I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. He will be aware that, under President Chavez, Venezuela has played a much more active role in OPEC. Will he explain what discussions have taken place between the British and Venezuelan Governments about the importance of oil price stability and tell us whether those discussions have been successful?
When I was in Venezuela, I had a long conversation with President Chavez on that very subject. The assurance that he gave me is important and is worth putting on the record not only in this country, but internationally. He assured me that he would play a full part in guaranteeing that OPEC price stability would be maintained—when I spoke to him, there was a threat that Saddam Hussein would cut off oil production—and that there would be no threat to oil supplies and no threat of a sudden rise in the price of oil. He said that he would telephone Mr. Ali Rodriguez of OPEC to convey that message immediately. I was very grateful for that assurance.
Does the Minister accept that the all-party group on Venezuela, which I happen to chair, will be very grateful for and pleased with his comments? Will he tell the House whether President Chavez offered the British Government any of the proof that he claims to have showing that two United States military agents were involved in plotting the coup, recorded on video and in photographic evidence?
The answer is no. I am pleased that an all-party group of MPs will shortly visit Venezuela.
I have seen no evidence at all to back up any of those allegations, which were not, to my knowledge, made directly by the President himself, but by a number of newspaper reporters. What is important is that as soon as his removal from office became public news, every Government in Latin America, many of whom are quite critical of him, said, as did the British Government, that only a return to democratic and constitutional law and politics would be accepted in Venezuela. That was the right approach by the Government, and we should sustain that position.
I welcome my hon. Friend's comments about the failure of the coup, although I do not remember his saying that at the time when the coup was happening. Will he take this opportunity not only to condemn the plotters and coup masters, but the United States Government for their failure both to condemn the coup when it was going on and to welcome the return of President Chavez?
I am responsible, in this area, for what this Government do. If my hon. Friend would care to turn to www.fco.gov.uk and look for my statement of
Does the Minister think that it serves democracy when on the day after an elected President is removed from office he is described by a Foreign Office Minister as a ranting populist demagogue?
I am happy again to place on the record the fact that the Government condemned the coup and called for the return of constitutional democracy. Having been a Member of this House for eight years, I have had continually to listen to ranting populist demagogues on the Benches opposite, and I need no lessons from that quarter in how I describe people around the world.