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House of Lords

Tuesday, 29th November 1994.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by

the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.

The Lord Bishop of Durham

Anthony Michael Arnold, Lord Bishop of Durham--Was (in the usual manner) introduced between the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford and the Lord Bishop of St. Albans.

Lord Sandhurst --Took the Oath.

Indonesia: Arms Sales

2.44 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will immediately cancel all current and planned arms deals with Indonesia including related deals such as military bases and road construction.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): My Lords, we have no plans to do so. As always, the export of military equipment is looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response to the Question, to which, of course, I did not expect to receive an affirmative Answer. However, it gives me the opportunity to ask the noble Lord whether he recalls that last month the Chief of the Defence Staff, Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge, visited the Indonesian leader and was quoted in the Jakarta Times under the heading,

    "[Indonesia and] Britain forge closer defense ties",

s saying:

    "We are looking to sell certain things like Hawk aircraft and Scorpions (armoured vehicles)".

Does the Minister also recall that, in the report, the Hawks are described as "ground-attack fighters", and that the Indonesian general who accompanied the Chief of Staff during his interview with President Suharto is quoted as saying that the issue of human rights "was not touched on"? Does that report accord with the position in relation to Indonesia which the Government have outlined to the House from time to time?

Lord Henley: My Lords, as regards the noble Lord's last point, I believe that the Indonesian authorities are well aware of our concern for human rights. I can assure the noble Lord that representations have been made to the Indonesian Government about those concerns at the highest level. I can also assure the noble Lord that assurances have been received from the Indonesian authorities at the highest level that British equipment

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will not be used against the civil population. I can further assure the noble Lord that we have no evidence of British equipment being so used.

As regards the visit of the Chief of Defence Staff, I can tell the noble Lord that discussions covered a range of equipment and topics of mutual defence interest. Details of the negotiations are commercially confidential between the customer and the supplier. However, I can assure the noble Lord that the export of military goods from the UK has been, and will continue to be, subject to export control which takes into account both defence and foreign policy, as well as human rights issues.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that arms sales to Indonesia are governed by the set of principles that were agreed by the CSCE on 23rd November 1993, and that they not only enjoin us not to sell arms where they might be used in violation of human rights against the civil population, but also where they might contribute to an arms race in the sub-region? Against what external enemy could Indonesia be building up such a formidable arsenal? Further, is not one of the consequences of arms sales by the United Kingdom and others to Jakarta that neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia will also be compelled to increase their military expenditure?

Lord Henley: My Lords, the Indonesian Government have a right to purchase arms under Article 51 of the UN Charter. As regards individual exports of arms, I can only tell the noble Lord that we consider export licence applications on a case-by-case basis in the light of established criteria. In addition to our own national security considerations, those criteria will include the common criteria for arms transfers agreed by the EU partners in 1991-92, the P5 guidelines of 1991, and the principles governing arms transfers, mentioned by the noble Lord, which was agreed by the CSCE in 1993. We would reject any applications which in our view--and I repeat, in our view--would not be consistent with those criteria.

Lord Judd: My Lords, does the Minister agree that this is not just any human rights story? It is the story of 200,000 people who have perished in East Timor since the Indonesian invasion. How do the Government reconcile their position on human rights with being a principal supplier of arms to that regime? When the Minister says that he has no evidence of the equipment that we supply being used against the Indonesian people, can he actually give the House a guarantee that that has never happened?

Lord Henley: My Lords, when I say I have no evidence, that is exactly what I mean by those words. I obviously cannot give a guarantee if I have no evidence. All I can say is that there is no evidence, but that we have received assurances from the Indonesian authorities that arms have not been used to that effect. I recognise the noble Lord's concerns. Indeed, we recognise that the human rights situation in Indonesia and East Timor is by no means perfect. There obviously have been recent setbacks. We do believe, though, that

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the human rights record has shown a degree of improvement since the 1960s and 1970s. I have to say to the noble Lord that I suspect if we simply severed all links with the Indonesian Government we would by so doing surrender all influence over them whatsoever.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, is it coincidence that since 1986, when Britain became the major supplier of arms to Indonesia, the British aid budget to Indonesia has doubled?

Lord Henley: My Lords, as I made clear, and as my noble friend Lady Chalker made clear in the debate that I think the noble Lord spoke in some week ago, there is absolutely no link whatsoever between arms sales to Indonesia or anywhere else and our aid programme, and I cannot repeat that point enough.

Lord Mayhew: My Lords, nevertheless if the Indonesian Government can afford to pay these vast sums for arms, can they not also afford to dispense with our overseas aid?

Lord Henley: My Lords, as I made clear, I believe the Indonesian Government have a right under Article 51 in terms of their own self-defence to purchase arms. There are many other poor countries, or even poorer countries, that find it necessary to buy arms for their self-defence. I do not believe that Indonesia is in such a position that we could deny them aid purely on the grounds for example that their per capita income was above a certain level.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that it is obviously unreasonable to ask for the breaking of all links with Indonesia? But is he also aware that the fact that our trade with that country so largely consists of armaments is the source of very considerable disquiet which I think is not confined to the Opposition Benches in the House? Can the Government at least say that they will not seem to go out of their way, as they are at present, to increase the arms trade at the cost of other forms of trade?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I do not think I can take the noble Lord any further. As I said, we shall continue to consider any application for arms sales on a case by case basis, and obviously we shall take human rights concerns as well as all other criteria into account.

Lord Rea: My Lords, does the noble Lord not feel that this is breaking the principle that arms should not be sold to regimes which have a poor human rights record? I am not only thinking about East Timor, but over the whole of the many islands of Indonesia there are instances of appalling human rights activities by the government and restriction for instance of trade union rights and freedom of the press. Should we be selling arms at all to such a regime?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I cannot take the noble Lord any further. As I said, human rights is one of the criteria that will be taken into account.

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Diplomatic Service: Civil Service White Paper

2.53 p.m.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to apply to the Diplomatic Service the proposals set out in the White Paper The Civil Service: Continuity and Change (Cm 2627).

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, the White Paper recognises that the Diplomatic Service is a separate branch of the public service with its own particular needs and structure. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is considering the parallel action to be put in hand to cover the areas considered in the White Paper.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale: My Lords, I am much obliged for that Answer, although I am a little bit surprised that we have not yet had any detailed statement of what is proposed given that the White Paper on the Civil Service was issued in July. We have not been told what the Government's response is to the comments which they invited on the White Paper. We now have to digest the long report of the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee from another place which has just been issued. It will not be all that long before we get the first report from the Nolan Committee and one day presumably we shall get the Scott Report. All of these bear directly on the role of the Civil Service, including the Diplomatic Service. Are the Government holding back on final decisions until all this information is available or are they steaming ahead, as it were, and if so could we somehow be told in some detail just what is going on? Are we to be given an opportunity at a fairly early date of debating these issues, which are not without importance?

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