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Mr. Waldegrave : I certainly agree with the hon. Member that it is no way to develop a sensible dialogue with the leaders of the Palestinians to treat people in that way. We have made regular representations, and I should think that we shall have an opportunity to make representations on these cases well before my right hon. and learned Friend goes to Israel.
Mr. Waldegrave : What the Taba incident demonstrates to Israel and to others in the region is that it is possible to resolve disputes by means of law and treaty. In a sense, that is the main significance of Taba, and I should have thought that, small though it is, it reminds people that it is possible to solve disputes in a way other than by force.
Mr. Flannery : Does the Minister agree that the most vital component, or at least one of the most vital components, of the struggle for peace in the middle east is the necessity for Israel to have discussions with the PLO? The PLO is recognised throughout the middle east- -by all the Arab nations, as well as by the people of Palestine--as the representative of the Palestinians. Let it be made clear to the Israelis that they took lands away from the Palestinian people by force, and that before there can be a peace settlement in the middle east there must be a conference involving Britain and America, along with the PLO and the Israelis. Will the Minister impress that on the Israelis with all the prestige that Britain commands in this area?
Mr. Waldegrave : It is certainly our view that the Israelis will not find it possible to conduct negotiations with the Palestinian leaders in the occupied territories without talking to people who identify themselves with the PLO, and they will not find such people. It is the British Government's position that there should be an international conference under the aegis of the five permanent members of the Security Council but, in a sense, that matter is secondary. We want to get the process going and
Column 901believe that such a conference would ultimately be the best way of establishing a framework for the direct talks which must take place between the Israelis and the other parties to the dispute.
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : Will my hon. Friend make it perfectly clear that the British Government see no need for elections in the occupied territories to find out who represents the Palestinian people because it is well known that the PLO does? Does my hon. Friend agree that the idea of such an election is merely a means of trying to postpone having a proper international conference, which is obviously the right way forward?
Mr. Waldegrave : I am not sure that I would put it in quite that way. I would emphasise that the Palestinians would be chary of taking part in any elections that did not lead to a further process that would result ultimately in negotiations about the final status of the territories. From what I have understood of the PLO position and of its reactions to Mr. Shamir's proposals, if it believes that such elections are part of a continuing process, it would consider them seriously, but it does not wish to be caught in a cul de sac of voting only for municipal elections or for something that establishes Israeli hegemony over the territories.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I raised Romania's appalling human rights record with the Romanian Foreign Minister in Vienna on 6 March. We deplore the Romanian Government's failure to meet their commitments under the Helsinki agreements and, in particular, their continuing policy of systematisation. We urge them to heed international calls for an end to repression and intimidation.
Mr. Flynn : The Government are to be congratulated on their leadership of the European protest against Ceausescu, a leader who increasingly oppresses his own people with the primitive cruelty and arrogance of a mediaeval tyrant. However, is it not time for the Government to lead a new initiative against the process of systemisation--a process of cultural pogroms--which is sending the process of civilisation into reverse in Romania, and against the most savage breaches of human rights in any country in Europe? Would it not be a start to the new initiative if Britain stripped from Ceausescu the honour that was given to him in 1978 in the same way that we have taken honours from past Members of the House and other citizens of this country when they no longer deserve those honours?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The whole House will have sympathy with the vehemence with which the hon. Gentleman condemns what is happening in Romania. Condemnation is being expressed not only by Western countries because it is notable that even the Soviet Union and other Warsaw pact partners of Romania have failed to support that country in recent proceedings before the European Commission of human rights. Condemnation of that cultural and human savagery is widespread.
Column 902However, the award to which the hon. Gentleman referred was conferred long ago as part of the longstanding arrangements for the exchange of courtesies during state visits. Although there have been occasions in wartime when our enemies in recent conflicts have had their awards taken away, there is no precedent for depriving the holder of an honorary award in peacetime. It is not judged right to depart from that rule in this case. However, that does not in any sense diminish my sympathy with the point made by the hon. Gentleman.
