|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Paul Farrelly: I wanted, Madam Deputy Speaker, to deal with the scope of the orders that might be made under the technical assistance regime, which I understood to be part and parcel of the Government amendments.
The activities of Casalee have been well documented but, although he denies it, Mr. Bredenkamp is one of the major suppliers of arms to Mr. Mugabe. He is a key backer of ZANU-PF, and of a potential successor to Robert Mugabe. His companies are reliably believed to have supplied arms and equipment used by the Zimbabwean army, the Interahamwe, and the Mai-Mai tribesmen in eastern Congo. Many of those arms subsequently have found their way back to war veterans, and have been used in attacks on white-owned farms.
In return, Mr. Bredenkamp has been a major beneficiary of Mr. Mugabe's largesse in Zimbabwe and the Congo. He is a major mover and shaker in southern Congo, and he has been awarded valuable diamond, cobalt and other mineral concessions. He has recently come to the attention of the United Nations panel investigating profiteering from the war in the Congo.
My hon. Friend the Minister has rightly said that the Bill should complement international co-operation between the UK, Europe and the UN in curbing arms dealing in world trouble spots. However, the matter of the scope of the technical assistance provisions in the Bill is relevant in connection with the very clever way in which Mr. Bredenkamp has structured his African involvement.
Mr. Bredenkamp runs his master company, Breco Services, from Berkshire. His African activities are run through several separate companies based in Harare, in particular through one called ACS International. Mr. Bredenkamp therefore appears to break no UK laws, embargoes or restrictionshowever formal or informalby ostensibly keeping all his African arms-dealing activities offshore. Although UK policy is not to license arms sales to Zimbabwe, Mr. Bredenkamp is clearly able freely to subvert that policy.
I should be grateful for an assurance from my hon. Friend the Minister that the Department of Trade and Industry, by means of the Bill, will have the necessary powers, in conjunction with the Home Office and the Foreign Office, to investigate empires such as Mr. Bredenkamp's. I hope that it will use those powers to take such measures as are necessary to curb organisations that are structured in the same clever way.
I hope too that my hon. Friend the Minister will assure the House that the relationships between Mr. Bredenkamp and any similar organisation will also be allowed to be examined under the Bill, as will the role of any UK company, including British Aerospace, in the supply of arms and military logistics to world trouble spots. The House will remember the controversy regarding the sale of Hawk aircraft parts to Zimbabwe by British Aerospace.
Finally, there is one further twist with regard to Mr. Bredenkamp on which I should appreciate my hon. Friend's learned advice. Mr. Bredenkamp has rights of residence in the UK, but I understand that he is not a British passport holder. Instead, he holds Zimbabwean and Dutch passports. Is he caught under the definition of the Bill as a United Kingdom person who would then be subject to the technical assistance provisions?
I should appreciate advice on that question, as I am sure that the House would agree that the Bill should be able to rein in precisely those activities that I have describedactivities that mean that merchants of death use our country as their base, to the detriment of peace and stability in the rest of the world.
Roger Casale (Wimbledon): I spoke on Second Reading in support of the Bill, and I am grateful for the opportunity to make some brief comments about Government amendments Nos. 39 and 44, which would remove direct reference to sustainable development from the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Minister said earlier that that reference was unnecessary because the issues connected with sustainable development were addressed in other parts of the Bill. I should welcome further reassurance that that is the case, but other hon. Members from all parties have emphasised their concerns and advocated that the Bill should expressly cover the matter of sustainable development.
Reference has also been made, and rightly, to yesterday's Second Reading of the International Development Bill. The question of sustainable development formed a central part of that debate, one of the features of which was the recognition that definitions of sustainable development were themselves subject to political debate and to change over time.
In the 1980s, the Brundtland report defined sustainable development as development that did not prejudice the ability of future generations to meet their needs. However, one of the issues that has arisen from international development debates is that, when we talk of sustainable development, we should also talk about economic development that allows the society involved to sustain itself for many years to come. So sustainable development is not a clear concept; it is itself subject to change.
The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), who speaks for the Opposition, said that it is necessary to balance the needs of the Government to be able to govern and take decisions with those of Parliament to provide effective scrutiny of the Government's actions. That important balance has to be struck, and it should concern us all, but this issue does not necessarily fit the schema of striking a balance between the Government and Parliament. I suggest that the balance that needs to be struck in considering how to refer to sustainable development is that between our ideals and aspirations and what is practicable and workable in the real world.
We should remember that the last time that a Bill to control arms exports was introduced in the House was 1939. Whatever legislation we pass today will need to last for a very long time, so we must at least consider whether terms that are not as robust as they might be to sustain changes in their definition over time perhaps need to be deleted from the Bill.
Some people will find it curious, perhaps even ironic, that we might remove reference to the adverse impact on sustainable development as a ground for restricting arms exports, while talking about introducing more joined-up thinking into government and while strengthening our commitment to sustainable development under the International Development Bill.
I have tried to consider both sides of the argument, and I may be minded to accept the Government amendments, but before doing so, I should like the Minister to give further assurances that the commitment to sustainable development runs as a golden thread through the Bill and the work of the DTI, the Department for International Development and the Treasury, as well as all our attempts to improve the condition of people across the world.
Having served on the Committee, I am interested in two important aspects of the Bill, the first of which is the way in which the long-term scrutiny will be carried out. We discussed the importance of timing at great length. What shall we do if the Government are unable to hit their targets in the scrutiny period? Assuming that 57 per cent. of the applications are considered and that the rest are not in the time allocated, how do we then manage to bring
Many of those issues will hinge on the movement of technology. We now discover that some companies' computer software can be bought for £5 in Hong Kong. That shows that technology develops extremely quickly in this country and throughout the world. One of the problems that must be considered is whether the amendments can be held up in law, given that we discovered in Committee that they cannot in many cases. Given the supersession of Europe, it is very difficult to understand how we as a Parliament can consider such matters in the longer term.
In Committee, we even discussed the export of cows in formaldehyde. I think that they should be exported, but that is a personal view. How does one give a licence for a work of art? For example, Greece seeks the return of the Elgin marbles, but could we scrutinise such an export licence in such way that the best interests of the United Kingdom remain at the forefront of people's minds?
Although many of the amendments have merit, it is up to Parliament to scrutinise each one of them so that we can police and monitor the Bill. Will the House have the time and the ability to scrutinise complicated issues so that they are examined properly? The answer is probably no. It worries me that the Government want to be able to pass measures as quickly as possible without their receiving the necessary scrutiny.
In Committee, the hon. Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) made an interesting point about East Timor and Hawk jets. I have not quite got to the bottom of the difference between a Hawk 100 and a Hawk 200, but would a licence cover the point that those jets are a dual-purpose piece of kit? The jet can be used as a trainer or as a fighter and bomber, and I do not understand how the House will be able to consider those points in the depth that is necessary for us to be able to take a decision. I am not an expert in chemistry but dual-purpose kit from chemicals is another of the biggest problems that we face. We have had our fingers burned so often that we need a usable and sustainable Bill that Governments will be able to stand by for a long time to come. If they cannot, that suggests that the Bill will be flawed even before it comes into force.
For the longer term, we need to consider the points that I have raised about technology, dual-purpose kit and the way in which licences are introduced. If we do not get the Bill right, we shall suffer for a long time and, especially, under European legislation. Such legislation will be draconian if we are not careful.