HC Deb 27 February 2001 vol 363 cc704-6
6. Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)

What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry regarding the export credit guarantee for the Ilisu dam in Turkey. [149706]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Keith Vaz)

My right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry have had several discussions about the Ilisu dam project in Turkey. My officials remain in close touch with their counterparts at the Export Credits Guarantee Department and the Department of Trade and Industry, in order to monitor progress on the four areas of concern set out by right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 21 December 1999.

Mr. Thomas

I thank the Minister for that reply. May I draw his attention to the conclusion of the International Development Committee's sixth report, which states: The Ilisu Dam was from the outset conceived and planned in contravention of international standards, and it still does not comply"? In the light of the current financial chaos in Turkey, does he agree that the United Kingdom taxpayer should not touch that project with a bargepole? Will he use the last remnants of his Department's ethical foreign policy to ensure that the Government do not support the project?

Mr. Vaz

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise those concerns; they have of course been raised a number of times before. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has made it clear that he will not give his agreement unless there is progress on meeting the points that he has made. As the hon. Gentleman knows, they are very important points to do with resettlement, the environment, water disposal and other such issues. Unless they are dealt with, there is no question of the project being agreed. We are very concerned about the human dimension of the matter, and the hon. Gentleman can be reassured that no decision will be taken unless those criteria have been met.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

As the only member of the International Development Committee to visit the site of the Ilisu dam, may I suggest to my hon. Friend that the plan as it stands meets none of the criteria—on environmental, developmental or human rights grounds? It is time that we said to the Turks "Nothing doing; we will have nothing to do with the plan", because 75,000 people cannot be kicked out of their homes without being consulted on the plan well before it is executed.

Mr. Vaz

No Member of the House has done more to highlight these issues than my hon. Friend, and I pay tribute to the work that she has done on this matter. She speaks eloquently about these issues. She is either about to meet the Turkish Ambassador or she has met him recently, and I am sure that she has put her views more forcefully than even I could. What she has to say is highly relevant, and I assure her that her views are carefully listened to in the Foreign Office. As I said to the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas), no decision will be taken until the criteria laid down by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry are met.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)

Does the Minister realise that more than 70,000 people will be displaced by the Ilisu dam project, losing their land and their livelihoods? How many of those people does he estimate will be washed up on our shores and those of other European countries seeking asylum? Does he agree with me and some of his colleagues that it would be preferable to make life better for the citizens of countries such as Turkey by preventing projects such as the Ilisu dam, rather than trying to cope with a continuing stream of people wanting to get a better life elsewhere?

Mr. Vaz

The hon. Lady makes a valid point. She knows about these matters as she is a distinguished member of the International Development Committee. I reassure her, as I did my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) and the hon. Member for Ceredigion, that these are real issues affecting real people and that, given the humanitarian consequences, no decisions will be taken until the criteria set out by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry have been met. If they are not met, no agreement will be given by him.

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