Sir Bernard Braine : In view of the appalling human rights record of Romania under the corrupt and repressive Ceausescu regime, the fact that it has become an acute embarrassment even to its Warsaw pact partners, the creation of a major refugee problem by the enforced devillagisation that is taking place in Transylvania and in view of the fact that our own ambassador has been manhandled by the police in that country, is it not high time to show our disgust and our repugnance with this regime and to withdraw our ambassador?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I understand totally why my right hon. Friend makes that point so strongly. One of the purposes of retaining an ambassador there is to continue to fight against the very conditions that my right hon. Friend describes. He is right that our ambassador and members of his staff were grotesquely ill-treated on an occasion when they were trying to establish contact with the historian, Doina Cornea, who has been outrageously treated. It is also right that more recently our embassy was able to establish contact with her, which has been of value. It confirms that she is continuing to be extremely badly treated, both in encirclement and in being deprived of communication with the outside world. That in itself justifies a continued presence there, although my right hon. Friend's statement of anguish about what is going on in Romania is equally justified.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : As was conceded by the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) in his supplementary question, the United Kingdom has been playing a leading part in mobilising action by the Community in demarche after demarche. We have been making representations with continuous vigour. We have also been able to block progress on the negotiations that were due to take place between the Community and Romania. So we have intervened effectively in the way that was open to us. We shall continue to mobilise as much condemnation as we can of the intolerable conduct of the Romanian Government.
Mr. William Powell : My right hon. and learned Friend's robust denunciation of the despicable regime in Bucharest will be widely welcomed in the House, in the country and across all countries of Europe. My right hon. and learned Friend has said that there is no precedent for stripping the President of the Romanian Republic of honours that have been accorded to him. Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that there are times when new precedents must be set? This is probably a case where we should begin the process.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I take note of my hon. Friend's point. Perhaps the most important point is the immense strength of feeling expressed on all sides of the House. I am sure that that in itself will underline a crucial message to the Government of Romania. One only hopes that it may make some difference to their conduct.
Mrs. Chalker : As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear in Windhoek on 1 April, we are actively supporting the United Nations operation in Namibia. It is vital that the parties abide strictly by their obligations under the United Nations plan for Namibian independence.
Miss Lestor : In order to counter the feeling among many that South Africa is having far too great an influence on the implementation of independence, can the right hon. Lady tell us whether she supports the call made on 8 and 9 April at the Mount Etjo conference that the full United Nations transition assistance group force should be implemented, and whether she would also endorse the United Nation's view that South Africa should not be allowed to interrogate SWAPO guerillas? Will she recommend that in future SWAPO should be involved in discussions of the implementation of the resolution?
Mrs. Chalker : It may interest the hon. Lady to know that the Mount Etjo declaration is being placed in the Library. The full UNTAG troops will get there as soon as possible. I was pleased yesterday to be able to announce that we have given a gift to the United Nations of the use of 55 Land Rovers and 12 four-wheeled trucks to try to help, while other equipment is on the high seas. In talking to those concerned about whether returning SWAPO guerillas to Angola will be interrogated, we have been assured that any information from the SWAPO forces will be sought by UNTAG and it will be solely directed towards the implementation of the Mount Etjo plan.
Mr. Gardiner : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the essence of resolution 435 is that fair and free elections should be held in Namibia to determine its future? Will my right hon. Friend investigate allegations that British taxpayers' money is going through the European Community to give a preponderant advantage to SWAPO, despite its recent violations of the peace accord? Will she do her utmost to ensure that all parties can participate in those elections on an equal basis?
Mrs. Chalker : Of course, there must be free and fair elections and everything must be done through the United Nations, whose responsibility it is, to ensure that that is so. We have no evidence of my hon. Friend's accusation that funds are being given to SWAPO and, in fact, I have written about that only this morning, or last night. In addition, I believe that it is absolutely vital that we do all that we can to support UNTAG in its most difficult task of maintaining the peace and proceeding towards those free and fair elections.
