HC Deb 30 October 2001 vol 373 cc739-40
3. Angus Robertson (Moray)

What role the United Kingdom Government are promoting for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in the campaign against international terrorism. [8787]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane)

The OSCE has an important role to play in tackling the social, economic and political conditions in which terrorist groups win support and are able to recruit their followers. The UK is supporting and helping finance an OSCE conference in Kyrgyzstan in December on strengthening comprehensive efforts to counter terrorism.

Angus Robertson

When I met Secretary-General Jan Kubis of the OSCE several weeks ago, he emphasised the importance of the OSCE because it includes the former Soviet republics that border Afghanistan. Is the Minister not concerned by the recent reports of clampdowns on free media, and political arrests, in a number of those republics, which run contrary to the democracy-building efforts undertaken by the OSCE? Will the UK Government press for enhanced democratic standards in the plan of action on terrorism that is set to be agreed at the OSCE ministerial conference in December?

Mr. MacShane

The hon. Gentleman raises important points, which I discussed last week in Bucharest with the Foreign Minister of Romania, currently chairing the OSCE. It is an advantage that the former Soviet republics are members of the OSCE and it is the Government's position that terrorism should be countered in a way that does not result in a diminution of human democratic rights in those republics.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)

Does my hon. Friend's opposition to international terrorism include opposition to terrorism conducted by Iran and Syria in contravention of United Nations resolution 1373? Is he concerned that those countries are supporting and funding terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas? What steps is he taking to oppose that in Europe and elsewhere?

Mr. MacShane

As my hon. Friend is aware, this Government have taken the lead in banning in this country many of the organisations that she lists. The clear position of the Government and the House against international terrorism is well known.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle)

May I welcome the implicit assurance already given by the Minister that Her Majesty's Government will not support disreputable, oppressive or even tyrannical Governments, who may seek to use the tragic events of 11 September as an excuse to crush justifiable political dissent?

Mr. MacShane

We on the Treasury Bench are implacably opposed to tyrannical Governments and oppressive parties of any sort, anywhere in the world. The hon. Gentleman is right to draw our attention to the fact that the fight against terrorism must extend and promote democracy, not diminish it.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East)

Does my hon. Friend agree, however, that it is important that any organisation or forum where we have influence concentrates in the coming months and, indeed, years on the need to bring about circumstances in which the laundering of money, either from terrorist organisations or from organised crime, is leant on very heavily indeed, especially as they are often two sides of the same coin?

Mr. MacShane

My hon. Friend is right. As the Minister with responsibility for the Balkans and Latin America, in which capacity I visited Colombia two weeks ago, I know that money laundering and the financial flows that help terrorists and drug dealers are one of the keys to solving those scourges. Since 11 September, there has been a new willingness to co-operate, and the Government and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor have taken the lead internationally in putting before banks their responsibility no longer to provide the conduit for money that promotes violence and criminality.

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