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House of Commons

Wednesday 30 November 1988

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Oral Answers to Questions


Chemical Weapons

1. Mr. Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to his Iraqi counterpart on the use of chemical weapons against its Kurdish population.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe) : We have repeatedly condemned Iraq for its use of chemical weapons. I made that absolutely clear to the Iraqi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs on 21 September, as did my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster at the highest level in Baghdad earlier this month. We noted with concern last week's television documentary containing further reports of Iraqi CW use in August. It underlines the importance of the international conference to be held in Paris in January to reaffirm the authority of the 1925 Geneva protocol banning CW use.

Mr. Atkinson : As it is now clear that Iraq has perpetrated the most appalling atrocities on its Kurdish population by using poisonous gas, does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that to seek better relations with Iraq at this time is to send a mixed message, namely, that Iraq can get away with genocide in violation of the Geneva protocol to which it is a party? Will my right hon. and learned Friend raise the matter with our European colleagues at the forthcoming Rhodes conference?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : We have certainly been appalled by the suffering inflicted as a result of the large-scale displacement of Kurds from their homes in Iraq. We have proclaimed the evidence of CW use as compelling but not conclusive. It is clear that Iraq has a case to answer, and we have been in the forefront of pressing that case in respect of those barbaric weapons. We want a total ban--that is the importance of the Paris conference.

As to the second part of my hon. Friend's question, there is no way that the Iraqis could have misunderstood the firmness of our position on chemical weapons. As I said, it was underlined by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he was in Iraq a short time ago.

In such a situation, one can do one of two things. One can isolate Iraq and make its unacceptable behaviour more likely, or one can try to establish and maintain a working relationship, to make clear our very strong views on that

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aspect of Iraq's behaviour. This matter is one of constant concern. Last week I told the House that it will be permanently on the international agenda, so it may be discussed in one form or another at the Rhodes summit.

Mrs. Clwyd : Why does the Foreign Secretary not follow the lead of the United States Congress, which, when it reconvenes in January, will impose economic sanctions against Iraq? Why will the British Government not do the same? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not see any inconsistency between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office condemning violations of human rights in Iraq, and the Department of Trade and Industry stitching up massive trade agreements with that country without once mentioning the subject of human rights?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : In the last part of her question the hon. Lady misses the central point of my main answer. During the course of my right hon. Friend's visit to Baghdad he took the opportunity to emphasise how strongly we feel about the use of chemical weapons and the importance that we attach to the matter. The hon. Lady is wrong to believe that the United States Congress has passed sanctions legislation. It has not done so. The American Administration are opposed to sanctions, and we believe that that is entirely consistent. It is not likely that any effective consequence will follow from the unilateral imposition of economic sanctions in this case. It would not prevent the use of chemical weapons by Iraq. We shall continue pressing the case as vigorously and energetically as we have done already, being in the forefront of those pressing it, we shall continue in that fashion.

Mr. Bowis : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, apart from a stop to this hideous practice, what the Kurdish people need most is humanitarian aid from the world community? Will he make a commitment on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that that will be forthcoming as a matter of urgency?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend is entirely right. The exodus that has taken place has created a major humanitarian problem. We have already contributed some £250,000 for humanitarian assistance, and we have told the Turkish authorities that we are prepared to consider applications for an extension of that in the ordinary way.

Mr. Robertson : The Foreign Secretary says that evidence of Iraq's use of chemical weapons is "compelling but not conclusive"-- a grand new phrase to hide the Government's increasingly fudging position. Did he see the programme on Channel 4 last Wednesday night, which brought forward conclusive proof both of the slaughter of the Kurds in northern Iraq and of the use of deadly poisons in those attacks? Surely there is something indecent in the sight of the Foreign Office condemning the use of chemical weapons, followed by that of a Cabinet Minister going to Baghdad touting for trade and business and doubling trade credits to Iraq, without any linked condition that Iraq desist from the vile slaughter of so many people in the northern provinces.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I entirely understand the deep concern of the House at the allegations of the use of chemical weapons, but I deny absolutely any impression that the United Kingdom has not been in the van of those

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pressing this case. In fact, we have been simultaneously denounced by many people in the Arab world for being so far in the forefront of the attack. We have sustained our position. It was we who took the matter up in the United Nations and pressed for an authoritative independent investigation, and we should still like such an investigationas c to take place, but we have received insufficient support from our colleagues in the United Nations. We were ready to welcome Iraq's undertaking not to use chemical weapons either inside or outside the country, given as a result of our representations, and we shall continue to press the case. But it would be wholly foolish, when the rest of the world is continuing to maintain trading relations with a large and important country, for us single-handed and unilaterally to make such a protest.

