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House of Commons

Wednesday 8 February 1989

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Oral Answers to Questions


Palestine Liberation Organisation

1. Mr. Archer : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government have made any representations to the Palestine Liberation Organisation asking it to amend those sections of the Palestine covenant which call for Israel's destruction.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe) : Mr. Bassam Abu Sharif, a senior adviser to Mr. Yasser Arafat, has said in terms that

"the Charter of the Palestine Liberation Organisation has been superseded by the decisions of the PNC, the author of the Charter". We take every opportunity to welcome that sort of moderate statement and to urge the PLO to continue to fulfil the commitments made by Yasser Arafat at Geneva.

Mr. Archer : Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that the covenant is, by its terms, binding on all PLO spokesmen unless and until it is amended by a two thirds majority of the congress? While I hold no specific brief for the Israeli Government, will they not have a genuine problem in persuading the Israeli people that they should negotiate with people who still have it on record that they will settle for nothing less than the total destruction of Israel?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point--that the covenant has not been formerly repealed or amended, but it was described by Bassam Abu Sharif as having been "superseded" and Yasser Arafat undoubtedly takes the same view. It is important to concentrate attention on present reality. The Palestinians have moved, and the best way of testing their intentions is to negotiate. Of course the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right to say that the Palestinians need to convince the Israelis of their sincerity, and in that sense formal amendment of the covenant would be an additional help. However, I urge the Israelis to concentrate on the actual reality that has emerged.

Mr. Page : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that four other hon. Members and myself returned from the west bank and the Gaza strip on Monday? During our visit, we did not find one Palestinian who denied Israel's right to live within secure borders. Will my right hon. and

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learned Friend make every effort to persuade Israel to come to the conference table for an international peace conference to bring peace to the region?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : Of all the messages that my hon. Friend could have brought back from his visit, that which he has chosen to emphasise is certainly the most important. We all wish to see Israel achieve security behind recognised and secure boundaries--just as we want to see the right of the Palestinians to self-determination being upheld. The way to achieve that is to emphasise precisely the point made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Tony Lloyd : The Foreign Secretary may be aware that I was a member of the delegation to which the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South- West (Mr. Page) referred. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that our viewpoint is similar to that presented by the Americans in a statement this morning which most people will welcome? Will the Foreign Secretary make the point both to the Israelis and to the Americans that the Palestinians have moved, and that now is the time for the Israeli Government to go to the negotiating table so that we may begin to see the process of peace breaking out in that troubled region?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I welcome the way in which the hon. Gentleman emphasises the central point. The document published by the United States State Department to which he refers is not yet formally available, but the hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the fact that friends of Israel on both sides of the Atlantic, and in all parts of the House, for the sake of the objectives that we all have in mind for Israel, are urging the same message on the Israeli Government. That is the important point.

Mr. John Marshall : Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that so long as article 19 of the PNC exists, describing the establishment of the state of Israel as illegal, no Israeli Government will want to negotiate with the PLO? Does he also accept that so long as the PLO threatens the Arab mayor of Bethlehem with assassination and supports terrorism in the state of Israel there is little likelihood of negotiation ever starting?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I would rather add this to the points that my hon. Friend has made. So long as friends of Israel of his wisdom continue to urge their views with so little perception of changing conditions, Israel will remain in danger. I do not doubt the sincerity of my hon. Friend's commitment to Israel's peace and security. I note, however, that although the exact words used about the threat against the mayor of Bethlehem are unclear, both Arafat and Mayor Freij himself have denied that there was any thought of intimidation. If that is the reality, that is the important point to get across.

Mr. Kaufman : Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that when I saw Mr. Arafat last month he specifically said that he had been quoted inaccurately with regard to Mr. Freij, and that he regarded the mayor as a personal friend? Mr. Arafat also said that he was ready to discuss the Palestine charter with the Israelis around the international conference table, which is the proper place for such discussions.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that instead of making excuses not to talk to the Palestinians

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the Israelis ought to be concerned about the international condemnation of the violation of human rights to which the United States State Department document has drawn attention and which is a stain on the reputation of a nation which has prided itself on being a liberal democracy? Is it not about time that instead of killing and arresting Palestinians, the Israelis tried to protect and maintain their security by talking to the Palestinians and making peace with them?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The tone and style of the right hon. Gentleman's comments, added to other comments made in the House today, underline the extent to which Israel is losing both good will and time. They also underline the extent to which all the friends of Israel would like her to face the facts as described on both sides of the House and to be ready to meet the Palestinians half way.

