Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 15th June 2004.

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Photo of Bob Blizzard Bob Blizzard Labour, Waveney 11:30 am, 15th June 2004

When he next expects to visit Brazil to discuss bilateral relations.

Photo of Bill Rammell Bill Rammell Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The Foreign Secretary has no current plans to visit Brazil, but recently met Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim in London. I have visited Brazil twice and the Deputy Prime Minister hopes shortly to visit Brazil. Such contact underlines our commitment to our relationship with Brazil.

Photo of Bob Blizzard Bob Blizzard Labour, Waveney

Having just returned from an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation to Brazil—[Laughter.]—may I tell my hon. Friend that it is clear that the Brazilian Government want a very strong relationship with Europe, both politically and commercially, to balance their relations with the USA? Does he agree that it is also in our interests and vital for the whole of south America that progressive democratic Government can deliver and succeed in Brazil? For both those reasons, may I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that if he does have a life beyond the middle east, Iraq and the European constitution, he should give some priority to visiting Brazil?

Photo of Bill Rammell Bill Rammell Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Despite the jocularity, I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that he does on our relationship with Brazil as the chairman of the all-party group. I genuinely believe that such Back-Bencher contributions are an essential counterpart to what we do within the Government. I wholly agree with my hon. Friend's views about the importance of the relationship between the EU and Brazil. Hopefully, if we can make progress on the EU-Mercosur agreement, that would be a significant step forward. It is clearly in our interests and in the interests of the Brazilians that President Lula's Government succeed. Finally, I am sure that the Foreign Secretary has heard my hon. Friend's request.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

There has been a lot of talk about reforming the United Nations. Does the Minister envisage a time when countries such as Brazil, or indeed India, will become members of the Security Council, or is it Her Majesty's Government's line that there can be any reform of the UN provided that the existing Security Council membership stays static?

Photo of Bill Rammell Bill Rammell Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I think that the hon. Gentleman is aware of our current policy, which is to be in favour of expansion of the permanent membership of the Security Council. Brazil is currently a non-permanent member of the Security Council. Nevertheless, we believe that in an expanded permanent membership, Brazil is the pre-eminent country from Latin America, and we would be content with that position.

Photo of Andrew Dismore Andrew Dismore Labour, Hendon

May I tell my hon. Friend that I was also a member of the delegation to Brazil? While there, we had the opportunity of visiting the vice-consul in Sao Paulo who had responsibility for dealing with the very serious drugs trade, which passes through Brazil to the UK. While there is good co-operation between the Brazilian authorities and our people in Brazil in dealing with the drugs trade and they have had considerable success, there is little doubt that they are significantly overstretched. Will my hon. Friend talk to the Chancellor to see whether anything can be done to improve the staffing of Customs and Excise officers in Brazil to tackle the drugs trade? We could then have significantly greater success with comparatively little extra investment.

Photo of Bill Rammell Bill Rammell Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I certainly agree that drugs trafficking is a significant problem. At present, we fund 100 drugs liaison officers who work out of our posts around the world, but we can always look to do more. I shall pass on my hon. Friend's comments, and I assure him that we keep the matter under active review.