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8.52 pm

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): I apologise to colleagues for not being here for the whole debate. Unfortunately, one plans a bit in advance, and I was chairing a showing of a film on Saddam Hussein. It is an interesting film and it was the first time that it has been shown in this country. It depicts him with an intimacy that has probably not been seen before. I wish that more colleagues had been able to see it.

I obviously want to talk about Iraq, because I chair a committee that aims to bring about an international tribunal to try the crimes of the Iraqi regime. They were described by Mr. van der Stoel, who retired last week after 10 years monitoring human rights in Iraq, as the

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worst crimes that have been committed since the end of the second world war. Anybody who has followed the details of what happens in Iraq cannot but agree with that.

The organisation that I chair has collected evidence about those who have allegedly committed war crimes, including leading members of the regime. However, I am afraid that many leaders from throughout the world have paid lip service to the aim of bringing war criminals to justice. The fact is that many war criminals are still at large in many countries, including our own, and it takes a long time to bring them to justice. We have just produced evidence, which our legal experts say cannot be faulted, against five leading members of the Iraqi regime. That evidence has been presented to the Attorney-General, and we are waiting to hear what he intends to do. We hope that this country will want to mount a prosecution that will lead to the indictment of some of the leading members of the regime.

We have also produced evidence in the Netherlands, which we have passed on to the chief prosecutor there. We are calling for it to prosecute those war criminals for their crimes. Such prosecutions will test the political will of European countries. If prosecutors were so minded, they could initiate prosecutions and indict leading members of the regime. An indictment can confine people to their countries, as we saw with Milosevic, and, hopefully, bring about their trial and condemnation. We will discover in the next few weeks whether this country will lead the way in that, as I hope it will.

On prior scrutiny of the arms trade, one of the main criticisms of the Scott report concerned ministerial accountability. If, as stated in the Queen's Speech, legislation will significantly

it must also provide for a system of prior parliamentary scrutiny of export licence applications. It worries me that on 8 December the Government rejected recommendations for such a system, made by the quadripartite Select Committee, of which I am a member, in its report on further accountability. It believed that such a system would enhance ministerial accountability and introduce a vital element of prevention to the arms export licensing regime. Similar models operate in Sweden and the United States without damaging the defence industry, the licensing system or bilateral relations. Why would a system of prior parliamentary scrutiny compromise political and commercial confidentiality in the UK but not in the US or Sweden? I hope that I am wrong and that our recommendation is included in the Bill.

Members of the four cross-party Select Committees that form the quadripartite Committee have vastly diverse political opinions. However, they unanimously concluded that

The Committee unanimously decided that by extending its present remit to cover scrutiny of licences at the application stage, such accountability could be achieved without posing a threat to commercial confidentiality or

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the competitiveness of British companies. Scott will be very disappointed if that suggestion is not implemented. The quadripartite Committee approached matters gingerly at first because of the diversity of opinion, but as it worked on through the year, it was gratifying to find consensus emerging.

Two other countries concern me. The first is Indonesia and the areas of East Timor, West Timor, Aceh and West Papua. I had the privilege of observing last year's referendum in East Timor and I witnessed consequences of which we had warned before it took place. We had called for the militia to be disarmed, but the referendum went ahead without that, which was a bad error on the part of all the countries involved in organising the referendum. Many refugees remain in West Timor--people who would return to East Timor if not for the intimidation they would face from the Indonesian militia still active there. I spoke to the President of Indonesia when I was there last month: I asked him when he was going to disarm the militia, what he was going to do about the continuing human rights abuses, and about various other matters relating to human rights. I believe that since he came into power things have changed for the better in Indonesia, but there is a long way still to go.

Current events in Aceh, where many people have been killed and, I am sorry to say, British-supplied arms are being used, provide an example of what I was talking about earlier. If there had been prior scrutiny of arms being sold to that country, I do not believe that Parliament would have agreed to the sale. Members of the United States Congress have not agreed to the sale of arms to Indonesia and the US embargo remains in place. It has been interesting to see at first hand the US system in operation. If such a system can work in that country, with all its commercial interests, there is no earthly reason why it could not operate in this country as well.

The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Trend) spoke about the European Union's decision to monitor human rights in applicant countries, and we would all support that, especially in respect of an applicant country such as Turkey, which already has its feet on the first couple of rungs on the ladder. As Amnesty International has frequently pointed out, the practice of torture remains widespread in Turkey. That organisation has written to the Heads of Government of the 15 EU nation states attending the Nice summit to raise its concerns.