Mr. Michael Marshall : What opportunities does my right hon. and learned Friend foresee for further direct dialogue with Mr. Yasser Arafat? Does he regard the opportunity to invite Mr. Arafat to attend the centenary conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, following the precedent of the Rome IPU conference in 1982, as a useful exercise for this country to follow?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The value of further meetings with Mr. Arafat must, I think, be judged on the basis that there is no point in promoting a cycle of meetings for their own sake although we are certainly ready to promote them when they serve a useful purpose.

Nelson Mandela

2. Mr. Caborn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make further representations to the South African authorities over the continuing imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and his colleagues sentenced at the Rivonia trial.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker) : We continue to urge the South African Government to release, immediately and unconditionally, Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners.

Mr. Caborn : Will the Minister consider making further representations, particularly in the light of discussions that I have had today with Nelson Mandela's lawyers? I gathered from those discussions that the lawyers' access to Mr. Mandela had been further reduced and that he now has even less contact with anyone outside his family than before his move to the outskirts of the prison. I believe that that move by the South African authorities, particularly after the British Government's welcoming of it, is now being interpreted as no more than a sop to the international opinion that had been building up in favour of Mandela's immediate release, and that the British Government should make further representations to the effect that the international community is not prepared to be conned in the way that the South African authorities believe that it is.

Mrs. Chalker : I repeat that we have always called for the full and unconditional release of Nelson Mandela, not to the place where he is currently held. I note what the hon. Gentleman said about his telephone conversation this morning and later this afternoon I will take up the matters

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that he has raised. A great deal would be achieved by the unconditional release of all political detainees. A start would be made towards negotiation and dialogue and the renunciation of violence by all who have perpetrated it both within South Africa and across its borders. Until Nelson Mandela is released unconditionally, together with other prisoners, I do not believe that we shall see the signal for which the whole world is waiting.

Mr. Gardiner : Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that a great many Conservative Members also hope that Nelson Mandela will be released, if only to break the log jam blocking constructive dialogue with moderate leaders such as Chief Buthelezi? Will she also note that the process would be greatly encouraged if Nelson Mandela's release could be linked with some relaxation of international sanctions?

Mrs. Chalker : We have always felt that to create a climate in which a dialogue could succeed there would have to be a suspension of violence on all sides and that it would have to be in the context of the unconditional release of all political detainees. There is still a long way to go. I do not believe that we should alter our position unilaterally until we see real progress in South Africa, for which we long and for which we continue to work.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Why should the South African authorities take any notice of British urging which is merely an empty gesture? Is not the simple truth that the South African Government and the South African authorities persist in waving two fingers at the rest of the world because they do not want to respond in any way? Why will the Government not now act and actually do something?

Mrs. Chalker : Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman is adopting a very simple approach to a very complex problem. There is absolutely no doubt that the British Government's recommendations are listened to. I believe firmly that we played a major part in securing the abandonment of plans for new foreign funding legislation and that that has had a quite profound effect, but we await the full results.

Mr. Cran : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Her Majesty's Government are actively promoting development among the black community in South Africa, as evidenced by the fact that Her Majesty's Government are committing £25 million to development, including the provision of 650 scholarships? Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that Her Majesty's Government are co-operating with other EEC countries on further initiatives? Would she care to speculate as to why the Opposition continually prefer to ignore those facts?

Mrs. Chalker : My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the size of the current scholarship programme. The number of scholarships for black South Africans is to rise by the end of 1991 to about 1,000. We want to give positive assistance. I further note that the help being given to black South Africans is greatly welcomed in South Africa and by many other people. I hope that the new realism that we are beginning to see in southern Africa about the positive measures being taken to help black South Africans will soon be appreciated by Opposition Members.

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3. Mr. Wallace : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet a representative of the Turkish Government to discuss human rights issues.

Mrs. Chalker : My right hon. and learned Friend and I both discussed Turkey's human rights record with the new Turkish ambassador last week. We have no immediate plans to meet any other representative of the Turkish Government.

