Home Page

Column 889

House of Commons

Wednesday 12 April 1989

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

New Writ--

For Vale of Glamorgan, in the room of Sir Herbert Raymond Gower, Knight, deceased.-- [Mr. Waddington.]

Oral Answers to Questions


Drugs (East European Route)

1. Mr. Stern : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the east European route for the supply of drugs has now been closed.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Timothy Eggar) : Relatively small, but increasing quantities of illicit drugs continue to reach the United Kingdom via eastern Europe. We are developing our co-operation with the Governments concerned to combat drug trafficking.

Mr. Stern : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that although the situation remains far from satisfactory, efforts are being made to block that route, and the only way that that will be achieved will be by the continuation of

intergovernmental co-operation?

Mr. Eggar : I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. There are a number of routes through eastern Europe into western Europe, mainly for drugs originating in Afghanistan or the neighbouring countries. We now have close co-operation with a number of eastern European Governments, particularly the Soviet authorities, as a result of which Operation Diplomat recently led to a large seizure of cannabis.

Mr. Ron Brown : Have not the east European, Soviet and Afghan authorities done a great deal to clamp down on this evil trade? It must be remembered, as the Minister said, that most of the drugs come from Afghanistan, thus providing additional resources for the Mujaheddin whom, ironically, the Government support.

Mr. Eggar : As usual, the hon. Gentleman has a skewed view of the world. I have already said that there is close co-operation with the Soviet authorities and with other Governments in the fight against drugs, and that is how it should be. We shall not defeat the threat from drugs unless all Governments combine against it.

Column 890

Hungary and Czechoslovakia (Human Rights)

2. Mr. Knapman : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made to Hungary and Czechoslovakia about human rights abuses in those countries.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave) : We have made bilateral representations to the Czechoslovak authorities four times this year about their handling of human rights issues. We have not raised human rights issues with the Hungarian Government recently as Hungary's record on these matters is relatively good.

Mr. Knapman : I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I agree that the Hungarian Government's record on human rights is better than that of Czechoslovakia, but can my hon. Friend assure the House that those differing standards will be taken into account if either of those countries seeks closer economic co-operation with the west, and particularly with EC countries?

Mr. Waldegrave : My hon. Friend makes a good point in relation not just to those countries but to others in eastern Europe. The EC has recently halted all negotiations with Romania on the matters to which he refers. It is obviously right that the progress of countries in that respect should be reflected in our relations with them generally.

Mr. Winnick : Is it not the height of political illiteracy for the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman), who has never worried about such matters in South Africa or Chile, to compare Czechoslovakia, which remains the prison house of Europe, with Hungary where, as the Minister has conceded, there has been remarkable progress? If European Governments are to be represented on 16 June in Budapest, when the remains of Imre Nagy are to be reburied, will the British Government be represented? It should not be forgotten that when the Hungarian uprising was crushed in blood in November 1956 the Tory Government were engaged in criminal action at Suez.

Mr. Waldegrave : The hon. Gentleman has managed to widen the question to take in Suez and a number of other matters. It is a little unwise of him to accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) of illiteracy. My hon. Friend was making the perfectly justified point that one of those countries is meeting its conference on security and co- operation in Europe obligations while the other is not. That is the distinction.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the reburial of Nagy. We have not yet considered that, but I will write to the hon. Gentleman about it. Mr. Nagy's memory has not yet been restored to its proper place. As Mr. Grosz recently made clear, Mr. Nagy is being reburied as a humanitarian gesture, but he has not been rehabilitated. We should like the Hungarians to go a little further on that.

Mr. Boswell : Does my hon. Friend accept that in many respects, not just this one, the Warsaw pact is a case of some animals being more equal than others? In relation, for example, to the relaxation of visa requirements, which I welcome in principle, will he bear in mind the importance of taking matters one step at a time and making them

Column 891

conditional on adequate performance in relation to human rights in individual countries and on the performance of their security services?

Mr. Waldegrave : All those matters should be taken into account, but none of us should miss the opportunity of recognising that the Hungarians and the Poles, having recognised that Socialism does not work, are steadily moving away from it.