The House must understand that we are maintaining contact with Iraq and pressing the case against chemical weapons. We are looking at any evidence that is forthcoming, and we are acting more energetically and effectively than any other country.

United Nations

2. Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what subjects were discussed at recent meetings between Her Majesty's ambassador at the United Nations and the new President of the General Assembly.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : No such meeting has yet taken place. However, Dr. Caputo, in his capacity as Chairman of the United Nations General Assembly, has asked to see our permanent representative to the United Nations, Sir Crispin Tickell. The invitation has been accepted, but no date has yet been fixed.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Are we warming to the Argentines?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : We have been pressing on the Argentines initiative after initiative for movements towards the

re-establishment of more normal relations. As I have said many times, the table of my opposite number is groaning with the weight of fresh proposals. For example, as long ago as 1982 we removed all financial and trading discrimination, but the Argentines' response has been disappointing. They are continuing to discriminate against British goods and firms despite all that we have tried to do to press them in the opposite direction.

We are still trying--as I told the House that we were in 1986--to see whether it is possible to establish a multilateral framework for the management of fisheries disputes. We have been looking constantly for a way of normalising relations, but sadly there has been an insufficient response.

Sir Peter Blaker : Will my right hon. and learned Friend convey to the President of the General Assembly and to the United States Administration the dismay of many hon. Members on both sides of the House who are well disposed towards the United Nations at the refusal of a visa to Mr. Yasser Arafat? The Palestine National Council in Algiers went a long way towards accepting the existence of the state of Israel and United Nations resolutions 242 and 338, and this decision is likely to make the task of the moderates in the PLO more difficult.

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Sir Geoffrey Howe : My right hon. Friend has made an important point very clearly and effectively. We took the opportunity during yesterday's debate to make entirely clear our view that Mr. Arafat should have been allowed to address the General Assembly, and that that was the legal obligation of the United States under the headquarters agreement. We should have liked to hear him confirm there the very point made by my right hon. Friend--that the PLO supports an international conference on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and rejects terrorism.

The additional point that is vexing Opposition Members is this. We want a positive response from the United States on this matter. We pressed the substance of the resolution in our own statement and we supported the statement that was made by the Twelve to achieve it, but we did not think that we were likely to bring about a change in the United States attitude by supporting a resolution couched in intemperate language. We have made our position absolutely clear. There is a mutuality of obligation in the United Nations. The host country owes an obligation to the Establishment, and the Establishment owes a duty to the United States. I invite the House to acknowledge that we have pressed this case and that we shall continue to do so as vigorously as is required.

Mr. Steel : Surely the Secretary of State accepts that intemperate action is worse in foreign affairs than intemperate language. That is what we have seen by the United States in its refusal of the visa. Those of us who have had contact with the PLO over the years have urged the recognition of United Nation resolutions such as No. 242. Now that that recognition is forthcoming, it is lamentable that the visa has been refused. The British ambassador should be given more robust instructions than simply to abstain from voting.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I have made absolutely clear the extent to which we regret the refusal of the visa, and so did our spokesman in New York yesterday in concert with the representatives of the other member states. Mr. Arafat should have been allowed to address the General Assembly, but the question is how we can best move forward in the future. I am prepared to assure the House that the United Kingdom's credit with our friends in the Arab world and in the United States is substantial enough and strong enough for it to be understood when we say that Mr. Arafat should have been heard, and we say it in language that is more likely to produce a positive response from the United States.

Mr. Lawrence : Is it not patently obvious that if Mr. Arafat and the PLO were serious about peace with Israel they would explicitly recognise the existence of the state of Israel, rather than just hint at it, that they would explicitly renounce violence--which they do not even hint at-- and that they would not explicitly demand that the capital of the Palestinian state should be Jerusalem?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. and learned Friend is right to remind the House of the familiar conditions for the debate to go forward, but it is also right to acknowledge, as we have, that the statements that have emerged from the Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers are important moves in a positive direction and should be acknowledged as such. It is for that reason that we left the United Nations in no doubt, and now leave the House in

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no doubt, that we think that Mr. Arafat should have been heard. It would have been an opportunity for him to make clear to the United Nations the PLO's explicit acceptance of my hon. and learned Friend's points. We want progress to be made in that direction and we should like action to be taken by both sides. We think that yesterday the United Nations reached the right judgment on the substance but that the language used was not best calculated to produce the change of heart in the United States that we want. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) interrupts. We proposed a series of alternative wordings that we think would have been more likely to allow the United States to reach the right conclusion. However, the House should be in no doubt that the case to be made by Mr. Arafat on behalf of the PLO ought to have been heard, because the concessions and the movements that have been made in Algiers are important.

