HC Deb 10 December 2002 vol 396 c154
13. Vera Baird (Redcar)

What advice he gives to British companies with joint investments in Burma with the military junta. [84333]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien)

We do not encourage trade or investment with Burma. We do not offer support of any kind for companies to pursue trade or investment with Burma. Companies that seek advice are told of the appalling human rights situation, corruption and dire economic situation that exist there.

Vera Baird

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. He will be well aware that almost the only British company still in Burma is British American Tobacco, which jointly owns a cigarette factory with the military junta and clearly generates considerable profit and tax revenue thereby. When challenged, the company says that, in effect, corporate responsibility requires it to stay in Burma to sustain employment—

Mr. Speaker

Order. A supplementary question must be very snappy, but that is not a snappy question. Will the Minister try to deal with that point?

Mr. O'Brien

I have made it very clear that, as far as we are concerned, Burma is not a place where we encourage any companies to invest. At least, I am not aware of BAT being given any encouragement to continue to operate there and I shall certainly ask officials to identify any information of the sort that my hon. and learned Friend suggests has been given to it. The economic situation in Burma is deteriorating and the Government of Burma abuse human rights on a substantial scale. I spoke yesterday to Aung San Suu Kyi about our wish to ensure that the Government of Burma carry out a process of modernisation and democratisation as quickly as possible. Only then will the economic problems of Burma be resolved and will we have a roadway leading to a process whereby Aung San Suu Kyi and those who represent democracy can feel that Burma truly has an opportunity to rebuild itself after the tragedies of recent years.

Back to