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Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): At the last Foreign Office questions, the Foreign Secretary assured the House that it would not take "several months" for new UN sanctions on Iran to be agreed. That was in January; it is now March, and the US Secretary of State
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has said that it may take up to two months more for those sanctions to be agreed. Does he need to modify in any way what Ministers have said about that, and should we not now be galvanised, for some of the reasons that the Minister has set out, into urgently adopting new sanctions? The latest IAEA report says that Iran has amassed a dangerous stockpile of enriched uranium, and that it may be working on a nuclear warhead and have secret nuclear sites.

Mr. Lewis: Modifying statements made by the Foreign Secretary is not a good career move from my point of view- [ Interruption. ] Not everyone agrees, necessarily. I genuinely think that the right hon. Gentleman and I are in agreement on these issues. Of course speed is important, and it is urgent that we send the strongest possible message to the Iranians, but he would agree that unity matters too. If the Iranians spot any sense of division in the international community, that could undermine the power of our message. It is worth waiting those few extra weeks if it means that we can achieve the maximum international support that we need if we are to take the further economic sanctions that are so crucial.

Mr. Hague: It is of course vital to have that unity, but there must also be a necessary sense of urgency. Will the Minister set out what the British Government are doing diplomatically to ensure that other nations in Europe and around the world are ready to co-ordinate tighter sanctions, if necessary on top of and in addition to what is agreed eventually at the UN Security Council? That could include action against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as tough financial sanctions and targeted action against the Iranian leadership. Is it not time to step up our diplomatic efforts on this matter, if Iran is to take our resolve seriously?

Mr. Lewis: We are leading the argument at the UN and in the EU. We are using our bilateral relations to encourage countries with influence over less supportive countries to move immediately to sanctions; we are using all those diplomatic channels, from the Prime Minister downwards. As I said, speed matters and the urgency of the message to the Iranian Government is important, but so is maximum international unity if they are to take that message seriously.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): The regime is despicable, but why is it so troubling to the United Kingdom that Iran is going nuclear when so many other countries have already done so-for example, India, Pakistan and, of course, Israel? Does that not smack of double standards?

Mr. Lewis: I have a massive amount of respect for my hon. Friend, but he does himself a disservice by sending that kind of message from the House to the Iranian Government. Let me make the position clear. Of course, Iran's development of nuclear weapons is a threat to stability in the middle east, but it would also trigger an arms race the likes of which we have never seen before among Iran's neighbours. In a year in which the world is seeking to make progress on non-proliferation in the review of the non-proliferation treaty, this is about the threat that Iran would pose to our national security and that of countries in the region, but it is also about the arms race that it would inevitably trigger.

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Piracy (Somalia)

12. John Howell (Henley) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on piracy around the coast of Somalia. [319394]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Ivan Lewis): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary regularly discusses piracy off the coast of Somalia in both bilateral and multilateral meetings. Recent discussions took place during the Yemen conference in January and the EU Foreign Ministers meeting in November 2009.

John Howell: Does the Minister agree that the root cause of that piracy is instability in Somalia and the surrounding countries, so what progress has been made to stabilise them?

Mr. Lewis: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that this is a broader question of stability. We have decided, quite rightly, as part of the international community, to support the transitional Government. This issue requires an approach that is about security as well as more inclusive and effective government, and getting the economy and social provision moving in Somalia. Through the Department for International Development, we are applying an integrated approach, bringing together security, improved governance and development, and the international community needs to adopt that approach if we are to bring stability to Somalia.

Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): The hon. Member for Henley (John Howell) is absolutely right. Although I appreciate my hon. Friend's comments, the reality is that the world has been very slow to recognise both the seriousness of the vacuum of power in Somalia and the serious threat that that represents to individuals through piracy and to the wider community in east Africa and globally. Is it not time that we said to Washington and to others who are involved that we need to apply proper pressure to build an effective infrastructure in Somalia?

Mr. Lewis: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is okay to discuss a joined-up UK approach on security, governance and development, but we need members of the international community to come together in a co-ordinated way. We are working closely with our EU partners and the United Nations, including the special representative of the Secretary-General. This is an issue that is increasingly discussed in the context of our bilateral relationship with the United States.

Falkland Islands

13. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): What assessment he has made of the implications of the Argentine Government's position on oil drilling in the waters around the Falkland Islands; and if he will make a statement. [319395]

The Minister for Europe (Chris Bryant): Argentina's reaction to the resumption of hydrocarbons exploration in Falklands waters has not changed the British Government's position one iota. We have no doubt
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about Britain's sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, nor about the islanders' full right to develop a hydrocarbons industry.