Mr. Alex Carlile : Does the Minister agree that in Czechoslovakia there remains substantial evidence of discrimination, particularly against doctors and teachers, 21 years after they chose to express their opinions freely? Will he make further strong representations to the Czechoslovak Government in that respect?

Mr. Waldegrave : The hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely right. We have recently been protesting about the whole new series of trials that have been held in Czechoslovakia. The most famous is that of Vaclav Havel, but he is not alone. The tragic thing about Czechoslovakia is that it is a country with a tradition of democracy which wants to make real progress but it has a Government who are resisting the clear but carefully expressed will of their people.

Conventional Forces

3. Mr. Waller : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the progress of negotiations to reduce conventional forces in Europe.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe) : Two negotiations--one on conventional armed forces iEurope and one on confidence and security-building measures--began in Vienna on 6 March. The discussions have got off to a good, businesslike start. I presented radical Western proposals for both sets of talks on 6 March. We now look for a response from the East.

Mr. Waller : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that although the Vienna talks have got off to a good and constructive start, they are bound to be long drawn out in view of the many complexities involved and the many different weapons systems in Europe? Given the asymmetry of conventional weapons and arms in Europe, does he agree that we have no choice but to rely on a nuclear deterrent for our total security for what may be a considerable time?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : There is no doubt that my hon. Friend is right in the last part of what he says. The central problem is the gross inequality between the conventional forces available to the Warsaw pact and those available to the NATO Alliance. There is progress in the fact that that inequality is now acknowledged by the Warsaw pact and it is recognised that unequal reductions are necessary to achieve an outcome that will be acceptable in the end.

Mr. James Lamond : Does the Foreign Secretary think that it helps to advance the possibility of weapons reductions throughout the world when he sits in the Guildhall smiling and nodding while Mr. Gorbachev outlines the Soviet Union's unilateral proposals but then

Column 892

goes around the world slagging off those efforts and doing everything he can to undermine any possibility of confidence-building between our two nations?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman, as always, has a wholly inaccurate perception of the facts. The proposals put forward by Mr. Gorbachev at the Guildhall were of a very modest nature. Perhaps the most important and least attractive part of them was his attempt to bring nuclear weapons back into the negotiations and to suggest that there can be no progress on conventional arms reductions so long as there is no progress on nuclear weapons. In doing that, he was going unhelpfully right outside the terms of reference of the talks.

Sir Peter Blaker : What recent developments have there been in the attitude of the Soviet Union to the key question of verification, which is relevant not only to conventional disarmament but to the possible abolition of chemical weapons? Am I right in thinking that the recent trial inspection of chemical weapons establishments in the Soviet Union was somewhat disappointing? Will my right hon. and learned Friend continue to give a lead on this important matter, as he has been doing in recent years?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : With regard to the conventional negotiations, the mandate rightly calls for strict and effective verification measures. That is crucial to its success. The Soviet Union has demonstrated its ability to agree on such matters by its acceptance of the necessary measures in the intermediate nuclear forces treaty. My right hon. Friend is, however, entirely right to point out that the Soviet Union's absence of candour and failure to be straightforward about the size of its chemical weapons stocks, and the lack of openness of investigation during the recent visit to Shikhany, illustrate how far there is to go.

Occupied Territories (Human Rights)

4. Mr. Nellist : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the recent United States State Department report on human rights violations in the territories occupied by Israel ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Waldegrave : The State Department's assessment is in line with our own.

Mr. Nellist : Does the Minister agree that the United States State Department report was devastating, showing that thousands of Palestinians had been detained without trial and thousands had been injured by the activities of the Israel Defence Force in the last 17 months of occupation, and that more than 400 had been killed in that period--including, when I was last there two weeks ago, a four-year-old girl? When will pressure be put on the Israeli Government to reduce the carnage?