Mr. Wallace : I am grateful to the right hon. Lady and would be interested to learn the response to her representations. Is it not the case that, although Turkey has now signed both United Nations and European conventions against torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, there are disturbing reports coming out of Turkey about people being arrested, held incomunicado in detention and tortured? Will not our efforts to bring pressure to bear on the eastern bloc countries on human rights issues be compromised so long as an accusing finger can be pointed at one of our NATO allies?

Mrs. Chalker : I understand the hon. Gentleman very well. There is no doubt that the accusations made in recent reports about the violation of human rights are both serious and disturbing. We have urged the Turkish Government to investigate the alleged abuses. Although there has been some improvement in recent years, the Turkish Government will have to make further efforts to eradicate torture and to adhere to the conventions that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. We shall continue to press them to do so. The Turkish Government may have taken some steps, but there is still a long way to go.

Mr. Moss : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Turkey can never be accepted as a member of the European Community until the transition to democracy is complete and its record on human rights is as good as those in the rest of western Europe?

Mrs. Chalker : As my hon. Friend knows, the Turkish application was referred to the Commission for an opinion in April 1987. We await that opinion and when it comes the Council of Ministers shall take into account all the relevant factors, including Turkey's human rights record. We hope that in the intervening period that record will continue to improve.

Mr. Bernie Grant : Can the Minister tell us whether Turkey's terrible human rights record makes any difference to that country's standing in NATO or to the British Government's position in relation to Cyprus?

Mrs. Chalker : I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about Cyprus. He will know, of course, that what the Turks want in Cyprus is what others want--a reunified state with a federal structure. It does not matter whether the conditions that we are talking about exist in Cyprus, in Turkey or anywhere else--there should be respect for human rights.

Mr. Conway : Does my right hon. Friend not agree that Turkey has made substantial progress towards solidifying her fledgling democracy and that it ill becomes hon. Members to forget that Turkey is a valuable member of

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NATO? We should support Turkey in making progress towards a more solid democracy and, one hopes, towards membership of the EEC.

Mrs. Chalker : My hon. Friend is absolutely right that Turkey is a close and most important NATO ally. He is also right when he says that democracy is taking firm root in Turkey. Elections held there about 14 months ago were regarded as free and fair by European Parliament observers. That is a good start, but there is no doubt that there is still great concern about human rights in Turkey. I know that my hon. Friend shares those concerns. We urge Turkey to continue to monitor what is going on and to curb excesses, if there are any, so that torture is eliminated and human rights respected.

Mr. Robertson : Will the Minister tell her hon. Friends that the NATO Alliance was created to defend freedom and not to crush it? Instead of exhorting the Turkish authorities to make efforts to stop torture, the Government should tell them to stop torture immediately. Why do the Government not make it clear to Turkey that as an absolute precondition before its application to join the European Community will even be considered it must immediately stop all torture in its prisons, release all those imprisoned for non-violent political activities, and repeal those parts of the penal code which deny fair trials and limit trade union and political activity? If the Government do not make those demands we must conclude that the Conservative party has lost interest in human rights as a matter of principle and is interested in them only as a matter of prejudice.

Mrs. Chalker : I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Conservative party fully supports the convention on human rights and is opposed to torture. As I said, in the past week both my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have made this clear to the new Turkish ambassador. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has also made that clear. We will not comment on the application of Turkey to become a member of the European Community until we have studied the Commission's opinion. We attach importance to our relationship with Turkey and we are keen to see progress, but we are likewise keen to see the cessation of torture and the recognition and proper upholding of human rights in Turkey. We shall do everything to encourage the Turkish Government to achieve that. I know that they would wish to do so, but there is still considerable doubt.

Vietnamese Refugees

4. Mr. Sims : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress Her Majesty's Government have made in consultations with other Governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to further the initiative to resettle Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong, announced by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State on 22 December 1988.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : We have launched a vigorous diplomatic campaign urging other resettlement countries to respond generously to our initiative. At our request, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has undertaken to do the same. It is too early to say what the outcome of our campaign will be, but initial responses have been encouraging.

