Human rights report must not be cuts victim, says Sir Menzies

Whitehall cost-cutting must not be allowed to damage the status of the government's annual human rights report, Sir Menzies Campbell warned yesterday.

The former Lib Dem leader agreed that the publication might be delivered more cheaply, but said money-saving measures should not give the impression that Britain was any less committed to human rights.

The report has been published since 1997 to highlight levels of torture, oppression, capital punishment and arms trading around the world, but it faces being downgraded amid intense pressure on budgets.

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The Foreign Office is looking at alternatives to "the expensive glossy colour publications of the past". One option appears to be publishing the report online.

Sir Menzies said yesterday "It's a symbol, and what is important on an issue where Britain's reputation stands very high indeed, where we have a long-term historical commitment, where we have international legal obligations, is to ensure that a symbol of this kind is not damaged in a way that suggests we are in any way less committed to the cause of human rights.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Sir Menzies said he was in "no doubt whatsoever" that Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg agreed with him.

"There won't just be Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons, there will be members in the Conservative Party and in the Labour Party as well," he went on.

"In the House of Commons there is an all-party commitment to human rights, and it's essential in my view that we maintain that as part of our international profile."