The treatment of the Kurds in Turkey is wholly unacceptable. Anyone who has visited the site of the Ilisu dam, as I did in July, will know that it is proposed to shift 75,000 people without consultation, without discussing where they are to go, and without asking how they feel about being pushed out of their houses. Other human rights abuses are occurring in that area, directed particularly against the Kurds. Most EU countries would agree that if Turkey is to become a member of the EU, that must end; and we have a responsibility to press the issue vigorously while Turkey has its feet on the rungs of the EU ladder.

I should have liked to talk about many other countries, but in this canter around the course, I have mentioned the ones that cause me most concern. I am also concerned about parliamentarians in many countries throughout the world who do not have our privileges and cannot take it for granted that they will be able to speak as we in this Chamber are speaking today. Members of Parliament elected in Burma have been put in prison or under house

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arrest, or have been tortured. In Malaysia, Members of Parliament have been imprisoned on spurious charges arising under the Sedition Act 1948, which we British left as a legacy to Malaysia and other former colonies. The position of parliamentarians throughout the world is a matter that is vigorously pursued by the Inter- Parliamentary Union and its committee on human rights, but it is incumbent on us all to raise issues affecting our fellow Members of Parliament as often as we can.

9.5 pm

Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford): I shall raise a few issues and explore them briefly, as I know that other Members wish to speak. I join the hon. Members for Windsor (Mr. Trend) and for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) in paying tribute to the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. It is an excellent organisation, and I have seen at first hand how well it works. I echo the praise given by the Foreign Secretary to members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff, and not only those based overseas whom we see regularly when we travel abroad as Members. The staff in the UK should be praised also.

Since I was elected, I have on two separate occasions, both in relation to Chechnya, seen at first hand how FCO staff play a real and important role. First, two of my constituents, Jon James and Camilla Carr, were held hostage. They were released with a great deal of support and encouragement from FCO staff. Later, almost two years ago to the day, one of my constituents, Peter Kennedy, two other Britons and a New Zealander were tragically beheaded in Chechnya. I saw again how well FCO staff worked.

One feature of that tragedy emerged which I think the FCO has not yet taken fully on board, and that is the role of its advice. It was clear that the FCO was giving advice to British people that they should not travel to Chechnya. In the discussions that took place with Granger Telecom and British Telecom, that advice was made clear to the companies. However, it was not passed on to employees. In a future Gracious Speech, I should like to see a proposal for a requirement to be placed upon companies that if they are sending their staff overseas to countries where they should not go on the basis of clear Foreign Office advice, they and any subcontractors whom they employ should be given that advice in full.

I have been told that had Peter Kennedy realised that he should not be going to Chechnya, and had he been given the advice of the Foreign Office not to go, he would not have gone. In those circumstances, his life would certainly have been saved.

We have discussed the applicant states at Nice. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). It is important that the applicant states believe that they have a real chance of being accepted into the European Union. When I hear Conservative Members attacking the EU, I want to say, "Look, if it is such an awful organisation, why are so many countries and so many people queueing up to join it?" It has been a success and we must ensure that as many states as possible join it.

Last week, I was in Lithuania, a country which I first visited in 1995. It has made enormous strides, as have the other Baltic states, in trying to become members of the EU. The Baltic states have changed their economies and they are well on the way. We need to show and give them encouragement so that they understand that at some stage

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they will gain access to the EU. If we do not adopt that approach, we risk their regression into right-wing nationalism and xenophobia. Those attitudes are never too far away in countries of the Baltic states and of central and eastern Europe.

I shall underline what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) said about the European rapid reaction force. The Liberal Democrats are very much the Atlanticist party. My right hon. and learned Friend said that he had studied in the United States. The leader of my party, the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy), also studied there. We shall do nothing and support no policy that drives a wedge between the EU and NATO. NATO must remain the cornerstone of our defence. We shall ensure that a European rapid reaction force does not prejudice NATO if the United Kingdom plays a leading role. If we do not, there is the danger that a wedge will be driven in. Bill Cohen was right to refer to it, but with a strong British presence, the rapid reaction force will be a force for good.

I support the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), who paid tribute to our armed forces. They are the most excellent in the world, but they need the right kit. The Government have started by introducing some important projects. We hope that by means of smart procurement we shall see the death of some of the faulty procurement legacies of the Conservative Government.

We hope that the proposed new aircraft carriers will go ahead. I was honoured recently, with the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies), to visit the USS George Washington. I saw at first hand the power and capability of a real aircraft carrier. We should work towards having two carriers, although smaller, with that capability. There is also the importance of the type 45 destroyer fleet. However, it must be properly procured. There must be equal and fair procurement as between BAE Systems and Vosper Thornycroft. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) has been pressing the Government on that matter.

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