Mr. Waldegrave : It is relatively unusual for the hon. Gentleman to endorse what is said by the United States State Department. It emphasises the fact that there is no doubt about the unacceptability of Israeli behaviour in the occupied territories. That is recognised by a wide spectrum of opinion--it would be hard to be find a wider spectrum. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the British Government and other Governments in the European Community have repeatedly made their views clear.

Column 893

Mr. Adley : a few moments ago, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman), my hon. Friend the Minister said that relations between eastern European countries and the Community would depend on violations of human rights not taking place. In view of the obvious violation of human rights by Israel in the occupied territories, why the double standards?

Mr. Waldegrave : As my hon. Friend knows, the relationship between Israel and the European Community came into question over the access of goods to the Community from the occupied territories, particularly Gaza. Speeches in the European Parliament and elsewhere had a pronounced effect. In general, however, we believe--I believe that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) is with us on this--that it is not sensible to try to change a country such as Israel by means of threats. Israel is a genuine democracy. We must engage her own public opinion, and persuade Israelis who want to make that change freely.

Mr. David Young : In his talks with Israel, has the Minister entered into any discussion about resolving the difficulties in the Lebanon, which seems to be a key issue in this worrying saga?

Mr. Waldegrave : It remains one of our principal quarrels with Israel that Israel still has troops in the Lebanon, and we refuse to sell weapons to Israel until she has accepted the relevant Security Council resolution and withdrawn her troops. That is one of the matters that come up regularly.

Mr. Rhodes James : Is my hon. Friend aware that Israel has many friends on both sides of the House, in this country as a whole and in the West, and it is those friends who are the most dismayed by the report and by developments in Israel? Will my hon. Friend convey that very strongly to the Israeli Government?

Mr. Waldegrave : One of the most impressive recent developments is that genuine friends of Israel on both sides of the House--indeed, all sections of opinion in this country and also in the United States--have begun to make it clear to the Israeli Government and people that they do not consider the policy on which Israel is engaged to be either right or sensible. My hon. Friend's own part in that is important.

Middle East

5. Mr. Sumberg : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on recent progress made towards achieving a settlement in the middle east.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : There have been a number of positive developments--the PLO's renunciation of terrorism, Israel's recognition that the status quo is untenable, the constructive attitude of the Soviet Union, and the determination of the United States to work actively for a settlement.

We continue to believe that an international conference remains the most suitable framework for negotiations between the parties.

Mr. Sumberg : Bearing in mind the sale of bombers to Libya, the continuing civil conflict in the Lebanon and the tragedy of Lockerbie, is not the caution and scepticism of

Column 894

the Government of Israel at the PLO's renunciation of violence understandable? Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that just as he would be cautious if the IRA were to announce tomorrow that it had renounced the bomb and the bullet, Israel has understandable reasons for taking a cautious view of events in the middle east?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I have explained to the House on more than one occasion my understanding of that. The length of time before the PLO made the important concessions to which I referred is certainly a ground for caution on the part of Israel. However, the Israeli people and Government have to understand that although we are committed to Israel's right to a secure existence, we are also committed to the view that Israel's security can be achieved only through peace with all her neighbours. Above all, Israelis cannot deny to the Palestinians the rights that they themselves have earned at such cost. Repression of Palestinians breeds resentment and hatred, which is the exact opposite of security. Fortunately, more and more Israelis understand that fact, as does the overwhelming body of opinion in the House. The search for peace along those lines deserves--and is receiving--the active support of more and more Israelis.

Mr. Ernie Ross : Can the Foreign Secretary tell us of one positive result of the most recent visit by the Israeli Prime Minister to the United States?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The proposals put forward by Mr. Shamir for elections may point in the right direction and are worth exploring in detail without dismissing them out of hand. It is also important to emphasise the statement made by President Bush after his talks with President Mubarak that

"The goals of the peace process should be security for Israel, the end of the occupation and the achievement of Palestinian political rights".

That statement should be studied carefully in Israel as it is important to the progress of the negotiations.

