[Jim Sheridan in the Chair] — Piracy (Somalia)
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham, Liberal Democrat)
I congratulate Richard Ottaway and his Committee on securing this timely and important debate and the whole Committee on the report, which is an authoritative and important contribution to British policy making in the context.
The problems associated with piracy are well understood by everyone here. It is conducted on a staggering scale in the Indian ocean, and I think that the report suggests that between 1,500 and 3,000 pirates are operating there. It affects trade through the Gulf of Aden worth hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars to the global economy. Any disruption of that trade certainly affects not just British companies, but companies all over the world, and the insurance and other markets that support it. There are disturbing trends, which the Select Committee drew attention to, including—and probably most worryingly—increasing violence against hostages, which was not a particular characteristic of Somali piracy a few years ago. On top of that, there is the fact that such piracy has been going on for decades. The international community despite, I think, nine United Nations Security Council resolutions and three multinational naval operations, has not remotely cracked the problem. As we have heard, the amount of ransom that is being paid is on the increase.
That is not to say, however, that there are not some positive signals. In Somalia, the situation on the ground seems more promising than for many years. That is partly due to the courage of African Union and other international forces, which have secured more territory than for many years. There is some evidence that progress is being made against forces such as Al-Shabaab, although it continues to control huge swathes of the country.