Considered ; to be read the Third time tomorrow.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Eggar) : President Ortega visited the United Kingdom from 6 to 8 May in the course of an extensive European tour. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met him on 8 May. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and I saw Foreign Minister d'Escoto on the same day.
Mr. Banks : May I through you, Mr. Speaker, thank all hon. Members for the warm and courteous welcome they gave President Ortega on Monday, which was in stark contrast to the ill-advised, offensive, abusive and graceless way in which the Prime Minister treated him? As she always speaks on Nicaragua from a position of profound ignorance, will she be accepting the invitation extended by President Ortega to send a Government delegation to Nicaragua to study the situation there prior to next year's election?
Mr. Eggar : My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear during the President's visit that our attitude to Nicaragua will continue to be based on our assessment of its moves to genuine democracy, its determination to remove foreign advisers, its determination or otherwise to reduce its armed forces and its determination to stop the destabilisation of neighbouring countries. Those are exactly the four criteria by which we made it clear that we would judge Nicaragua when my right hon. and learned Friend met its vice-president over three years ago.
Column 844what is going on, why does not the Minister think more positively and send a delegation to Nicaragua to see developments at first hand?
Mr. Eggar : We have an excellent embassy and charge d'affaires who regularly report what is happening in Nicaragua. The hon. Gentleman appears to be unaware that all Nicaraguan opposition parties from the far Left to the far Right have condemned the changes to the electoral law that were introduced by the Sandinistas on 5 May, of which President Ortega appears to be unaware.
Mr. Ashby : As someone who is not profoundly ignorant of Nicaragua and has seen its steady deterioration over the past four years as a result of the nature of its Government, will my hon. Friend welcome steps towards further elections and explain to President Ortega some of the prerequisites for fair and free elections? It is no good having an Sandinistan army or police force, and it is no good local committees run by Sandinistas distributing food to everyone, expecting them to believe that there will be fair and free elections.
Mr. Eggar : I agree with my hon. Friend, who echoes the points made by President Arias of Costa Rica, among others. The present Nicaraguan constitution ensures that the armed forces and apparatus of the state owe allegiance not to the country but to the Sandinista party.
Mr. Robert G. Hughes : Does my hon. Friend agree that there is an interesting contrast between the attitude of the Opposition in this House, who seem to regard Nicaragua as a gentle democracy, and the fact that in Nicaragua, the Sandinista Government do not allow the Opposition free and fair access to the media?
Mr. Foulkes : Why do not the Government for once use their undoubted influence with the United States in a positive way and persuade the United States to use the money that it is planning to give to terrorists to resettle people in Nicaragua for the free and fair elections to be held in February 1990? Why are our Government the only Government in Europe not attending the Stockholm conference on aid to Nicaragua, which is beleaguered by war and the recent hurricane? Why will the Minister not consider visiting Nicaragua to find out the truth about it, instead of hearing the ignorance displayed by the Prime Minister at her meeting with Daniel Ortega?
Mr. Eggar : We are not attending the Stockholm conference because we believe that the economic collapse which is a feature of Nicaragua at present was brought about by the Sandinista regime and we see no reason to provide additional aid. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have provided humanitarian aid to assist with the effects of the hurricane. We support, of course, the new bipartisan policy of the United States.
Column 845Washington on 17 April, we discussed a number of current issues including East-West relations, short-range nuclear forces, the middle east, Lebanon, southern Africa and Latin America.
Mr. Couchman : I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer. In the course of his wide-ranging discussions, did he have an opportunity to discuss the initiative by President Bush in seeking to control narcotics, especially in relation to south American countries, and did he discuss the possibilities of further co-operative action between our two countries on this serious problem?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : We certainly welcome the initiative of President Bush to which my hon. Friend refers. As he knows, it is an accepted part of our common policy for co-operation that we are engaged in a partnership in the worldwide war against drugs, with particular reference to Latin America. The first agreement, which I signed myself, for bilateral co- operation for the tracing, freezing and confiscation of the proceeds of drug transactions, was signed with the United States and came into force last night.
