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Column 975President of the United States to cease American opposition to Angola's membership of the IMF and the World Bank and to recognise the present Administration in Angola?
Mrs. Chalker : United States policy must be a matter for the new President and his team, who are well aware of our position. We see that Angola is looking for sensible ways of becoming financially more robust. We are sure that in the longer term it will need help to do that. We have provided some aid for a number of years, but it is nothing like what will be needed for the change that it will have to undertake. I do not believe that any country will stand in the way of Angola when the right time comes.
Mr. Riddick : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the time for the United States to end aid to Unita will be when all 50,000 Cuban troops have been withdrawn from Angola? Is she aware that Unita is prepared to put aside its arms if the MPLA Government will sit down and negotiate a settlement with Unita? Does she agree that the only true way to peace is for democracy to be installed in that country?
Mrs. Chalker : We are pleased to see that the Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola is proceeding. The task now is to ensure a smooth implementation of that. It is of course being overseen by the United Nations Angola verification mission--Unavem. I believe that peace can be returned to Angola and that it is the wish of both sides that that should happen. It may be some time before peace is finally secured, but we hope that a lasting peace will be secured. If there is anything that this country can do towards that end, we shall indeed do it.
Mr. Robert Hughes : Given the increasing reports of Unita and South African defence force activity in northern Namibia, are the Government putting at risk the major prize of Namibian independence by agreeing to cut the United Nations transition assistance group--UNTAG--force from seven to three battalions? If as the secretary-general says, the four battalions are being held in reserve, what state of readiness will they be in? Will the Government support the UN Secretary-General who can call them to go into Namibia, and not wait for the cumbersome process of using the Security Council?
Mrs. Chalker : The hon. Gentleman will know that it is a cardinal principle of United Nations peace-keeping that the Security Council must authorise the deployment of forces. While the secretary-general has agreed with the Security Council to deploy, we hope shortly, three enlarged battalions plus an enhanced number of military and peace observers--who are absolutely crucial for monitoring--he has still retained 7,500 troops as a ceiling for the military contingent.
I remind the hon. Gentleman that in 1978 the then secretary-general said that we must review the situation at the time. Cuban troop withdrawal is now well and truly on the way, Unavem is monitoring it, there is detente between South Africa and Angola and the joint commission has now been established to deal with any alleged breaches. The situation has now changed. We must see how it goes, and the machinery is there to do whatever is necessary to bring about Namibian independence starting, we hope, from 1 April.
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : I listened with interest to my right hon. Friend. Is it not a fact that the United Nations peacekeeping force is remarkably small for the likely task that it will face in such an enormous country? Will my right hon. Friend carefully monitor the situation, and will she tell us how many British troops have already been committed to this task?
Mrs. Chalker : We shall send a signals unit and contribute to the observers who are going. I cannot give the exact numbers now. It is important to realise that the five permanent members of the Security Council are united in their belief that the secretary-general--after visits to the area--was right in his judgment that the numbers to be deployed could be reduced from the 1978 estimate, when conditions were different. It is important that the secretary-general be given adequate resources to fulfil his mandate. As I said, if there turns out to be a genuine problem, we shall reconsider increasing the size of UNTAG's military component beyond the 4,650 that the secretary-general considers adequate to implement the plan to lead Namibia to independence.
Mr. Macdonald : When the Secretary of State meets Mr. Baker, will he discuss the American Administration's decision to double expenditure on defence bases in the United Kingdom over the next two years? Was the right hon. and learned Gentleman consulted by the American Administration before news of the decision was made public, that is, before the defence budget was presented to Congress last month? If he was not, is not that humiliating for him? If he was consulted before the decision became public knowledge, why did he not inform the House? Has not this House as much right to know as the American Congress?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I do not expect to discuss with the United States new Secretary of State the continued maintenance of American bases in this country, which is warmly welcomed by Conservative Members.
Mr. Cormack : When my right hon. and learned Friend meets Secretary of State Baker, will he discuss with him a joint approach to be taken to the Israeli Government by both our Governments? The Israeli Government should be told that their genuine friends on both sides of the Atlantic are rapidly running out of patience, and believe that the Israeli Government should respond to the approaches made from both this country and the United States. If they do not, they will find themselves isolated.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I take note of my hon. Friend's clearly expressed view, which has been widely supported today from both sides of the House, and for which there is much support on the other side of the Atlantic. My hon. Friend is right to underline the fact that the engagement of the United States in the peace process is of vital importance. We welcome the opening of a dialogue
Column 977between the United States and the PLO. I look forward to discussing the development of these policies with the new Secretary of State.
Mr. Cryer : Does the Secretary of State accept that there is a great deal of dismay in many parts of the United Kingdom about the proposal to increase expenditure on United States bases in our country? Does he accept that many people want bases such as the spy base and communications centre at Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, closed, because they put this country at risk? It is the United States nuclear communications centre and we want it to go. Does the Secretary of State also accept that the House has never formally given permission for that base to be established? It is a disgrace to our democracy.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I accept that the hon. Gentleman speaks, as so often, for a tiny minority of the people of this country. The great majority of British people and of hon. Members welcome the continued presence of the United States which, with all its resources, contributes to the strength and security of this country and the Alliance.