Mr. Robathan: I am very glad to hear that response. In 2003, we gave unequivocal support to the United States of America on Iraq, and we are now fighting shoulder to shoulder, and our soldiers are dying together, in Afghanistan, yet the US Government are equivocating on the subject. Will the Minister tell me what Hillary Clinton might facilitate when she offers to act as a facilitator?

Chris Bryant: The US Government's position, which they have held since 1947, has not changed at all in any recent discussions, and we have made it absolutely clear that we do not believe there is any need for negotiation or discussion, because there is nothing to discuss in terms of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, which should be a self-determined issue and solely a self-determined issue. The one point on which we would be prepared to continue negotiations is a return to the 1995 joint declaration on hydrocarbons co-operation from which the Argentines themselves withdrew unilaterally in 1997.

Mr. David Hamilton (Midlothian) (Lab): On the question of Afghanistan, the issue surely must be- [ Interruption. ] I am sorry, we have taken the questions too quickly. My apologies. I was getting up for the question on Afghanistan. I got the wrong question.

Mr. Speaker: I am sorry to have inconvenienced everyone. Let us hear from Mr. Russell.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): The Falkland Islands, in the south Atlantic, are very important to Britain's interests. May I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that without Ascension Island the Falklands could not be sustained, and that without the people of St. Helena living on the Falklands and Ascension Island the Falklands could not be sustained? Is it not time that Britain looked at the whole south Atlantic as a single strategically important part of the world?

Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. and I have had many conversations with the Ministry of Defence about ensuring that it recognises the financial requirements on Ascension. We also have a duty to stand by St. Helena.

UK-Argentina Relations

14. Mr. Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the state of relations between the UK and Argentina; and if he will make a statement. [319396]

The Minister for Europe (Chris Bryant): We have a productive relationship on a range of issues, including in the G20, such as climate change, sustainable development and counter-proliferation. We hope that current tensions over the Falklands will not escalate and undermine our co-operation on other issues.

Mr. Benyon: Argentina today is very different from the Argentina of the early '80s. It is a wonderful place full of many people who share our values. Does the Minister agree that the Government should reach over the head of Argentina's rather dysfunctional Government
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in Buenos Aires to the people of Argentina in order to communicate the fact that this is not a simple, tired, post-colonial issue but is about the islanders' right of self-determination?

Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that this is a matter of self-determination for the people of the Falklands. When some people-Argentines-suggest that there are not any indigenous people to the Falklands, I point out that many people from Argentina are of Italian, British, Scottish and German stock, going back fewer generations than the presence on the Falklands Islands. [Hon. Members: "And Welsh."] For that matter, as several hon. Members are pointing out, many people of Welsh stock live in Patagonia.

I know that the relationships between our two countries are very strong, and there are many areas in which Argentina has been extremely courageous, not least in relation to counter-proliferation. We stand ready to work with it on all those issues, as I pointed out to the chargé d'affaires the other day. It would be good if it had an ambassador back in London.

Topical Questions

T1. [319407] Mrs. Anne McGuire (Stirling) (Lab): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): On Saturday, Chile was struck by an earthquake of magnitude 8.8 on the Richter scale. My thoughts and, I am sure, those of every Member are with the families of those killed and injured. Currently, there are no confirmed British casualties. We have located more than 270 British nationals and confirmed that they are safe. The Government have made an initial donation of £250,000 to facilitate the work of the Red Cross in Chile, and the European Union has provided an immediate €3 million for the relief effort. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke to President Bachelet yesterday to offer further support and condolences on behalf of the whole country.

Mrs. McGuire: I thank my right hon. Friend for that update on the situation in Chile.

My right hon. Friend travels the world vigorously promoting the UK's foreign policy interests. In any of those multilateral and bilateral discussions, which he has had over some years, has it ever been suggested to him that it is unpatriotic of a British Foreign Minister to work for the return of a Labour Government at home?

David Miliband: My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. I, like many people, was shocked by the Leader of the Opposition's suggestion that it was somehow unpatriotic to work for the re-election of a Labour Government-or, for that matter, for any other party. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman was showing his inexperience, and I think that he should apologise to all Labour voters in this country.

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): Ignoring the last remark, may I associate the Opposition fully with what the Foreign Secretary said about the situation in Chile and the action that the Government have taken and endorsed?

