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Baroness Northover: My Lords, can the Minister clarify the position of the UN weapons inspectors? In Prime Minister's Question Time today, the Prime Minister said that the new UN resolution would address this. Yesterday, however, John Negroponte, the US ambassador to the UN, said that,

even though the head of the UN weapons inspection team wants to return to Iraq.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have not seen Mr Negroponte's remarks, but I would point out to the noble Baroness that the resolution does touch on this issue by emphasising the need to confirm disarmament and the intention to review the UNMOVIC and IAEA mandates in Iraq. That review will leave open the possibility of a future role for UNMOVIC, taking account of the changed situation on the ground.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, as regards reconstruction in Iraq, do the Government see roles for the specialised agencies of the United Nations as distinct from the United Nations itself?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope that we will see the specialised agencies in Iraq. Of course they have a great deal to contribute, in particular to the longer-term reconstruction efforts. While we have discussed at length the short-term humanitarian efforts, we must also acknowledge that our attention must be directed to longer-term issues such as health and education. Only last Friday I was in the United States. While there I discussed these issues with colleagues working in the various departments responsible. Between us we acknowledged that there will be a very important role to consider for the UN agencies.

Lord Rea: My Lords, with regard to those specialised agencies, can my noble friend say whether the World Health Organisation and UNICEF teams are now back in their offices and once again functioning? They performed an extremely useful role in pre-war Iraq.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, indeed they did perform useful roles and I hope that they will be able to do so again shortly. I am unable to tell my noble friend whether they are in place on the ground at the moment. The noble Lord will know that we have been working hard to ensure that a permissive environment is developed which would allow the NGOs and agencies of the UN to return. Some of them

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have started to go back, but I shall try to be more precise about UNICEF and the World Health Organisation and write to my noble friend.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the new draft resolution gives the United Nations a much stronger role and upgrades the previous co-ordinator to the rank of UN special representative? That is important.

Can the noble Baroness confirm that, if it is carried, the resolution will solve the difficult problem of making oil and gas revenues in Iraq immune from litigation and the claims of creditors, so that the money can begin to flow back into the rebuilding of Iraq?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, yes, that was one of the main intentions behind passing the resolution. Perhaps I may say that it was also one of the reasons why it is important for us to do so urgently. The fact is that the oil is now starting to be pumped and we must ensure that it can be traded legally so that the people of Iraq can enjoy the benefits of indulging in that trade on a far more widespread basis than was ever the case under the Saddam regime.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, in the context of the Question, might the House not use the occasion to pay tribute to the efforts made by our Armed Forces in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq, especially in the area around Basra?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sure that all Members of the House will wish to join in that acknowledgement of the way in which our Armed Forces prosecuted not only the military conflict but the peace thereafter. It has been an enormous credit to them, particularly, as the noble Lord said, their work in Basra, where they were responsible for ensuring the quick re-connection of clean water supplies. It was our Army engineers who got the railway between Basra and Baghdad running—a railway that had not run for 10 years.


3 p.m.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking, in conjunction with other members of the international community, to avert the resumption of hostilities in Aceh, and what assurances they have been given by the Indonesian Government that arms and military equipment supplied by the United Kingdom will not be used in any military operations that may be conducted in Aceh.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the British Government, together with our EU partners, the United States and the World Bank, have urged the Indonesian Government and the Free Aceh Movement—the GAM—to resume negotiations. We

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regret that martial law has been declared in Aceh. The Indonesian Government have confirmed that Hawk aircraft were used on the first day of action in Aceh, but they have given assurances that they were not used offensively. We are considering that response.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, Britain was represented, through the European Union, at the Tokyo meeting last weekend, at which attempts were made to salvage the cessation of hostilities agreement. Can the Minister say whether any concessions were made there by either side? How far apart were they at the end of the process? Would it not be useful to know, without attempting to apportion blame, what was the sequence of negotiations that led to the final breakdown?

Considering that there is a risk of overwhelming human catastrophe in Aceh and the fact that the UN Secretary-General has made a plea that peace should be restored, will the Government consider referring the matter to the UN Security Council and calling on the council to pass an embargo on the supply of weapons to either side? Spares for the Hawks that the Minister mentioned and the Scorpions that, we understand, are being transferred to Aceh should be withheld until peace is restored.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the reasons for the breakdown in the discussions that the noble Lord mentioned are difficult to disentangle. It looks as though, to some extent, both sides were not sufficiently committed, with regard to some of their own interests, to seeing a peaceful solution go forward. I am unable to go into any further detail than that at the moment. Perhaps, it is a subject for discussion at a future date.

The noble Lord asked about weapons. We are considering the right response in the light of what has happened over the past few days. I hope that the noble Lord will understand that even as I left the Foreign Office late this morning more information was coming in about the incident, which I know has not only caused concern to the noble Lord but has prompted further comment elsewhere. Further information is arriving from our post about what really happened, and that information is being analysed at the moment.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, do we know of any connection between the Free Aceh movement—GAM—and terrorist organisations? It seems to be intent on burning schools. If there is evidence of terrorist links, ought we not to be a little more understanding of the need for the Indonesian authorities to try to keep their country together? Should we not indicate that we realise that they need somehow to restore law and order there?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we do not need to know that there are terrorist links. The noble Lord may be referring to the wider question of terrorist organisations elsewhere.

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If there is terrorism, it is of itself bound to be a reason for any government to want to ensure the security of their people. The noble Lord will know that there are many different views about the nature of the GAM. As is so often the case, there are those who consider it to be a group of people who legitimately want freedom for Aceh from Indonesia, and there are those who consider that its activities go beyond that into some activities that others would describe as terrorist activities.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, more specifically, does self-determination supersede territorial integrity, in the Government's view?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we acknowledge the territorial integrity. But, to take another example, the United Kingdom and the United Nations never recognised the sovereignty claim to East Timor. This is a different question. After Indonesia declared its independence in 1949, Aceh became part of that country. Eight years later, Aceh began to fight against the central government and, as we know, there has been a GAM seeking an independent state since 1976.

Questions of self-determination arise in a variety of historical contexts. There are differences in the way in which Indonesia has operated here historically and the historical claim that it has, as compared with the recent example of East Timor, which may still be in your Lordships' minds.

Israel and Gaza

3.6 p.m.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on her tirelessness and beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures they are taking to encourage Israel to open the border to allow foreign nationals to cross between Israel and Gaza.

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