HC Deb 08 July 2003 vol 408 c887
5. Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

What measures the Government will take to combat piracy. [123869]

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

The United Kingdom is working hard for a concerted and effective approach to combat piracy. We are making progress through the UN, with political and international legal initiatives. Together with our EU partners, we have taken a lead in promoting practical co-operation against piracy.

Mr. Foulkes

The matter is serious, as the Minister rightly implies. It is not the romantic piracy that we see on films. The problem is especially serious in African and Asian waters, where bulk carriers, containers, cargo ships, oil tankers and other vessels have been hijacked and their crews seized and terrorised. Will the Minister consider taking further action through the International Maritime Organisation and other international bodies?

Mr. Mullin

My right hon. Friend is right—it is a serious issue. We work closely with international maritime organisations. The key is to ensure that countries with nationals who engage in piracy take the problem seriously. We have worked with them to ensure that they protect shipping in and adjacent to their waters. I am glad to say that recently there have been some successful prosecutions. India prosecuted 14 Indonesian pirates, who received long prison sentences. Long prison sentences were also handed out in China. Indonesia handed out prison sentences, too, although they were rather shorter than we would like. Those are examples of countries that are beginning to take the problem seriously.