areas where our interests are strategically aligned. As the Prime Minister said, we are leaving the EU, but we still very much want it to succeed, because we believe deeply in the same values: peace, democracy, freedom and the rule of law – in our continent and beyond.

That is why we want to build a deep and special partnership with the EU and why we want to continue to play a leading role in advancing European prosperity and security – as we set out for the EU last month in our Future Partnership Paper on foreign policy, defence, security and development. Our ambition is to agree a comprehensive new framework for future security, law enforcement and criminal justice co-operation between the UK and the EU. This framework would be underpinned by our shared values, including high standards of data protection and human rights. We want to work together to protect our continent from shared threats.

Beyond our immediate neighbourhood, the same logic applies: it is emphatically in our interests to reach out beyond our shores, as we have always done, to protect and promote our interests and our values.

The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the Security Council, a leading member of NATO, the G7, the G20 and the Commonwealth. We have the largest defence budget in Europe. We are the only European country to meet both the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence and the UN target of spending 0.7% of gross national income on international development.

After we leave the EU, we will continue to promote and defend our values through our global diplomatic network, our development assistance programmes and our military muscle. NATO will remain the cornerstone of our defence; and we will continue to champion the UN and to be a leading voice in other international organisations.

In short, once the UK leaves the EU, our defence and security, overseas aid and foreign policies will continue to reflect our proud history as a global power with global interests and to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to promoting security and prosperity and an international rules-based system around world.

US-UK Relationship

Our relationship with the US remains absolutely fundamental to that approach. The US and the UK are natural partners and allies. Our relationship is based on shared values and a commitment to freedom, democracy and enterprise. We do more together than any other two countries in the world, working side by side on security and defence, on trade and investment, and on research and innovation. In the UK one million people go to work every day for US companies, and a similar number of Americans work for UK companies based here in the US.

Ours is a relationship that continues to strengthen and deepen with the passage of time. A good example of that is the recent agreement on a new UK-US special relationship on science, which will encourage the freer exchange of scientists and scientific equipment. Just last week the British Government pledged $88 million to one of the first projects under the agreement, based at Fermilab just outside Chicago.

US and UK scientists will be pooling their brain-power to find out more about neutrinos. Now, I am no Justin Trudeau so I am not going to suddenly surprise you with a lesson on sub-atomic particles. Suffice to say that they are of great interest to scientists and I hope that this joint project is the first of many.

The special relationship between our countries also means that when we have differences we can air them frankly. The Administration’s position on the Paris Climate Change Agreement is a case in point. We have made clear that the UK remains committed to the Paris Agreement and that we believe it provides the right framework for global action on the issue. I met Mayor Emanuel earlier today and we discussed this city’s efforts to tackle climate change – we’re looking forward to working with Chicago and cities across the US in our joint endeavour to reduce emissions.

Policy differences on some areas do not prevent us from working closely on others. I would like to highlight three clear and present foreign policy challenges on which the UK and the US will need to continue to work closely.


The first is North Korea. Its reckless pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities violates multiple UN Security Council Resolutions and poses a grave threat to global peace and stability.

As our Prime Minister said last month in New York, time and again, Kim Jong Un has shown contempt, not only for the rules and institutions that underpin global security and prosperity, but also for the safety of his neighbours.

We want a peaceful solution to this crisis. North Korea must stop the tests and return to the negotiating table prepared to work towards dismantling its illegal nuclear programmes. For its part, the US has given the DPRK very clear and public assurances. It is not seeking regime collapse or change, or the early reunification of the Korean Peninsula. It is not seeking an excuse to garrison US troops north of the 38th Parallel. It wishes no harm to the long-suffering North Korean people. Yet DPRK has responded with more missile tests and another nuclear test.

This is why we must all apply maximum political and economic pressure to persuade the leadership in Pyongyang to change its ways.

China has significant economic leverage. We continue to encourage Beijing to use that leverage to bring Kim to the table. Europe could also do more. The UK has led calls for additional EU sanctions that go further than those agreed in UN Security Council Resolution 2375. We hope the European Council later this month will give final approval for these. They would send an important message of international unity. That unity is crucial. On this issue we can only succeed by working together.


The second major foreign policy challenge is Iran.

I want to make it absolutely clear that in our view the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the Iran nuclear deal – is the best way to address Iran’s nuclear issue. We are now much further away from a nuclear crisis than we were before the deal. Iran has made significant progress in rolling back its nuclear programme, and limiting its nuclear capability. The International Atomic Energy Agency has unprecedented access – no other state is subject to such intrusive monitoring. We want to maintain the benefits of the deal while also addressing areas of concern that it does not cover, such as its interference in other countries.

We judge that Iran is in compliance with the JCPoA and that de-certifying would make it harder to address these other concerns and to constrain Iran’s nuclear programme.

If anyone is still in any doubt of the benefits of the deal – just imagine for a moment that it no longer existed. We could then be facing not just one nuclear crisis, in North Korea, but two. That puts the importance of this deal into perspective. It was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and brought parties to the table in a way that would previously have been impossible. That is why we strongly urge the President and Congress to stick with the devil we know and re-certify, while being tough and vigilant in its implementation.


The third major foreign policy challenge is Russia. Russia has become more aggressive, more authoritarian and more nationalist; it increasingly defines itself in opposition to the West. Its actions not only threaten its closest neighbours; we also have serious concerns about its illegal activities in cyberspace, and its interference in other countries’ democratic processes.   All this poses huge policy challenges for the UK and our allies. We are best defended when we are united in our response to this long-term challenge. The UK’s military training operation in Ukraine, and our 1000-strong troop contingent in Poland and Estonia as part of Enhanced Forward Presence, are strong signals of our commitment to collective defence.

Russia’s actions present a serious strategic challenge for the West. It has required us to recalibrate our approach, focusing on defending ourselves and our partners and deterring the Russian threat. But it also requires us to engage in dialogue where necessary. Partly in order to register our clear differences: for example over Russian actions in Ukraine or Syria; and partly because we do have shared priorities with Russia, such as countering terrorism, and fighting climate change.

We judge that any policy response that unnecessarily magnifies the sense of ‘them and us’ will only move us further from being able to solve these global problems together. That is why the UK approach is, in the words of our Prime Minister, “engage but beware”. That means engaging seriously and sensibly whilst making absolutely clear when Russia’s actions are unacceptable, and taking united action – and this unity is vital – taking united and robust action against it.

