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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 22:22 GMT 23:22 UK
Tories set up human rights group
Liam Fox
Fox says the party is portrayed as having 'too little principle'
A new human rights group is being set up within the Conservative Party to bring attention to "unheard-of crises", Liam Fox has announced.

The shadow foreign secretary said the Tories had "a duty" to speak up for the oppressed and those who face "considerable danger".

"The issue of human rights has been too low down the Conservative agenda for too long," he said.

Dr Fox said the group would be chaired by Tory Devon West MP Gary Streeter.

"As a party we have allowed ourselves to be portrayed as purely pragmatic, with too little principle," he said in a speech to the Foreign Press Association.

"We Conservatives have a duty, as members of a strong and free liberal society, to speak up for the oppressed and for those who speak up for themselves often in the face of considerable danger."


He said: "It is against this background that I am today announcing the establishment of a human rights group within the Conservative Party."

Dr Fox, a potential leadership challenger, said politicians were honour bound to raise the "unheard-of crisis" that are happening in places like Congo, where four million people have died from massacre, famine, disease.

Bringing the benefits of freedom, economic liberty and human rights to the millions who currently do not enjoy it is no easy task - but that is no reason not to try to achieve it
Liam Fox

"Our new committee will give these unsung tragedies, which attract little or no coverage in this country despite death tolls of millions, the attention they warrant," he said.

The group will look at respect for human rights, economic freedom and the rule of law, he said.

It will publish an annual audit of the records of various governments so that foreign policy debate can be "carried out in an informed and transparent way".

'Common responsibility'

Dr Fox was speaking ahead of the International Democratic Union Summit in Washington where he will say that the "democratising agenda needs rejuvenating".

He will also give strong support for US President George Bush's "freedom agenda".

"The 'freedom agenda' will unite those in the developed and developing world who believe that a free market creates a free society," he will say.

"Encouraging free trade requires champions at home and abroad. There are many vested interests, some who even talk the language of - but do not practise - fair and free trade.

"Bringing the benefits of freedom, economic liberty and human rights to the millions who currently do not enjoy it is no easy task. But that is no reason not to try to achieve it.

"It is our common responsibility."


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