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Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North): There was no mention of it today.

Mr. Cook: As my hon. Friend says, the Foreign Secretary did not mention it today. Although the Gracious Speech omitted any reference to the Scott report, an even greater power in the land enlightened us about it at the weekend. On Sunday the First Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister--I think that I have all of his titles correct--told us that the Government have every right to reject the inquiry's findings. He said that the Government do not feel obliged to follow its recommendations.

That is a bit rich coming from a Deputy Prime Minister who, for the past three years, has followed me around every television studio in the land telling me to shut up and wait for the Scott report. His appeals to wait until we receive the report will look like so much self-serving humbug if the Government have no intention of abiding by the outcome of the inquiry.

Only last week, the judgment of the Lord Chief Justice in the Ordtech appeal laid bare how the Government first turned a "blind eye"--in the words of one of their ambassadors--to the export of arms to Saddam Hussein and then attempted to cover it up by suppressing evidence that was needed to ensure a fair trial. I did not think it possible that even this Government could make the scandal worse, but the Deputy Prime Minister has managed to do just that by saying that the Government may refuse to admit that they did anything wrong. The Government chose Sir Richard Scott as their judge: we will expect them to abide by his verdict and the nation will expect any Ministers who are censured by him to leave public office.

As to the remainder of the Gracious Speech, it may be appropriate to examine Government foreign policy by departing from it to consider the Government's own choice of the highest-profile measure: the asylum Bill. Throughout the world there are currently 40 million refugees and displaced persons. If that gives rise to a burden of asylum applications that is too heavy for Britain to bear, foreign policy has a part to play in finding a solution by removing the pressures that cause an increase in the number of refugees around the world.

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We could put human rights at the centre of foreign policy, and we could begin with Nigeria. Since the election of 1993 was annulled by the military junta, Nigeria has provided the largest number of asylum seekers to Britain. I put it to the Foreign Secretary that, given all that we now know about the brutality of the regime, it is very difficult to understand why in the past 12 months, out of the 2,032 applications for asylum from Nigerians, one has been granted and 2,031 have been rejected. I challenge the Foreign Secretary. Can he put his hand on his conscience and tell us that 99.95 per cent. of those applications were bogus? If the Government want to cut the applications for asylum, in their own self-interest, they ought to use every available lever to restore democracy and human rights in Nigeria.

I welcome the fact that the Government have now proposed a comprehensive embargo on arms sales. It is all the more welcome as in the past year they granted 30 licences for defence equipment and refused only one. On 15 June, the head of the Nigeria section of the Foreign Office told the World Development Movement that the Department had just granted an export licence to Nigeria for CS gas and rubber bullets. I ask the Foreign Secretary whether that was right and if it was, does he in retrospect really consider that to give those tools of repression to such a brutal military regime was just? Can he give an assurance that, under the new terms of the embargo, it cannot happen again and that such equipment will never again be supplied to the military regime until it returns to democracy?

If we are serious about bringing home our revulsion to that regime, we need more than the measures so far outlined by the Government. The best way to bring home our revulsion is for the Government to go to the United Nations and ask for oil sanctions against Nigeria--not to wait and see what others do, but to take a lead in the world on the issue.

I am familiar with the dilemma that applying economic pressure to a regime can bring pain to its people, but perhaps we should remember that the whole point of Ken Saro-Wiwa's campaign was that the peoples of Nigeria saw too little of the oil revenue--too much of it was swallowed by the regime in high military spending and large bank balances in Europe. The way to show we are serious is to prove that we are prepared to cut the flow of oil and therefore, cut the flow of cash to the Nigerian Government.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): I fully support everything that my hon. Friend has said. He echoes the feelings of all Labour Members. Does he agree that the argument used by the Foreign Secretary earlier this afternoon--that we should take into consideration the effect of sanctions on the Nigerian people--is precisely the same argument that Tory Governments used repeatedly against sanctions against the apartheid regime? Our solidarity with the Nigerian people is our first objective and sanctions are absolutely necessary.

Mr. Cook: I find it hard to see how any other member of the Nigerian population will be hurt if we freeze the bank accounts of the Ministers and the Government. That would be a good practical first step.

Measures to impose once again on the Nigerian Government the importance of restoring democratic rights, an independent legal system and human rights

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would be a far better way of reducing the number of people seeking asylum in Britain than anything proposed in the Queen's Speech.

As I understand it, the Government's concern is that most asylum seekers are economic migrants. If the Government are to be believed, all but one of the applications from Nigeria were economic migrants. If that is the Government's worry, surely another priority of our foreign policy ought to be sustainable development.

I was pleased to read in the Queen's Speech that


although I would have been more pleased had the Foreign Secretary found one sentence in his long speech to make reference to it. I would also have been pleased if instead of being promised a "substantial aid programme", we had been promised that the aid programme would be maintained at its present level. The Foreign Secretary will recognise that it would be a grotesque deceit of the House were we to vote for the Gracious Speech containing that line and the week after be asked to support a Budget which, it is rumoured, will cut overseas aid by 6 per cent. I agree with the Foreign Secretary about reforms to the United Nations, but we cannot profess support for the United Nations while turning our backs on the United Nations' targets for development.

I would not be so foolish as to appeal to the compassion of Conservative Members--

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cook: Well, let me try. I make that appeal.

Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Gentleman will know that I have done much work in Africa and south America and that I am well aware of the third world. He will be aware, as I am, of the time that it takes for economic aid to filter through. As it will be many years, sadly, before the third world, the developing world, can catch up with the first world, would it be his policy to throw open our doors to economic migrants and all?

Mr. Cook: I was obviously mistaken in appealing to the hon. Gentleman's compassion.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the catching-up process will take years. Surely that is precisely why we should start that process now and not cut the budget on which third-world countries depend.

Mr. Fabricant: Answer my question.

Mr. Cook: I shall respond to the hon. Gentleman in his own terms.

Let us forget for the moment what the cut would mean for people's standard of living, for the survival of their young children, for women's development and for development overall. Forget what it would mean for the peoples of Africa. If the hon. Gentleman wants to stop economic migrants coming to the United Kingdom masquerading as asylum seekers, why not help them achieve sustainable growth in their own countries?

Mr. Fabricant: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cook: Not at this moment.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Cook: I shall give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Cohen: I agree that it would be deplorable if there were to be cuts in the overseas aid budget. Does he agree

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that instead there should be an increase in that budget, bearing in mind the extensive problems that have come to light involving land mines in various countries throughout the world? Assistance is needed to clear them. Surely that means that we should increase the overseas aid budget. In addition, the Government should take strong action to prevent the production, trade and use of land mines throughout the world.

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the appalling environmental damage that is done by the 100 million land mines that are spread throughout the globe. It is a matter of acute regret that there was a failure to reach agreement on the issue at the recent United Nations conference.

I shall take up some of the Foreign Secretary's observations. I must compliment him on one thing--


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