What is at stake is no less than the credibility of the rules-based international order; the order on which European and international security as a whole depends. That is why a concerted and strong international response to Russian actions is so important.

We believe that sanctions against Russia should remain an important part of that response. Sustained EU, US and G7 unity over sanctions sends a powerful message of our shared rejection of Russian actions and our determination that Russia should not be able to flout international law with impunity.
The forthcoming passage of national UK sanctions legislation will ensure that the UK will be able to maintain its current sanctions once we have left the EU.

The UK is committed to continuing to play a leading role in shaping the international response to Russian aggression in Europe and elsewhere.

LGBT Rights

But, promoting our values isn’t just about security. It is also about enabling all people to live a life with dignity, free from discrimination and violence. This principle underpins all our human rights work, at home and abroad; and human rights are an integral part of our foreign policy.

It is now 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that “all are born equal in dignity and rights”. It is 50 years since being gay began to be decriminalised in the UK . Yet today, more than two generations later, people all over the world continue to suffer prejudice and discrimination because of their sexual orientation.

That is why the UK is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls and of LGBT people everywhere, and to building a wider international consensus around efforts to advance equality and justice

That includes here in the US, because this is another area on which the UK government and the US Administration do not see entirely eye to eye. We have made clear that we oppose all discrimination, including within the Armed Forces.

I know that our Consul General based here in Chicago has done a great deal of work to promote our ‘Love is Great’ campaign both here in Illinois and across the 14 states for which he is responsible – including participating in Chicago and Denver Prides and bringing over the London Gay Men’s Chorus to sing with their Chicago counterparts a few months ago.

We will continue to encourage all countries, including the US, to develop and implement policies that extend human rights and freedoms to all.


I am looking forward to a lively question and answer session in a moment – challenge and debate is after all a fundamental tenet not only of healthy democracy but also of academic rigour – so altogether that makes us experts in the art of the question. I shall try to avoid the politician’s habit of evading the answer.

I shall conclude as I started, by saying that the trans-Atlantic era is emphatically not dead. The world faces ever more complex, costly and dangerous challenges. The answer is to be more international, not less; to turn outward, not inward. That is what the UK will be doing once we leave the EU.

In this global context, the relationship between the UK and the US – yes, the special relationship identified by Churchill all those years ago – is needed more than ever. I am delighted to confirm that it is very much alive and kicking.

Alan Duncan – 2017 Statement on Hurricane Irma

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Duncan, the Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, in the House of Commons on 12 September 2017.

At last Thursday’s statement I undertook to update the house as appropriate and I thank you Sir for the opportunity to do so now. My Right Honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary is on his way at this very moment to the Caribbean to see for himself our stricken Overseas Territories and further drive the extensive relief efforts that are underway.

The thoughts of this House and the whole country are with those who are suffering the ravages of one of the most powerful Atlantic Hurricanes ever recorded. It followed Hurricane Harvey and was set to be followed by Hurricane Jose.

Over half a million British nationals – either residents or tourists – have been in the path of Hurricane Irma, which has caused devastation across an area spanning well over a thousand miles.

The overall death toll in the circumstances is low, but unfortunately 5 people died in the British Virgin Islands, and 4 in Anguilla.

At this critical moment, our principle focus is on the 80,000 British citizens who inhabit our Overseas Territories of Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

Commonwealth Realms in the Caribbean have also suffered, including Antigua and Barbuda and the Bahamas, as well as other islands such as St Maarten and Cuba.

We have around 70 British nationals requiring assistance on St Maarten and are working with the US, German and Dutch authorities to facilitate the potential departure of the most vulnerable via commercial means today.

To prepare for the hurricane season, the government acted 2 months ago by dispatching RFA Mounts Bay to the Caribbean in July.

This 16,000-ton landing ship from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary is one of the most capable vessels at our disposal.

And before she left the UK in June the ship was pre-loaded with disaster relief supplies; facilities for producing clean water; and a range of hydraulic vehicles and equipment.

In addition to the normal crew, the government ensured that a special disaster relief team – consisting of 40 Royal Marines and Army personnel – was also on board.

This pre-positioning of one of our most versatile national assets – along with an extra complement of highly skilled personnel – allowed the relief effort to begin immediately after the hurricane had passed.

By Friday night, the team from RFA Mounts Bay had managed to restore power supplies at Anguilla’s hospital, rebuild the emergency operations centre, clear the runway and make the island’s airport serviceable.

The ship then repositioned to the British Virgin Islands, where its experts were able to reopen the airport.

Meanwhile in the UK, the government dispatched 2 RAF transport aircraft on Friday – carrying 52 personnel and emergency supplies for over 1,000 people.

On Saturday, another 2 aircraft left for the region to deliver a Puma transport helicopter and ancillary supplies.

This steady tempo of relief flights has been sustained – yesterday it included a Voyager and a C-17 – and I can assure the House this will continue for as long as required.

And already 40 tonnes of UK aid has arrived, including over 2,500 shelter kits, and 2,300 solar lanterns. Nine tonnes of food and water are being procured locally today for onward delivery. Thousands more shelter kits and buckets are on the way from UK shortly. HMS Ocean is being loaded with 200 pallets of DFID aid and 60 pallets of Emergency Relief Stores (ERS) today. Five thousand hygiene kits, 10,000 buckets and 504,000 Aquatabs, all DFID funded, are going onto the vessel.

As I speak, 997 British military personnel are in the Caribbean. RFA Mounts Bay arrived in Anguilla again yesterday at dusk as 47 police officers arrived in the British Virgin Islands to assist the local constabulary.

We should all acknowledge and thank the first responders of the Overseas Territories’ own governments, who have shown leadership from the start, and are now being reinforced by personnel from the UK.

And many people, military and civilian, have shown fantastic professionalism and courage in their response to this disaster, and I hope I speak for the whole House in saying a resounding and heartfelt thank you.

Now this initial effort will soon be reinforced by the flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Ocean.

The government has ordered our biggest warship in service to leave her NATO task in the Mediterranean and steam westwards with all speed.

HMS Ocean loaded supplies in Gibraltar yesterday and will be active in the Caribbean in about 10 days.

Within 24 hours of the hurricane striking, my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister announced last Thursday a £32 million fund for those who have suffered, but in the first desperate stages, it is not about money – it is about just getting on with it.

