HC Deb 13 January 1998 vol 304 cc138-9
9. Dr. Tonge

If he will seek to persuade all EU member states during the United Kingdom's presidency to freeze arms exports to Indonesia. [20421]

Mr. Fatchett

No, but, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already said, we aim to agree a code of conduct on arms sales with our European Union partners during the UK presidency.

Dr. Tonge

I thank the Minister for that reply, but given that 22 export licences have been signed since 1 May—I have the list here—for arms exports to Indonesia, does he not agree that the United Kingdom would set a good example to the rest of the European Community during our presidency if we unilaterally stopped signing such contracts, especially in view of the Government's earlier statements about a code of conduct and human rights?

Mr. Fatchett

The hon. Lady is unfair because the United Kingdom has already taken the lead in the European Union by suggesting a Europewide code of conduct on arms sales. That will set clear criteria along the lines already established in the UK. That is the best way to conduct, organise and regulate the arms industry. We are taking a lead on that and I am disappointed that the Liberal Democrats are not prepared to support us.

Mrs. Brinton

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is totally impossible to imagine that the Conservative party could ever agree on a code of conduct towards Europe during this generation or the next?

Madam Speaker

The question is on Indonesia, not Europe.

Mr. Fatchett

Or a mixture of both, if you like, Madam Speaker.

My hon. Friend is right to say that the Conservative party could not give a lead in Europe on such an important issue because it is so divided on the very subject of Europe. That is one reason why it lost the election and my hon. Friend benefited by gaining her seat.

Madam Speaker

Order. The Minister is out of order, as was the questioner.

Mr. Faber

On 9 June last year, the Secretary of State for International Development told the House, in reply to a question from the hon. Member for Cynon Valleys (Ann Clwyd), that the Government would provide no further assistance to the Indonesian police force. On 29 August, the Foreign Secretary told an audience in Jakarta that we should make a significant contribution in the field of police training; and the Minister himself has subsequently confirmed in a written answer to me that detailed proposals are being prepared. Did the Secretary of State for International Development inadvertently mislead the House in June, or has she subsequently been overruled?

Mr. Fatchett

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has misinformed himself. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development made it clear that there would be no financial aid support for the Indonesian police; and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that we would be in a position to help the human rights programme in relation to the Indonesian police. The suggestion that emerged at the end of August was that we should put forward a series of lectures and help the Indonesian police to conduct their affairs in a much more effective way. There is no inconsistency in that position and I must say that I find it strange that Opposition Members wish to criticise our policy: it is important that we should help to improve community policing and the approach taken by the Indonesian police.