Mr. Kaufman : What a wriggling, snivelling response we have had from the Foreign Secretary. How can he offer any justification for the pusillanimous abstention by Britain yesterday in the Legal Committee when 129 nations voted in favour of a modest, sensible resolution which simply asked the United States to reconsider what it had done? Would it not have been a good idea to give Mr. Arafat the opportunity to state before the General Assembly what was implicit and clear in the Algiers declaration-- that the PLO recognises resolutions 242 and 338--and also what Mr. Faisal Awaida of the PLO said explicitly in London yesterday--that the PLO is ready to recognise the state of Israel? Is it not an abuse by the United States of its position as host to the United Nations that it should decide on domestic grounds who should be allowed to address the General Assembly of the United Nations? If indeed a past association with terrorism is a disqualification from being allowed into the United States, how did Mr. Shamir--an acknowledged former terrorist--ever get in?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The right hon. Gentleman must come back to the point that I have made repeatedly this afternoon. What the representative of Her Majesty's Government said in the United Nations yesterday is precisely as follows :

"I wish to make clear that in the view of the British Government Mr. Yasser Arafat, chairman of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, should have been allowed to come to the United Nations headquarters in New York. This is the legal obligation of the United States. My delegation endorses the opinion given on this matter by the United Nations legal council"-- [ Hon. Members : But-- ]"but just as we believe that the United States should show respect for the United Nations, so we believe that the United Nations should show respect for the United States. This mutual respect should have been reflected in the language of the resolution."

If the House wants to get effective action by the United States, which is not just an important ally but a most important actor in the Arab-Israel dispute, it makes sense for us to set about the matter in a fashion likely to produce that result.


3. Dr. Goodson-Wickes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last visited states in the Caribbean region.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Eggar) : My right hon. and learned Friend was last in the Caribbean in January 1987, when he visited Barbados for discussions with the then Prime Minister and members of his Government. I will be attending the Miami conference later this week and also visiting Jamaica, Anguilla and Montserrat.

Dr. Goodson-Wickes : What progress, if any, has been made in co- ordinating efforts to combat the appalling problem of drug trafficking in the region? Will my hon. Friend make representations on that subject during his forthcoming visit?

Mr. Eggar : My hon. Friend is right. There is a significant problem both of domestic drug growing and of trafficking, the latter being from South America through to the United States and Europe. With the United States, we initiated a joint survey of the problem. We have made a number of recommendations to Caribbean Governments. They have been followed through with a meeting in Barbados. I shall have discussions with Prime Ministers and others in the next few days about increasing co-operation even further.

There has been one setback, in that it appears that hurricane Gilbert managed to destroy almost all agricultural crops in Jamaica except the ganja crop.

Mrs. Mahon : During his visit, will the Minister consider visiting the Atlantic city of Bluefields, which has been completely destroyed by hurricane Joe? The world service recently reported that there was a major ecological disaster there. Will the Minister consider giving Bluefields aid, through the agency of the garrison at Belize, on the same scale as that provided for Jamaica?

Mr. Eggar : As the hon. Lady is aware, the Government have made well over £250,000 available to Nicaragua to assist with emergency relief. A great deal of that money has gone to the Bluefields area.


4. Mr. Macdonald : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the steps he is taking to assist a smooth transition to democracy in Chile.

Mr. Eggar : Both we and our partners in the Twelve fully support the transition to democracy in Chile. We will continue to encourage an orderly and peaceful restoration of democracy in that country.

Mr. Macdonald : I welcome the Minister's expression of support-- however subdued--for the plebiscite in Chile. He must be aware that Amnesty International has reported several trangressions of human rights in Chile since the plebiscite. That makes it clear that all Governments must give their full support to the progress of democracy in Chile. What practical steps is the Minister taking, independently of the EEC, to achieve such progress?

