Labour MPs rang the alarm bells today after a government minister suddenly admitted that Britain's armed forces are co-operating with the brutal army of death-ravaged Colombia.
Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne blurted out the revelation as he was replying to an impassioned parliamentary debate on severe violations of human rights in the Latin American country.
Labour MP and former foreign office minister Chris Bryant shouted: "That is new!" and then leapt to his feet to challenge Mr Browne.
"The minister refers to co-operation between the British military and the Colombian military," said Mr Bryant. "That is a new policy of this government."
He demanded more information and asked how much the military co-operation was costing Britain.
At this point the Foreign Office advisers sitting behind the minister went into a fluster and the minister gulped.
"We are completely committed to strong human rights in Colombia," Mr Browne said.
"We wish the military to be a normalised military that protects and observes human rights rather than being a military that on occasions risks and abuses human rights."
Labour MP Jim Sheridan launched the Westminster Hall debate with a tragic account of human rights abuses in Colombia, accusing the country's army of continued "complicity" in atrocities.
Mr Sheridan noted the promise of "widespread reforms" from Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who has been on a two-day visit to Britain this week.
He added: "I hope soon we will see President Santos's words converted into action. We have for too long had our intelligence insulted by soothing words."
Nearly 3,000 trade unionists had been killed in the last 25 years and a further 23 had been killed this year, he said.
"No-one has been brought to book for the thousands of civilians executed in cold blood by the soldiers," protested Mr Sheridan.
Labour members are now putting down urgent questions demanding to know the extent of British-Colombian military co-operation.
Prime Minister Cameron welcomed President Santos to Number 10 Downing Street on Monday, telling him: "It's great to have you here."
Mr Cameron added: "I think Colombia and the United Kingdom have a very strong partnership, but it's a partnership we want to see grow even stronger."
Discussions on the economy and politics had taken place and a new agreement on human rights had been signed, he said.
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