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Mr. Hayes : Does my right hon. and learned Friend think that our NATO allies might well agree with the Daily Mirror's editorial this morning, which says that Labour's defence policy is as confusing as it is unbelievable? When the laughter finally subsides, and NATO realises that it is nothing more than a policy for flexible surrender, would not the only honourable course left to a Labour Government--
Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend draws attention to a sound point, although he takes his fantasy rather far. The fact on which I am sure the NATO Alliance would agree is that the Labour party's new proposals for defence will be as ineffective for the defence of the Alliance as they have been for the uniting of the Labour party.
Mr. Menzies Campbell : Does the Secretary of State agree that there is a need for NATO to present a united front to the initiatives taken by Mr. Gorbachev? Does he agree that that would be best achieved through a sympathetic understanding of the views of all our allies and is not likely to be achieved by hectoring and browbeating the Federal Republic of Germany over its attitude towards the modernisation of short-range weapons?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The Alliance has responded and will continue to respond effectively and with unity to the prospects for progress on arms control. I was able to announce those proposals when I spoke first to the Alliance at the beginning of the Vienna conference just two months ago. On the last point, the Alliance has agreed that for the foreseeable future there is no alternative to a strategy of deterrence based on an effective mix of nuclear and conventional forces which will be kept up to date where necessary. That mix includes a continuing requirement for land-based, sea- based and air-launched short-range nuclear forces in Europe. A third zero for land-based missiles is therefore not acceptable. Lance will become obsolete in 1995 and a deployment decision on a
Column 855successor will be needed in 1991-92. In order to keep open the necessary options, support for United States efforts to develop a follow-on to Lance is necessary. We will seek from the NATO summit confirmation of all those points that have already been agreed by the Alliance.
Mr. Churchill : I recognise the importance to NATO doctrine of maintaining and modernising our short-range nuclear forces. None the less does the NATO Alliance not have a clear interest in reaching agreement with the Soviet Union on coming down to a common ceiling? For example, if that were to be set at 100 on either side, we could maintain and modernise our own capability and the Soviets would have to abandon 1,300 of their launchers.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : There is bound to be a substantial difficulty about verification of any conclusion of the kind to which my hon. Friend refers, if that were to be reached by agreement. I agree with him absolutely that there is no reason why the Soviet Union should not reduce its weapons of that kind unilaterally to NATO levels. So far it has undertaken to cut only 24 of 1,608 short-range missile systems. It can do a great deal better than that minimal reduction. It could do it unilaterally and at once.
Mr. Kaufman : When the right hon. and learned Gentleman meets Manfred Woerner, the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, will he discuss with him and take into account the statement made by Mr. Woerner last week that he wishes a middle way to be found on the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons at the NATO summit this month? Will he take into account also the statement of the Italian Prime Minister, Mr. de Mita, this week who said :
"Other governments basically agree, but not Mrs. Thatcher. The obstacle is there."
Will the Government explain to the House and to NATO why the Prime Minister is the only obstacle to agreement within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain why her bellicosity and obstinacy result in Britain being the only country either in NATO or in the Warsaw pact that wishes to halt the process of nuclear disarmament?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : In his passion to present a totally false picture the right hon. Gentleman seems, unusually for him, to have overlooked completely the position, for example, of the United States. He will find no difference between the case that we are putting forward and that which the United States is putting forward. We shall be ready to go to the NATO summit, as we have done in the past, to secure an outcome consistent with the security of the Alliance in the long and in the short term.
Column 856propose fresh measures to combat fraud and mismanagement, notably in agricultural export refunds and intervention storage.
Ministers will take this further at the June meeting of the Economic and Finance Council.
Mr. Knight : Can my right hon. Friend tell the House what steps have been taken by the European Commission to follow up the call of the Court of Auditors to bring about better financial control in respect of existing abuses of the common agricultural policy? Do not some estimates indicate that fraud in the European Community is costing up to £6 billion a year? That being the case, is it not right that the Government should continue to take the lead and press for further action on this outrageous scandal?
Mrs. Chalker : I, too, have seen the figure of £6 billion as being the cost of fraud to the Community. I understand that it was published in The Independent and is a speculative figure based on surmise, not on fact. But that does not alter the fact that this is a serious problem and that large sums are involved, even if we cannot give precise figures at the moment. That is why the British Government welcomed the Court of Auditors' report and ensured that its reports were discussed regularly in Council. At the 13 March meeting that I mentioned, the Commission promised a number of new and revised proposals, including concrete measures to improve controls over export refunds and intervention storage. The head of the anti-fraud unit is discussing the means of operation this month ready for the June meeting of Ecofin where we shall decide on the actual measures.
Mr. Cryer : If the Common Market is so keen and zealous in tracking down fraud and fraudsters, would it not be likely to have an idea of how much fraud is involved? Has the Minister any information to combat the figure of £6,000 million? As over the past four years membership has cost us £5,000 million and we have a deficit in manufactured goods of £11,000 million, does it not behove any Government to keep open the back door of withdrawal from the Common Market as a useful negotiating posture?