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Mr. Sims : In negotiations with other Governments, will my right hon. and learned Friend emphasise that we have not only a humanitarian responsibility towards those original boat people, many of whom have been in camps in Hong Kong for 10 years, but a moral responsibility to the people and Government of the greatly overpopulated territory of Hong Kong who have housed and fed those genuine refugees?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : Yes, it is entirely right to emphasise those points. The people and Government of Hong Kong have responded consistently and effectively to the demands and pressures resulting from the inflow of boat people. That is another reason, in addition to the humanitarian reason, for seeking to promote the programme as effectively as we can.

Mr. Tom Clarke : If this tragic problem continues to be addressed at the present slow pace, will it not remain with us up to and beyond 1997, and is that not an appalling prospect?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I know of his long-standing concern about this problem. It is because of our strong wish to see the problem resolved on a time scale which finishes ahead of 1997 that we have been taking the decisions and steps that we have.

Mr. Wells : Are not the Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong principally refugees in the sense that they are economic migrants from an extremely poor standard of living in Vietnam to richer pastures in Hong Kong and through Hong Kong to other metropolitan countries? Would it not, therefore, be sensible to conduct robust negotiations with the Vietnamese Government with a view to the resettlement of these people in Vietnam?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the cause of the problem. It is undoubtedly because of the economic migration factor that it has been right to introduce the pattern of screening now in place, with the advice of the UNHCR, so as to identify the genuine refugees and encourage the re-establishment of the others in Vietnam. We have held a number of rounds of talks with Vietnamese officials and I have twice raised the matter at ministerial level. We have emphasised the need for effective arrangements to be made for the reception of these people back in their homeland.

Rev. Martin Smyth : How vigorous is vigorous and how encouraging is encouraging if, after 10 years, people are still confined to camps, which is surely no better than palatial house arrest?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The fact that it has proved so difficult to sustain the prospects for onward movement of the boat people in the face of the sudden upsurge in their number in the past two years has emphasised the need to introduce changes which check the prospect of indefinite growth and serve to reduce the numbers to a manageable proportion while giving us the prospect of being able to persuade other countries to join us in tackling the problem while it is still of a measurable size.

Mr. Greg Knight : Given that 20,000 Indo-Chinese have been admitted to this country since 1979, including over 13,000 Vietnamese refugees from Hong Kong, do not the

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facts speak for themselves? Do not the Government have an honourable record in admitting these people, bearing in mind the other immigration pressures that we face?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out. Given the huge pressures from other directions, our record in respect of this group of people has been important. In view of the diminishing prospects for the reception of more such people around the world, it was necessary and right for us to give a signal to future boat people that they could not keep on flowing into Hong Kong in search of a future that could not and would not exist.

El Salvador

5. Mr. McAllion : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of the United States of America concerning international co-operation on the conditions under which the next elections will take place in El Salvador.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Timothy Eggar) : None, Sir

Mr. McAllion : That is a very disappointing answer. Can the Minister tell us why the Government have not taken steps to persuade and encourage the Governments of El Salvador and the United States to consider seriously the proposal from the FMLN to postpone elections for six months to create conditions for free and fair elections which would allow the FMLN to participate and, more important, would allow all sides to abide by the result of the elections?

Mr. Eggar : Of course, we welcome any sign that the FMLN is prepared to take part in the electoral process. Any delay in the election date is a matter for the Salvadorians to decide upon. The FMLN announced originally that it was prepared to avoid military action for about five days around the election date. This has recently been extended. The democratic parties within El Salvador will doubtless consider the proposals, but the decision is for El Salvador, not for the United Kingdom or for the United States.

Mr. Jacques Arnold : Will my hon. Friend consider that perhaps one of the most conducive ways to bring about a good election in El Salvador would be for the FMLN to announce an indefinite cease-fire which would allow a democratic election to take place and would also allow the successor Government to tackle the problem of human rights abuse, not least the activities of the death squads?

Mr. Eggar : I agree completely with my hon. Friend. The FMLN has conducted operations that have harmed and killed innocent civilians. It has sought deliberately to intimidate and murder local mayors. That is not the way to make the atmosphere conducive for democratic elections.

Mr. Corbyn : Does not the Minister realise that abuses of human rights in El Salvador are largely due to the activities of the death squads and that there is now an opportunity, perhaps for the first time for many years, of getting a genuine move towards peace? Does the Minister agree that the FMLN proposal to postpone elections for

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six months would allow peace to return so that there may be a proper, free and democratic election campaign? What we are asking is that the Minister uses his influence on the United States Government and on the Government of El Salvador to get them to consider seriously the proposal to allow peace to return so that elections can be held. He cannot take a hands-off approach if he supports the Government.

