HL Deb 28 June 2000 vol 614 cc896-8

2.58 p.m.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to review the Anglo-Peruvian agreement made in July 1998 between the Prime Minister and President Fujimori, in the light of the Peruvian presidential election.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, the Anglo-Peruvian agreement signed in July 1998 is reviewed on an annual basis. We are deeply concerned at the conduct of the recent presidential elections, which fell far short of internationally accepted standards. We shall discuss our reaction with our European partners when we meet after the Organisation of American States' investigative mission returns from Peru at the end of June.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, as well as the preliminary report of the OAS, were not reports by the EU delegation which attended the first round of the presidential elections, by FIDH, and by Electoral Reform Services and so forth uniformly critical? Does the noble Baroness agree that it is impossible to have an agreement which calls for collaboration in promoting democracy if there is no democracy to promote? Will she ensure that, in the current considerations of our relationship with Peru, Sr. Toledo, the leader of the opposition, is consulted? Does she know whether he had anything to say during his recent visit to Spain about what the EU can do to help?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, we played a key role in the EU in drawing attention to the inadequacies of the system and calling for free and fair elections in Peru. The noble Lord will be well aware that there was a British delegation observing the first round of presidential elections, which consisted of my right honourable friend Mr Tom Clarke and the honourable Member, Mr William Ross. They reported extremely critically on the proceedings during the first round.

We support the OAS mission that is visiting Peru at present. It is a very high level delegation, led by the OAS general-secretary Cesar Gaviria and the chair of the Organisation of American States General Assembly, Mr Lloyd Axworthy, who is also the Canadian Foreign Minister. We shall discuss reaction with our EU partners in the light of that mission's recommendations on its return. We wish to ensure that whatever action we take will help to protect the democratic rights of the Peruvian people.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that, while awaiting the outcome of these reports, the best way to help the people of Peru and to reinforce the democratic principle is to maintain contact and co-operation at all levels as well as insisting on the utmost openness and transparency in all processes and procedures whether they be political, social or commercial? In view of the many efforts by chambers of commerce, trade organisations and my own organisation, the Hispanic and Luso Brazilian Council of Canning House, to improve and increase trade and investment in Peru, can the noble Baroness reassure the House that the Government, especially the new British Trade International, will continue to support these efforts?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, the whole House knows of the expertise of the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, in affairs of Latin America, especially in her role as president of Canning House. I can assure the noble Baroness and the House that our aim in whatever we do in Peru is to further bilateral relationships with NGOs and civil society in all its forms.

Lord Brennan

My Lords, I declare an interest as one of the patrons of the Peru Support Group. Is my noble friend aware of the particular concern of many people that a consequence of this election is a potential risk to the human rights situation in Peru? With that concern in mind, will she confirm two aspects of the Anglo-Peruvian agreement: first, that this Government will continue to give unremitting support to Dr Santistevan, properly called in Spanish, "the defender of the people of Peru"—in our language, the ombudsman; and, secondly, that they will continue to finance the tremendous initiative of the BBC, the British Council and the Institute of Defence Lawyers in Peru whereby human rights and civic education programmes are broadcast throughout the nation on over 70 different radio stations?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

Yes, my Lords. I can assure my noble friend that the UK has already contributed a great deal to both those projects and that it will continue to do so. Since March 1998, this country has contributed more than £141,000 from the FCO's Human Rights Project Fund to assist the work of the Ad Hoc Commission on Human Rights and the Ombudsman's Office. The FCO's project fund has also provided £144,000 for a two-year project, which commenced in April 1999, supported by a Peruvian NGO and the British Council, to produce and broadcast twice-weekly radio programmes on human rights via the most popular radio station in Peru.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, is the Minister aware that not only did I visit Peru as a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation last year, but I also visited the country 10 years previously, just before President Fujimori came to power? It is amazing to see the remarkable change that has taken place in the country during that time. Is the Minister also aware that 10 years previously our NGO, Plan International, was forced to leave Peru because it was impossible for NGOs to work there to help alleviate poverty? Is the Minister further aware that a great deal has been done by the present administration to reduce poverty in the poorest parts of Peru?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

Yes, my Lords. I am very well aware that, at the beginning of his period of office and in his first five-year term, President Fujimori had to deal with a country that had been greatly weakened by terrorism and bad government—a situation that he inherited. The noble Baroness is quite right in that respect. Great strides have since been made in the country. Unfortunately, the present problem is the validity and the correctness of the last election. The noble Baroness is absolutely right to say that Peru has made giant strides in all the fields that she mentioned.

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