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Mr. Alton : Does the Foreign Secretary accept that there is concern among many hon. Members about the failure to extradite Mr. Ryan? When he raises the matter with the Belgian and Irish Governments, will he also bear in mind that this does at least present us now with the opportunity to press for European Community-wide legislation to combat terrorism? Does he agree that, in accord with the concept of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, it would be far

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better to underpin our joint determination to fight terrorism if that legislation were jointly enacted by the House and the Dail?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I can understand the force of the general case made by the hon. Gentleman, but no part of the law has so far been more carefully preserved for national enactment and consideration than the criminal codes. There are wide variations between the countries of the Community in respect of criminal law, so it is all the more important for us to secure effective, sustained and workable co-operation in arrangements for extradition and matters of that kind. It is important that both partners to the Anglo-Irish Agreement should recognise that we have a joint, sustained and important interest in achieving effective action in the courts against terrorism.

Sir John Stokes : Will my right hon. and learned Friend ask the Council of Ministers if it could forcefully instruct the Commission against interfering in petty and stupid details? Is he aware, for instance, that English sterling silver, which is unequalled throughout the world, has recently had its hallmark stopped by some faceless EEC bureaucrat and an EEC number substituted?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : It is our constant purpose to diminish the number of regulations applying throughout Europe. It is for that reason that we recognise the case, in certain examples, for having a single common European standard rather than 12 diverse different ones. I shall consider the point raised by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Mullin : Is not the main obstacle in persuading other European Governments to help us with effective extradition the widespread belief that an Irish person charged with a terrorist offence cannot hope to receive a fair trial in this country? Is that not boosted by the conviction of the six innocent people for the Birmingham pub bombing and the 11 innocent people held in connection with the Guildford and Woolwich pub bombings? If we wish to occupy the moral high ground and to work out effective extradition procedures, would it not be best to face the fact that, in those cases, we have made a terrible mistake?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : It cannot be stated too clearly and too often that all sides and all nations that are concerned with the intensely difficult struggle against well-organised terrorism have an equally important interest in the effectiveness of action to bring terrorists to trial, and in the justice of the trial proceedings when they take place. There is no doubt about that. One of the purposes of the exchanges that we have throughout Europe and through the Anglo-Irish Agreement is to promote progress on both those fronts. The patterns for scrutiny of decisions of the courts in this country, subject as they are, in due course, to the European Commission on Human Rights, will stand comparison with those anywhere in the world. If we are seeking to enhance confidence in the British system of justice, the hon. Gentleman should think twice before advancing some of the allegations that he has put forward this afternoon.

Sir Anthony Meyer : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in matters concerning the European Community, as in other matters of foreign policy, he enjoys a degree of admiration and support that extends well beyond Conservative Benches? Does he agree that

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there is no need to set up another body to give my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the sort of foreign policy advice that Sir Horace Wilson gave to Neville Chamberlain?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I do not think that any such body is in contemplation.

Ms. Short : The Foreign Secretary will know that there has been speculation that the EEC might take an initiative to back a two-stage solution in the middle east. What is the Government's view about that? There is a real chance now of peace between the Palestinians and Israel, but his remarks earlier this afternoon were incredibly biased. The degree of terror that Israel is using in the Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza should be denounced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, just as he has denounced the acts in which Palestinian individuals have engaged. There is a chance for peace. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take a lead? Will Europe take a lead?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Lady should recall that last week in Brussels, at the end of a long discussion on the subject by the Foreign Ministers of the Community, not only yesterday in New York, we all recorded our unanimous view that what has happened in Algiers represents a positive step forward, to which there should be an Israeli response. We recorded our continuing concern, which we have expressed many times, at the implications of the violence that is committed by the Israeli Government and Israeli forces in the occupied territories. We deplore violence of whatever sort that is committed by either side. We look for a positive response from both sides to get a conference working through which it will be possible to arrive at a solution.

United States of America

8. Mr. Rowe : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last visited the United States of America ; and what matters were discussed.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I last visited the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly in September. A range of issues were discussed with those I saw there.

Mr. Rowe : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is enormously important, at the start of a new presidency, that relations between western Europe and the United States should be as warm as possible? If it is true that there is a 1 : 3 imbalance between the conventional forces of the Warsaw pact and those of NATO, should not the contributions of the Americans to NATO be recognised? Should not that prove something of a spur to western European countries to make greater contributions themselves?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend is entirely right to say that, in the context of our continued maintenance of the Atlantic Alliance for our effective defence, burden-sharing is the most important item on the agenda. I have no doubt that the new President of the United States will address himself to the American aspect of that. It is important that the European partners should be ready to play their full part to sustain the strength of the Alliance.

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Mr. Grocott : Does the Foreign Secretary share my relief at the fact that the deeply embarrassing client relationship between the Prime Minister and President Reagan is coming to an end? Does he share my hope that under the new President--I hope that he will use his influence to ensure this--we shall start again to pursue an independent foreign policy of our own and cease to be a satellite state of the United States?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman lives in a land of illusion. One of the most important features of British foreign policy in the past decade has been the growing influence of Her Majesty's Government under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the United States as well as in the European Community. I hope very much that that effective relationship will continue with the new President.

