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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it is important that those who say they renounce violence demonstrate that what they are saying can be relied upon. The incidents which I detailed to your Lordships,
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the conflict with the PKK has led to an overshadowing of the plight of other minorities in south east Turkey, such as the Chaldeans and the Syriacs? They have seen their numbers reduced from 30,000 to around 3,000 and their monasteries and villages systemically destroyed. Will the Minister undertake to instruct our officials in Turkey to continue to watch the violations of religious and political liberties that take place in Turkey and to raise those matters on a bilateral basis with the Turkish Government?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we already raise those issues with the Turkish Government on a frequent basis. I raised those issues when I was in Ankara a few months ago. The conflict with the PKK has a camouflaging effect on other difficult situations regarding minorities in Turkey. But I am happy to assure the noble Lord that I shall ask officials to continue to be as vigilant in the future as I know they have been in the past about violations of human rights.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the presence of 3 million people of Turkish birth or descent within the European Union, a substantial minority of whom are Kurds, means that the European Union is necessarily involved in that internal conflict? Does she accept also that the presence of a Turkish minority in Britain, as well as a number of Kurds and the one Kurdish language television station currently broadcasting, means that the British Government must play some role in this delicate situation?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, used the word "involved". We have a clear interest in what is happening in Turkey. It could not be said constitutionally that we are involved, but Her Majesty's Government have dealt with a number of these issues with our colleagues in Turkey and are also discussing the issue relating to MED TV, to which the noble Lord referred.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I thank the Minister warmly for the many answers she has given today. But perhaps she can help me with one final question. Following Italy's refusal to grant Turkey's request for the extradition of Abdullah Ocalan on the specific grounds that Italy's constitution does not allow extradition to countries with capital punishment, what is the Government's policy on such extradition?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord warmly for his questions and perhaps I may say how delightful it is to see him in his place. Each of these cases, as I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate, must be dealt with on its merits. Her
Lord Kilbracken: My Lords, the noble Baroness twice described the PKK as a terrorist organisation. It cannot be denied that it has been guilty of terrorist acts, but do not those acts pale into insignificance compared to the terrorist acts committed by the Turkish army in south east Turkey, which included the destruction of 2,700 Kurdish villages?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope I made clear to your Lordships' House that Her Majesty's Government take a serious view about infringement of human rights in Turkey and that we raise those issues with the government of Turkey when we can. We are committed to trying to work with Turkey to overcome some of these problems. However, I ask the noble Lord not to allow himself to put on one side the dreadful crimes of which the PKK has undoubtedly been guilty, including kidnapping, murder, threats, intimidation, extortion and racketeering. The PKK has been guilty of raids on schools, and some of its activities have directly resulted in the deaths of British citizens. We should not allow ourselves to become blinded to that point.
Lord Rea: My Lords, perhaps I may ask my noble friend one final question. With regard to the breaking of the cease-fire, when one declares such a cease-fire but is then attacked by a helicopter gunship, what does one do?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord's question begs the question of the exact circumstances in which that incident took place. But he must ask himself what an organisation is doing in declaring a cease-fire and then engaging in suicide bombings, two of which happened in the past week.
The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, perhaps the House will allow me to rise briefly to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to his new position as Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. I am sure that I offer him this welcome on behalf of the whole House.
On this side of the House, we have tried to keep up with the changes and movement which have taken place on the Opposition Front Bench in the past few hours, but among those resignations which I understand have occurred is that of the Deputy Leader, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie. We were sorry to hear that. Again, I had good personal contact with him both inside and outside the House, and we wish the noble and learned Lord well.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I was genuinely deeply saddened by the noble Viscount's resignation yesterday. In my position as a relatively new Leader of your Lordships' House, he was always extraordinarily kind and helpful to me and offered me valuable advice. Your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that I was brought up to believe, and indeed learnt in my professional life, that one can often disagree fairly firmly with other people about matters of policy and so forth and yet retain cordial and friendly relationships with them. For my part, I have to say that that was my experience of my dealings and my professional conversations with the noble Viscount. I am very sorry that those will no longer take place in the way that they did.
No one in your Lordships' House can underestimate or undervalue the role that the noble Viscount played both as Leader of the House and, subsequently, as Leader of the Opposition, especially in understanding and preserving the very important role that he understood this House to have within the constitution. It is important to recognise that his authority and the arguments that he put forward on a number of occasions in that context have been very powerful. Personally, I expect that we shall see those continued from his other position now on the Back Benches. I am sure that we shall value the noble Viscount's authoritative contributions to those discussions which we shall have on matters affecting your Lordships' House, as well as on other issues.
Although I was aware that the noble Viscount would not be in his place this afternoon, I did not want this occasion to pass without, in a sense, being able to convey my personal thanks for the role that he played in my understanding of the role of Leader of your Lordships'
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, perhaps I may associate those of us on these Benches with all the sentiments expressed by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House in her elegant remarks. I should like to refer only--and I hope that this will not be misunderstood--to the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. Whether he is a loss to his party is a matter for it to decide. However, all of us who have had experience of him in this House believe that he will be a loss to your Lordships' House in the role that he performed both as Leader of the House and thereafter in accomplishing the very difficult transition from government to opposition after 18 years. He managed that with very considerable skill and I do not believe that that should be forgotten by all those who were the beneficiaries of it.
Perhaps I may add the following without perhaps introducing any further note into our remarks. When the Labour Party was in opposition, I understand that it elected its leader in this House. Indeed, I and my predecessors were elected by my colleagues here. If the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, wants to remove the possibility of sacking, I recommend that, while he retains the confidence of his own troops, he should get elected by them very quickly.
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