Sir Dennis Walters : Bearing in mind among other reasons the continuing oppression and violation of human rights by the Israelis on the West Bank and Gaza, is not the hesitancy and slowness of the Bush Administration rather disappointing? Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that he is doing everything in his power to put some speed into the Americans by pointing out that the problem has continued for a very long time and that excessive caution is a mistake?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend is right to emphasise that the United States engagement in the peace process is absolutely vital. That means that the new Administration must take a leading role, and we shall certainly support them in that role. We have already made our position plain. I shall be going to Washington at the weekend to discuss the topic along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Janner : Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the making of peace in the middle east is a very complex matter? Those of us who are desperately anxious that the parties should be brought together in negotiation recognise the sensitivities of both sides, not least the anxiety of all Israelis in their genuine democracy that their country should be safe from attack, their worries about the dangers that a Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza would create, and their fears

Column 895

that a terrorist enemy which now says that it has renounced terrorism cannot be trusted with the lives of their people.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I understand fully the point articulated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, namely Israel's anxiety that it should not take steps that might weaken rather than enhance its security, and I understand why that rests against a background of threats to the security of that state. However, it is Israeli opinion that is emphasising that the status quo cannot be maintained and is recognising the need to move forward. Time is not on the side of those who seek a peaceful solution, whether they be in Israel or among the Palestinians. The Israeli leadership and people must recognise, for example, the impact upon the other side of the sheer arithmetic of 420 Palestinians having been killed in the occupied territories compared with only 13 Israelis. That balance of hardship and human suffering cannot be allowed to endure indefinitely. For their own sake, the Israelis must respond to the mounting sense of urgency about the situation.

President Bush

6. Mr. Conway : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the President of the United States of America ; and what matters will be discussed.

8. Mr. Gwilym Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has any present plans to visit the United States of America.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I plan to visit the United States next Sunday and Monday, 16 and 17 April. Following President Gorbachev's visit last week, East-West relations and arms control will be on the agenda. I also expect to discuss regional issues, particularly the middle east and southern Africa.

Mr. Conway : I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's announcement that he will be visiting Washington next week. When he meets President Bush, will he assure him that, despite the warmth of the reception received by President Gorbachev on his recent visit to the United Kingdom, we are not gullible and there is still a constant need to be prepared for all eventualities in relation to countries which still do not appreciate a true democracy? Will he assure him that we still need to maintain a proper role in NATO and that the steadfastness of the United States in this matter is still deeply appreciated?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I shall certainly make the central point of my hon. Friend's question when I meet members of the United States Administration. They, too, will share our feeling that the changes taking place in the foreign policy thinking of the Soviet Administration represent a challenge and an opportunity, as has been pointed out in the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. However, they will also understand the central point made by my hon. Friend that we need to maintain our vigilance and unity in defence of our security because it is that formula which has helped us to move as far as we have in recent years.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : During the talks in Washington, will my right hon. and learned Friend thank the United

Column 896

States Administration for their strenuous efforts to inhibit the fund-raising activities of extreme Irish nationalist groups on behalf of the IRA? Will he also make it clear that neither Government will relax their vigilance so long as the terrorist threat remains?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I shall certainly emphasise my hon. Friend's last point. Neither Government should or will relax their vigilance so long as the threat remains in any form. It is also right to say that the United States Government have taken significant steps to inhibit the fund-raising activities of extreme Irish nationalist groups. The House appreciates that, as I shall make clear when I am in Washington.

Mr. Steel : If during his discussions in Washington the Foreign Secretary is tempted to press for an early commitment to the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons in Europe, will he make it clear that he does so without the support of the other European members of NATO?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I shall conduct my discussions on that topic in Washington and elsewhere on the basis of the Brussels communique of the North Atlantic Council in February last year--that it is necessary for NATO to continue to modernise its weapons, nuclear and conventional, where necessary.

Mrs. Clwyd : Will the Foreign Secretary raise the important question of the future of Kampuchea, given that the Vietnamese troops are to be withdrawn completely in September? Will he convey the great concern of many hon. Members that any future political settlements must ensure that there can be no return to power of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Kampuchea?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I shall certainly discuss Cambodia with the United States Government in the light of the prospective withdrawal of Vietnamese troops, just as I did last week with Mr. Shevardnadze and a few weeks ago with the Chinese Foreign Minister. As on both those occasions, I shall make it clear that this House and the overwhelming body of opinion round the world would regard the return of Pol Pot and his cronies as an intolerable prospect.

