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Mr. Vaz: Some of the relatives and others wish to travel to Yemen to have contact with the detainees. Is it still the Foreign Office's view that it is unsafe to go to Yemen? If so, are the Government suggesting that more British citizens should be evacuated from Yemen? The ambassador is still there, as are many other British citizens.

Mr. Fatchett: The ambassador and staff are doing an excellent job. I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to them for their efforts in these trying and difficult circumstances. I wish them well with their task.

As my hon. Friend knows, we have toughened up our travel advice. We advise people that it would be unwise to travel to Yemen. I think that he would agree that we are wise to provide evidence of the dangers, because recent events suggest that the Foreign Office would be criticised if we did not offer that advice and more British citizens were taken hostage. We are right to offer that advice, and we shall continue to do so.

Our consular responsibilities for the five, and for the three who have also been charged with offences in Yemen, include ensuring that the due process takes place and that access is allowed. I can assure my hon. Friend that we shall continue to carry out those responsibilities.

My hon. Friend spoke about how these cases are playing in the Muslim community in the United Kingdom. That is why I met leaders of the Muslim community in January, and why I have subsequently had a further meeting to discuss a range of issues. I can confidently say that at those meetings, the community leaders recognised the role that the Foreign Office must play and the way in which we have discharged our responsibilities.

My hon. Friend also referred to terrorism. It would be wholly wrong to imply that these individuals have been involved in any terrorist activities, and neither my hon. Friend nor I will do that. The issues of criminality, guilt or innocence are matters for the court. My hon. Friend is right to say that the United Kingdom and Yemen have a shared interest in defeating terrorism. That is why, last

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September, we introduced new legislation to toughen up our laws on terrorism. We introduced a new range of offences to ensure that the United Kingdom cannot be used as a haven from which to organise and plan attacks against Governments and individuals in other countries.

The new legislation has been welcomed by Governments throughout the world as an earnest sign of the Government's intention to take the issue of terrorism seriously, and we shall continue to take a hard line against terrorist activities. We do so wherever we can, and we share with the Yemeni Government and with other Governments in the region the belief that there should be no home for those who, through their actions, try to inflict pain and suffering on innocent people.

I get slightly irritated when others around the world say that the United Kingdom is soft on terrorism. I remind those people that we have experienced terrorism in the past two decades, and have faced up to it. We know its evil nature, and we know that it makes victims of the wholly innocent--those who have no political affiliations or axes to grind, but are in the wrong place at the wrong time. We know about terrorism, and the United Kingdom will certainly not be soft on terrorism. I say that not just on behalf of this Government; if ever there were a change of Government in the United Kingdom, I am sure that there would be a similar approach to terrorism.

My hon. Friend made a number of suggestions about how the Foreign Office could build up relationships with Yemen and deal with the current issues. He spoke of sending an envoy. We have already done that: there is an ambassador. Moreover, we already have a Minister responsible for Yemen--me--and a Foreign Secretary, who has been in touch with the Yemeni Prime Minister on a number of occasions. An additional person would not help in these circumstances. We need to build up our bilateral relations, and to discuss issues in which we have a common interest. What we must never do is create the impression that we are sending an envoy to Yemen to question the Yemeni legal system, and to make judgments about individual cases. That would set a dangerous precedent. What we need to do is what we have done in working towards the objective of establishing individuals' right to a fair trial.

My hon. Friend said that we should have a special Foreign Office unit to co-ordinate our activities in circumstances such as this. I am always a bit sceptical about the establishment of further units: it seems to me that, when a Department has no other response, it sets up another organisational unit. I suggest to my hon. Friend that we do not need a unit, but that we do need to co-ordinate effectively. The fact that three Ministers are working on the issue is not a sign of inefficiency; it is a sign of the importance that we attach to the issue, and shows that we are able--thanks to great skill on the part of our officials--to co-ordinate their activities, and to ensure that we have an effective co-ordinated policy. I know that is what my hon. Friend wants, and I am not sure that the unit that he suggests would help us to achieve his objective.

Mr. Vaz: I understand that our Prime Minister met the President of Yemen in Amman during the funeral of King Hussein. Could any part of that discussion reflect on the issues that we are discussing today?

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Mr. Fatchett: Yes, to the extent that the meeting took place, but it took place on the margins of King Hussein's funeral, and obviously people's minds were on that occasion rather than on other issues. Contact was made, but it was not a substantive occasion on which the specific issues to which my hon. Friend has referred could be discussed.

My hon. Friend has shown a keen understanding of, and commitment to, his country of birth. Yemen has a good friend in the House of Commons, and in my hon.

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Friend, who raised difficult issues in a sensitive way.I thank him for that. I hope that I have been able to give him detailed information that will enable him to conclude that, although we must deal with a number of difficult issues, once they have been resolved we can continue to build up bilateral relations between the two countries.

Question put and agreed to.

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