Persian Gulf

9. Mr. Arbuthnot : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has on the prospects for peace in the Persian Gulf area.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave) : We welcome the continuation of the ceasefire and of talks between Iran and Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary- General, who enjoys our full support. Our objective remains a just and comprehensive settlement through full implementation of Security Council resolution 598.

Mr. Arbuthnot : Does my hon. Friend agree that in spite of the major difficulties that we have had with both the countries involved it is important that Britain should try to maintain a balanced relationship with Iraq and Iran?

Mr. Waldegrave : My hon. Friend is right. Neither country conducts its affairs in ways that would meet with the approval of this House, but both are important regional powers and we cannot ignore their existence or their importance in their regions.

Mr. Cohen : Will the Minister investigate the claim that Iran has started a new wave of killings of political prisoners in Kerman prison and others? It is reported that 50 leading members of the Tudeh party and a total of 5,000 political prisoners have been killed recently. Will he investigate that matter urgently?

Mr. Waldegrave : I have seen the reports to which the hon. Gentleman refers. There are serious human rights problems in Iran still. We have our own problems as Mr. Cooper and Mr. Nichola are prisoners there who should be released or brought to trial. They should be released.

South Africa

10. Mr. Bellingham : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to visit South Africa.

Mrs. Chalker : My right hon. and learned Friend has no present plans to do so.

Mr. Bellingham : When the Minister visits South Africa, she will have a chance to enter our embassy in either Cape Town or Pretoria. When she visits it, she will be able to come and go in peace, in stark contrast to South Africa

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House, where diplomats and visitors are verbally abused, jostled and harassed by hooligans with loudhailers. Surely it is time to remove the picket. Will she have urgent discussions with the Home Secretary about that?

Mrs. Chalker : I regret all demonstrations that disrupt law and order on our streets. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. The issue of demonstrators outside embassies is a matter for the Metropolitan police and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I will bring my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Flannery : When the Minister goes to South Africa again, will she raise the issue of the number of black people who are jostled and harassed in South Africa by the Botha Government and by the incoming Tory Government in South Africa? Will she mention the number of people still being hanged every morning in South Africa? Will she raise all the issues which a whole number of people on the Government Benches who travel to South Africa, paid for by the South African Government, never raise at all and clearly agree with?

Mrs. Chalker : I think that the hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to realise that I will take every opportunity provided to me to raise those cases which we believe, and have consistently believed, should be raised with the South African Government. In fact, I did that during a private weekend visit when I spent most of that weekend in the three townships of Soweto, Mamelodi and Alexandra, when I saw the conditions for myself. I also saw the help that the British Government are giving to black people in South Africa in health, education, housing and training. Where cases involve internal matters in South Africa, we can raise those with Ministers, but we cannot direct them in what to do. The people have elected that Government, even though it is a minority white Government.

Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe

Mr. Chapman : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress of, and the present position on, the Vienna review conference on security and co- operation in Europe.

Mr. Waldegrave : Provisional agreement has been reached on a large number of issues at the Vienna CSCE meeting, including useful new commitments in human rights. We hope that it can be concluded soon, but we continue to believe that the right result is more important than an early result.

Mr. Chapman : In welcoming the further progress that has been made, may I ask my hon. Friend to confirm that there are still some basic human rights issues outstanding and that until the Warsaw pact countries unambiguously accept some of those basic human rights, not least the freedoms of religion, travel and visiting, no meaningful purpose can be served by starting the conventional stability talks? Does he agree that there is an opportunity to make that point precisely within the next fortnight during the very welcome visit by President Gorbachev to this country?

Mr. Waldegrave : My hon. Friend is quite right. My right hon. Friend will be making those points when President Gorbachev visits Britain. There has been

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progress in the Soviet Union, but there is still much more to be made. As my hon. Friend knows, in other Warsaw pact countries, such as Romania, no progress is being made--as many hon. Members on both sides of the House have written to me to emphasise--and there have been important steps backwards in human rights.

Mr. Lamond : Are the Government maintaining their determination not to agree to a third meeting of the committee on human relations, which is proposed to be held in Moscow? Are we maintaining resistance to that on the grounds that, although in eastern Europe they are extending human rights quite a lot, and certainly will have done so by 1991, we in Britain are moving in the opposite direction?

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Mr. Waldegrave : The hon. Gentleman is free to experiment in Romania if he considers that is preferable. We have the greatest scepticism about the Moscow human rights conference. Many groups of people concerned with human rights on both sides of the Iron Curtain have written to us to urge caution. On the other hand, as Mr. Sakharov said, if it is accompanied by the right conditions it might well be an opportunity for further progress. We shall look at the conditions on offer, and we shall make up our minds then. Until the last minute before that conference takes place, if things go backwards we shall reserve the right to withdraw from it.

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