Human rights are no longer a “top priority” for the Government, Britain’s most senior Foreign Office official has admitted, as ministers put resources into supporting trade deals ahead of tackling injustice in other parts of the world. In a remarkably frank admission to MPs, Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, said that human rights no longer had the “profile” within his department that they had “in the past”.

And he added that the Conservatives’ “prosperity agenda” was now “further up the list” of areas on which the department was concentrating its dwindling resources.

Last night human rights charities said Sir Simon’s comments were as “astonishing as they were alarming” and described the change in focus as “deeply regrettable”.

The Conservative chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Crispin Blunt, added that it was “one of the consequences of inadequate resourcing to run a sensible foreign policy”.

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