Mr. Eggar : The hon. Gentleman must be aware that we welcomed the result of the plebiscite in unequivocal terms, and we welcome the measures that have been taken to return to democracy in Chile. We welcome in particular the responsible attitude taken by the democratic

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Opposition during the run-up to the plebiscite and subsequent to it. The hon. Gentleman referred to human rights in Chile. We have urged privately and publicly for the Chilean Government to respect human rights. I did so most recently when I met the Chilean Foreign Minister in Quito in August. Our ambassador in Chile does so as well and I welcome in particular the Chilean Government's decision to ratify important international agreements, which they did on 15 September.

Mr. Foulkes : Does the Minister accept that the excellent plebiscite result was just a first step towards democracy? Will he confirm that when he met Ricardo Lagos, the leader of the Partido por la Democracia yesterday, he was urged that the British Government should join other European Governments, particularly at the Rhodes summit, to support further the process of the restoration of democracy and to prepare actively for co- operation with the new democratic Government in Chile? Will the Minister answer the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) and say what practical steps Her Majesty's Government intend to take over the next 12 months to support the new democracy in Chile, because it is vitally important that Britain is seen as the friend of the new democracy in Chile and not as an ally of the old, discredited dictatorship?

Mr. Eggar : It must be up to the Chileans to decide how they wish to return to democracy. That was the message that Mr. Lagos gave to me yesterday and which other democratic opposition leaders have given. We shall continue, as we have in the past, to do everything that we can to assist the return to democracy in Chile, but the primary responsibility must continue to lie with the Chilean people.

Mr. Wilkinson : Is it not noteworthy that the plebiscite was conducted fairly and that the Chilean Government intend to implement in full the provisions of the 1980 constitution, leading to elections for the national assembly and the presidency in December this year and for the transfer of power in March next year? Is the situation in Chile not markedly different from that in Peru, where there is widespread guerrilla warfare and chaos, in Brazil and Argentina, where there is hyper-inflation, and in Columbia, where the drug barons rule?

Mr. Eggar : My hon. Friend is right. Every undertaking in the 1980 constitution has been carried out to the letter by the Chilean Government and it is right that the House should recognise that.

Palestine National Council

5. Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the Palestine National Council's recent declaration in Algiers.

12. Mr. Marlow : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what has been his response to the recent Palestine National Council declaration.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : We do not believe that the declaration of a Palestinian state helps to carry matters forward. But the other decisions taken by the Palestine

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National Council represent a positive and potentially important step towards a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict.

Mr. Nicholson : Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that there is gratitude and good will from the middle east for Her Majesty's Government's balanced and positive attitude on the question--unlike that of some others that I could mention--and will he pledge that the Government will continue to pursue this matter on its merits, irrespective of external threats and blackmail, and of internal political lobbying?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend accurately sums up the position of Her Majesty's Government. We certainly seek to maintain a balanced, energetic and effective approach. We shall continue to press the case for progress on the peace process at every possible opportunity.

Mr. Marlow : While supporting totally my right hon. and learned Friend in his answer to Qn 2, at this important time when results are important and rhetoric is not, may I ask whether my right hon. and learned Friend will help to bring about those results by seeking to encourage still further the courageous initiative by the moderate Palestinians in the face of extreme Israeli provocation by seeking out an early meeting with Palestinian representatives at the highest level?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I am sure the House will wish to record the important conclusion of my hon. Friend on results and rhetoric--that is certainly our preference. He knows that we engage in regular dialogue at official levels with the PLO. It is important for the PLO to continue to clarify its position if further and wider contact is to be possible. That is one reason why we would have welcomed an opportunity for Mr. Arafat to be able to address the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr. Janner : Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the purpose of our policy in the middle east must be to encourage the promotion of peace, and that, if there is to be peace, the involvement of both sides is required? Does he further agree that if Her Majesty's Government are regarded as being entirely on one side their prospects of being of assistance in the peace process are gravely reduced? Whatever Government may result from Israel's recent turbulent election, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that neither major party there is prepared to deal with the PLO unless and until it renounces terrorism now?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, progress in the central Arab-Israeli problem depends on the response from both sides. That is why unhelpful unilateral actions by either side do not carry the matter forward. That relates to a number of actions that have been taken unilaterally by the Israeli Government. If action is to be taken by both sides, I urge the Israeli Government to echo the view of the entire House and respond positively to the steps taken by the Palestine National Council. We now look to Israel to make a parallel commitment to the peace process to match the forward movement made by the PNC in Algiers.

