HC Deb 29 April 1966 vol 727 cc1111-4
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement on aid to Indonesia.

I told the House on 26th April that if we had an opportunity to help Indonesia in her present economic difficulties, we would think it right to do so. That opportunity has now occurred. Since I last spoke to the House, our Chargé d'Affaires has seen the Indonesian Foreign Minister and was able to make an offer of emergency help, to the value of up to £1 million, from the British Government. The next step will be to discuss with the Indonesian Government the way in which our help can be used most effectively.

Lord Balniel

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we hope that this very generous gesture towards helping the economy of Indonesia will be matched by an ending of their past attitudes towards confrontation? While we understand that it would be unreal to expect a public statement to that effect from the Indonesian Government, we do expect that it should be followed by further steps towards improving relations with their neighbours.

May I ask him two questions? Have there been consultations and is there agreement on this step with the Prime Ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman and Lee Kwan Yew? Secondly, which other Western nations are contributing towards helping the economy of Indonesia, and are there also any nations in Asia which are playing their part in helping the economy of Indonesia as we are doing?

Mr. Stewart

On the first point, this is an unconditional offer made for humanitarian reasons. If it helps to remind Britons and Indonesians that they share their common humanity, that will be an advantage. We did consult other interested Governments, including those of Malaysia and Singapore, before the offer was made. The Malaysian and Singapore Governments understood the reasons for our making the offer at this time, and they realised that it does not betoken any weakening of our support for them, as I told the House on 26th April.

On the other point, the United States have agreed to supply rice to the value of about 6 million dollars, and Australia is to supply further rice for relief to flood victims to the value of about £80,000. I am not sure whether there are any other offers. Those are the ones of which I know.

Mr. Lubbock

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that we very much welcome this sign of improved relations with Indonesia and hope that he will not relax his efforts to end the confrontation in that area? Could he say whether the aid will be tied to the purchase of British goods? Does he recall last year that the Indonesians wanted to buy Fokker Friendship airliners powered by Rolls-Royce engines and that, at that time, the sale was vetoed by the British Government? Would it be possible to enter into negotiations on that subject if they still wish to buy the F.27?

Mr. Stewart

The question about the aircraft is a wider one. To what extent the money will be spent on sterling goods and services will depend on the discussions that I mentioned that we are now to have with the Indonesian Government as to how the help can be most effectively used. I shall bear in mind the point made by the hon. Gentleman about the desirability of using British manufactures wherever possible.

Mr. Dalyell

As my right hon. Friend knows, I have been making sustained criticisms of his Indonesian policy for the last nine months, and spoke harshly of it during the debate on foreign affairs, in December. Will he accept that this offer puts me in a strong position to congratulate him on his present initiative and to welcome it? Will he further, through the most able Indonesian Chargé d'Affaires, Mr. Suryo-di-Puro, and his staff, who have gained much respect from hon. Members who are interested in these matters, repeat that none of us thinks in terms of wanting Indonesia to become any kind of Western "stooge", and will he convey to the Indonesian Government that our hope is for a prosperous and genuinely independent Indonesia taking her rightful place as one of the great nations of the world in the twentieth century, with whom we hope to have relations—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have a speech on a statement.

Mr. Dalyell

Immediately on the statement, is it realised that many of us who, five years ago were rather starry-eyed about aid to developing countries, have swung round to the view that trade, not aid, is the most satisfactory long-term relationship with developing countries—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am afraid that that must be enough.

Mr. Stewart

The question of trade is a rather wider question, to which we shall give consideration. With regard to the first part of my hon. Friend's remarks as to his comments in the previous nine months, that illustrates the need for patience by everyone in this very difficult situation. It is most certainly the wish of Her Majesty's Government that Indonesia should be a peaceful and prosperous nation.

Mr. Michael Foot

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that many of us feel that the unconditional gesture which he has made accords with the very best traditions of this House, and that we congratulate him on it? Many of us feel that an ending of the dispute with Indonesia could make a most substantial contribution to the future of our own economy as well as to the areas there. We congratulate him on the course which he has taken.

Mr. Stewart

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. It is true that the ending of the confrontation could bring great benefits both to Indonesia and to ourselves.

Dame Joan Vickers

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his statement. He will know that for some time I, as Chairman of the Anglo-Indonesian Association in this country, have been working towards getting better relations between our two countries. His statement is most gratifying. I hope that he will see that the money is used for humanitarian reasons, as there are many people who are very hungry and in need of medical supplies because of the recent floods—our Association contributed £100, a very small amount, but a token of our concern. This money will be most welcome at the present time.

Mr. Stewart

Yes, certainly.

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