And the Foreign Office Crisis Centre has been operating around the clock since last Wednesday, coordinating very closely with DFID and MOD colleagues. They’ve taken nearly 2,500 calls since then and are handling 2,251 consular cases. The government has convened daily meetings of our COBR crisis committee.

Over the weekend, my Right Honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Governors of Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands – along with Governor Rick Scott of Florida, where Irma has since made landfall over the weekend.

I have spoken to the US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe about the US Virgin Islands in respect of logistics support for the British Virgin Islands.

As well as those affected across the Caribbean, some 420,000 British citizens are in Florida – either as residents or visitors – and UK officials are providing every possible help.

My Right Honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to our Ambassador in Washington and our Consul General in Miami, who has deployed teams in Florida’s major airports to offer support and issue Emergency Travel Documents to those who need them.

The House will note that Irma has now weakened to a tropical storm, which is moving north west into Georgia.

And on Friday, I spoke to the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. The hurricane inflicted some of its worst blows upon Barbuda and a DFID team has been deployed on the island to assess the situation and make recommendations. Put starkly, the infrastructure of Barbuda no longer exists. I assured the Prime Minister of our support and I reiterate that this morning.

On Saturday, my Right Honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Prime Minister of Barbados to thank him for his country’s superb support, acting as a staging post for other UK efforts across the Caribbean.

Mr Speaker, we should all be humble in the face of the power of nature. Whatever relief we are able to provide will not be enough for many who have lost so much. But hundreds of dedicated British public servants are doing their utmost to help and they will not relent in their efforts.

Alan Duncan – 2017 Speech in Astana

Below is the text of the speech made by Sir Alan Duncan, the Minister of State for Europe, in Astana in Kazakhstan on 31 August 2017.

Good morning, and thank you Timur for that warm welcome. It is a privilege for me to have arrived in Astana yesterday in time to mark the 22nd anniversary of adoption of Kazakhstan’s constitution. So I wish you all, one day late, a very happy Constitution Day.

I am particularly delighted to be speaking to you in this impressive library dedicated to President Nazarbayev, who has done so much to shape Kazakhstan since its independence. Indeed, I think I am the first Foreign Minister to speak in this library, so I am honoured.

As I look around, I am stunned by the sight of a gleaming new capital city arising from the eternal steppes. Astana is a truly magnificent achievement, which the nation should be rightly proud of. Everything I have seen so far – from the Baiterek, through to EXPO, through to this magnificent library, shows me a country which has made massive strides since your independence just over a quarter of a century ago.

This year we are also celebrating 25 years of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom. I am pleased to say that today, that relationship has never been stronger. It is a relationship that our leaders have recognised as an important one and so they have strengthened our ties through engagement between our peoples. Indeed David Cameron visited in 2013, the first visit to Kazakhstan by a serving British Prime Minister, and President Nazarbayev, visited the UK just eighteen months ago. I look forward to our two countries continuing to build on that relationship over the next 25 years and beyond that. Indeed, our bilateral relationship stretches from cooperation on the international stage, through to helping Kazakhstan realise its own ambitious programme of reform.

Now, I myself had a fascinating meeting with your Foreign Minister yesterday and I look forward to meeting Prime Minister Sagintayev after this speech. During my meeting with Foreign Minister Abdrakhmanov, we discussed the cooperation between our two countries and I conveyed a clear message and that message was that the UK remains committed to developing this dynamic bilateral relationship, which has already achieved a great deal in the last five years but still has scope for further development.

Now, there is no doubt that the biggest policy issuing focusing minds in the UK is our departure from the European Union. But let me be clear, the UK will continue to engage with the world. As we leave the European Union, we are not leaving Europe. We also want to strengthen our relationships and build stronger partnerships with countries such as Kazakhstan as we look to the future.

So as Kazakhstan and the UK look to the future together, and as the UK looks to develop a new role outside of the EU, both continuity and the future are the themes for my comments. Both Britain’s continuing place in the global community, and looking forward with optimism to a future outside of the EU.

Some of you may be familiar with the name Alexander Graham Bell, he was the Scottish inventor who invented the telephone. He once said that when one door closes another one opens. We have a word for that in English – opportunity.

And I think that he was right, not only in saying that when one door closes another opens, but also in his assertion that sometimes we spend so long looking at the door that is closing, we see too late to notice the one that is open.

And so, as the UK prepares to leave the European Union, we may be closing the door on our EU membership, but there will be many, many more doors across the world opening up.

Over the next 18 months, we will negotiate the manner, the nature of our departure from the EU, and we will construct a new relationship with our European neighbours.

Now this will represent a fundamental change in our legal relationship with the European Union, but not to our outward looking view of the world. What you will not see is the UK closing all our doors. We are not leaving Europe and we are not pulling back from the world.

Instead, we will embrace the opportunities that lie before us and build a truly global Britain. One which strengthens our relationships and reaches out to build new partnerships across the world.

International stage

When the British people voted last year to leave the EU, they did not choose to withdraw the UK from the UN Security Council or from NATO. They did not pull the plug on our membership of the G7, the G20 or the Commonwealth. They did not sign away Britain’s long-standing and hard-won commitment to the values of freedom, of democracy, and of the rule of law.

So we will continue to work tirelessly with our partners, including Kazakhstan, in international organisations to promote and defend global peace and security, and to protect the rules based international system.

The UK has always been, and will remain, an outward-facing sovereign nation, and, I hope, a force for good, with a diplomatic network that is respected across the world. Looking forward, we will continue to put that network to good use, reaching out to new trading partners and working with our international partners to find solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges. Our commitment to our extensive security cooperation with our allies remains solid.

In this, Kazakhstan is an important partner.

And until the end of next year, Kazakhstan will sit on the United Nations Security Council, as a non-permanent member. I echo the words of your own Foreign Minister, that it was high time that a Central Asian country joined the Council. These two years present Kazakhstan with a unique opportunity to play a major role in tackling the most serious security issues facing the world. It will allow you to bring your unique geographical, historical and cultural perspective to the work of the Council.

Global challenges

Now security is just one of the challenges we face together. There are aspects of this we must consider and we can address these challenges as international partners on the UN Security Council.

Now, consider Syria for instance. The UK condemns the use of chemical weapons, by anyone, anywhere. It is vital that the international community does all it can to rid the world of chemical weapons attacks once and for all.