Mr. Denzil Davies : During the discussions on short-range and battlefield nuclear weapons, did the Foreign Secretary explain the British Government's policy? Is it the British Government's view that short-range and battlefield nuclear weapons are necessary to counter Soviet conventional superiority and would they still be necessary if there were parity of conventional forces?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : It is the view of the whole Alliance that we need to maintain short-range nuclear weapons, among others, in a capable and up-to-date condition. The Alliance agrees in rejecting a third zero and that remains the position in all circumstances.
disarmament--whether the Soviet Union has abandoned its desire to expand at the expense of other countries and to dominate them? Does he agree that that has not yet been established?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The President of the United States and his Administration, together with the other members of the NATO Alliance, share the view that it is necessary for the Alliance to maintain a firm and effective defensive capability against the risks of deployment or the threat of the use of military resources, and one cannot regard that threat as having come to an end.
Mr. Alex Carlile : Are we to accept reports that President Bush believes that the cold war is now over? If not, in the light of the Foreign Secretary's meeting with Mr. Bush, will he tell us how he would apportion blame for the continuance of the cold war?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The continuance of the tension, which gives the North Atlantic Alliance its continuing purpose, is due to the overwhelming preponderance of forces, and the capability to threaten the use of those forces, in Europe among other places. The fact that most of the countries of eastern Europe are still host to Soviet
Column 846occupation forces is only one of many reasons for thinking that there are still powerful reasons for being apprehensive about the security of western Europe.
5. Mr. Brandon-Bravo : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made on the current position of refuseniks in the Soviet Union ; and if he will make a statement.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave) : My right hon. and learned Friend has raised the probleof refuseniks with Mr. Shevardnadze on three separate occasions this year, most recently during Mr. Gorbachev's visit. The Soviet authorities have been left in no doubt that the problem of long-term refuseniks will continue to cast a shadow over Anglo-Soviet relations until a satisfactory and lasting solution is reached.
Mr. Brandon-Bravo : I welcome my hon. Friend's effort in this regard and I acknowledge that he has had many successes. Is it not true, however, that, much as we hope and pray that Mr. Gorbachev will turn out to be a true reformer, the Soviet concept of human rights--the right to believe, to practise one's own religion and even to emigrate--is a different concept from ours in the West? Given the difference, should not we continue to be careful to try to match practice and theory, to hope for the future and to press on with the campaign?
Mr. Waldegrave : My hon. Friend is right. It would be churlish not to acknowledge that the system is being operated more humanely than it was, but it is the system that is wrong. People's rights should not depend upon the intervention of my right hon. and learned Friend, myself or Opposition Members but on an independent judiciary and law in the Soviet Union.
Mr. Sumberg : I pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend and the Government in supporting the refuseniks in the Soviet Union. May I raise with my hon. Friend the case of George Belitsky of Vilnius, who has been waiting for his visa since 1980? His wife and two sons, one of whom I met this afternoon, are now free, but he still waits in vain. Will my hon. Friend see what he can do to help in this case? [Interruption.]
Mr. Waldegrave : I am sorry that Opposition Members do not seem to be taking the question seriously, as some of them have an honourable record in fighting for individual cases. I shall certainly look into the case that my hon. Friend mentioned. In New York, Mr. Gorbachev said that secrecy would not be used in future to block exit permits, but that is not what is happening in individual cases, I am afraid. It is still being used in far too many cases.
Column 847range of issues including Anglo-Pakistan relations, Afghanistan and other developments in the region, and the possibility of Pakistan's re-entry to the Commonwealth.
