HL Deb 23 July 1973 vol 344 cc1507-9

2.52 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Secretary of State for Defence, during, his visit to Indonesia in April, publicly commended the Government of that country on their rapid achievement on domestic security.


My Lords, I made no comment on domestic security in Indonesia during my visit to that country, which was in February.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that he was reported as having made the comment on these lines in The Times and I believe in several other newspapers as well; that those remarks were promulgated by a news agency in Indonesia, and that, so far as I am aware, no attempt was made by the Press officer at the Ministry of Defence to deny them? But, in any case, does the noble Lord not agree that it would be inappropriate to make remarks commending the Government of Indonesia on the attainment of domestic security at a time when there are no fewer than 55,000 people in detention in that country without trial, many of them having been in detention for as long as eight years, since the coup of 1965? And, since Indonesia is the country which receives the largest amount of British aid outside the Commonwealth does he not consider that it would be appropriate to make representations to the Government of that country that they should either bring people to trial within a reasonable period of time or release them to join their friends and families in the community?


My Lords, it is awfully difficult to deny, to recant on a statement one did not make, but I have exactly the words that I used. I said I had been much impressed and in particular with the very evident resilience and economic progress of Indonesia. And if anybody had been, as I have been, in Indonesia during the days of President Soekarno he would have been very impressed with the economic progress and the resilience of Indonesia. With regard to the other question which the noble Lord asked me, it is perfectly true that there are a large number of people detained in Indonesia. I am told that the figure given by the Indonesian Government is 18,000, and the Indonesian Government are aware of Her Majesty's Government's views en that subject.


My Lords, do the Liberals believe everything they see in the papers?


My Lords, I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has satisfactorily answered my question. May I repeat the first part of my question? Does he not think that when remarks are attributed to him in an authoritative newspaper such as The Times




Perhaps noble Lords opposite may choose to disbelieve what they read in The Times just at the moment because it does not suit them. But is the noble Lord not aware that this statement attributed to him on the rapid attainment of domestic security, not of economic progress, was also issued by a domestic Indonesian news agency during the course of his visit there? Does he not think that in the circumstances it would have been appropriate to correct those erroneous reports and say that what he was talking about was economic progress?


My Lords, I must confess that, since I was in Indonesia, I did not see The Times and I do not suppose that my Department in London knew exactly what I had said. I do not know what The Times said that I had said, but if it said that I had said what the noble Lord said that I had said, I did not.