Letter: All change over Hawk exports

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Sir: The Defence Secretary, Michael Portillo, told Parliament during the defence estimates debate on 14 October: "I have no evidence that Hawk aircraft have been used against the population of Indonesia" (Hansard, 14 October, col 479).

The Defence Secretary should refer to the evidence of the Prime Minister to the Scott Inquiry, given orally on 17 January 1994. There he will find clear reasons why he should not be so complacent about the sale of Hawk aircraft to Indonesia.

John Major told Lord Justice Scott: "The Hawk trainer, as the Hawk trainer, was non-lethal [referring to prospective sale to Iraq]." But "the Hawk trainer, as altered, to use chemical weapons, would certainly have been lethal, and I think the view I took at the time was that it was far too high a risk with the particular regime in Iraq, that that might happen. So I [as Foreign Secretary] was not at all keen on the Hawk being sold." (Transcript Day 55, pages 24-25.)

The reason Bishop Carlos Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta won the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting against Indonesian government repression in East Timor underlines the belief by independent authorities that they have had a real - and brave - cause to fight.

No doubt Indonesia's military could convert trainer Hawks to offensive combat aircraft as efficiently as Mr Major feared Saddam Hussein's brutal regime would do in Iraq to indulge in similar repression of minority peoples such as the East Timorese.

Mr Portillo should take the lead from Mr Major, not the blinkered lobby of the arms salesmen over Hawk.


(Blaenau Gwent, Lab)

House of Commons

London SW1