Mr. Powell : Did my right hon. and learned Friend manage to impress upon the Prime Minister of Pakistan the undesirability of the continuation of the civil war in Afghanistan? The people who are suffering now are the population of that unfortunate and unhappy country. Did my right hon. and learned Friend agree any proposals with the Prime Minister of Pakistan involving our assistance in putting an end to that civil war?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The Prime Minister of Pakistan has good reason to be more aware than almost anyone of the penalties imposed upon her country and on Afghanistan as well as the wider region, by the continuation of the conflict in Afghanistan. She and her Government wish nothing better than to see the establishment of conditions in Afghanistan that enable the millions of refugees to return to their own country. She and her country realise the importance of securing the establishment in Afghanistan of a broad-based Government that is truly representative of the people of Afghanistan. That is the way to bring the conflict to an end.
Mr. Worthington : In the continuing discussions with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, will the Foreign Secretary initiate further discussions about the success of the project in the Dir district in the north-west of Pakistan which is concerned with the reduction of the heroin trade from that area and with rural development and crop substitution? That is the kind of aid that we can give, which we give in too stinting a way at the moment. I am conscious of the success of that project and I am interested to learn whether the Foreign Secretary intends to extend such projects both in Pakistan and India to which I gather the focus of the heroin trade has moved.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the importance of co-operation against the drugs trade. We sustain that co- operation with the Governments of India and Pakistan. Miss Bhutto herself has made a firm public commitment to continuing a tough stance on narcotics, and has recently appointed a Minister of State to deal with that subject. We help to fund the crop substitution programme at Dir in the north-west frontier province. We would look sympathetically at any further Pakistani request for help of that kind.
Mr. Wilkinson : Did my right hon. and learned Friend discuss with the Prime Minister of Pakistan the dispute in Kashmir? It would be a development of the utmost gravity for Pakistan if, in addition to extreme instability in Afghanistan, there were to be conflict in Kashmir.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : We certainly discussed the importance of improvements in relations between India and Pakistan. There was no need for me to emphasise to Miss Bhutto the need for increased co-operation. I welcomed several positive steps in that direction, including, for example, the agreement not to attack each other's nuclear installations and the successful meeting between the two Prime Ministers in December of last year. In that context, we believe that the same method should be adopted towards the possible resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
Mrs. Clwyd : Did the Secretary of State discuss the continuing plight of the Kurds within Iraq and the renewed threat forcibly to deport 20,000 of them? If he did not discuss that matter, will he take it up with the Iraqi embassy and with the Government--
7. Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the South African Government and the United Nations for the publication of a full electoral roll prior to the forthcoming elections in Namibia.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker) : We have made no specific representations on this subject.The United Nations and the South African Government are both well aware of our concern that the elections in Namibia should be free and fair, as set out in the United Nations plan for Namibian independence.
Mr. Pike : I am sure that the Foreign Minister will recognise the problems if those elections are carried out on lines identical to those of the 1978 South African-controlled elections in Namibia, which the Government have repeatedly condemned as a sham. Does she recognise that representations must be made by 16 May, to ensure that the credibility of the United Nations is maintained and that the people of Namibia accept that the elections that are to take place are genuine, free and democratic?
Mrs. Chalker : I understand what the hon. Gentleman has said. However, the election arrangements are a matter for the United Nations and the South African Administrator General. We have made both of them well aware of our concern that the election should be free and fair, as set out in the United Nations plan. The draft registration of voters proclamation was published on 24 April, and comments and representations on the draft have been invited from the interested parties.
We note considerable differences between what was discussed way back in 1978 and what is now under discussion, particularly that there is a minimum voting age of 18, and that is certainly a step forward. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it will need close and constant supervision by the United Nations, and I am glad to say that that is well recognised both in New York and by the special representative in Windhoek.
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : Does my right hon. Friend agree that, sadly, it is all too clear that, because of cost, UNTAG was set up with too few soldiers and that one possibility is that, in the long run, the cost will be greater? Will she confirm that she is still prepared to consider increasing the size of that force and that British troops might be used in such an endeavour?