Sir Dennis Walters : When my right hon. and learned Friend discusses the middle east with the American Secretary of State, will he suggest that Mr. Shamir should be pressed to explain how he can possibly reconcile his statement the other day that he will not withdraw from any of the occupied territories with Israeli acceptance of United Nations Resolution 242?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I agree that there are many questions that can usefully be put to Mr. Shamir, when he visits a number of countries on both sides of the Atlantic, to try to encourage him in responding to the needs that are so widely identified by all hon. Members.
17. Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made to the Palestine Liberation Organisation about the case for amending the Palestine national covenant as a condition precedent to peace negotiations in the middle east.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave) : I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given earlier thiafternoon by my right hon. and learned Friend to the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer).
Mr. Marshall : I refrain from referring to the question put to my right hon. and learned Friend earlier this afternoon. Can I emphasise to my hon. Friend that as long as the Palestine national covenant exists, as it does, and as long as the Palestine Liberation Organisation makes claims on Jerusalem, the likelihood of talks starting is limited?
Mr. Waldegrave : I genuinely have little to add to what my right hon. and learned Friend said. I re-emphasise to my hon. Friend that it is surely in the interests of peace that there should be a response to the positive moves that the PLO has made.
Column 978the Israeli Administration and that there is also widespread support for the view he expressed that that terrorist pattern is still being continued in the repression of the Palestinian population of the occupied territories?
Mr. Waldegrave : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support but, with respect, my point was somewhat different--that some of those who used force in the earlier part of the history of Israel laid down those methods and turned to the methods of peace, which is to their credit. It would also be to their credit if they recognised that there are Palestinian leaders willing to do the same.
Mr. Marlow : Has my hon. Friend yet had any evidence from the Israeli authorities that they accept that there will be no peace and stability in the middle east until they accept the need for Palestinian self-determination and if he has yet to receive any evidence of that, what further means are the Government going to use to persuade the Israelis of the self-evident truth on this matter?
Mr. Waldegrave : The Venice declaration made it clear that the British Government and the European Community agree with my hon. Friend that self-determination for the Palestinian people must be part of a permanent solution in the middle-east. Everything that we are doing on the diplomatic front is intended to lead to a peace conference where that can be achieved.
Mr. Janner : Does the Minister accept that there can be no peace whatever in the middle east until both sides come to a negotiating table? Does he accept that in order to induce both sides to come to that table, each must feel that there is a possibility of receiving fair treatment and that, at present, the Israeli Government--for whom few of us would have voted, but who have been democratically elected--are deeply concerned that they will be left in a corner with little support and forced into a deal from which their own state will be in danger? That may be fine for us to look at here, but it will not suit the people who live there.
Mr. Waldegrave : The hon. and learned Member and I have little disagreement about what needs to be done. Face-to-face negotiations between the principal parties is the only way forward and I agree with him that there is nothing to be gained from trying to isolate the state of Israel, which would only further undermine Israel's sense of security. We must conduct an even-handed policy in the region.
18. Mr. Madel : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has assessed the extent to which the recent announcement of arms reduction in its forces by the East German Government represents a further lowering of tension in Europe ; and if he will make a statement.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : We welcome the announcement by the GDR Government on 23 January that they intend to reduce the size of their armed forces. But the effect which these cuts will have on the overall East-West balance of forces will be small, and a number of questions remain about how the cuts will be taken and whether obsolete or modern equipment will be involved.
Mr. Madel : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that proposed or actual reductions in forces by East Germany do not reduce tension in Europe so long as the Berlin wall remains in place? Will he also confirm that it remains the Government's policy to work for a peaceful reunification of West and East Germany?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the way in which the continued presence of the Berlin wall makes a mockery of all our efforts to remove barriers in Europe. We all look forward to the day when it comes down. On the wider question, successive British Governments have taken it as axiomatic that real and permanent stability in Europe will be difficult to achieve so long as the German nation is divided against its will.
20. Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what he expects the main subjects for discussion at the ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council on 8 and 9 June will be and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Waldegrave : The ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council in June will address, as have other recent council meetings, the maintenance of Alliance security in an improving East-West atmosphere. Four months ahead of the meeting is too soon to know what specific issues will head the agenda.
Mr. Thurnham : Will my hon. Friend impress on our European allies the importance of a positive attitude towards burden sharing in view of the enormous size of the American contribution to our defence effort?
Mr. Waldegrave : Yes. The Alliance should recognise the share that the United Kingdom takes. From time to time we have had to draw attention to the fact that others in western Europe have been cutting their defence budgets, which is a bad signal for the maintenance of Alliance coherence.
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