HL Deb 12 July 1995 vol 565 cc1675-8

2.46 p.m.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the recent discussions between the Minister for Overseas Development and the Indonesian Government on the British aid programme in Indonesia.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, during my visit I saw some of our aid projects in East Java and Kalimantan. I had useful discussions in Jakarta with Indonesian Ministers and senior officials about our programme and a range of other issues. I also signed a new concessional loan arrangement between the United Kingdom and the Government of Indonesia.

Lord Judd

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the whole organisation of the armed forces in Indonesia continues to be geared to repression? Has she seen the recent reports of arrests of journalists, the imprisonment of young East Timorese recently peacefully commemorating the Dili massacre, the killing of 37 people in the vicinity of the Freeport copper mine during the forced removal of tribals and the arrest of the opposition parliamentarian Sri Bintang Pamungkas following his lecture in Germany? Does all that amount to a case for increased aid? How can it be reconciled with the Minister's commitment to the importance of human rights in aid and also to the recent Halifax G7 statement that unwarranted military spending must be taken into account in deciding aid levels?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we target our aid on strengthening human resource development, tackling environmental problems, promoting good government and transportation. Indonesia is still a relatively poor country, with a GNP per head of approximately 730 dollars per annum and with a large population. Its government are pursuing sound economic policies. But we have always made it absolutely clear that we are against repression wherever it occurs.

Although there has been some improvement in human rights in Indonesia, I can tell the noble Lord that not only have I seen the reports that he mentioned but I have made it absolutely clear to Indonesian Ministers, including the Foreign Minister, that we believe that, although the establishment and manning of the National Human Rights Commission are steps in the right direction—as is the recent sentencing of soldiers involved in the Liquica killings and the greater openness for visitors to East Timor—there is considerable scope for further progress. That is why we are pressing them on that issue. The very fact that we have a decent relationship with the government enables us to press all the harder.

Lord Rea

My Lords, does the noble Baroness not agree that any form of aid, apart from perhaps disaster relief, frees funds in the recipient country for purchasing weapons from Britain or anywhere else? Does she not agree with my noble friend that over the past 30 years arms in Indonesia have been used solely for internal repressive purposes or for the illegal invasion and suppression of East Timor and West Irian?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, the noble Lord is not correct in his last statement. Indonesia plays a full part in ASEAN, and it is for those purposes that various countries have supplied equipment to Indonesia. We have made it absolutely clear on every occasion when an application has been made for licences that those licences will be granted only where equipment is being bought for legitimate purposes, and that does not include the repression of Indonesia's own people.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, is it not misleading to refer to the loan as an aid agreement? Is it not better to call it what it is? It is a development agreement which strengthens the ability of UK companies to supply capital goods and related services, and it prohibits the purchase of luxury goods or items for military or defence purposes. Does the Minister not agree that any form of leverage for improvement in relation to human rights is not possible as Indonesian government policy excludes expressly foreign debt being tied to non-economic conditionalities?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, the concessional loan arrangement is a soft loan and it will be repaid over 25 years. The projects which it will enable to take place will be good for Britain and will concentrate on health, education, transport, water and sanitation and the environment. Therefore, the noble Viscount is absolutely right to say that that concessional loan arrangement is for very important developmental purposes.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, if weapons and arms supplied to Indonesia are not intended to be used for internal repression, will the Minister tell the House against what potential threat it is proposed that they are used?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, it is not for me to second guess Indonesia or any of the other ASEAN countries. But I know from international discussions on the security of the region that countries certainly wish to have the means with which to defend themselves under the UN Charter, and they have every right to do that.

Lord Judd

My Lords, does the Minister not accept that the difficulty in Indonesia is that, with the overall role of the armed forces as regards repression, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to separate what is and what is not used for repression? Does she not agree also that if she is as determined as we know she is to promote human rights, it is sad to be increasing aid at a time when the situation is deteriorating rather than improving?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord says, but looking at the facts of the situation—and I truly mean this—and in response to the questions that I have put to Indonesian Ministers, I believe that, although, as I said in answer to the noble Lord's original Question, there is still some way to go, the very fact that soldiers have quite rightly been sentenced for the Liquica killings—something which could not have happened a few years ago—and the establishment and proper manning of the National Human Rights Commission mean that Indonesia is seeking to do things in a very much better and more acceptable way than in the past. We need to encourage that progress.

Viscount Brentford

My Lords, will my noble friend elucidate further as to whether in her discussions with the Indonesian government she obtained the impression that they were planning to ease repression in East Timor as well as taking the action that they have taken to which she referred in her last answer?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, the government of Indonesia know only too well that they must stop the repression of persons. But of course the critical issue in relation to East Timor is the relationship between East Timor, Portugal and the Indonesian Government. Until discussions take place to resolve that matter, we know that there will always be room for dispute, which has occasionally in the past spilled over into violence and may sadly do so in the future. But we have made our point and that of all European members absolutely clear.