Mrs. Chalker : We must take careful note of what members of the United Nations on the ground are saying. Cedric Thornberry made it quite clear that, until the full deployment which is taking place has been made, it is not the time to consider additional personnel. Now that armed incidents are reduced, that may not be necessary.
Column 849However, as I have said on many occasions, if the United Nations Secretary-General goes to the Security Council to ask for additional personnel, we stand ready to supply them. In fact, we were asked for 10 additions to the signals unit that Britain has already sent, and those 10 will join their fellows, who are already doing excellent work in Namibia.
Mr. Robert Hughes : Does the Minister agree that there is great concern that South Africa is dominating the agenda for the implementation of UN resolution 435? As there have been severe hiccups, which we certainly hope will not be repeated, will the right hon. Lady accept that, in any future discussions about the preparations for the supervision of free and fair elections and law and order, SWAPO should be included as a free and equal partner in any discussions, instead of its views being put secondhand by third parties?
Mrs. Chalker : I believe that it is for all parties to resolution 435 to ensure that the December agreements and the United Nations plan are fully implemented. That means dealing carefully with the situation as it occurs, which is what the United Nations special representative on the ground is there to do. Not only do he and the Administrator General have to carry out their commitments under the UN plan, they must proceed with the refugee work. The British Government have given £500,000 to help in the return to Namibia of those Namibian refugees, which, indeed, will need to be handled carefully.
Provided that SWAPO remains north of the 16th parallel and that it keeps in communication with the United Nations, there will be far fewer problems than if it makes incursions and excursions that can cause only problems to the peace plan.
Mr. Lester : I have listened carefully to the remarks of my right hon. Friend about UNTAG and the necessary reinforcements. Clearly, the role of the police will be critical in reinforcing free and fair elections. Have we had any requests for advice or help in policing, rather than for military help?
Mrs. Chalker : We have not had such requests up to now. Should such requests be made by the United Nations, of course we shall consider them sympathetically. However, there is an increase in the observer force, and I am certain that the special representative, if he believes it to be necessary, will make such a request via the secretary-general in New York.
Mr. Anderson : Are the Government now honest enough to accept that they have colluded in a massive underfunding of the United Nations exercise in Namibia? Is it not correct, for example, that the Secretary-General has already asked for an increase in the UN police force above 500? How can an adequate electoral roll be established if the UN High Commissioner for Refugees does not have the funds to organise reception centres for exiles, who should return to Namibia within six weeks from 15 May? Will the Government provide funds to send parliamentary observers and monitors to the election in Namibia, as many of our European partners have done already?
I repeat to the hon. Gentleman that we have made it absolutely clear that the refugee work must proceed, which was why we were the very first country to give resources for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to get on with that important job. On the hon. Gentleman's point about underfunding, we have consistently backed the recommendation of the United Nations Secretary-General on the numbers that his adviser told him were necessary to start the process. The delay in the start of the process was due solely to the arguments being protracted until 1 March, before which no arrangements for deployment could be made. I repeat that we have further said that if the United Nations Secretary-General believes that there is a need for a further increase in the number of police and military observers, we shall, of course, consider that with our partners in the Security Council.
Mr. Waldegrave : We continue to believe that a settlement of the Arab-Israel dispute must be based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and that an international conference, at the right time, will be necessary. We look forward to discussing with Mr. Shamir how his proposal for elections in the occupied territories can contribute to this process when he visits the United Kingdom later this month.
Mr. MacKay : As the PLO appears belatedly to have recognised the existence of the state of Israel, does my hon. Friend agree that it is now not inconceivable that at some appropriate time in the future our Prime Minister might meet Mr. Arafat?
Mr. Waldegrave : We unequivocally welcome the steps forward that have been taken by the PLO. As my right hon. and learned Friend told my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) on 8 February, we are certainly ready to promote further meetings when they can serve a useful purpose.
