Natalie Bennett has attacked the UK’s “disgraceful” relationship with Saudi Arabia, where gay men can face the death penalty.
The PinkNews Debate, chaired by Evan Davis, took place at the Wellcome Collection in London on Thursday 19 March.
John Amberton of Baker & Mackenzie asked: “Is the government doing enough to end discriminatory treatment and persecution of LGBT people in the Commonwealth and beyond?”
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: “The government’s not doing enough, particularly in terms of the Commonwealth. It should be doing more to push recognition for the LGBTIQ group within the Commonwealth.
“I focus a lot on our relationship with Saudi Arabia… this is one of the worst human rights abusing regimes and our approach to Saudi Arabia on all kinds of issues including arms sales is a disgrace.”
The Green leader also said that the UK should halt all arms sales to the nation until it reforms on human rights.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper said: “It has to be a central part of foreign policy, not just in the Commonwealth but across the world.
“Diplomacy is always complex and they way in which you persuade other countries to do things… will always be complex and will vary from one country to another.
“It’s part of a wider approach to promoting human rights, and seeing that as a central part of foreign policy.
“There will be difficult areas to deal with… but we need to make it a much higher part of our foreign policy now.”
UKIP’s Peter Whittle said: “When it comes to giving aid, we should look at countries’ records on gay rights.
“There is a strange selectiveness we take with how we deal with different countries – we need to be more consistent about that.
“At the moment we are rather selective. I would like to see us being more concerned about what happens in Middle Eastern countries to gay men.
“I’d like to see the same approach we had towards Putin, with Stephen Fry leading protests, used much wider. It seems to be relatively selective.”
However, Tory peer Tina Stowell disagreed with calls to withdraw aid, saying: “I would be very much against withdrawing aid from countries whose Governments have a poor record in this area.
“The aid that we provide in those countries goes directly on the ground to support projects – we’ve done a lot to make sure corrupt governments are not in receipt of aid.
“Also, if we start to withdraw aid from countries due to their treatment of gay and bi people, those people could end up being more persecuted for the removal of the aid.”
Baker and McKenzie