Also, the UK is the second largest donor country of bilateral humanitarian aid in response to the crisis in Syria, having committed over £2.46 billion to vulnerable and displaced people inside Syria and to refugees in neighbouring countries. We are also leading international support for the Syrian White Helmets, whose volunteers have saved over 95,000 lives.

And then there’s Afghanistan – where the UK is committed to creating security and prosperity. In June, the UK announced an increase in its commitment to Afghanistan, with additional troops to support NATO’s Train, Advise and Assist Mission in the country. And that uplift will add to the significant contribution of 500 troops the UK already makes to NATO efforts in Afghanistan. We are proud to work in close partnership with the Afghan Government to help it deliver the economic opportunities and security that the Afghan people are looking for and to create an Afghanistan that is less dependent on external support. I know that Kazakhstan is also committed to finding a solution to the ongoing conflict there. I hope that we can work together to help Afghanistan create and shape its own political settlement.

And there’s North Korea. It is important to maintain strong international pressure on North Korea, both diplomatically and through sanctions. Their latest missile launch over Japan is a reckless provocation. So I am pleased that both the UK and Kazakhstan supported Security Council Resolution 2371 earlier this month, which imposed the toughest measures ever adopted by the Security Council on North Korea. The focus of both our countries has to be on ensuring that sanctions are rigorously implemented and enforced by all UN Member States so that they are effective at limiting the regime’s ability to pursue its illegal nuclear weapons programme.

The UK will continue to play its part on the world stage to tackle all of these challenges head on.

And it is in that same spirit that we welcome Kazkahstan’s vital contribution in developing the Low Enriched Uranium Bank, which was opened this week. It will play an important role in ensuring that there is a safe, secure and assured source of Low Enriched Uranium to generate nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The Kazakh Government has shown great leadership in taking this important issue forward, and I am pleased that the UK was able to make a financial contribution through the European Union to this project.

Defence / International aid

So, as we look forward towards our future as a force for good outside the EU, we also have the means and the ambition to play a broader positive role in the world.

That is demonstrated in our commitments on defence spending and on international aid. The UK is the only country in the world that meets both its NATO pledge to spend 2% of its GDP on defence, and we also meet the UN target of spending 0.7% of our Gross National Income on development. And these together ensure that we defend our values, work to tackle poverty and conflict, and help to protect the most vulnerable people in our world.

We also remain a passionate advocate for supporting the right and power of women to play a vital role in building a fairer and more just society for future generations. We know that building prosperity for all is vital for long-term stability, and that is why we are working hard to increase women’s participation in all areas of life.

Peace is vital to that agenda. That is why I am pleased to say that the UK is sixth largest financial contributor to UN Peacekeeping – some 700 British peacekeepers are deployed in six missions around the world. We support Kazakhstan’s commitment to develop its peacekeeping capacity in support of UN operations. We have worked together to sharpen that capacity, through the Steppe Eagle peacekeeping training programme, which is the UK’s largest bilateral defence exercise. I eagerly await Kazakhstan’s first deployment on UN Peacekeeping Operations.


So, the UK is, and will remain, a committed and engaged player on the global stage, championing the values we have always held dear, which are the values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

But, the real test of any partnership of equals is a willingness to be honest with each other. I recognise that Kazakhstan has made real progress on implementing human rights protections, in accordance with internationally recognised standards. As you make ever greater strides to secure an even more prosperous, ever more developed future for your nation, it is important to remember that the foundations for this future rest on a society where human rights and the equality of all citizens under the law is guaranteed and enshrined. So we will continue to take forward our dialogue on reform, including freedom of expression and religious choice.

Together we have worked closely on the President’s reform programme. One important area of collaboration is judicial reform. In June, the UK Law Society, in partnership with Astana International Financial Centre and the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan, ran a training project to provide Kazakh judges with an understanding of the English common law system and the rule of law.

I was also delighted that we welcomed a high-level delegation from the criminal justice system to the UK, to learn about how our system works. And I am pleased to announce today, UK investment of about US $100,000 for a new project. The NGO, Penal Reform International will work in partnership with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Kazakhstan Government’s Anti-Corruption Agency to train prison officers to attain international standards in your prisons, thus contributing to President Nazarbayev’s ambitious programme of reforms in the judicial and rule of law sectors.


The UK has a proud history as a trading nation, and we have long been one of the strongest advocates of free trade. Kazakhstan will continue to remain a key partner for the UK. We are currently the sixth largest investor here. Since Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991, we have invested more than £20bn. Once we leave the EU we will look to remove barriers to trade, and so ensure continuity in our trade and investment relationships.

Kazakhstan remains an attractive market for UK companies. There are now over 500 British companies registered here. Many are active in the oil and gas and mining sectors. But there is also increasing collaboration between the new Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) and the City of London. The Lord Mayor of London’s visit in July highlighted our close cooperation in developing the Centre and I welcome Kazkahstan’s decision to use English Common Law as the basis for the Financial Centre including its Court of Arbitration.

I am also delighted that we are taking part in EXPO 2017. It is an excellent opportunity for the UK to show that it is open for business. I had a fantastic time when I visited yesterday. And whilst, as a British Minister, I am obliged to say that the UK pavilion was of course the best at EXPO, I was amazed and impressed by the scale and imagination of the Kazakh pavilion – which truly captured both the history and culture of Kazakhstan and at the same time, your collective vision for the future.

EXPO shows too that Kazakhstan is taking its place in the world, with 115 countries and 22 international organisations taking part. I hope that EXPO will open new doors and new opportunities for Kazakhstan – such as modern trading routes along the old Silk Road.

As this takes shape there will be considerable opportunity for cooperation between the UK, China and Kazakhstan. Our Embassy here in Astana is working closely with the Kazakhstan Ministry of Investment and Development to identify potential joint projects that would be delivered here. We hope to hold an event soon with participants from all three countries, aimed at identifying a new consortium to deliver the first belt and road project in Kazakhstan

So to end where I started: the UK is not looking, in mood of regret, on closed doors. To quote the famous US astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, a man who inspired generations, including possibly our own British astronaut, Tim Peake, “There are always door openings. And gradually, the opportunities open up in front of you.”

We will always be a committed and engaged player in the global community, and we look forward, optimistically, to the opportunities brought by our exit from the EU. I personally look forward to building further on the UK’s relationship with Kazakhstan as we open new doors and build a prosperous future together.