Mr. Boateng : Does the Minister agree that it would be highly damaging to UNTAG, and to the implementation of resolution 435, if elements of the Koevet unit--the notoriously murderous unit of the South African army--were to be in any way engaged in the policing of the withdrawal of SWAPO? Does she further agree that that is likely because that unit now comprises almost half of the South African police force in Namibia?
Mrs. Chalker : I am certain from what I have heard this morning that the task of the fully deployed contingents from the United Kingdom and Australia, who will be manning the nine assembly points, accompanied by UNTAG military observers--but, indeed, with the police and the Angolans alongside, as agreed under the Mount Etjo declaration--will be to see that the SWAPO forces return north of the 16th parallel in Angola. It is clear, too, that those members of the South African forces who may be alongside will be under the direction and supervision of the United Nations forces there and, indeed, our own forces.
Mr. Ian Taylor : Was my right hon. Friend able to discuss with the Soviet delegation in London last week the situation in Namibia and Angola, especially as President Gorbachev had recently returned from Cuba, which is well known to be heavily involved in the activities in that area?
Mrs. Chalker : My right hon. and learned Friend talked with Mr. Shevardnadze last week. Our efforts, especially those of the Prime Minister and her decisive intervention in Windhoek on 1 April, have been warmly welcomed by the President of the Soviet Union, by the President of Angola and by the Cubans. I regret that Opposition Members should seek to try to bring party politics into such a subject.
Mr. Anderson : Is not the Minister being just a little naive about the cease-fire assembly points? Apart from members of the South African forces who may be present, is it not correct that the South African militia --the South West Africa Territorial Force--is in the majority at those cease-fire assembly points and that a South African spokesman has said that UNTAG would be permitted to be present during interrogations? Who gave the Government those assurances? Will the Government ensure that visiting parliamentarians from western Europe are given visas to be present to monitor the electoral process and that SWAPO is given reasonable facilities for access to the media during the electoral process?
Mrs. Chalker : I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the British Government are not in charge of what is going on in Namibia, but the United Nations. Many of the questions that he has posed are questions for the United Nations. We are working in support of the United Nations' transition assistance group to get those free and fair elections. That will obviously mean all parties to the election wanting access to put their points over.
I further say to the hon. Gentleman that, of course, at the present time-- with South African forces on the ground--the United Nations has not been able to get all its forces there, because there was a filibuster after the United Nations Secretary General put his plan to the Security Council. That was not by this country, which warned again and again that, if there was a delay in coming to a conclusion in the Security Council, and then the General Assembly, there would not be full deployment on 1 April.
Column 905Those responsible for the filibuster are responsible for the fact that United Nations forces were not there. Others had to be used under United Nations supervision. They are being used only in support of UNTAG until other forces arrive.
Mr. Coombs : While welcoming the regional peace settlement, the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and Angola's application to the international monetary fund, which are evidence of more flexibility by Angola in its attitude to the West, does my right hon. Friend agree that Angola is still divided between the Marxist PLA and the equally unattractive Jonas Savimbi who has recently been accused of human rights abuses? What proposals have the Government, either on a regional basis or through the United Nations, to ensure democracy and peace in Angola?
Column 906United Nations plan back on the road in Namibia. Having concentrated on doing that, the next step for peace in Namibia is to seek internal reconciliation for peace in Angola. We welcome the proposal for a regional security conference with Angola's neighbours. There is no doubt that we shall not see lasting peace in Angola until the parties come together. I have made it clear that a military solution in Angola is not possible. It needs to proceed towards a peaceful reconciliation between both parties.
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North) indicated dissent
Mr. Tony Benn, supported by Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, Mr. David Steel, Sir Ian Gilmour, Ms. Jo Richardson, Sir Cyril Smith, Mr. Richard Shepherd, Mr. Bernie Grant, Sir Russell Johnston, Mr. John Gorst, Ms. Diane Abbott and Mr. Eric S. Heffer presented a Bill to abolish prosecutions for the expression of opinion on matters of religion : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 21 April and to be printed. [Bill 115.]
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