Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Liam Fox shadow foreign secretary

Why create a Conservative Party Human Rights Group now?

Because we don't want to let this issue be hijacked by the left. As a party we have allowed ourselves to be portrayed as purely pragmatic, with too little principle. We Conservatives have a duty, as members of a liberal society, to speak up for the oppressed.

The Conservatives opposed the Human Rights Act in 2000 and called for its review in its election manifesto in April. Has your position changed?

No. It's a completely different issue. This group will look only at human rights in foreign countries. Our position on the Act hasn't changed.

How many members have you got?

I can't give a figure because we are still in the process of setting up the group, but we have had a lot of interest. The group will be chaired by my colleague Gary Streeter and will report to me.

Have you talked to voluntary organisations about it?

We spoke to Amnesty the day after the launch two weeks ago. We discussed a range of issues, including the situation in countries such as Burma and Zimbabwe, and we agreed to keep it informed about the group's work.

We want to start a consultation process, so we are going to talk to as many organisations as we can.

What makes it different from the other politically based groups on human rights?

There might be some overlap with other groups, but I wanted to show that the Conservatives see human rights as a very important issue. It has been too low down our agenda for too long. The group will publish an annual audit of various governments' records. It will liaise with the party's policy team so that the development of our foreign policy is carried out in an informed manner. The group also aims to raise awarneness of forgotten crises such as that in Congo. This rarely features in the news and most people would be hard-pushed to find it on an atlas. But more than 60,000 people have died in battles over goldfields near the Ugandan border.

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