On 6th February 2020 Lord Suri asked the Government “what plans they have to ensure the protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief in their international development plans.” The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, following the previous supplementary question*, I understand that in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, there is a champion for promoting freedom of religious belief at director-general level. In the light of the report just mentioned, commissioned by the previous Foreign Secretary, will the Minister consider appointing a similar champion to influence policy formation at the most senior level in her department?
Baroness Sugg: The right reverend Prelate is right that the Foreign Office has a director-general-level freedom of belief champion, the FCO’s chief operating officer, in that case. DfID has a director-level champion on all aspects of faith and belief, who promotes freedom of religion and belief through seminars, blogs and training.
* Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, apart from the grants, which the Minister mentioned, are there any circumstances in which our aid will be reduced or postponed as a result of gross religious persecution, which, as the recent Open Doors report shows, is increasing throughout the world? Can she give specific examples of this? If not, it is clearly inconsistent with the Government’s acceptance of the Bishop of Truro’s report and the declared policy on human rights generally.
Baroness Sugg: My Lords, withdrawal of our overseas aid will obviously affect the persecuted minorities and the very poor, whom we are aiming to help. The noble Lord refers to the Bishop of Truro’s report, which was commissioned by the previous Foreign Secretary. That sets out a number of challenges to us to implement new programmes and procedures. We have accepted those recommendations in full and are implementing them.