Mr. Eggar : We are concerned about and condemn the activities of the death squads. However, we are confident that the El Salvador Government do not encourage or condone such activities. President Duarte has recently condemned extremist activity from both the Left and the Right. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would also criticise the FMLN. The fact is that it has made indiscriminate use of land mines, and there have been summary executions, kidnappings, car bombings and the deliberate killing of mayors. The United Nations special representative had noted that those actions were the deliberate policy of the FMLN.

Mr. Foulkes : Will the Minister look to the future rather than the past and give a wholehearted welcome to the FMLN peace offer, all the more so because it was unexpected? Will he consider ways in which the good offices of the United Kingdom, of our European partners and, above all, of the United States--which has a particularly strong role in El Salvador--can be used to try to get the elections postponed and the offer considered seriously?

Surely the hon. Gentleman agrees that, whoever is elected the next president of El Salvador, it will be better for him to be the president of a country at peace in September than of a country ravaged by civil war in March.

Mr. Eggar : I have already made it clear that the timing of the election is a matter for the people of El Salvador and the democratic parties within El Salvador. My understanding is that the Government there are considering the latest proposal from the FMLN. I dare say that when the hon. Gentleman goes to San Salvador he will be able to update himself on the position there.

South Africa

8. Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will review the Government's policy towards South Africa in response to the representations made to him by the World Council of Churches delegation led by the Reverend Canaan Banana, the first President of Zimbabwe.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : As I explained to the delegation, our objective remains the replacement of apartheid through peaceful means by a non- racial, representative system of government. We do not believe that punitive sanctions against South Africa would help achieve this.

Mr. Allen : Will the Foreign Secretary concede that that answer-- like the Government's policy on apartheid--is inappropriate and unacceptable in a developing situation which is getting worse by the day? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the World Council of Churches delegation--the most high-powered ever assembled--felt that it had had a poor reception from him? Yesterday, it issued a press release in which it said :

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"With the exception of Great Britain, we found a willingness on the part of the governments we visited to listen to the delegation and to consider some form of economic pressure."

When will the Foreign Secretary respond? Who is he prepared to listen to on this issue?

Hon. Members : Not the hon. Gentleman

Sir Geoffrey Howe : Certainly not the hon. Gentleman.-- [Interruption.] I listened to him with attention but I do not respond to him, because I believe that his advice is misconceived. I listened to him, as I listened for an hour and a quarter to the delegation. I listened attentively and with respect to what it said. It did not, however, in any sense diminish my conviction that the imposition of comprehensive mandatory sanctions would create an economic wasteland and contribute nothing to the ending of apartheid. I drew the delegation's attention to the fact that the Anglican bishops in South Africa have recently called for carefully selected and targeted forms of pressure to be chosen which would

"avoid, as far as possible, the creation of further unemployment". That formulation drives a coach and horses through the case for punitive sanctions.

Mr. John Carlisle : Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept that many Conservative Members will be delighted that the Foreign Secretary gave a poor reception to members of the World Council of Churches, because many of us are worried and suspicious about where the funds of the World Council of Churches are going? Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that much of that money is going to terrorist organisations-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. Hon. Members may not all agree with what is being said, but the hon. Gentleman has a right to say it.

Mr. Carlisle : Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that much of that money is going to terrorist organisations, both inside and outside South Africa? The people who religiously give money every Sunday to church collections should be told the facts.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I listened to the case being made by the delegation, because it was representative of a wide range of opinion from around the world. I pointed out to it, however, a recent comment by the Reverend Stanley Mogoba, who is a member of the executive committee of the South African Council of Churches. He said : "those who advocate sanctions as a panacea for all the problems of South Africa have had that myth exploded in their faces". I hope that the delegation will reflect long and hard on that message.

Mr. Alton : Having called to his aid the South African Anglican bishops, will the Secretary of State consider taking up the case of Charles Bester? He is an 18-year-old South African who was gaoled for six years for failing to join the South African defence force on the ground that, as he was a Christian, he could not join that force as a matter of conscience. Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman seen early-day motion 176, which has been signed by more than 80 hon. Members from all parts of the House? Is he aware that some 55,000 people in this country have signed a petition calling for Charles Bester's release?

