§ 9. Mrs. Helen Jackson
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is Her Majesty Government's policy towards child labour.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
We are very concerned about the exploitation of child labour abroad. We support measures to protect the rights of children, including the right to be protected from economic exploitation.
§ Mrs. Jackson
Should not the Government be deeply ashamed of the UN report on this country's record on children's rights, which was published last week? That report criticised Britain on nearly every aspect included in the convention on children's rights drawn up by the UN. Will the Government make a start in complying with the UN convention by at least agreeing to change their stance on child labour within the European Union and by complying with the child labour directive in 1996, like everyone else, instead of securing an opt-out to put that decision off for four years?
§ Mr. Hogg
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child examined the report last week, but we have not yet received its conclusions. If the hon. Lady has given a correct account of what is in the report, I am bound to say that it does not seem to make a great deal of sense. We shall respond in due course. What we do within the United Kingdom is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.
§ Miss Emma Nicholson
Will my right hon. and learned Friend remind the House that the declaration of the rights of the child was initiated by the United Kingdom? Would he like to mark that by paying tribute to James Grant—who has just died—who, as executive head of UNICEF, was responsible for the signing of 170 countries to the declaration of the rights of the child, and who was fully supported by the UK?
§ Mr. Hogg
My hon. Friend makes a number of points with considerable force. Lying behind what she says is the fact that there are serious problems in the world relating to the exploitation of children. For a committee to criticise the United Kingdom in the way in which the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mrs. Jackson) states is, frankly, trivialising that issue.