Alan Duncan – 2017 Speech on Turkey

Below is the text of the speech made by Sir Alan Duncan, the Minister of State for Europe, in Turkey on 17 August 2017.

Well Minister Omer, if I may, My good friend Omer Celik.

Thank you very much indeed for your warm welcome and I’m delighted to be back here, as you say, for the fifth time since the coup attempt. I hope that illustrates not only my personal commitment to Turkey but also that of the entire United Kingdom government.

The world is a difficult and dangerous place and I think that the friendship between the United Kingdom and Turkey is an essential relationship in that difficult world. And we work together as friends and we speak to each other as friends, sometimes directly on issues that matter, some difficult issues. But always on the basis of trust.

I went just now to the Parliament building, which I went to straight from the airport when I visited just a couple of days after the coup attempt last year. And on that occasion a year ago I saw the bombed out bits of the Parliament building and I went back just now to the very same place in order once again to reaffirm the United Kingdom’s understanding of what you went through during the coup attempt and indeed the steps that need to be taken following the coup attempt to restore civility, order and secure a government in the country.

We of course are clear in our view that we want to see proportionate and sensible responses to the challenges you faced within the context of a properly working judicial and democratic system. And that is what we have said from the start and will of course continue to say.

Alan Duncan – 1992 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Alan Duncan on 2 June 1992.

I am obliged to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to utter my first words in the House.
I am pleased to speak in the same debate as my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), whom I have watched for many years with great respect. Even though he has momentarily left the Chamber, I am also glad to follow my constituency neighbour, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who I am pleased to see so happily installed in his new job. I congratulate the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) on his maiden speech, and I look forward to sparring with him across the Chamber on many future occasions.

Rutland and Melton is an oasis of traditional England between the M1 and the A1. It is surrounded by towns such as Leicester, Nottingham, Grantham—perhaps not so much a town as a shrine—Stamford and Corby. The agricultural interest remains important and, although it may not please some hon. Members, hunting remains not only popular, but a living force for the interests of conservation.

The constituency also has light industry. Indeed, if one owns a pet, the chances are that one will have fed it with a brand name from Europe’s largest canning factory in Melton Mowbray. The constituency also includes Syston and Thurmaston on the edge of Leicester, and the spectacular vale of Belvoir.

Perhaps the constituency is best known for containing the valiant county of Rutland. I took a look at the history books, one of which says: although Rutland had a distinct status in the Anglo-Saxon period, its rise to the status of shire and the dignity of a sheriff was the product of a confused process in the twelfth century”. That same book states that the 1974 local reforms removed elements of disorder on the map, such as the foolish county of Rutland. I say of that author, the more fool him.

Those local government reforms created a hateful mix of the urban and the rural. They trampled over traditional boundaries and ignored community identities. Feeling in Rutland still runs very high indeed and most people want the return of unitary status for the county. And why not? If the cost is not punitive, they should be entitled to the status for which they are asking. I am pleased to say that, thanks to legislation passed by my party, including the Local Government Act 1992, and with the Royal Commission just starting its work, Rutland is given a chance. I implore hon. Members to take Rutland’s case seriously and not to dismiss it as a quixotic campaign or to disqualify Rutland simply on the grounds of its size.

I take up the cudgels for Rutland and Melton behind a line of distinguished parlimentarians. For a long time, Rutland was represented by Sir Kenneth Lewis. He still lives in the constituency, and I sometimes think that he has as many friends as there are people in the county. He is a popular figure, always ready with some fatherly advice and a good yarn to tell.

But for 18 years Melton, and then Rutland and Melton, were served by Michael Latham. From a personal point of view, I could not have been more fortunate in the person I shadowed for two years as prospective candidate. All in the area talk of the diligent and conscientious manner in which Michael Latham handled constituency problems. He entered the House with a particular expertise in housing, and Ministers came to value his advice. He developed a reputation for being independent-minded. He was not one to seek office at all costs.

His religious views, and his opinions on the state of Israel particularly, are well known, and it is appropriate that he should have moved on from here to run the Council of Christians and Jews. Contrary to reports, I do not believe that he intends to take holy orders. I hope that that will mean that Michael will not be entirely lost to politics in the years ahead. I am sure that hon. Members join me in wishing him and his wife Caroline every good fortune.

My purpose in speaking today is to welcome the measures in the Finance Bill. The measure marks the continuation of the economic progress that we have made since 1979. Indeed, the determination to tackle economic collapse spurred me above all to enter political activity in the first place.

Particularly welcome are the inheritance tax proposals. They are based on the belief that the successful accumulation of wealth should be allowed to be passed on. Why—as it appears many Opposition Members would have it—should every generation be required to go back to square one, based on some misplaced understanding of what equality of ‘opportunity involves? The Bill will benefit family farms and family businesses, and I welcome the measures so well defended by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend).

Any Bill designed to alter the rules of taxation inevitably provokes a litany of special pleading, and it is the unenviable task of the Chancellor and his team to distinguish naked self-interest from a good case. In his original Budget statement, the Chancellor referred to surplus advanced corporation tax—to some, perhaps, a rather abtruse matter. Some companies are taxed in the United Kingdom on estimates of their earnings overseas. Indeed, they are overtaxed, but they are stuck with the position.

The effect is to reduce the research and development that such companies would carry out in this country, and it works against their wishing to set up their headquarters in the United Kingdom. That was not intended to flow from the imputation tax system that developed in the 1970s, and I hope that the Chancellor will reconsider in the years ahead the effects of the measure.

The Bill contains many welcome measures affecting the operation of VAT, especially the removal of fiscal frontier controls. But there remain some simple, practical difficulties in the administration of VAT that should be addressed particularly as no cost would be involved.

I could cite the example of a haulage contractor based in Melton Mowbray who pays VAT on his fuel purchases in other EC member countries. As a business, he is entitled to reclaim it, but he does not get it back, as least not for months and sometimes even years. We decent Brits repay overseas claimants quickly, but that efficiency is not reciprocated. So again, our comparative sense of fair play works more to the benefit of our competitors than to that of our exporting businesses. I urge the Revenue to take a good look at the fair working of the refunding of VAT elsewhere in the Community.

