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Tony Cunningham: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I am not sure that the US is a good example to use in an overseas aid debate. Of the 22 most developed countries, it is bottom of the league as it gives only 0.1 per cent. of gross domestic product to
Bob Spink: The hon. Gentleman chooses one statistic, but in straight cash terms the United States comes out top of the pile. We are debating what our taxpayers give to the developing world, what long-term effect that money will have, whether we can change the world and whether, in 25 years, we shall be able to say, "That was a good new clause. We should have taken it on board earlier." I hope that the Government are listening to what I am saying.
Experience shows that Governments are often unwilling to improve their human rights conduct unless failure to do so inflicts a significant cost on them, especially if it can be measured in tangible economic terms. In practice, that principle is rarely applied. For example, the Indonesian Government have received significant British aid in the past year despite the fact that they totally failed to prevent an extremist Islamic group, Laskar Jihad, from sending 8,000 fighters to the Molucca islands to wage a jihada so-called holy waragainst Christians. Those Islamic terrorists were not from the Moluccas and they included Afghans and Pakistanis, yet the Indonesian Government have made little or no attempt to remove them.
Several weeks before travelling to the Moluccas, Laskar Jihad publicly announced that it would wage a jihad against the Molucca Christians, yet the Indonesian Government did absolutely nothing to prevent that. On 25 October 2001, the Prime Minister, no less, wrote to President Megawati about this extremist group, but the British aid continued. So did the human rights abuses, proving that words alone, even from such a person as the Prime Minister, are just not enough. They are not the answer and we need economic pressure to go with them.
Laskar Jihad is well armed, having received many weapons such as mortars and automatics from the Indonesian military. Moreover, Indonesian Government soldiers have joined its attacks on Christians. On 13 December, the BBC reported that authorities in Indonesia had confirmed that al-Qaeda fighters have been fighting in Sulawesi to support Laskar Jihad's war against the Christians there. The Indonesian Government's indulgence of Laskar Jihad has enabled it, if not encouraged it, to widen its area of operations and instigate horrific and brutal violence against Christians, not just in the Molucca islands, but in central Sulawesi.
There are about 28,000 internally displaced Christians in Tentena in central Sulawesi. Since June, Islamic fighters have cleared Christians from the town of Poso and the surrounding areas. Those Christians were forced to take refuge from the violence in Tentena. They are short of food, medicines and shelter and their situation is truly dire. If Laskar Jihad succeeds in Tentena, another mass slaughter of Christians in the region is likely.
This is not simply an issue of religious liberty. It involves people being displaced, brutalised, tortured and murdered because of their religious beliefs. That is a form of ethnic cleansing and it is most serious. Obviously, the Indonesian Government should remove the Islamic fighters far from the vicinity of Tentena, but they are not doing so.
The fighters' removal would minimise the chances of an anti-Christian massacre, yet no such action is being taken, notwithstanding the Prime Minister's intervention last year. Perhaps he would do more good if he postured and travelled the world a little less and spent more time in the House focusing on home policies such as the new clause, which is relevant to our constituents and British taxpayers.
Hugh Bayley: The hon. Gentleman is extremely generous with his time and I thank him for giving way. He talks of appalling occurrences in Indonesia. What would be the consequences for aid to Indonesia if his new clause went on the statute book? Would it stop all aid to Indonesia?
Bob Spink: I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has given me yet another opportunity to reiterate that, had the new clause been on the statute book, the Indonesian Government might have been minded to prevent Laskar Jihad from moving into the Moluccas and murdering those Christians. Perhaps he is not aware that, so far, 6,000 Christiansnot 600 or 60have been slaughtered in the Moluccas. Even if only six had been slaughtered, that would still be serious.
Bob Spink: I must make progress, as other Members want to speak and I am taking up a lot of time. The new clause would concentrate the Government's mind on those valid issues. Whether they continue to give aid to Indonesia should depend on how much the Indonesian authorities are willing to do to take firm action against Laskar Jihad and restore order in the Moluccas and Sulawesi.
As I said, thousands of Christians have already been slaughtered in the Moluccas and thousands more will perish in Sulawesi unless the Indonesian Government drastically improve their response to the situation. If the Indonesian Government continue their policy of simply trying to accommodate military Islamic groups, it will not be long before Indonesia becomes a safe haven for a variety of terrorist organisations, possibly including the al-Qaeda network.
There are a number of steers by which Britain can help to promote human rights: we can go through the European Union, through the Commonwealth or along with the United States. We can also introduce new clauses such as this, which is designed to make much more effective the British Government's attempts to improve other countries' human rights records and to prevent the scandal of British taxpayers' money being used to support Governments who grossly violate human rights.
Expressions of concern about human rights are important, and I readily thank the Government for what they do and the way in which they do it. However, we also need economic pressure, including the sanction of withholding international development assistance where appropriate, or at least making it conditional.
By adopting the principle of new clause 1, the Government would not affect humanitarian aid. They could show that they really care about human rights and are prudent and sensible in distributing British taxpayers' money as aidas they should be.
Glenda Jackson: I want to speak against the new clause. As I said to the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) in myas you pointed out, Madam Deputy Speakerover-long intervention, if his proposal represents a change in terms of his party's commitment to human rights, that is extremely welcome. I elucidated some examples of a total lack of care and concern for human rights when the Conservative party was in government, which I believed and still believe were shameful.
What was equally shameful was the Conservative Government's inability to dispense taxpayers' money for overseas aid at a level which my constituents found acceptablenot to put too fine a point on it. The Conservative Government spoke about attempting to meet UN targets, but did nothing practical to reach them. This country's contribution, during the seemingly endless terms of Conservative government, was constantly reduced.
I take issue with the hon. Gentleman on his scandalous misrepresentation of the Government of Indonesia. It is not Indonesian Government policy to enter into the activities to which he referred. Those are criminal activities. The hon. Gentleman significantly failed to point out that Indonesia is one of the most populous and one of the poorest countries in the world. For that Government to be able actively to engage in attempting to eradicate what I understand is mainly guerrilla activity is extremely difficult. Tribute should be paid to the present Prime Minister of Indonesia. Despite huge pressure, she has managed to retain her country's commitment to, and participation in, the international community's opposition to the events of 11 September and still actively support the international community's attempts to eradicate international terrorism and its roots.
May I take the hon. Lady back to what she said about the Conservative Government's contribution to overseas aid? She is factually incorrectit is as straightforward as that. The overseas development aid given during the Parliament from 1992 to 1997 was greater, as a percentage of GDP, than that given from 1997 to 1999. It has now risenI do not criticise the Labour Government, because their aid programme has generally been goodbut Library figures show that aid went down in the first three years of the Labour Government.