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Sir Geoffrey Howe : I understand, as anybody must, why some young South Africans refuse to do military service, and one must respect the strength and sincerity of their views. Decisions on that matter, however, are for the individuals concerned and we have no locus to intervene on their behalf in such circumstances.

Mr. David Nicholson : Can my right hon. and learned Friend say what representations he has received from the World Council of Churches or, indeed, from the Reverend Canaan Banana about acts of repression carried out by black African countries?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : Not without notice.

Mr. Anderson : The Foreign Secretary quoted the South African bishops' call for selective and targeted sanctions. Does he agree with that call? Is he happy with the efforts of the Department of Trade and Industry to promote British exports to the Mossel bay development, which is designed to avoid the oil embargo, and its efforts to promote computer sales to the centre of military research in South Africa? Will he have a word with the DTI about that? In the light of the British attitude to exports to South Africa is it any wonder that the eminent persons group of the Churches came back with such a negative view of the British Government, alone of all the Governments that it met, and that this Government are perceived throughout the world as the best friend of apartheid South Africa?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman's views on this matter remain stuck in a time warp more firmly than anybody else's--

Mr. Kaufman : The right hon. and learned Gentleman's views remain stuck in 10 Downing street.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : My views remain stuck on the firm foundation of common sense. The fact is--the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) may not like it--that no voice arguing the case for change in South Africa is heard with more attention than that of the Prime Minister of this country. There are two simple reasons for that--our opposition to apartheid is unqualified, but our opposition to sanctions is equally unqualified. In our judgment the imposition of sanctions would make the matter a great deal worse and not better. I invite the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) to reflect on the words that I quoted from the Anglican bishops of South Africa. To call for carefully selected and targeted forms of pressure, but then to go on to say, that they must take care that they

"avoid, as far as possible, the creation of further unemployment". is to commit oneself to a nonsense. The Anglican bishops are driving a coach and horses through the case for sanctions.

Sir Ian Lloyd : I warmly welcome the replies that my right hon. and learned Friend has just given. Has he noticed the astonishing similarity between the position of Mr. Gorbachev and the present President and his successor in South Africa? Both inherited political systems that are entirely indefensible by modern, western, democratic criteria, both are endeavouring to mitigate the consequences of those systems and both are staging slow and painful retreats from them. Can he see any logical consistency in the idea that the western democracies

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should give full support to the former, but should give no support to the latter? In view of the astonishing human rights record of Zimbabwe, has President Banana any right to come here and preach to western democracies about how they should handle the South African Government?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I am interested, as always, in my hon. Friend's well-informed views on this matter, but I hesitate to join him in a precise parallel between one president of one state and another. It is clear that we have welcomed the steps that have been initiated by President Botha to promote the reforms that we all agree to be necessary. We hope that Mr. de Klerk, in his capacity as party leader, will lead his party, and so South Africa, on the road to reform. That is our common objective and we want to move towards it as quickly as possible.


Mrs. Fyfe : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will discuss at an early date with the United States Secretary of State the implications for peace in central America of United States policy in respect of Nicaragua.

Mr. Eggar : We are in regular touch with the United States Administration about a wide range of issues, including central America.

Mrs Fyfe : Does the Minister share our concern about the proposed appointment of Bernard Aronson as assistant Secretary of State with responsibility for inter-American affairs, considering that this man knows no Spanish, has apparently shown little interest in central American affairs other than Nicaragua and is chiefly known as a fund-raiser for the Contras?

Mr. Eggar : We have noted press reports of Mr. Aronson's appointment and we look forward to working with whoever is appointed as the new assistant Secretary of State.

Mr. Jacques Arnold : Will my hon. Friend discuss with the United States means of bringing pressure on the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua on behalf of human rights? Could encouragement be given in the interests of free speech to remove the ban which the Sandinistas have placed on the opposition radio and newspapers in Nicaragua?

Mr. Eggar : I agree with my hon. Friend that the Nicaraguan Government are complying neither with the letter nor the spirit of the Esquipulas agreement. We look forward to improvements in both those areas.

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