Mr. Kilfedder : As the Foreign Secretary will be aware, another terrible atrocity has been committed today by the IRA in Northern Ireland. Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in the United States, the IRA and its front organisations are consistent in their propaganda campaign in the media? Surely it is time for this Government and the United States Government to counter that campaign, which brings in funds for the IRA.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend is absolutely right to underline the importance of putting that message across. It is a message that has been put across in every possible way by our embassy and staff over there, and by a series of visits by, among others, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. That message will go on being put across by this Government in every possible way. Alongside that, incidentally, we shall also hammer home our opposition to the so-called MacBride campaign because it is counter-productive to investment and takes no account of our own fair employment proposals, which are more radical and more effective.

Column 897

Mr. Kaufman : Was not the Foreign Secretary's response to the question put by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) a deliberate and disingenuous attempt to dodge the issue on the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons? Is it not a fact that Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Spain have made it clear that they are against forcing an early decision on modernisation, that the Netherlands and the Federal Germans have great misgivings and that the President of France gave the Prime Minister the brush-off by saying that it was a sovereign decision for the Federal German Government? Why is the Prime Minister alone, of all the NATO heads of Government in Europe, impervious to reason on that issue?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The right hon. Gentleman never loses his gift for getting something absolutely wrong. As I told the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), NATO committed itself in principle last year to the modernisation of nuclear and conventional weapons where necessary. It is agreed that short-range nuclear weapons are one type of weapon that needs to be modernised and there is no doubt about that. The only question, about which there are widely varying views, is at what point particular decisions need to be taken in that respect. As it has in the past, NATO will reach an agreed conclusion without any help from the right hon. Gentleman.

Single Market

7. Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures his Department is taking through its offices in other European Community states to help to prepare for the single market in 1992 ; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker) : British embassies are fully involved in lobbying and reporting on single market measures. They also provide a range of services to help British exporters make the most of growing opportunities.

Mr. Thurnham : Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that there is a great deal that her Department can do to help British industry--not only manufacturing industry, but service and professional industries such as engineering contracting, consulting and distribution--to prepare for 1992?

Mrs. Chalker : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He will know that the agreement that we have reached on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications is an important opportunity for British professionals to ply their trade abroad. Service industries, just as much as manufacturing industries, can contribute greatly and we hope that they will all participate in the setting of European standards because without their help in achieving the right technical standards we shall not be as well prepared as we could be.

Mr. Skinner : Does the Minister recall that there was a hype a few years ago in the City about the big bang that was going to occur and that there was the same kind of co-ordinated propaganda about how well Britain was going to do? In fact the City got nothing out of it and the

Column 898

invisibles have fallen rather than risen. Does the Minister expect the big bang of the single European market to be more or less successful than that in the City?

Mrs. Chalker : We make steady, positive and continuing progress towards success in the City. When I see the hon. Gentleman and his big bang, I know that steady, solid progress is much to be preferred. I can say firmly to him that I believe that the United Kingdom's financial sector, which is by far the largest in Europe, is likely to be the most successful. Financial services will stand us in very good stead in Europe.

Mr. Wells : What work is my right hon. Friend doing in preparing this country to debate the issues that are likely to be in the Delors committee report on central banking and the single European unit of account? How can our country have an opportunity to discuss and understand those issues before there are decisions and discussions at the Europe Council?

Mrs. Chalker : I doubt whether any decisions are going to be arrived at the next European Council. It is far too early to say, when the report of the Delors committee will possibly come forward only later this month and will have its first examination in the ECOFIN Council in May. We will thoroughly discuss everything in that report and see what progress can be made. We should never underestimate this country's practical commitment, by the introduction of ecu-dominated Treasury bonds, to the development of better monetary co-operation throughout the Community.

