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British Trade International

5. Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North): What assistance and advice on promoting overseas trade is being offered to the English regions by British Trade International. [149705]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Brian Wilson): British Trade International, through its trade support arm Trade Partners UK, delivers its advice and assistance in the English regions through international trade teams in the business links, led by nine international trade directors. Assistance covers every facet of international trade, with particular emphasis on small and medium enterprises.

Ms Keeble: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that business link in Northamptonshire, which is a full programme of trade fairs, found in a recent survey that there had been a 6 per cent. increase in the value of export sales by local firms in the last half of last year and

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that, in addition, 65 to 70 per cent. of those exports were to the European Union? Does he agree that the important job of building on that success is ill served by the Conservative party's anti-European rhetoric?

Mr. Wilson: I do not know very many serious exporters who would support the Conservative party's policy. Indeed, they can be certain that the key to the success of British exporters lies largely in Europe and that any turning of our back on Europe would be disastrous for them. Our record success in attracting inward investment is due to our place in the EU and the Government's position on the single currency.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that British Trade International bears in mind, when giving advice to British regions and elsewhere, the experience of Sainsbury and Wena Hotels Ltd. in trading and investing in Egypt, and warns potential British investors in Egypt of the possible pitfalls of investing in that country?

Mr. Wilson: The normal advice is available to any company investing in any country. Personally, I would not give such advice on Egypt, with which we have very good relations. The Wena Hotels case to which the hon. Gentleman refers is the subject of on-going legal action. As he knows, because I wrote to him, I raised the matter with the Prime Minister of Egypt when I met him recently. Equally, the Sainsbury story is complex and I do not think that it has yet reached its conclusion. I would certainly not reach the general conclusion about Egypt that the hon. Gentleman has drawn.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West): Did my hon. Friend notice the recent call by the chairman of Ford Europe for the Tory party to rethink its policy on the euro? Does not my hon. Friend think that the Tory party is putting its own prejudices before the interests of British jobs, British workers--

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Minister is not responsible for those matters. [Hon. Members: "Nobody is."] Order.

Ilisu Dam

6. Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry regarding the export credit guarantee for the Ilisu dam in Turkey. [149706]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Keith Vaz): My right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry have had several discussions about the Ilisu dam project in Turkey. My officials remain in close touch with their counterparts at the Export Credits Guarantee Department and the Department of Trade and Industry, in order to monitor progress on the four areas of concern set out by right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 21 December 1999.

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Mr. Thomas: I thank the Minister for that reply. May I draw his attention to the conclusion of the International Development Committee's sixth report, which states:

In the light of the current financial chaos in Turkey, does he agree that the United Kingdom taxpayer should not touch that project with a bargepole? Will he use the last remnants of his Department's ethical foreign policy to ensure that the Government do not support the project?

Mr. Vaz: The hon. Gentleman is right to raise those concerns; they have of course been raised a number of times before. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has made it clear that he will not give his agreement unless there is progress on meeting the points that he has made. As the hon. Gentleman knows, they are very important points to do with resettlement, the environment, water disposal and other such issues. Unless they are dealt with, there is no question of the project being agreed. We are very concerned about the human dimension of the matter, and the hon. Gentleman can be reassured that no decision will be taken unless those criteria have been met.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): As the only member of the International Development Committee to visit the site of the Ilisu dam, may I suggest to my hon. Friend that the plan as it stands meets none of the criteria--on environmental, developmental or human rights grounds? It is time that we said to the Turks: "Nothing doing; we will have nothing to do with the plan", because 75,000 people cannot be kicked out of their homes without being consulted on the plan well before it is executed.