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On the separate matter of the killing of Mr. al-Mabhouh in Dubai, the Foreign Secretary said to me in a letter last week that

I think the whole House will back him up in that. However, may I repeat a question that I have now asked Ministers twice? Did he specifically ask his Israeli counterpart for an assurance that Israel will never sanction the misuse of British passports in any future intelligence operation? Will he seek such an assurance, and does he have any expectation of receiving such an assurance?

David Miliband: Of course I make it clear, not just to Israel but to any country, that we have every expectation that no country, especially a friendly one, would interfere with British passports or promote their fraudulent use. I made that clear to the Israeli Foreign Minister, and I do so to anyone else who is considering such a course. The Israeli Foreign Minister insisted to me that he had no information that corroborated allegations of Israeli involvement, but I none the less made clear to him our very strong view that Israel should co-operate with the investigation that has been launched by the Serious Organised Crime Agency, and that, as I said clearly in my letter, we had every expectation that if there had been an occurrence such as this, it would never happen again.

T3. [319409] John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be well aware of the situation in Nigeria, where President Yar'Adua had been out of the country for health reasons and then came back without being seen, and the Vice-President had no access to him. Meanwhile, the post-amnesty problem in the Niger delta is getting worse. Will he have a word with the Nigerians to ensure that British citizens working in Nigeria will be protected?

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Ivan Lewis): My hon. Friend has a long-standing interest in Nigeria and always tries to be constructive on the issue. Of course, the situation is very difficult. The President has returned to the country and the acting President continues to govern. What is important is that the Government of that country behave in accordance with its constitution and rule of law. We welcome the fact that the acting President has committed to make progress on the Niger delta amnesty programme, electoral reform and addressing corruption. It is obviously important that, at this very delicate time, we try to contribute to securing maximum stability, which will in turn protect British citizens in Nigeria.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): What pressure is being brought to bear on the Sri Lankan Government to release, as soon as possible, an estimated 100,000 Tamils who are still being held in internally displaced persons camps 10 months after the fighting ended?

David Miliband: In every conversation that I have with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, I make the precise point that for the future of Sri Lanka, after the end of a bloody civil war that lasted 26 years and claimed the lives of some 70,000 people, the process of political reconciliation, including constitutional reform, needs
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to start immediately, but also that there is a short-term, immediate humanitarian issue in respect of the 100,000 or 80,000 IDPs. It is obviously a good step forward that instead of 280,000 or 300,000 IDPs there are 100,000 or 80,000, but the number needs to get down to zero as fast as possible. That is certainly the case that we make publicly and privately in all forums.

T4. [319410] Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood) (Lab): Has the Secretary of State visited Cuba recently, and if he has not, does he have any plans to do so? [Interruption.]

David Miliband: I would be delighted to visit Cuba-and delighted, of course, to go with Mrs. Clinton. My hon. Friend raises an important point, and if I were to go to Cuba, I would insist on meeting the Opposition as well as the Government. That is a common EU position. I am very disappointed that the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) went to Cuba without meeting the Opposition. If I went, I certainly would not go on a free flight on Ashcroft airways, and if I ever met Lord Ashcroft, I would want to know what his tax status was. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will explain that when he-

Mr. Speaker: Order. We do not need to go into that now.

T2. [319408] Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): In June last year, I asked the Foreign Secretary about the provision by Britain of military training to the vile Sudanese regime. At the time, he said that he would review the matter and come back to me. Some eight months later, he has not yet done so, so will he kindly give me an update now?

David Miliband: I am happy to give an update by letter, and I will send the hon. Gentleman a letter as soon as I can.

T8. [319414] Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): The Foreign Secretary has told us what the Israeli Foreign Minister, Mr. Liberman, insisted to him. Does he believe Mr. Liberman, and does he expect the House to do so?

David Miliband: I certainly would not tell the rest of the House what to believe. However, I would say, very seriously, that an investigation is going on. It is right that while allegations fly around, we should wait until the conclusion of our investigation before coming to any conclusions.

T5. [319411] Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): Those who visited the excellent exhibition on human trafficking in the Upper Committee corridor last week would have been impressed by the stories of domestics working for embassies, many of whom were treated as domestic slaves. Will the Foreign Office now support the Home Office decision to amend the diplomatic domestic visa, so that those maltreated domestic workers no longer face deportation if they run away from the embassy in which they have been maltreated?

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