Mr. Waldegrave : Any upgrading of meetings would undoubtedly involve my right hon. and learned Friend before they would involve the Prime Minister. The principle on which we have taken such steps has been that they should be seen to be carrying the peace process forward. Meetings should not take place just for the sake of having meetings.
Mr. Temple-Morris : Does my hon. Friend agree that the middle east peace process is certainly not helped by extremist exhortations to violence emanating from Tehran? In connection with that, what steps is my hon. Friend taking to prepare an international cohesive response and to prepare the necessary contingency measures?
Column 851nations throughout the world has been clear. Incidentally, there has been a clear rejection of Mr. Rafsanjani's remarks by Mr. Arafat and by the PLO for, which I thanked Mr. Bassam abu Sharif, Mr. Arafat's representative, when he was in London recently. We are taking steps within the Community, with our allies and with other friendly countries to get the widest and clearest possible rejection of that intolerable threat.
Mr. Nellist : Given that the weekend saw the bloodiest single day's fighting in the 18-month intifada against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, with four deaths, 343 injuries, including 147 gunshot wounds, the youngest of which was to a seven-month-old baby, has not the time come for the Government to respond as sharply as they have done in the past to Libya and to Iran and to cancel the state visit of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir which is due in 10 days' time?
Mr. Waldegrave : That would be exactly the wrong step to take. Without in any way disagreeing with the hon. Gentleman that the events in Gaza over the weekend were, as our statement at the time said, deplorable and another step downwards, that would make the whole situation worse. At a time when there is just a glimmer of light and a proposal on the table from Mr. Shamir, it is surely right for us to follow the example of the PLO and to try to make something of that statement and to make progress on the basis of what, I recognise, is a minimal proposal. It would be better to do that than to slam the door and not talk.
Mr. Rhodes James : As my hon. Friend is aware, I am a strong friend of Israel, but I have been and remain highly critical of certain actions of the Israeli Government, especially the brutal and indefensible response to the intifada. However, that having been said, does my hon. Friend agree that there are now clear signs that the Israeli Government are responding to the criticisms from inside as well as outside Israel and that they are moving towards negotiation? Surely that should be welcomed and encouraged.
Mr. Waldegrave : Any signs of movement towards negotiation by the Israeli Government will receive not only the support of Her Majesty's Government but, I am sure, that of the whole House. It is to investigate whether there are such signs and to encourage any that exist that it is right for us to welcome Mr. Shamir here.
Mr. Winnick : While I accept the essential need for Israel to recognise the realities and start negotiations with the PLO, should not steps taken by European countries over the latest incitement to mass murder from the Iranian regime be effective, unlike on the previous occasion?
Is it not the case that, to a large extent, Iran is the ringleader of international terrorism, while at home it engages in the murder of political opponents? Is it not time for the international community to recognise that much more needs to be done to punish and isolate this terrorist regime?
Mr. Waldegrave : I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Gentleman. We in this country can say to some of our colleagues, friends and allies round the world, "We told you so." After the Salman Rushdie affair we urged people to take seriously the irresponsible threats from Iran--some did and some did not. Those who did not now seem
Column 852to stand indicted. In the face of this further threat the civilised international community must surely unite in practical condemnation.
Mr. Michael Marshall : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comment about an earlier question in which the Yasser Arafat meeting was mentioned. Will he take on board the fact that when Yasser Arafat was invited to the IPU conference in Budapest in March, it was felt that the exchanges that followed were valuable. When parliamentarians and western journalists considered matters such as the responsibility for the Lockerbie air disaster it resulted in some fruitful discussion.
Mr. Waldegrave : My hon. Friend is quite right. Such meetings between parliamentarians, journalists and other concerned citizens across the sectarian divide are extremely useful. A useful meeting was held at Ditchley over the weekend.
