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Diplomats (Ethical Foreign Policy)

10. Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry): What training his Department provides to diplomats in the execution of an ethical foreign policy. [64595]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tony Lloyd): All new entrants attend a one-day human rights course. We run regular courses for other officers, with non-governmental organisation participation. New heads of mission are briefed by the head of the human rights policy department before posting. Where relevant, they are briefed by NGOs such as Amnesty International and the Save the Children Fund.

Mr. Boswell: Does the Minister agree that the logic of the Government's position is that Ministers and diplomats must resist all temptation to discriminate by picking on smaller and perhaps less significant countries in respect of minor defects, because it is safe to do so, while conveniently overlooking much greater defects on the part of countries that are powerful or where major trade interests are involved? Will he remind his diplomats that in those circumstances, and in the context of the Government's general policy, they have not merely a responsibility but an obligation to draw to the authorities' attention any cases of inappropriate discrimination?

Mr. Lloyd: I am delighted to be able to agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman said. Of course it is right and proper that no distinction should be made between abuses of human rights, whether perpetrated by large or small nations. I assure him that the Government try to and succeed in maintaining a consistency of approach, whether such abuses are perpetrated by countries with which we have strong bilateral interests or by those with which we have relatively little contact.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West): The House must be heartened to see the sudden interest in a moral and ethical

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foreign policy exhibited by the Opposition. Those of us who have been here for the past 18 years certainly did not discern it in the Conservative Government's approach to some of the minor and larger Governments with whom they dealt.

Is my hon. Friend aware that he will have the support of the whole House if he and his colleagues continue to take actions such as those which led to the establishment of the international criminal court, which is clearly needed given the evidence of what we have seen of Milosevic in Kosovo in the past few days?

Mr. Lloyd: My hon. Friend is right. The previous Government's record did not stand close examination in respect of human rights. That was a disgrace, not only for Parliament but for the whole nation. Since the general election, Britain's image has undergone a radical transformation abroad, precisely because of this Government's level of activity. My hon. Friend mentioned the international criminal court, but I could also mention the human rights fund, a changed policy on arms sales, support for the international tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda and many more initiatives, not all of which received support from the Opposition.

Mr. Michael Trend (Windsor): Will the Minister consider it a success for the Government's ethical foreign policy if reports in this weekend's press prove to be accurate? I refer to the report that the Foreign Office assured the Chilean ambassador on Friday 16 October that nothing would happen to Senator Pinochet before 20 October, four days later. However, within 24 hours, Senator Pinochet had been arrested. The Minister will surely understand that suggestions that the senator was entrapped in Britain by the Government, deliberately or through incompetence, will do little to enhance their ethical reputation. Will the Minister now clear up that question for the House?

Mr. Lloyd: I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware that he should not believe everything that he reads in the press.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe): Answer the question.

Mr. Lloyd: I intend to answer the question. Had the shadow Foreign Secretary taken the trouble to read Hansard this morning, he would have seen that it is already answered today in any case. There is absolutely no truth whatever in such suggestions. No such commitment was given either directly to Senator Pinochet or to his representatives. The House should know that we respect the rights even of Senator Pinochet, which is why his case is now before the judicial system, not the political system--a very important distinction that he did not make in Chile.

Burma

11. Gillian Merron (Lincoln): What steps he is taking to encourage democracy in Burma. [64596]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Derek Fatchett): The United Kingdom is at the forefront of international action to press the Burmese regime to abandon its repressive policies and enter into

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dialogue with pro-democracy leaders. We supported the renewal and strengthening of the European Union common position in October and co-sponsored the United Nations General Assembly resolution in December.

Gillian Merron: I thank the Minister for that answer. How important does he feel is the role of the BBC World Service in promoting democracy in Burma? Can he reassure the House about the level of financial support being given by the Foreign Office to the BBC World Service to enable it to do that?

Mr. Fatchett: I know that the BBC World Service is widely respected by all those who favour and believe in democracy in Burma. We look forward to the BBC World Service continuing to play an excellent role; that is why the Government have ensured that, over the next three years, the BBC World Service will have a £44.2 million increase in funding, representing an increase of 3.8 per cent. in real terms in each of those years. That increase in real terms contrasts sharply with the 7 per cent. cut in real terms that took place during the last five years of the previous Government. The BBC World Service is valued by Labour; it was cut by the Conservative party.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): I am sure that the whole House would agree that the World Service does a wonderful job, and I congratulate the Minister on what has been done for it. Is it not time for the repressive regime in Burma to be brought before an international court for the actions that it has taken against some of its citizens?

Mr. Fatchett: I very much appreciate the comments that the hon. Gentleman has just made about our role with the BBC World Service. As for the regime in Burma, I sympathise with the argument that he made. The regime has the worst record in the world; we continue to condemn that record. We continue to ensure that pressure builds on the regime in Burma, and we feel that it is crucial that that pressure is maintained so that we can ensure that dialogue is engaged with the pro-democracy forces.

Iraq

12. Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): When he next intends to discuss the Basra enclave with his US counterpart. [64598]

Mr. Fatchett: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has no plans to discuss a Basra enclave with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, but we are in frequent contact on a wide range of Iraq-related issues, most recently on 10 January 1999.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: On the question of a new approach, are the Government in principle opposed to a sanctions-free Basra enclave in southern Iraq?

Mr. Fatchett: My hon. Friend has advanced that idea for some time. We continue to look at ideas that will enable us to achieve our objectives of disarmament, containment and helping the people of Iraq. I am not yet convinced that my hon. Friend's notion is the best way to proceed, but we shall certainly continue to consider all ideas.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): Will the Government consider a longer-term solution for the people of Basra

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and for the other people of Iraq? At the moment, every few months there is yet another crisis in Iraq; yet more bombs are dropped in Iraq; and yet more Iraqi people are killed. The Government have already expressed support for Indict. What steps have the Government taken at the United Nations to indict Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi war criminals, and will the Government make it their policy to support those in Basra and the rest of Iraq who wish to change the Government in Baghdad?

Mr. Fatchett: The hon. Gentleman is right yet again to draw attention to the record of the regime in Baghdad. In much of the current debate, the report by the UN special rapporteur on human rights, Max van der Stoel, is often overlooked, but the most recent report sets out a catalogue of human rights violations by the regime in Baghdad--a catalogue that every hon. Member should look at and remember. The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the Government support the Indict campaign. It is crucial to remind the world of Saddam Hussein's record, and we shall continue to do so. It would be a perverse person indeed who did not recognise that a change of Government and change of regime in Baghdad would be in the interests of the people of Iraq.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): I am pleased that the Government do not favour the Basra enclave option. Would it not lead to the beginning of the break-up of Iraq and problems over which area Basra would be associated with--for instance, with Iran? Given that Basra is the only port in Iraq, the people of Iraq, who are already in very bad economic circumstances, would be cut off from their supplies. If the enclave were established, it would look like American-British occupation.

Mr. Fatchett: We have always said that we want to maintain the territorial and political integrity of Iraq. My hon. Friend makes several important points in that context. We shall certainly continue to ensure the imposition of no-fly zones, which are very important to the security of people in southern and northern Iraq. To remind the House of what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said earlier, those no-fly zones are there to protect the ordinary people of Iraq, and are crucial for that reason.


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