I hope that the Finance Bill is but a prelude to our addressing certain long-term objectives for the economy. Some of the nastier consequences of the recession flow from the extent to which the fortunes of businesses and individuals are critically affected by changes in interest rates. We have a structural problem, in part a cultural one. Far too much of our investment funding in based on debt rather than on equity. It should become one of the major challenges of this Parliament to address the question of how to shift investment from debt to equity, because part of the problem arises from the simple fact that debt servicing is tax-deductible, while the cost of equity servicing is not.

Hand in hand with that is the objective of overseeing recovery without massive house price inflation. As many of my hon. Friends know, wary though I am of taking further steps towards monetary union, I believe that the ERM might yet prove a blessing, in that its effect will be to iron out the peaks and troughs which in the past have been damagingly extreme.

I am all for people owning their homes, but we do better to persuade them not to look on their houses as a tax-free source of easy riches on which they can regularly draw. I would rather we promoted a savings culture in which individuals increasingly had a genuine stake in the economy, and the key to that is pensions.

At present, our pensions rules are unfathomable. A personal pension attaching unequivocally to the person who has invested in it will lead to private capital accumulation in areas other than housing. Why cannot employees in the public sector pay their contributions into private schemes? We should take a long-term view, for the time has come when people should be allowed to do that.

By tackling such structural deficiencies in the economy, we could provoke a major change in the economic fortunes of individuals. I share the Chancellor’s vision of a capital-owning democracy. I hope that we can see an economy in which individuals increasingly build their own stake in it. I hope that we can promote a savings culture out of which dependency on the state will be reduced and self-reliance increased. If, to set the tone, a strict settlement of our public expenditure commitments is demanded, the Chancellor and his team will have vigorous support in their efforts from this quarter.

Alan Duncan – 2014 Speech at Global Monitoring Report

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Duncan, the Minister of State for International Development, on 7th April 2014.

I am delighted to be here today to support the UK launch of this year’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report. Its theme, Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality For All fits well with DFID’s education priorities. The report also rightly reminds us why investing in education is so important for any economy as a whole but also, and more importantly, why it matters for every individual.

Behind this report is 1 simple stark truth. If all girls completed primary school in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, the number of girls getting married by the age of 15 would fall significantly. Education does indeed transform lives.

In these brief remarks, I want to reflect on what the GMR tells us about DFID’s 3 education priorities, and then outline where more effort is needed to make better and faster progress. ‘Leaving no one behind’ is 1 of DFID’s priorities and this report presents impressive progress over the last 20 years on access to school. Globally there are 51 million more children in primary school today than there were in 1999, and 6 out of 10 countries have now achieved an equal number of girls and boys enrolled in primary school.

These are signs of real improvement which is the result of significant domestic and international investment and effort. Good progress can be made when the world gets behind a simple and compelling message as it has done with the MDG focus on access to primary school.

While we should recognise and celebrate this progress, we know that schooling does not always lead to learning. I don’t think any of us here would be satisfied with a primary school in which our children do not even learn to read and to count after four years in school. It’s the quality of learning achieved for every girl and boy, and not just the length of schooling, which makes education such a valuable investment.

Yet one of the headline messages from this GMR is that there are an estimated 250 million children – that’s 1 in 3 – who are not learning basic reading and numeracy skills, even though at least half of them have spent those crucial four years in school. Global data on learning is currently patchy but this estimate is alarming.

Improving learning is at the heart of DFID’s work on education. More recent work by the GMR team suggests that practical progress on actual learning is being made. A further 17 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are now learning the basics compared with the number just over 10 years ago.

So improving learning and leaving no one behind: The third priority is the focus on girls. Educating girls improves their ability to choose when to get married and how many children they have, and it gives them greater control over their assets and income. Most importantly it gives them control over their own body. But despite progress, there are still over 60 countries which have not achieved gender parity in primary school.

The UK government has committed to support up to 1 million marginalised girls through our Girls’ Education Challenge. DFID’s focus is on keeping girls in school, supporting them to learn, and ensuring their critical transition from primary to secondary school.

The Prime Minister will be highlighting some of the specific challenges faced by girls, including early marriage, violence, and female genital mutilation, at a special event in July.

So, looking to the future, what do we need to do to ensure we make better and faster progress beyond 2015?

DFID has rightly defined economic development as a central pillar of its development strategy. We know that economic growth can help lift people out of poverty and we also know the importance of education to achieve this. Along with our support for quality basic education, DFID is stepping up its efforts to look at the transition from school to work, including targeted support to upper secondary, higher education and skills programmes.

Improving learning and reaching the most marginalised children means working in difficult environments with new partners and targeting support to those who need it most.

This is why DFID continues to prioritise support to conflict-affected countries and why we have recently made new commitments to reach some of the most marginalised groups, including those with disabilities, and those affected by the crisis in Syria.

But to develop the right policies, to ensure that no one is left behind, that all girls and boys are learning when in school, and that we are training people for the right jobs that the country needs, we need to gather good data and analysis.

The UK government is doing its part by investing in improved data and research. In Pakistan and East Africa, DFID is supporting household surveys which allow parents to provide immediate feedback on the quality of education their children are receiving. DFID is also working closely with the UK research community to look at how to improve the quality and effectiveness of teaching, in order to deliver faster progress.

The analysis provided by the Global Monitoring Report is why it is such an important resource for the education community and why the UK government is proud to be one of its major supporters. Building on the achievements of this Report, we congratulate, and look forward to working with, the newly appointed Director, Dr Aaron Benavot, to ensure its continued success.

With the replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education coming up in June and the ongoing negotiations on a post-2015 development framework, this is an important year for education. Future generations depend on the decisions we make today. The Global Monitoring Report is an excellent resource to help us make the right decisions to ensure that everyone gets a chance to realise their potential.

The success of the MDGs is down, in large part, to their simplicity. Plain, simple language and a compelling message on education is what is needed after 2015. The education community, above all others, should be setting the benchmark for this. I will be watching you.

Thank you.

Alan Duncan – 2012 Speech on the Arms Trade

Below is the text of the speech made by the International Development Minister, Alan Duncan, made at the International Institute for Strategic Studies on 17th May 2012.

Every country has the right to defend itself. Indeed, it is the first duty of government to protect its citizens.

Over the last few decades, global efforts to prevent and reduce violent conflict and civil wars have grown and strengthened. International peace operations – often based on new alliances between the North and the South – have played a vital role in bringing stability to fragile states. But for many countries, conflict and instability remain intractable problems, fuelled by the unregulated and irresponsible trade in arms.