Mr. Vaz: No Member of the House has done more to highlight these issues than my hon. Friend, and I pay tribute to the work that she has done on this matter. She speaks eloquently about these issues. She is either about to meet the Turkish Ambassador or she has met him recently, and I am sure that she has put her views more forcefully than even I could. What she has to say is highly relevant, and I assure her that her views are carefully listened to in the Foreign Office. As I said to the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas), no decision will be taken until the criteria laid down by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry are met.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Does the Minister realise that more than 70,000 people will be displaced by the Ilisu dam project, losing their land and their livelihoods? How many of those people does he estimate will be washed up on our shores and those of other European countries seeking asylum? Does he agree with me and some of his colleagues that it would be preferable to make life better for the citizens of countries such as Turkey by preventing projects such as the Ilisu dam, rather than trying to cope with a continuing stream of people wanting to get a better life elsewhere?

Mr. Vaz: The hon. Lady makes a valid point. She knows about these matters as she is a distinguished member of the International Development Committee. I reassure her, as I did my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) and the hon. Member for

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Ceredigion, that these are real issues affecting real people and that, given the humanitarian consequences, no decisions will be taken until the criteria set out by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry have been met. If they are not met, no agreement will be given by him.


7. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South): If he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's bilateral relations with Turkey. [R] [149707]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Keith Vaz): Turkey is a strong ally of the United Kingdom. It is a NATO member, and a potential European Union partner. Many companies in this country export to Turkey.

Mr. Chapman: Do not the devaluation of the lira and other events underline the need for Britain and other western nations to maintain a close dialogue with Turkey? If Turkey were to switch from secular, democratic and European paths and instead were to follow fundamentalist policies, would not Europe and the whole of the region be the losers?

Mr. Vaz: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work as Chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Turkey. He has developed a close relationship with a number of groups in Turkey. I assure him that we are concerned, as he and others are, about the state of the currency in Turkey, and we are monitoring the situation carefully. As he knows, last year at Helsinki, Turkey was given the status of a candidate country for admission to the European Union. It is considering its accession partnership, which was agreed on a political basis on 4 December last year. We shall ensure that that process continues, and shall give Turkey any assistance that we can. However, the fact remains that Turkey must meet the Copenhagen criteria on human rights issues. We are monitoring that carefully, and we shall continue to work with Turkey as an ally.

Sir David Madel (South-West Bedfordshire): The question refers to Britain's relations with Turkey. Does the Minister agree that our relations with Turkey will not improve until Turkey withdraws from northern Cyprus?

Mr. Vaz: Relations between Britain and Turkey are very good, and that will continue. The problem to which the hon. Gentleman referred is on-going. He will know that the Government's position is to support the talks taking place under the auspices of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. We urge all parties to be involved in those discussions. The hon. Gentleman will know that these matters cannot be solved overnight. These are sensitive decisions, and there must be careful discussion between all the parties. That will continue until we get a just and lasting solution to the problem.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): As relations with Turkey are so good, can the Minister tell us what pressure has been put on the Turkish Administration to persuade them to cease military activity against Kurdish people in Turkey and over the border in Iraq? What representations have British representatives in Ankara

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made about prison conditions in Turkey, the large number of people who have been on hunger strike in prison and the continuing violation of the human rights of Kurdish people throughout that country?

Mr. Vaz: I have spoken personally to the Turkish ambassador following an appeal by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) about the situation in Turkish prisons, which has caused concern. It is important that the Turkish Government address that concern, and the ambassador gave me assurance that he will raise the matter with Ankara so that there are improvements.

Mr. Corbyn: What about the bombing?

Mr. Vaz: My hon. Friend asks about the bombing. We have also made representations on a number of other issues and will continue to do so.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): Will the Government do what no British Government have ever done and express regret about the first great genocide of the 20th century--the massacre of the Armenians? No apology has ever been given, but the matter is topical as the French Government have done precisely that. They have suffered the consequences, I know, but they have done the right thing. If we do not express regret, the evil words of Hitler, "Who now remembers the Armenians?" will be borne out as true. Are the Government prepared to express such regret and to express regret at the fact that no Turkish Government have ever given the slightest apology for the first great genocide of the 20th century?

Mr. Vaz: The hon. Gentleman was in the House for the previous Foreign Office questions. I set out the policy then and it has not changed.

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