Liz Truss declined to name a single human rights issue she has raised with Gulf state governments.
The Foreign Secretary has said the UK must end its “strategic dependence on authoritarian regimes for our energy”.
But the government has recently started trade talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Appearing on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Commons on Tuesday, Truss was asked whether she views the Gulf states as authoritarian.
“I would describe the Gulf states as UK partners,” she said. “Does every country we work with conform to UK policy on everything? No, they are not. But they are important UK allies.”
Truss said human rights concerns were “regularly raised” with Gulf leaders and ministers, adding that he had done so “in person”.
Labor MP Chris Bryant asked Truss to name the last human rights issue he raised.
Liz Truss: “I have to get back on the committee at that exact time.”
Chris Bryant: “Well, tell us what you said on human rights?”
truss: “I definitely picked it up.”
Bryant: “Go on, tell one now.”
truss: “I’m just trying to remember my most recent trip. But I can assure you I’ve picked it up and I’ll write to you with the dates.”
Bryant: “You don’t remember a single human rights issue that you raised with the leader of the Gulf state?”
truss: “I have raised particular issues when I have been at bay regarding human rights issues.”
Bryant: “Okay tell me a name?”
truss: “I’m not going to go into all the details of the private conversation, which I’ll get back to at an appropriate time.”
The foreign secretary told the committee that his focus was on the “number one” threat to Britain which was Russia.
She said: “We need to make sure we have alternative energy sources and that one of the major sources of energy is the Bay Area. We are not operating in a perfect world.”
Saudi Arabia recently executed 81 people in one day. Saudi Arabian leader Mohammed bin Salman is also accused of perpetrating the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, which the Crown Prince has denied.