Mr. Kaufman : When Ministers meet Mr. Shamir when he comes to London this month, will they voice the dismay of the House at the daily toll of killings and repression in the Israeli occupied territories? Will they tell him that the House of Commons condemns the Israeli policy that brings about such killings and repression? Will they ask Mr. Shamir why, when the Israeli Government calls for the renunciation by the PLO of its charter and Mr. Arafat then makes a statement of renunciation, instead of welcoming it, the Israeli Government brush it aside, as they do every concession that Mr. Arafat has made? Will they tell Mr. Shamir that his excuses and the patience of the world are running out?
9. Mr. Lawrence : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what criteria Bophuthatswana would need to satisfy in order to be recognised by Her Majesty's Government as an independent nation state.
Mrs. Chalker : The same criteria that have been followed by successive British Governments and which are based on international law. Other factors, including relevant United Nations resolutions, are also taken into account.
Mr. Lawrence : Why does my right hon. Friend not agree that, in international law, Bophuthatswana does fulfil the criteria laid down for recognition? It has a definable territory, a permanent population, a Government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Does not my right hon. Friend's policy have the rather ludicrous effect of driving Bophuthatswana to stay inside the sphere of influence of South Africa and thus strengthen apartheid, while the Government's policy is to woo South Africa's neighbours away from South Africa's sphere of influence and weaken apartheid? Cannot my right hon. Friend see the total inconsistency of the Government's policy?
Column 853Africa. We bear no ill will to those who live there. We are seeking to get rid of apartheid throughout South Africa. I take up my hon. and learned Friend on what he said about the criteria for recognition. He subtly altered the wording of the third criterion, which involves independence in external relations. That is one of our criteria. These criteria have been used by successive British Governments and are recognised by international law. I know that my hon. and learned Friend has been researching Judge Friedman's views and I understand that, under the terms of the Montevideo convention, they may be different. Our prime cause must be to help South Africa get rid of apartheid throughout the territories, including Bophuthatswana. Until there is a democratic system in South Africa, we cannot consider change.
Dr. Reid : I share the Minister's aim of getting rid of apartheid from South Africa and express my gratitude to her for having the courage to express it, but is it not hypocritical of the Government to set out the criteria in international law that they deem acceptable for independent sovereign nation-statehood while, at the same time, openly and blatantly to support American intervention in, and infringement of, the independent nation-statehood of sovereign Nicaragua?
Mrs. Chalker : I can see no connection between Bophuthatswana and Nicaragua. It is absolutely right that any country that wishes to look after its own affairs must show that it can do so. Bophuthatswana is not an independent country ; it remains a homeland of South Africa.
Mr. Baldry : Does my right hon. Friend agree that Bophuthatswana is a creation of South Africa for the convenience of South Africa in South Africa and has no right to independence, either de jure or de facto, in international law, and that to try to pretend otherwise is a fraud?
Mrs. Chalker : We have been over this ground many times, and my hon. Friend is absolutely right. These seven territories are in no way independent of the rest of South Africa. They do not fulfil the criteria for recognition as an independent country and I do not see any likelihood of their doing so. I hope that when there is a democratic system in South Africa as a whole, in which all people can have a say, the situation may be different for the people of Bophuthatswana--but it will not be so earlier.
Mr. Morgan : Will the right hon. Lady confirm that it is not a criterion for recognition as an independent country that it should offer free trips to select groups from this House or any other part of the country, although that is a well-established tradition of the South African Government? The South African ambassador was in Cardiff on Monday trying to bribe Welsh rugby players to go to South Africa. Will she tell the ambassador that, only days after three members of his staff were expelled for good reason from this country for involvement in terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland, it was wholly improper for him to come to Cardiff to a reception at the Holiday Inn, as if it was business as usual with South Africa? It very much is not.
It will always remain up to individual Members to decide what invitations they accept. Some may choose to go to South Africa and others to Nicaragua- -that is an hon. Member's responsibility.
10. Mr. Hayes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to meet the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ; and what matters will be discussed.