This year, the world faces a new opportunity to prevent and reduce violent conflict as nations come together in New York in July to try to conclude negotiations on a new arms trade treaty.

Over the last forty years there have been many negotiations dealing with aspects of arms and defence. There were the series of negotiations aimed at reducing the bloated armouries built up during the cold war. There were then a series of nuclear anti-proliferation discussions. More recently there have been conventions that have addressed specific aspects of the arms trade, such as the Ottawa Convention that bans the sale of landmines, or the UN Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons. The latter has commendable aims and has begun to address the problem of small arms and light weapons but is limited in its focus, is non-binding, and has been hampered by disagreement.

Through the Arms Trade Treaty we now have the chance to agree a mechanism which comprehensively regulates the trade in all conventional weapons, big and small.

This is a development issue just as much as it is security issue. Without security, children cannot go to school, hospitals cannot function, farming cannot take place and commerce cannot thrive.

In short, violent conflict and insecurity engrain poverty. They threaten our chances of setting this world on a path to peace and prosperity. We have witnessed time and time again conflict and violence being fuelled by the illicit trade in weapons. It is the small arms – the guns and rifles – that have empowered armed groups, and which have escalated armed violence, resulting in millions of deaths.

The illegal trade in arms costs lives and blights futures

More than 740,000 men, women, and children die each year as a result of armed violence. Two thirds of these deaths occur in countries that are not in conflict. What does this show us? It shows us that easy access to portable weapons is a major factor in causing these deaths.

This Government is determined to do everything within its power to make sure that the most rigorous international standards are applied to the export of, and trade in, arms. It is the only way to stop weapons falling into the wrong hands.

Britain already operates one of the strongest arms control systems in the world, demanding the highest standards from our defence industry so that we can be sure that we are not fuelling these dreadful trends.

It is encouraging to see that the world community is now planning to come together and agree legally binding, international high standards for the trade and transfer of arms. Internationally, there is now a strong will to make an Arms Trade Treaty a reality.

The UK has been promoting the Arms Trade Treaty from the outset. The UK introduced the initial Resolution in the UN in December 2006 calling for an Arms Trade Treaty. The Resolution was co-authored with six countries: Australia, Argentina Costa Rica, Finland, Kenya and Japan. Negotiations began in 2010 and the final Negotiating Conference will be in July this year.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be leading the negotiations and the Departments for International Development, Defence, and Business Innovation and Skills will be represented on the delegation.

Achieving consensus by the end of the Negotiating Conference on a Treaty text which meets our objectives will be challenging. However, we are very determined and will make every effort to attain this goal. Between now and July, the UK Government will be working to raise the profile of and support for this Treaty. We will be working with our counterparts across the world to bring them on board. We will be demonstrating to our public why we believe this is so important.

I want today to explain just why we feel so strongly about this and why we are pushing for global standards.

First I would like to examine the scale of the problem. Second I want to look at how unregulated arms transfers affect development.  Third I would like to offer some thoughts as to what an arms treaty should look like.

Why do we need a Treaty?

Currently a variable patchwork of regulation exists across the world. Some Governments have very robust arms trade control systems in place, but other Governments are fuelling the illicit and irresponsible trade in arms by not having any control systems at all, or by only having weak systems. Overall, there are no common international standards for the arms trade. This results in gaps and loopholes which can be exploited.

So, first, let’s look in a bit more detail at the impact of unregulated and irresponsible arms sales.

Every year, armed violence kills nearly three quarters of a million  people. To pick a few examples:

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, close to 4 million people have died in armed conflict over the last decade.

In Nepal, ten years of conflict has left more than 12,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

In 2011 an estimated 70,000 people were displaced from eastern Darfur in a wave of ethnically targeted attacks.

Corrupt or irresponsible dealers are selling and diverting weapons into war zones, fuelling conflict.

For example, in Uganda armed groups are known to have previously operated surreptitiously to obtain weapons from Sudan – these weapons ultimately led to an enormous cost in human life. The suffering caused by the illicit market in arms was immense. In Uganda, at least 23,000 children and adults were abducted by the Lord Resistance Army, the LRA. Young boys were trained as child soldiers. Young girls were taken to work as slaves, while others were raped and abandoned. Some children have been killed or injured in cross-fire, armed attacks and cattle raids.

In Sudan, a similar picture emerges. Women and children are the most vulnerable in Sudan’s internal conflict. Not only are they caught in the crossfire of conflict, but they are targets of inter-community raids. They are most affected by a lack of access to clean water, food, healthcare and education in areas where conflict persists.

The groups who perpetrated these atrocities would not have been able to operate without access to a constant source of weapons and ammunition. Just because a weapon is small and light does not mean it is not a vicious driver of conflict and suffering.

Easily transported, small arms and light weapons account for an estimated 60 to 90% of conflict deaths as well as tens of thousands of additional deaths outside actual war zones.  It is estimated that more than 95 per cent of small arms in Africa, for example, come from outside the continent.

Another example is Yemen, where 60% of families report ownership of weapons. With approximately 10 million small arms for a population of 23 million people, Yemen is considered among the most heavily armed countries on earth.

The availability of weapons in Yemen is frequently linked to the rapid escalation of armed violence, as witnessed during the instability sparked by the Arab Spring, and to the aggravation of disputes over land and water resources, in which up to 4,000 people are reported to die every year. The end effect is hindrance to the county’s development in both rural and urban areas.

I believe an Arms Trade Treaty can make a major contribution to reducing and preventing this sort of conflict.  It will make it much harder for armed groups and governments that commit human rights abuses to acquire a ready flow of arms.

As if violent conflict was not bad enough in itself, it also has a significant bearing on a country’s potential for development.

It is clear that armed conflict and armed violence prevent countries from benefitting from the social and economic development they might otherwise enjoy. The internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015. While progress is being made in areas such as the fight against communicable diseases, conflict has now become one of the greatest enemies of development.

About two thirds of the countries least likely to achieve the MDGs are in the midst of – or emerging from – conflict.

Even when conflict is simmering and not quite exploding, how can governments provide universal health care or primary education when their budgets are being diverted to corrupt or irresponsible arms purchases?

There is no way a State can build up a comprehensive health system when there is no stability and security and where they are being forced to address the challenges of bloodshed and injury caused by armed violence ahead of other healthcare demands.

How can a State provide universal primary education when armed violence is preventing or deterring children and teachers from simply getting to school?

