HL Deb 22 April 1993 vol 544 cc1715-6

3.34 p.m.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they will take to help ensure that the provisions of paragraph 9 of the resolution on the situation in East Timor, adopted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in March 1993, are fully and speedily implemented; and what action they will take to ensure that future aid policy towards Indonesia is related to the provisions of the resolution as a whole.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, with our EC partners we are encouraging the Indonesian Government to co-operate with the relevant UN human rights rapporteurs. We shall continue to review aid policy towards Indonesia, as we do with all recipients; but aid is only part of the total relationship. We believe the best way of achieving progress on human rights matters is through continuing dialogue.

Lord Judd

My Lords, is the Minister aware that all who care about the repression in East Timor welcome the initiative made by the Foreign Secretary during his recent visit when he made strong representations? Is the Minister also aware that on 5th April her own administration issued a press release entitled, Britain agrees £65 million soft loan with Indonesia? How does the Minister reconcile those two positions? Far from helping the UN Commission on Human Rights, is that not undermining its stand?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, there are a number of ways in which we can continue the dialogue with Indonesia. One is through British business for which the concessional finance was agreed by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs during his visit to Jakarta. The second is by combining with our partners in the UN and the EC to make on every occasion those representations as they are necessary, as we did about the violations of human rights in Aceh and West Irian; as we did following the terrible Dili incident; and as we shall do on every other occasion. But, frankly, one does not change the nature of the government by cutting off relations with them. One changes it by influencing the government and one can only do that through dialogue and through business.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Inter-Parliamentary Union is expecting a delegation of Indonesian parliamentarians next week? I understand that in the usual way the Foreign Office will be entertaining them. Will there be an opportunity to build on good relations?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that question. I believe that not only will there be an excellent chance to build on the good relations which exist, but that there will be a further chance to urge the Indonesians to do more to follow up their action taken on the November 1991 shootings, as did Dr. Wako, the UN Secretary-General's personal representative, when he visited Indonesia and East Timor for a second time earlier this month. We shall urge all British parliamentarians by briefing them to do just that, and to take up other instances as well.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the Minister aware that notwithstanding the Government's endeavours, the situation in Indonesia, and in East Timor in particular, is getting bad and the horror is increasing? Following what is known as the Dili incident thousands of military and civilian personnel have been butchered and tortured, even to the extent of being compelled to drink blood. Ought not our Government to renew their endeavours to stop the situation once and for all?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I was a little surprised by some of the remarks which the noble Lord made. After the recent visits by British and other diplomats and journalists to East Timor, we have not heard the kind of representations which the noble Lord made. However, I shall look into what he said. We believe that through all the international bodies we must continue to chase up every reported incident and find out whether it is true. We must urge the Indonesian Government authorities to take proper action against the types of behaviour which are plainly unacceptable in human rights and humanitarian terms.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, is the Minister able to give the House an assurance that we are no longer selling arms to Indonesia?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we have no general arms sales to Indonesia, but I understand that there is a negotiation in discussion between a company and a prospective purchaser. It is a commercial deal and therefore I am unable to comment on it. However, we have made all suppliers well aware not only of the requirement to obtain an export licence but of the criteria which must be met; that any arms should in no way be used for internal repression.