Thursday 7th February 2019

(5 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alan Duncan Portrait Sir Alan Duncan
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If that were to work, we would all absolutely welcome it. Any influence that can be brought to bear should be used, out of basic human decency. This is not an ideological conflict, although some who seem to be more inclined to support Maduro than is the rest of the world have been accused of guilt on a number of counts—of supporting economic insanity, of indifference to intense human suffering, of a refusal to accept any measures to alleviate it, of an adherence to an ideology and a hatred for any leadership that is offered by the United States and the western world. Those attitudes have to be set aside. If there can be a practical course of action along the lines that the hon. Gentleman describes, we should encourage it. That is what is needed. We need this man to hand over power to the legitimate authorities in Venezuela so that his people can be rescued.

Jim Cunningham Portrait Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab)
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The Minister mentioned the fact that food aid is being blockaded. Are there any alternative plans to get the food aid through to the Venezuelan people? There is also the issue of Venezuela’s gold reserves in Turkey that has been mentioned in press reports. What is the position in relation to that?

Alan Duncan Portrait Sir Alan Duncan
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I hope that pressure from neighbouring countries can have some effect in getting humanitarian aid in. Looking at the pictures we saw on our screens yesterday, I think it inevitable that there will be ever-deepening popular outrage in Venezuela itself that is likely to express itself increasingly strongly if Maduro remains in denial about humanitarian aid to the point of blocking it and forcing his people to starve in front of the world’s television cameras at the border.

On gold, there are gold reserves held by the Bank of England. It holds them under a contract; it is entirely down to the Bank, as an independent Bank of England. It is nothing to do with this Government. We are not empowered to, nor should we in any way attempt to, influence the decision of the Bank of England. I am sure that the Bank will be looking at unfolding events in Venezuela to work out who is legitimate and who is not.