Economic growth is the route out of poverty but violence and conflict is a fast route back into it. It is estimated that each year Africa foregoes wealth creation to the sum of 18 billion US dollars, as a result of armed conflict.

Vulnerable hit hardest

Make no mistake, the irresponsible trade in arms hits the most vulnerable the hardest.

Of course, the problems do not stop when the fighting stops. Taking the experience of many countries which have faced conflict, it takes 20 years for an economy to recover after the actual conflict has ended.

To understand this picture fully we have to ask what is driving this phenomenon.

At one level, the defence business is one of the most technologically pioneering and inventive sectors of industry. But we have to be honest – in addition to the legitimate arms business, the arms trade is subject to some of the most unscrupulous, greedy and immoral practices of any industry. So many times we have heard of arms dealers who are criminals, selling illicitly, and often getting away with it. A recent example is that of the Viktor Bout, convicted on terrorism charges after being accused of planning to smuggle arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It has been reported that over many years Bout supplied arms to some of the most brutal regimes and civil wars of the last two decades. We can’t allow this to continue in an unregulated, tacitly authorised way.

There are many defence companies and States – those with good controls and good practices – who support an Arms Trade Treaty.  The Treaty will establish a fair and equitable foundation for legitimate arms trading.

I am today appealing for all countries to push for an Arms Trade Treaty, so we can ensure that no more arms deals take place outside a framework of global standards.

What could the Arms Trade Treaty look like?

So let me now turn to what an Arms Trade Treaty could look like.

An International Arms Trade Treaty will ensure the global trade in arms is subject to high standards. The Treaty will be a legally binding agreement, supported by monitoring and reporting mechanisms, that sets out very clear standards for arms transfers across international boundaries.

Before exporting arms, States will have to assess and consider an important list of criteria. This list must include the risk of the exported arms being used in human rights abuses, or to fuel conflict, the potential impact of the export on sustainable development, and the risk of the trade being subject to diversion or corrupt practices.

To be effective and worthwhile the treaty must be broad in scope, covering all elements from fighter jets to ammunition. Small arms and light weapons must be in the scope of the Treaty; if they are not, the opportunity to regulate a major contributor to conflict and suffering will have been missed. The UK, working hand in hand with most of the world’s developing nations, will push to ensure small arms and light weapons are in the scope of the Treaty. Leaving them out would be an act of negligence.

Under the terms of the Chair’s document and under the terms of the treaty we want, States will need to demonstrate transparency in their arms trade and they will be required to introduce reporting and transparency measures. This should include publishing a National export control list and detailed national reports on arms exports. States will also need to demonstrate their progress on implementing the Treaty requirements by submitting regular progress reports.  Reporting will enable our citizens to hold us to account for the arms transfers we make.

Corruption is a major problem in the arms trade. The unregulated, covert trade in arms, conducted by corrupt individuals or companies, leads to the diversion of weapons into the illicit market or to dangerous end-users. Corruption also undermines the ability of nations to ensure they are paying a fair and uninflated price for the weapons. Corruption allows individuals to profit from a nation’s pain with impunity.

I will push for the Arms Trade Treaty to address the issues of corruption, bribery and the lack of transparency that allow these practices to continue unnoticed. One of the ways I want the Treaty to do this is by including measures to control arms brokering.  This could be achieved by all States having a register of arms brokers. Such measures will close loopholes by ensuring brokers are accountable to the law wherever they are operating.  States will have to prosecute brokers and all other individuals involved in corrupt practices.

I believe the Treaty’s provisions must also recognise the impact of irresponsible and illegal arms transfers on the most vulnerable, including women.  Strong provisions on human rights will assist in this respect. However, considering the disproportionate impact armed violence has on women we also hope to see reference to this included in the Treaty’s preamble.

This is an ambitious project. Many States do not have export control systems at all and it will be a significant commitment for these States to establish systems which adhere to the strong standards of the Arms Trade Treaty. It will therefore be important that the international community recognises and responds to the need for international cooperation and assistance, including technical and financial assistance to countries which will need help in effectively implementing an Arms Trade Treaty.

The UK believes that this must be a strong, effective Treaty. However, we also realise that compromises will have to be made. Whilst many States are as supportive of a Treaty as we are, there are others who have their reservations. I will be working with international counterparts to try and overcome such doubts.

I am concerned that some do not see the value of having criteria on sustainable development in the Treaty, or they mistakenly interpret this as threatening developing States’ sovereignty, and their right to defend themselves and to spend their budgets as they see fit.

Others do not want ammunition or small arms and light weapons in the scope of the Treaty. I believe the inclusion of these weapons is critical.  If small arms and light weapons were not included in any agreement, it would dangerously undermine its impact.

In our view a country’s record and approach to human rights should determine whether or not it is a fitting buyer of weapons and we want to see this provision contained in the Treaty. I am concerned that some States are still resisting this inclusion.

Do not misunderstand me. We are encouraged to see the breadth of support that does exist for the Treaty. The EU, sub-Saharan Africa and much of the Caribbean are vocal supporters. The co-authors of the Treaty resolution are continually pushing for the most ambitious scope and provisions.

The P5 [five permanent members of the Security Council] have come a long way and issued a supportive statement last July. The majority of UN Member States want to see criteria regulating the export of arms, they want most conventional weapons in the scope, and they believe that States must retain some record of their arms transfers.

Meanwhile, UK civil society and industry are demonstrating their support, showing the world that all in the UK are united in their support for the Treaty.

Our opportunity

In July, all the States of the United Nations will meet in New York for four weeks of negotiations. The UK will be at the forefront of these negotiations, working hard to ensure the Conference ends with a robust Arms Trade Treaty which the majority of Nations will sign.

The UK fully believes in the value of such a Treaty and is determined to agree one which will achieve real change. We cannot have a Treaty that does not introduce legally binding regulations, or that does not include those weapons that are causing the most human suffering.

Let me stress, a treaty will not prevent any country from being able to defend itself. Indeed, a state’s security force, when properly trained and resourced, can play a valuable role in ensuring stability and creating a climate in which development can flourish.

An internationally agreed treaty will, however, close loopholes and gaps in legislation and it will ensure that globally high standards are in place to prevent irresponsible arms transfers taking place. It is long overdue.

Let no one be in any doubt about our determination. I hope that all countries will share our view.

The world will be watching to see who refuses to sign up to the Arms Trade Treaty.