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The British government on Thursday rejected the accusations by a parliamentary committee of timid and inconsistent policy towards Sri Lanka, saying it shared the lawmakers’ wish to see substantial and sustainable improvements in human rights in Sri Lanka.

In a critical report, the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee had said the UK government had opposed Sri Lankan attempts to host the meeting in 2011 on human rights grounds, only to support its 2013 bid without seeing evidence of change.

“That approach now appears timid,” it said. “The U.K. could and should have taken a more principled stand ... in the light of the continuing serious human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.”

However responding in a statement, the British Foreign Office said it does not agree with the FAC’s assessment of the FCO as ‘timid and inconsistent’ on the issue.

“The FCO has consistently pursued progress in Sri Lanka on human rights through high-level bilateral lobbying, support for local and international non-governmental organisations on the ground and internationally through the EU and Human Rights Council.”

“The decision to hold CHOGM in Sri Lanka in 2013 was taken at the 2009 Port of Spain CHOGM, where all Commonwealth Heads agreed a package that included Australia’s bid to host in 2011 and Mauritius in 2015.”

“Since the decision was made the FCO has continuously urged Sri Lanka to make progress,” a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said, adding: “We see CHOGM as an opportunity to highlight the need for effective commitment to the shared values and human rights for which the Commonwealth stands.”

“The CHOGM meeting will be a spotlight on Sri Lanka and highlight either progress or its absence,” it added.

“The British delegation to CHOGM will see the situation on the ground in Sri Lanka and deliver a clear message that Sri Lanka needs to make concrete progress on human rights.”

David Cameron and the foreign secretary, William Hague, have said they will attend the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, which will be chaired by Prince Charles. The meeting will confer leadership of the organisation on Sri Lanka for two years.

The principal charge made in the MPs’ report is that a timid and inconsistent approach has given the UK government no option but to attend the meeting in Colombo despite widespread reservations in Whitehall and elsewhere.

The report notes that during discussions at the 2009 Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Port of Spain about venues for future meetings, the Foreign Office opposed a proposal that Sri Lanka might host the 2011 meeting on human rights grounds “but did not obstruct a proposal that it might do so in 2013; nor did it insist that Sri Lanka’s right to host in 2013 should be conditional on improvements in human rights.”