DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – PIRACY – 1 June 2009

Dr Julian Lewis: Will the Minister confirm that if the Royal Navy comes under armed attack from pirates, it is entitled to use lethal force immediately? Will he also confirm that if the Royal Navy captures armed pirates, there is no longer any risk of their claiming asylum, and that they will instead be handed over to the nearest appropriate jurisdiction?

[The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Bob Ainsworth): We have looked into that question, and made sure that the Royal Navy has rules of engagement sufficient for the tasks that we ask it to do. In any circumstances, it can always defend itself if it comes under attack. The hon. Gentleman knows that to be true, because he knows a considerable amount about this subject. We have no intention of providing a taxi service for asylum seekers through the Royal Navy. We have received the co-operation of countries in the area – Kenya, in particular, as I have said – in bringing these people to justice. We will take robust action, and we are also helping with the biggest single effort being made at the moment – the co-ordination of the many different nations operating in the area. There are Russian and Chinese ships in the area, as well as those of NATO countries, and they are all prepared to co-operate and to co-ordinate their activities. The Royal Navy has provided a superb facility in assisting and enabling that co-operation to take place.]