Mr. Madden : Will the Minister confirm that, with the free movement of people, Common Market nationals will have the right to enter the United Kingdom without a visa, bring children up to the age of 21, their parents and their grandparents, be able to undertake employment without a work permit, and establish businesses without any evidence of financial resources? Will she reflect on those matters when she examines the family disunity and separation that is caused to many British citizens who originate from the Indian sub-continent? Because of the Government's unfair yet firm immigration policy, for years they have been separated by thousands of miles from their spouses and families.

Mrs. Chalker : The hon. Gentleman knows that European Community nationals have total reciprocity in those mattters. Our immigration policy is based on sensible, longstanding reasons. The one does not affect the other.

Mr. Rowe : Is it true that the momentum towards the Common Market in 1992 is now virtually unstoppable? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it does nobody any good to start casting doubts on it as being some kind of fiasco or disaster? It is a great opportunity, particularly for small firms in this country.

Mrs. Chalker : My hon. Friend is right. We are making good progress in dismantling barriers to trade. It is quite wrong for any commentator, whoever he may be, to say that 1992 measures are failing. More than 40 per cent. of the issues that were raised in the 1985 White Paper have been agreed. We have progressed almost daily. I was delighted to see the European Court of Justice's judgment on air fares, which was reported in the press this morning. That judgment represents a significant step towards our

Column 899

aim to liberalise international air transport and bring down the cost of air fares to the ordinary travelling public. The court said that, from now on, airlines should clear their price -fixing controls between Community countries directly with the Commission. That is another great step forward.

Mr. Robertson : Does the Minister agree that, although Britain has not done very well in Europe, Europe has done very well in Britain?

Mrs. Chalker : I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman must look at his figures again.


9. Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Britain's financial contribution towards the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

Mrs. Chalker : Britain's contribution towards the cost of the United Nations force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in the financial year 1989-90 is estimated at £22.87 million, net of recoveries.

Mr. Bennett : Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the United Kingdom is the only member of the Security Council that pays its dues in full? What action is being taken by the United Kingdom to press the other countries to make their full payments towards this force?

Mrs. Chalker : Indeed we have been paying our full amounts towards this force. The account is in deficit by some $167 million, as my hon. Friend knows, but the United Kingdom is not in deficit. We have absorbed all our own costs since 1964, and we have encouraged all other nations to contribute fully. I hope very much that many other states, including France and the Soviet Union, will stop resisting the change from voluntary contributions to assessed contributions. That would go a long way towards solving the problem.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to pay tribute to the British soldiers who have served with that force over many years? Is it true to say that we carry the bulk of the administrative burden, not only of the United Nations force in Cyprus but of the peacekeeping force in Lebanon? Can he confirm that we supply the biggest element of that force in Cyprus, and, but for its presence, the number of deaths on both sides of the green line might have been considerably greater over the years?

Mrs. Chalker : Indeed, I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the whole British contingent--currently 741 officers and men, or about one third of the total force--who have worked extremely hard. They bring a very special balance to a very difficult situation, and they continue to give absolutely first-class assistance in this very difficult area. We only hope that the negotiations towards resolving the problems of Cyprus will soon again proceed smoothly, and we wish both sides well in their efforts to find a solution that is acceptable to all.

Column 900

Israeli Foreign Minister

10. Mr. Galloway : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the Israeli Foreign Minister of State ; and what will be discussed.

Mr. Waldegrave : My right hon. and learned Friend hopes to visit Israel later this year, and looks forward to discussing bilateral and regional issues with Professor Arens then.

Mr. Galloway : When the Foreign Minister meets Professor Arens will he raise the question of the arrest yesterday of two prominent leaders of the Palestinian community on the West Bank--the distinguished Jerusalem journalist Sam'an Khouri, and Adnan Shalalda? Today those men were charged before a military court with being leaders of their own people in the territory in which they live and have always lived. Will the Minister point out the irony of the absurd proposal by the Israeli Administration to hold elections to identify such leaders at a time when any leaders who do emerge are either shot down in the street or clamped in irons for months on end?

Next Section

  Home Page