HC Deb 20 April 1998 vol 310 cc475-6
38. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

What discussions he has had on the arms exporting policy of companies in which the Church Commissioners have invested. [37446]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners)

The question of company policy on the export of arms has recently been put to GEC and GKN. Both companies have given assurances that they adhere strictly to the United Kingdom Government's licence terms for such sales.

Ann Clwyd

Has my hon. Friend followed events recently in east Java, Indonesia, where, on 8 April, British-supplied water cannons were used to fire toxic liquids and tear gas at unarmed students? Is it not time that the Church Commissioners reviewed their policy in view of those facts, especially as the water cannons have been used not once but many times against unarmed demonstrators? They should review their policy in the light of those incidents and I want my hon. Friend's assurance that they will do just that.

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising those matters; as she habitually does. The Church Commissioners are always grateful to her, and listen to her with great care. As Church investors, we are acutely aware of the strength of feeling that those issues arouse within the Church and among the public at large. Our policy as commissioners draws a distinction between, on the one hand, a legitimate British defence industry that supplies equipment under Government licence to the Ministry of Defence and our NATO partners and, on the other, the supply of equipment as part of the international arms trade, albeit also under Government licence.