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Volume 569: debated on Tuesday 29 October 2013

13. What recent discussions he has had with the Colombian Government regarding human rights and peace talks in that country. (900742)

The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and I met President Santos during his visit to London in June and discussed a range of subjects, including the peace process and its potential to improve respect for human rights. Officials from our embassy in Colombia regularly make representations to the Colombian Government on human rights cases.

The Minister of State recently told the House he would make representations to the Colombian Government regarding the arrest of leading trade unionist Huber Ballesteros. Will the Minister update us on what progress has been made, including a possible visit to Mr Ballesteros in prison, and what does he think the future holds for trade unionists and others in terms of human rights in Colombia?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are aware of the detention of Mr Ballesteros. He was detained on 25 August. Our ambassador to Colombia wrote to the Colombian prosecutor-general on 28 August highlighting our interest in the case and requesting information on the charges. Staff at our embassy in Bogota are seeking permission to visit Mr Ballesteros in prison.

The hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Jim Sheridan) does much to champion the cause of Colombian trade unions, but does the Minister agree that it is more important to protect British citizens from the flow of illegal drugs from Colombia, and will he therefore tell the House what discussions he has had with the Colombian narcotics team about how to stop this flow of illegal and damaging drugs?

Order. I think not, actually. That is a very important matter, but it does not directly relate to human rights or peace talks. The Minister of State requires no encouragement, and on this occasion I do not wish to offer him any.