1. Freedom of religion or belief in India

The Lord Bishop of Winchester to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what assessment he has made of the current state of freedom of religion or belief in India.

1.1 Summary

India is home to nearly one fifth of the world’s human population and now has a claim to be the world’s most populous state.[1] A country with a long, if not unbroken tradition of religious tolerance, India is officially a secular republic and both its constitution and penal code protect religious freedom and prohibit discrimination on the grounds of a person’s faith.[2] However, in recent years western governments and human rights groups have expressed increasing concern about escalating inter-communal tensions across the subcontinent. This has particularly been the case since the 2019 re-election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.[3]

Many of these inter-communal tensions have been between Hindus, India’s largest religious group comprising around 80% of the population, and members of the country’s Muslim minority, although there have also been tensions between Hindus and India’s Christian and Sikh communities. A 2023 report by the US Department of State noted that “attacks on members of religious minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, occurred in various [Indian] states” throughout 2022.[4] It also noted that in April that year over 100 former senior government officials wrote to Mr Modi stating that government discrimination against religious minorities, “particularly Muslims, in states like Assam, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand”, was “undermining” the country’s constitution. In addition, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent US federal government agency, has said that “religious freedom conditions in India are taking a drastic turn downward, with national and various state governments tolerating widespread harassment and violence against religious minorities”.[5]

In the UK, the Home Office notes that Muslims, Christians and Sikhs in India are, in general, “unlikely to be subject to treatment or discrimination by the state that is sufficiently serious, by its nature or repetition, to amount to persecution”.[6] It does however note that instances of mob violence and attacks against religious minorities have occurred in the country. The government has said that Minister for South Asia Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon discussed issues including freedom of religion or belief with the Indian government during his visits to the country in both February 2024 and May 2023.[7]

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2. Support for Ukraine

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Labour) to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what action His Majesty’s Government are taking to maintain moral and physical support, in the United Kingdom and internationally, for Ukraine’s war against the Russian invasion.

2.1 Summary

The UK is one of the leading international donors to Ukraine.[8] Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022, the UK has pledged almost £12bn in overall support, of which £7.1bn has been for military assistance. The UK has worked with NATO allies on the provision of equipment to support Ukraine’s self-defence.

In January 2024 Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a bilateral security agreement known as the UK-Ukraine Agreement on Security Cooperation in Kyiv.[9] The government said the agreement was “intended to be the first step in developing an unshakeable 100-year partnership between Ukraine and the United Kingdom”. During the visit, Mr Sunak said:

For two years, Ukraine has fought with great courage to repel a brutal Russian invasion. They are still fighting, unfaltering in their determination to defend their country and defend the principles of freedom and democracy.

I am here today with one message: the UK will also not falter. We will stand with Ukraine, in their darkest hours and in the better times to come.

Since Mr Sunak’s visit to Kyiv, it has been reported that NATO is drawing up plans to secure a five-year military aid package of up to $100bn for Ukraine.[10] In addition, Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron visited Washington DC in April 2024 to show support for a US funding package for Ukraine currently stalled in Congress, and to warn US politicians against the “appeasement” of Russia.[11] The UK and Ukraine also signed a new arrangement on defence and industrial cooperation on 10 April 2024.[12]

President Zelenskyy has since reportedly chided his country’s western partners for “turning a blind eye” to Ukraine’s need for more air defences in the face of continuing Russian aerial attacks on critical infrastructure.[13] Meanwhile the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has said that only 72% of the requirements for a coordinated humanitarian aid plan for Ukraine had been met in 2023.[14]

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3. UK-France security relationship

Lord Owen (Independent Social Democrat) to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs when the next bilateral is planned between His Majesty’s Government and the French Republic on security issues, and whether it will involve the President and Prime Minister as well as the two foreign secretaries.

3.1 Summary

The government considers France as one of the UK’s most important European partners.[15] The UK and France held a summit in Paris in March 2023, the first time in nearly five years the leaders of the two countries had met in a bilateral format.[16] Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Emmanuel Macron issued a joint declaration that set out how the UK and France would enhance bilateral cooperation on Ukraine; the European Political Community; defence and security; the fight against organised crime, cyber and hybrid threats and terrorism; foreign policy and global issues; energy and decarbonisation; illegal migration; and social and economic ties. James Cleverly, the then foreign secretary, met Catherine Colonna, the then French minister for Europe and foreign affairs, on the sidelines of the summit. They “reiterated their shared desire to coordinate more closely on major international issues”, primarily Ukraine.[17] As home secretary, Mr Cleverly also met his French counterpart Gérald Darmanin in January 2024 to discuss law enforcement and security cooperation, particularly on tackling illegal migration.[18]

Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron spoke via video call on 8 April 2024 to mark the 120th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale.[19] They committed to work together at the upcoming European Political Community summit (to be hosted by the UK at Blenheim Palace in July 2024) to address a range of shared priorities, including defending Ukraine, progressing cooperation on artificial intelligence and joint efforts to tackle illegal migration and organised crime.[20] On the same day, Lord Cameron and Stéphane Séjourné, the French minister for Europe and foreign affairs, authored a joint newspaper article celebrating 120 years of UK-French cooperation and pledging to cooperate on Ukraine and other global challenges such as terrorism and climate change.[21] Also on 8 April 2024, as part of a year-long programme of joint UK-French military activity to affirm defence ties between the two nations, members of the French Garde Républicaine took part in the changing of the guard ceremony in London and soldiers from the Coldstream Guards took part in a ceremony at the Élysée Palace in Paris.[22]

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4. 75th anniversary of the Council of Europe

Baroness Chakrabarti (Labour) to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what plans he has to mark the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of London establishing the Council of Europe on 5 May.