Mr. Ernie Ross : Surely the Foreign Secretary cannot ignore the fact that the conditions for Britain moving forward in our relationship with the PLO were laid down by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when she said

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that the PLO would have to renounce terrorism and accept resolutions 242 and 338. The Palestinians have now done that and, we understand, have done so democratically, with the minority who lost the vote accepting it publicly and completely-- with no abstentions. In an earlier reply the Foreign Secretary said that the Arab world well understands our position, but our position will not be well understood if we now start to move the goal posts. The Foreign Secretary must do something now to respond to the initiative taken by the Palestinians in Algiers.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The position is entirely clear. For a long time we and many other people have been pressing the PLO to forward movement on the points mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. We have secured an explicit rejection of terrorism--that is important. We have secured acceptance of resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis for an international conference--that is important. However, there is not yet an explicit recognition of Israel, nor is there yet a renunciation of violence in Israel and the occupied territories. We want to see those ambiguities cleared up if further progress is to be made. In response to the progress that has already been made, and which I have described as positive, we are entitled to look--and we do look--to the Government of Israel for a matching and positive response.

Mr. Cormack : If the representative of the PLO has continued difficulties in presenting his case to the United Nations, will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that there is a most admirable building across the river that would provide excellent headquarters for the General Assembly, if only for a temporary session?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The suggestion has not so far been made by anybody else, but it is certainly right that Mr. Arafat should have the opportunity to be heard. The suggestion has been canvassed of a General Assembly meeting perhaps in Geneva, and depending on the resolution there for discussion we shall determine our position. As I say, Mr. Arafat should be given the opportunity to be heard on behalf of the PLO, if only to resolve the remaining ambiguities in PLO policy.

Mr. Sillars : Am I right in saying that the Secretary of State said earlier that the dialogue will continue with the PLO at official level? Given the implications of the acceptance in the Algerian declaration, why does the Secretary of State not personally meet Yasser Arafat now?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The qualifications that are relevant in that have been clear for a long time. They include recognition of Israel's right to a secure existence and a renunciation of violence in Israel, in the occupied territories. As I have said, significant progress was made in the discussions in Algiers, but ambiguities remain, so the same considerations have to be taken into account.

Mr. Speaker : No. 6.

Mr. Faulds : Really. This is disgraceful. Two major questions.

Mr. Speaker : Order. This is disgraceful behaviour.

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6. Mr. Tredinnick : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the agreement reached in Geneva on a timetable for Cuban troops' withdrawal from Angola.

Mrs. Chalker : We have lent our full support to the United States- led negotiations. We warmly welcome the recent agreement on a timetable for Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola. We urge the parties to move forward to implementation of the United Nations plan for Namibian independence.

Mr. Tredinnick : Does my right hon. Friend agree that this agreement and the reprieve of the Sharpeville Six show that talking forcefully to the South African Government is rather more effective than sanctions or boycotts? Could she tell the House the Government's view about the possibility of a pre-independence conference about Namibia?

Mrs. Chalker : We have always advocated that dialogue and negotiations will produce the best outcomes. The tenacious advocacy of Dr. Chester Crocker and his leadership of the quadripartite talks have brought us to this successful position in respect of the Angola agreement between South Africa, Angola and Cuba. We warmly welcome the news that the Sharpeville Six have been reprieved. Hon. Members will know that we have made repeated representations on behalf of the Six, including the Prime Minister's own appeal. On the question of the future of Namibia, it is right that we should proceed on the United Nations plan, which has been agreed by all, and which will be impartially monitored by the United Nations. There is nothing to be gained and much might be lost if we were now to reopen the principles of the Security Council resolution 435. We welcome the recent direct contacts between SWAPO and leading Namibians.

Mr. Speaker : Mr. Hughes, on a point of order.

Mr. Robert Hughes : I could hardly hear the Minister's answer.

Mr. Speaker : Does the hon. Member wish to ask a question?

Mr. Hughes : Yes.

While I think we all welcome some progress in the discussions in southern Africa about Namibia, and while we welcome in addition to the Sharpeville Six reprieve the release of Harry Gwala and Zephia Mothopeng, may I ask the Minister of State whether she realises that South Africa is already prevaricating on the agreement that it purports to have reached? It is demanding that it should be part of the monitoring operation on Cuban withdrawal. It is suggesting a much later timetable and introducing fresh discussions by saying that UNITA must by involved in some discussions with the Angolan Government before Namibia is free. That has nothing to do with resolution 435 on Namibia. Will the Minister ensure that the utmost pressure, including sanctions, is maintained until South Africa can show that it can keep its word?

