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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien): We are determined that this country should not be used as a base for supporting terrorism. It is a criminal offence under the Terrorism Act 2000 to belong to, or to raise funds for, a proscribed terrorist group. The police investigate all credible allegations of fundraising for such groups and will take action where there is sufficient evidence to do so.
Mr. Weir: The Minister will be aware of press reports that two prominent Kashmiri politicians were arrested by the Indian authorities and accused of receiving substantial sums of money through al-Qaeda representatives in the United Kingdom to fund terrorism in Kashmir. Has the Minister made an assessment of whether al-Qaeda is involved in the Kashmiri situation, and has he received any requests from the Indian Government to investigate money coming from the UK to fund such activities?
Mr. O'Brien: We are examining with great care various representations that we have received from the Indian Government and will take action where there is sufficient evidence. It is important that we do not simply act on an allegation that funds are coming from this country unless there is sufficient evidence to back it. It is difficult for the police to act on a mere allegation. We are talking to the Indian Government about some of the statements that have been made and hope that where there
Mr. Mohammad Sarwar (Glasgow, Govan): Does my hon. Friend agree that the dispute over Kashmir is a source of rising tensions between India and Pakistan? India and Pakistan have had three wars because of this dispute. Will my hon. Friend put pressure on the Governments of India and Pakistan to negotiate and to bring about a peaceful settlement to this dispute?
Mr. O'Brien: We have been working with the Indian and Pakistani Governments to set up a process of dialogue between them and to de-escalate the current tensions. The tension between Indian and Pakistan is a bilateral matter that must be resolved by direct dialogue between the parties. We certainly do not believe that war is inevitable, now or in the long term. The problems between India and Pakistan will never be satisfactorily resolved by military means. We want support for cross-border terrorism to stop and a verifiable end to infiltration as the first step towards reducing the current tensions. We want both Governments to talk through the issues that divide them and to talk to the people of Kashmir about how they want to go forward.
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Is the Minister aware of the extent of public disquiet in the United Kingdom that we may unwittingly be the base for the prosecution and funding of terrorism in other parts of the world, including Kashmir? Is he conscious of the fact that the United Kingdom does not have a good record in this respect, inasmuch as FARC and the ELN in Colombia and Sendero Luminoso in Peru are not proscribed organisations in this country or the European Union? Can Her Majesty's Government be much more vigilant, because the public have become rightly concerned since the emergence of al-Qaeda and the increased terrorist activity in Kashmir?
We have proscribed three Kashmiri terrorist groups, and the list of proscribed groups is kept under constant review. It is a matter predominantly for the Home Secretary, in consultation with Foreign Office Ministers and other ministerial colleagues, to take into account the nature and scale of groups' activities and the extent of their presence in the UK. It is a factor in our considerations whether there is an issue in the UK; it is not simply a matter of proscribing an organisation that may be a threat in another country but may not have substantial, or even any, activities in the UK. However, I have taken the hon. Gentleman's point on board, and will write to him about the groups that he mentioned, because I think that he is wrong on one of them.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien): During his visit to Pakistan, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary underlined to President Musharraf the need for Pakistan to take visible, decisive and verifiable steps to seal the line of control, to stop supplies to militant groups, to help restrain the violent actions of those groups and to close the militant training camps on Pakistan's side of the line of control. In his meetings in Delhi with Prime Minister Vajpayee and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, my right hon. Friend stressed that as Pakistan was taking the necessary steps to clamp down on terrorism, India should respond positively.
Verification that infiltration by terrorists across the line of control has stopped will be a vital element in de-escalating the crisis over Kashmir. Any arrangement on verification would have to be acceptable to both India and Pakistan.
Mr. O'Brien: Perhaps I might gently explain to my hon. Friend, who asks a serious and important question, that if we do not have the consent of both parties to the presence of observers from the UN or elsewhere, it is possible that such observers might be shot at or that their security might be otherwise compromised. It is thus important that, as part of the process of dialogue, we engage with both the Indians and the Pakistanis to see whether there are circumstances in which, given their particular concerns about international observers, those concerns can be remedied. It may well be that Pakistan has always accepted that there should be some international role, but that India has not felt the same way. The circumstances may have altered but they will alter only to a limited extent. We want to ensure that India's response is carried out reasonably and sensibly by dialogue and agreement.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): Following his helpful reply to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sarwar), has the Minister considered suggesting to both sides that, as a further step to reduce tension, there should be a demilitarised corridor of, say, 50 or 100 miles along the line of control?
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe said in Westminster Hall on 18 June, discussions between the UK and Spain about Gibraltar are continuing, but real difficulties remain to be resolved. I shall be meeting the Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique in London for informal discussions tomorrow, 26 June. We intend to hold a further ministerial meeting of the Brussels process before the summer break, if at all possible. Our aim remains an agreement that we can commend to the people of Gibraltar.
Mr. Hoyle: I welcome that statement from my right hon. Friend. Is it true that there will be a meeting this week between my right hon. Friend and Spanish officials, and will those matters be discussed? Can we ensure that when the talks end, that is really the end and that the people of Gibraltar can get on with their lives and the sword of uncertainty hanging over Gibraltar will be taken away once and for all?
Mr. Straw: If only it were possible to enable the people of Gibraltarin my hon. Friend's wordsto "get on with their lives" simply by bringing those talks to an end; would that it were that straightforward. The reason that the previous Conservative Government decided in 1984 to enter the negotiationsthe Brussels processwhich included in their terms of reference discussions about sovereignty, was to try to secure a better future between Gibraltar and its neighbour, Spain. Yes, I have made it clear that we stand by the people of Gibraltar; but am I able to secure significant improvements in the daily lives of the people of Gibraltar without securing an agreement? That remains very difficult.