4.1 Summary

The foreign ministers of the UK, Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden signed a treaty establishing the Council of Europe in London on 5 May 1949.[23] Article 3 of the treaty provided that: “Every member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Article 4 provided that any European state deemed able and willing to fulfil the provisions of article 3 may be invited to become a member. Today, the Council of Europe has 46 member states.[24] It describes itself as Europe’s “leading human rights organisation”, with a mission to “promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law across Europe and beyond”.[25]

One of the ways it does this is through international conventions. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), adopted in 1950, was the Council of Europe’s first convention.[26] Ratifying the ECHR is a pre-requisite of joining the Council of Europe.[27] Implementation of the ECHR is overseen by the European Court of Human Rights, a body of the Council of Europe. In the UK, the Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates ECHR rights into domestic law.

There has been debate recently about whether the government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda is compliant with the UK’s obligations under the ECHR. This has prompted speculation about whether the government would contemplate withdrawing from the convention and the court. Rishi Sunak said in early April 2024 that he believed the policy was “compliant with all our international obligations, including the ECHR”.[28] At the same time, he stated his belief that “border security and controlling illegal migration is more important than our membership of any foreign court”.

4.2 Read more

Cover image © House of Lords 2023 / photography by Annabel Moeller.


  1. US Congressional Research Service, ‘India-US relations: Issues for Congress’, 16 June 2023; and United Nations, ‘Population’, accessed 11 April 2024. Return to text
  2. US Congressional Research Service, ‘India: Religious freedom issues’, 30 August 2018. Return to text
  3. US Congressional Research Service, ‘India: Human rights assessments’, 26 October 2023. Return to text
  4. US State Department, ‘2022 report on international religious freedom: India’, 15 May 2023. Return to text
  5. US Commission on International Religious Freedom, ‘Countries: India’, accessed 11 April 2024. Return to text
  6. Home Office, ‘Country policy and information note: India—religious minorities and scheduled castes and tribes’, November 2021. Return to text
  7. House of Commons, ‘Written question: India: Religious freedom (16187)’, 7 March 2024; and House of Commons, ‘Written question: India: Religious buildings (10030)’, 24 January 2024. Return to text
  8. House of Commons Library, ‘Military assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion’, 27 March 2024. Return to text
  9. Prime Minister’s Office, ‘PM in Kyiv: UK support will not falter’, 12 January 2024. Return to text
  10. Henry Foy, ‘Nato plans $100bn ‘Trump-proof’ fund for Ukraine’, Financial Times (£), 2 April 2024. Return to text
  11. Felicia Schwartz and Lauren Fedor, ‘David Cameron says Ukraine aid is in US interest after meeting Donald Trump’, Financial Times (£), 9 April 2024; and Rafe Uddin et al, ‘David Cameron warns US politicians against ‘appeasement’ of Russia’, Financial Times (£), 10 April 2024. Return to text
  12. Department for Business and Trade and Ministry of Defence, ‘UK and Ukraine sign new defence pact’, 10 April 2024. Return to text
  13. Christopher Miller, ‘Russia destroys Kyiv’s largest power plant’, Financial Times (£), 11 April 2024. Return to text
  14. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘Ukraine’, accessed 11 April 2024; and ‘Ukraine humanitarian response plan 2023’, accessed 11 April 2024. Return to text
  15. House of Commons, ‘Written question: France: Military alliance (192489)’, 14 July 2023. Return to text
  16. House of Commons Library, ‘UK-French defence cooperation: A decade on from the Lancaster House treaties’, 15 March 2023. Return to text
  17. French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Meeting between Catherine Colonna and her British counterpart’, 10 March 2023. Return to text
  18. Home Office, ‘UK and France agree to closer cooperation’, 1 February 2024. Return to text
  19. French Embassy in London, ‘French and UK leaders hold talks on Entente Cordiale’s 120th anniversary’, 8 April 2024. Return to text
  20. Prime Minister’s Office, ‘PM call with President Macron of France: 8 April 2024’, 8 April 2024. Return to text
  21. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, ‘The world is safer for a renewed entente: Article by the foreign secretary and French minister for Europe and foreign affairs’, 8 April 2024. Return to text
  22. Army, ‘Changing of the guards: UK and France celebrate Entente Cordiale’, 8 April 2024; and Royal UK, ‘120 years of the Entente Cordiale’, 8 April 2024. Return to text
  23. Council of Europe, ‘Statute of the Council of Europe is signed in London’, accessed 11 April 2024. Return to text
  24. Council of Europe, ‘Our member states’, accessed 11 April 2024. Return to text
  25. Council of Europe, ‘Values’; and ‘The Council of Europe at a glance’, both accessed 11 April 2024. Return to text
  26. Council of Europe, ‘A convention to protect your rights and liberties’, accessed 11 April 2024. Return to text
  27. As above. Return to text
  28. Sun, ‘X account’, 3 April 2024. Return to text