HC Deb 15 January 1997 vol 288 cc320-1
20. Mrs. Clwyd

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on United Kingdom relations with Indonesia with particular reference to East Timor. [9252]

Mr. Hanley

I refer the hon. Lady to my answer to the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) and add that we regularly discuss our concerns about East Timor with the Indonesian Government.

Mrs. Clwyd

Do not the Government realise that no Labour Member has any confidence in the Government's professed concern for human rights in Indonesia or East Timor? When the Minister talks about such things, it is nothing but meaningless platitudes, particularly in the light of the National Audit Office report on British aid to Indonesia and the police training programme, which was backed by the Government. Why was the Home Office so concerned about that programme's human rights implications that it pulled out and left it to the Foreign Office? Why was there no human rights component in that police training programme? Why did Colonel Hindarto, trained under the British aid programme, go on to commit human rights abuses, including torture, in Indonesia and East Timor?

Mr. Hanley

The hon. Lady refers to the NAO report. I remember saying to her just a couple of months ago that I hoped that she would stand by it, as I would stand by it, and the Government do so. It must have disappointed her because it made it clear that the concerns about links between aid and arms sales were unfounded, that none of the projects examined included the procurement of military equipment, and that none of the contracts or memorandums of understanding was conditional on the purchase of British goods or services beyond those necessary for the project. Therefore, in referring to the report, the hon. Lady confirms merely that our policy has been above board.

Successive Governments have believed that training with Indonesian personnel has been good for development in Indonesia and for the appreciation of human rights, but of course not every course contains a human rights element. Training of military personnel and police has helped to improve that appreciation through better management. Academic training continues as well. In the past five years, under the Chevening award scheme for police training, three students have followed courses in police studies, business administration, banking and finance. That is perfectly sensible.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that he does not respond to the blandishments of Labour Members about unilateral arms sales bans? He may know of the possible order for Westland, which will affect the jobs of constituents in Yeovil and most of Dorset. It is surprising to hear that the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) is urging the Government to ban such arms sales to a nation that is friendly with the UK.

Mr. Hanley

My hon. Friend is right. There is no European Union or United Nations embargo on arms sales to Indonesia, nor would one be justified. All applications are tested by us personally. Every application is considered before it is approved. As I have mentioned, since 1993, we have refused at least 11 licences for Indonesia. Details are in the Library.