HC Deb 29 November 1995 vol 267 cc1189-90
11. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on present relations with the Nigerian rulers. [862]

Mr. Hanley

As my right hon. and learned Friend said earlier, Nigeria is currently suspended from the Commonwealth. We are acting in conjunction with other Commonwealth countries and our EU and other partners.

Mr. Winnick

Is it not perfectly clear that the response of the Nigerian rulers to the country's suspension from the Commonwealth has been one of total indifference? Just a few minutes ago, the Minister justified the sanctions against the murderous regime in Iraq, and I understand and appreciate why. Why are we adopting a different attitude towards the murderous regime in Nigeria?

Mr. Hanley

The two countries are different, their histories are different and the reaction to both has been different. The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that the sanctions imposed on Iraq are UN sanctions, and he will be aware also that we are still working on an effective reaction to what Nigeria has carried out recently. We have a unique arrangement in the Commonwealth to impress on Nigeria the seriousness of its actions, and we will work to do more until Nigeria wakes up to the realities and reforms itself.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in taking action against Nigeria, we must be careful not to take action against the Royal Dutch Shell Company which might result in the Nigerian rulers not having to pay Shell its share of the oil revenues? Does my right hon. Friend also agree that we must not allow the rulers of Nigeria simply to sell the oil on the open market and gain more funds for their terrible regime?

Mr. Hanley

My hon. Friend is right. We must leave to Shell the actions that Shell should take. I had extensive discussions with the chairman of Shell very recently, as did my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for Overseas Development. There is little doubt that the project which Shell has now set up will help relieve the abject poverty in Nigeria. All of our projects in Nigeria have a long lead time, and revenues from the gas sales are unlikely to flow until early next century, but to cancel the project now would be to impoverish Nigeria for many years to come.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Will the Minister confirm, in the light of an earlier response from the Foreign Secretary, that we have not been making direct representations to the Nigerian Government? Does the right hon. Gentleman share the belief of many people in the United Kingdom that we ought to be making representations for the sake of the Nigerians who live among us and because of our concern at the way in which people are being treated in that country?

Mr. Hanley

I can say to the hon. Gentleman only what my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said earlier. We have noted the calls for the severing of trade links and for an oil embargo, and we are considering a wide range of options with our European Union and other partners. We have not ruled out anything at this stage. An oil embargo could be policed effectively only by a naval blockade of Nigeria, and we are looking to the international community to adopt the measures which we and others have already taken. All of that will maximise the pressure on the Nigerian regime.

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