Mrs. Chalker : I am not surprised to note that some Opposition Members still favour an out-of-date attitude towards our future. With regard to our deficit on manufactured goods, 75 per cent. of equipment imported is for the re-equipping of factories for their modernisation. Companies are now investing in new plant and equipment in order to become more efficient. If we cannot provide the equipment ourselves, we must import it, and it is better that we import if from the Community which will serve us well. Wherever there is fraud, it must be sought out. However small or large, it must be deterred and detected. We shall put all our energies into doing just that.
12. Mr. Kirkhope : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent progress there has been in the development of human rights in eastern Europe ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 857rights and political freedoms. There has been little or no improvement in Bulgaria or Czecholsovakia or the GDR. Romania is, I am sorry to say, in a class of its own.
Mr. Kirkhope : Does my hon. Friend agree that the Soviet Union's record on human rights is still falling behind its social and economic achievements? Does he also agree that our foreign policy must take into account the individual records of each of the countries of eastern Europe and our assessment of them should be reflected in our general foreign policy decisions?
Mr. Waldegrave : I agree with both my hon. Friend's points. In particular, on his latter point, it is surely right that we in the United Kingdom and the EC should try to establish trading and other relations with the countries that are making progress and respond to that progress as it develops.
Mr. Eastham : Will the Minister advise the House whether human rghts include the unification and unity of families? A lady in my constituency with a British passport has two children and her Pakistani husband has been denied the right to join her? Is that human rights in the United Kingdom?
Mr. Waldegrave : Unless the hon. Gentleman is arguing for the abolition of all immigration controls--[ Hon. Members :-- "No."] It has always been the right of any country to maintain immigration controls. The Helsinki final act makes it clear that all signatory countries have the duty to allow people who want to leave a country to do so.
Sir Bernard Braine : Does my hon. Friend agree that the repellent and corrupt Ceausescu regime in Romania sticks out like a sore thumb in eastern Europe, that it has the worst human rights record in Europe and that it has caused a major refugee problem for its Warsaw pact neighbours? Does he further agree that this is a case where the West and the Soviet Union are caused common embarrassment? Is it possible to bring extra pressure to bear on that appalling regime?
Mr. Waldegrave : I agree with every word that my right hon. Friend says. The situation in Romania is tragic and shows no signs of getting better. The regime defends, with a mixture of childish and Stalinist arguments, the most appalling repression which is clearly an embarrassment to its friends. It would be gratifying to see more overt pressure being put on that regime from countries--other than Hungary, which has its own special reasons for being concerned about Romania--on the eastern side of the iron curtain, which we know are very embarrassed indeed.
Mr. Robertson : Will the Minister accept that hon. Members in all parts of the House warmly applaud and welcome the developments which are taking place in Poland and Hungary and feel that the European Community support that has already been offered should be real and appropriate for the circumstances there? Is he equally aware of our concern for the continuing human rights violations in Czechoslovakia? As hon. Members have pointed out, the indecent and unpardonable activities of the Romanian Government deserve and demand wide and vocal condemnation. Will he ensure that the view of the whole House is reflected in urgent Government action in this matter?
Mr. Waldegrave : Again, I can welcome wholeheartedly the position being taken by the Opposition Front Bench on this issue. There are many violations at present in Czechoslovakia. In particular, it is a scandal that Mr. Havel--perhaps the leading playwright in eastern Europe, some might say in Europe as a whole--is in gaol. We will continue to press very hard indeed on these matters, and we can do so again with redoubled force in view of the support of Opposition Members.
Mr. Colvin : Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge that because it is politically difficult for Ministers to visit Bophuthatswana, it is even more important for their officials to do so to bear out what hon. Members have been reporting for years, which is that this is a rare example of an African multi-racial democracy-- [Interruption.] --which is attempting to stand on its own two feet economically, which is more than can be said for the front-line states? It is, therefore, a model of what we would like to see the Republic of South Africa become. [Interruption.]
Mrs. Chalker : We recognise what my hon. Friend says--that it appears that apartheid as practised elsewhere in South Africa is not practised in Bophuthatswana--and in that sense the South African Government have something to learn from Bophuthatswana. That does not alter the fact that the whole creation and existence of that homeland is itself an expression of the apartheid that the South African Government forced on it, and nothing that anybody says, here or in Bophuthatswana, will alter that situation.
15. Mr. Janner : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will initiate discussions with his EEC counterparts concerning recent trends in organised Fascist activity throughout Europe ; and whether he will make a statement.
Mrs. Chalker : Any trend in the direction of Fascist revival would be deeply disturbing, and I have no doubt the electorates of western Europe would reject it. I see no need to initiate intergovernmental discussion on the subject.
Mr. Janner : Does the Minister know that this weekend a gathering and camp of neo-Nazis from all over Europe is planned to be held in the east midlands? Does she agree that the bringing to this country of Nazi criminals, many of them with records of violence, for a meeting organised by an evil man named John Peacock, who runs the Nazi British National party in Leicester, should be banned, and
Column 859that such people should not be allowed into this decent country? In view of the urgency of the matter and of the Home Secretary's failure to reply to my communication about it, will the right hon. Lady undertake to speak to him immediately?
Column 860Gentleman says, the matter is one for the Home Secretary. We do not have a visa regime for EEC nationals, but I shall certainly draw the hon. and learned Gentleman's comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The way to defeat such occurrences is through debate and elections, not by banning.
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