HL Deb 21 June 2000 vol 614 cc247-8

The Lord Bishop of Durham asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they intend to support Plan Colombia at its meeting with donor governments in Madrid on 6th and 7th July.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

My Lords, we are keen to support the Colombian Government's efforts to bring peace to Colombia. In preparation for the Madrid conference in July, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office hosted a meeting of senior officials on Monday 19th June to examine ways in which the international community can help. Neither we nor our EU partners has made any decision about what aid we could give to Colombia. We are determined, however, that any aid will support human rights, long-term economic and social development and an end to violence in Colombia.

The Lord Bishop of Durham

My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's Answer. Can the noble Baroness elaborate on the kinds of conditions that might be attached to any aid, especially with regard to military activity in Colombia and consultation with human rights organisations?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, I reassure the right reverend Prelate that, as I said in my original Answer, the aid to be given by Her Majesty's Government will be directed towards the maintenance and support of human rights and long-term economic and social development. We are at the discussion stage in this matter and a good deal of consultation will be needed. We are pleased that on 19th June the NGOs participated and were able to make a special presentation. We very much value their contribution.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the plan contains a 600 million dollar military component, including massive armaments such as Black Hawk helicopters, and that serious reservations have been voiced about it by some of our partners in Europe, including the Belgians, the Dutch, the French and the Germans? How will the Government and EU ensure that the views of non-governmental organisations are fed into the July consultation? In particular, has the noble Baroness noted the opposition to the plan by the Regional Association for the Defence of Human Rights and the National Organisation of Indigenous of Colombia? How will the Minister ensure that their voices are heard?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, there are no set figures relating to the aid that the Government intend to give. I hear what the noble Lord says about the military component of any such aid. Since we have not yet fashioned precisely how the aid is to be given, and its quantum, I am unable to confirm anything that the noble Lord says. However, as we have already demonstrated, I reassure the noble Lord that we shall continue to listen to, and seek to engage, non-governmental organisations as appropriate.

Baroness Rawlings

My Lords, I hope that the Minister will acknowledge the very important role that the Royal Navy West Indies guard ship has played in countering drug operations from Latin America and the Caribbean. Therefore, do Her Majesty's Government now regret their decision to cut the amount of time that the guard ship spends in the region, and why was that done?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, I am unable to answer the precise question put by the noble Baroness. However, with respect, that has precious little to do with this Question.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, does the Minister accept that in the past the American attitude to problems of social unrest, economic under-development and the attendant drugs problems in Latin America has been very much a military and policing response and not sufficiently a political and economic response? As a general part of this question, will Her Majesty's Government ensure that a broader response than merely a military one is an important part of Plan Colombia?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, in this situation EU and American aid needs to be co-ordinated in such a way that it responds appropriately to the perceived difficulties that Colombia faces. We hope that in the work that we do together we shall be able to fashion a holistic approach that better addresses the needs of Colombia.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness wants to review her response to my noble friend Lady Rawlings. The Plan Colombia with which the Question is concerned is about trafficking in narcotics, is it not? Is not one of the roles of the guard ship in the West Indies to try to stop drug trafficking? Surely, my noble friend deserved a better answer than the Minister gave.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, I assure the House that the patrols of the West Indies guard ship to control drug trafficking continue, and we are satisfied that it is able to do its job.

Back to