Mrs. Chalker : I hope that the hon. Gentleman's head is all right following the earlier incident.

On the more serious matter, we believe that the agreement will pave the way for an early implementation

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of the UN plan for Namibian independence. We also believe that the South Africans will act in good faith, but we shall judge them by their deeds. They have compelling reasons--economic, military and political--to sign the settlement that they have reached, and I believe that the terms will be acceptable. As to the creation of internal peace in Angola, there cannot be a lasting peace unless people come together. I do not believe that it is for Britain or other outside countries to prescribe how that internal peace should be brought about. I know that many African Heads of Government are seeking to help, and we sincerely hope that they will be successful in bringing about peace in Angola between all the parties.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton : Is it not surprising that, in these welcome results from the Geneva talks, no mention was made of Jonas Savimbi and UNITA, which is an important force in Angola? Will my right hon. Friend accept that, unless there is reconciliation between UNITA and the MPLA, there will be no lasting peace and stability in Southern Africa? If reconciliation can be achieved in that country, elections in Namibia can be free and fair, and following elections there, further progress and accommodation can be achieved in the Republic of South Africa.

Mrs. Chalker : Of course I believe that all parties must come together, and as one African leader said to me earlier this month, it would be difficult to negotiate with a body without a head. Therefore, it seems sensible that the process of creating international peace will require all parties to come together.

Mr. Anderson : Naturally, like the Minister, we warmly welcome the signs of movement in southern Africa, but should not the South African moves be seen in the context of the South Africans' economic difficulties? Is not their current diplomatic offensive essentially to buy time and divert opinion from their internal problems? Therefore, will the right hon. Lady assure the House that the Foreign Office will try to restrain the Prime Minister from visiting South Africa and giving a royal blessing on that country until there are real signs of movement on apartheid?

Mrs. Chalker : We are absolutely at one in wishing to see the agreements over Angola and Namibia concluded successfully and peacefully, and the progression towards achieving internal peace in Angola. As I said to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), there are compelling reasons, which should not be underestimated because they happen to be economic and political. We must judge the South African Government by their deeds. As to the speculation about the travels of my right hon. Friend, they remain that--just speculation.

Council of Ministers

7. Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will next attend a meeting of the European Community Council of Ministers ; and what subjects he expects to discuss.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The next Foreign Affairs Council will be held on 19 and 20 December. Subjects currently on the agenda are GATT, New Zealand butter and sheepmeat, hormones, Community and EFTA relations and steel tariffs.

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Mrs. Ewing : Given that today is St. Andrew's day, if not every Andrew's day, can the Foreign Secretary tell us on how many occasions he has been accompanied to the Council of Ministers by the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I have not had the pleasure of that experience. At meetings of the Council, representatives of the United Kingdom speak for the United Kingdom as a whole and the policies of Her Majesty's Government make sure that the interests of every part of the kingdom are taken into account.

Mr. Soames : In the course of those busy meetings, will my right hon. and learned Friend see whether he can raise with our partners in the EEC the pressing difficulties relating to European air traffic control? Is he aware of the tremendous inconvenience to which enormous numbers of people were put last summer? Will he do his best to try to put the matter at the top of the agenda?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : As my hon. Friend and I share the privilege of being neighbours of Gatwick airport, I share his concern about the point that he has raised. There was an effective meeting of Euro control last week at which those issues were advanced. We shall continue to press the case that he has put forward.

Rev. Martin Smyth : When the Foreign Secretary speaks to his fellow Ministers, will he underline the perhaps naive view of people in Northern Ireland that Governments are there to protect law-abiding people and to punish evildoers? Will he therefore support his right hon. Friend's comment that high-sounding declarations are not sufficient when dealing with terrorists, unless they are backed by deeds?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I shall certainly emphasise the point made by the hon. Gentleman. It is of the utmost importance that, when correct legal procedures are followed, extradition requests are prepared in consultation with another Government and no grounds are given for believing that they are incomplete or insufficient, the necessary will should be forthcoming to ensure that people who should be brought to trial do face trial.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : Will my right hon. and learned Friend take the opportunity on St. Andrew's day, which also happens to be the 114th anniversary of the birth of Winston Churchill, to remind the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) that, if her dream of secession of North Britain from Great Britain is achieved, she will also have achieved the secession of North Britain from Europe and that it will require to get over the veto of Great Britain to get back in there?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : No one could put the point as effectively as my hon. and learned Friend.

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