HC Deb 08 July 1997 vol 297 cc767-9
15. Mr. Andrew George

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on (a) the human rights record of Indonesia and (b) its impact on the licensing of future arms exports to that country. [5743]

Mr. Fatchett

We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in both Indonesia and East Timor. We look to Indonesia to improve its human rights record. As announced to the House on 22 May, we are reviewing the criteria used in considering licence applications to export conventional arms. We expect the review to be completed in the next few weeks. We shall not issue licences for the export of arms, to Indonesia or any other country, which might be used for internal repression or international aggression.

Mr. George

I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he agree that a genuine concern for the well-being of civilians and in other countries is not tantamount—

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Take your hands out of your pockets.

Mr. George

I am sorry.

Does the Minister agree that it is not tantamount to a preoccupation with human rights, which Conservative Members implied was to be scorned? Has he sought legal advice as to whether the revocation of export licences would imply any compensation payments to those exporters? The legal advice that I have received implies that it would not.

Finally, will the Minister inform the House how quickly he will move on to the revocation of licences when the review is over?

Mr. Fatchett

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman never listens to any advice offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). It has never worked for anyone else, so there is no reason to believe that it will work for him. As for the general points that the hon. Gentleman raises on human rights, he is of course correct to say that we are dealing with universal principles of universal application, and that those will be the criteria that guide Government policy.

As for the arms issues, I ask the hon. Gentleman to wait, with others, for the announcement of the results of the review that we have established.

Mr. Sheerman

I am pleased that my colleague is carefully examining Indonesia's human rights record. Human rights has emerged repeatedly as an issue during today's Question Time. However, it does worry some of us who want consistency when, post-Hong Kong, all we have heard about is gung-ho trade with China and the fact that we have an enormous trade deficit with that country, when surely no one can defend the human rights record of that country.

Mr. Fatchett

I suspect that my hon. Friend was not in the Chamber for the first question and the first answer that I gave; if he was, he may well have missed the point that I made about the human rights record of the Chinese Government and the need to engage that Government on the human rights agenda. All that we have said since the handover of Hong Kong, in replies in the House this afternoon and in statements, has been about the need to ensure that China honours the Joint Declaration. That is about human rights, and that is about a consistent and universal commitment to human rights. That will apply in Indonesia, Hong Kong and throughout our policy.

Mr. David Davis

I have a factual question for the Minister, which allows a yes or no answer. Given all the resources available to him in the Foreign Office, can he confirm that British-made Hawks are never used in East Timor?

Mr. Fatchett

The hon. Gentleman is asking me to follow a practice that he never followed in office, and I can never remember him giving such a factual answer. On Hawk and every other arms deal, he will have to wait until the conclusion of our review. We shall have to consider the criteria and make a judgment, and then he will be in a position to support or to criticise the Government. I am afraid that he will have to show patience and to wait.

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