HC Deb 27 November 1996 vol 286 cc328-9
11. Mrs. Clwyd

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what financial assistance is being given by Her Majesty's Government to the Indonesian transmigration programme in East Timor. [4596]

Mr. Hanley

We give no financial assistance to the Indonesian transmigration programme.

Mrs. Clwyd

The Minister continually says that to the House, but is it not absolutely untrue? The Government give money out of overseas aid to the Indonesian transmigration programme. There are several projects, three of which I could name, that the Government are aiding. Is that not to be deplored? It means moving a population out of Java into East Timor to dilute the indigenous population, so, if and when there is a referendum on the future of East Timor, the population will have been diluted. Are the Government not misleading the House and acting illegally under the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980?

Mr. Hanley

I believe that the hon. Lady is mistaken. There has been no UK involvement in the transmigration programme since 1989.

Mr. Nicholls

Does my right hon. Friend discern in the hon. Lady's question a wider agenda of constantly seeking to denigrate the Government of Indonesia? It is suggested that human rights abuses, which certainly have taken place in Indonesia in years past, are not being properly investigated. Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to say that, whatever comparisons might be made between this country and Indonesia, the Indonesian Government have certainly taken on board the criticisms which have been made of them in the past by the international community? The interests of the people of Indonesia, in its entirety, would be better served if right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House gave due credit for what has been done, instead of constantly sniping at and denigrating a democratic Government who are trying to do their honest best.

Mr. Hanley

My hon. Friend makes some extremely good points. I believe that his approach is a balanced one. Britain is the largest European investor in Indonesia. We consider it to be a bilateral relationship of considerable significance. Indonesia is, after all, the fourth largest country in the world. Its size and strategic location make it a major player in south-east Asia, and it is a growing market for British exports. In 1995, the value of those exports was £525 million, and the figure rose by 68 per cent. in the first nine months of 1996.

Indonesia plays a leading role in the multilateral arena. Yes, there are troubles in Indonesia; yes, we refer to any breaches of human rights on every occasion that we meet Indonesian Ministers; but as my hon. Friend says, progress has been made, and that will continue.

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