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Sir Geoffrey Howe : I must say to my hon. Friend that it is very difficult, even with the most far-ranging eye, to detect anyone who can be classified as a beneficiary of the tragic brutality of the past few weeks in Beijing. It is certainly right for us to do everything we can to bring about a reversal of those trends. We have moved in that direction by making it plain that neither normal high-level contact nor the continuation of arms contracts can be contemplated in the present circumstances. We have equally made it plain that it is important to retain such contacts as can be built on continuing commercial or personal relationships, for example. Sooner rather than later we must try to achieve a means of getting through to those in authority in Beijing just how deeply the rest of the
Column 900world mourns what has happened to the progress that has taken place in the past 10 years and how strongly we urge a return of common sense and sanity to that country.
Mr. Foulkes : Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that what he said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) was a clear condemnation of the purge now under way in China? As well as giving sympathetic consideration to applications from Chinese students in the United Kingdom, will he give sympathetic consideration to applications for refugee status from any Chinese democracy activists who feel that they may be in danger in the present purge and who seek refuge in the British embassy in China? Will the Foreign Secretary tell us his response to the widespread support in Hong Kong for much faster progress towards democracy in that territory? Does he agree that he and his colleagues are on pretty shaky ground when criticising the lack of democracy in China or elsewhere while retaining colonial paternalism in Hong Kong?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I have already made it very clear that the purge was condemned not only by Her Majesty's Government, but by the other Governments of the European Community last week and again at our meeting this week. I have also explained the extent to which we clearly need to respond sympathetically where possible to the applications about which we have been talking. On Hong Kong, I must tell the hon. Gentleman that the answer is by no means as simple as he thinks. My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) put a more cautious view of it. It has been discussed at some length in the evidence given by the Governor of Hong Kong to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on Monday this week. Obviously, it is prudent to see what more can be done, as I said last week, to advance and consolidate the democratic process as a bulwark for the future of Hong Kong and to do so in the light of the views more recently expressed in Hong Kong. It would not be right to jump to premature, absolutist conclusions.
Sir John Stokes : I have recently been in China and Hong Kong but I hesitate to pontificate on the subject. However, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that while on one hand we must adopt a very strong attitude to the Chinese Government about their wrongs and our rights, on the other hand it would be wrong to the people of England and Hong Kong to allow the idea to get abroad that we shall be far easier in allowing millions of Chinese to come here from Hong Kong?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the matter. It was emphasised by a number of hon. Members last week that it would be wrong to give the impression that the House was ready to contemplate offering such an open-ended commitment.
9. Mr. Hardy : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has reconsidered the suggestion that the Council of Europe's concern for a wide range of environmental matters should be transferred to the European Community ; and what assessment he has made of whether the 11 member states not part of the Community will endorse that view.
Mrs. Chalker : I am not aware of any suggestion that the Council of Europe's concern for a wide range of environmental matters should be transferred to the European Community. The Council of Europe is already doing good work on nature conservations. In deciding what new work it should take on, the Council will wish to avoid duplicating work better done elsewhere.
Mr. Hardy : I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Will the Minister confirm that the environmental role of the Council of Europe should be broad and continuing, not least because it represents a far greater geographical area than the Community and because it embodies, therefore, the genuine interests of the 11 non-member states, as well as the organisation closely involved with local authorities in Europe? Will she make it clear that any suggestion that its interests should be restricted to nature conservation would be absurd and dangerous? Does she agree with the more considered and acceptable view expressed by the Norwegian chairman in office during the assembly last month?
Mrs. Chalker : I assure the hon. Gentleman that the valued work done by the Council of Europe in many environmental areas is something that we hope will continue and perhaps not only among the 23 existing member states. Perhaps it may have influence further afield because so many of these issues know no national boundaries and no Council of Europe boundaries.
I have had long talks with Helga Hernes, the Minister who took the questions at the Assembly and I am sure that we can work well together. However, that is not to undermine in any way the great success that my noble Friend Lord Caithness has had in the Environment Council where good sound decisions were made on ivory, on seals, on strengthening the United Nations institutions for environmental work and on the work on climatic change. Great praise has been given to this country for the work that has been done as a result of the Prime Minister's conference in early March. Everybody should be thoroughly involved.
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg : Does my right hon. Friend agree that much of the duplication that she rightly wishes to avoid comes from the European Parliament, not from the Council of Europe? Does she recognise that the Council of Europe does an immense amount of good work on environmental matters and at a far lower cost to the citizens of Europe?
Mrs. Chalker : I well understand what my hon. Friend is saying. There is no doubt that the Council of Europe was the initiator of many excellent environmental reforms, but we must be careful not to exclude the need for members of the European Community, working together in the creation of the single market, to take the back-up measures that are definitely necessary in matters of trade. I caution against saying that one institution rather than another should be responsible in any specific area and say, as I have said to the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy), that where advances can be made to improve the environment, they should be undertaken without duplication by all the bodies involved.
Mr. Coleman : May I thank the Minister for her attitude to this matter, especially in respect of the way in which the Council of Europe goes about its activities? I hope that she
Column 902will agree on the need to ensure that the Council of Europe does not become demoralised over its excellent work on environmental matters.
Mrs. Chalker : I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no intention and no plan that the Members of the Assembly of the Council of Europe should become demoralised in any way by the actions of others, who want to copy many of the things that they have done. The Council should regard that as a compliment. However, there is no doubt also that there is room for the involvement of more than one forum. Such involvement can be achieved without duplication, and I sincerely hope that it will be.
10. Mr. Andy Stewart : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, when he last had discussions with President Bush ; and what matters were discussed.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : Together with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I last had discussions with President Bush, and Secretary Baker, on 1 June, during their visit to this country. We discussed East-West relations, the middle east and other regional issues and trade matters.
Mr. Stewart : Did my right hon. and learned Friend have a chance to review the highly successful outcome of the NATO summit with President Bush when he was in London and did President Bush reiterate the position taken by both Governments about the dangers of a denuclearised Europe?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : Yes, that was one of the topics that naturally assumed an important part in our discussions because President Bush's visit to London followed immediately on the successful NATO summit when we agreed on the essential features, not least the circumstances in which negotiations on short-range nuclear weapons should be contemplated.
Mr. Tom Clarke : When the Foreign Secretary next meets President Bush, will he raise with him the denial of fundamental human rights in the apartheid system in South Africa? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that that would be an appropriate time for both sides to look afresh at the possibility of sanctions?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The Government and the new American Administration have already expressed their common view of their total condemnation of apartheid and the denial of human rights that that involves. However, we do not draw from that proposition the same conclusion as the hon. Gentleman. We believe that it is most important in the months ahead to keep on course the prospect of the independence of Namibia, in accordance with resolution 435, and to look forward to circumstances in which the South African Government, which will be elected after 7 September, are ready to take the fundamental steps to dismantle apartheid. We do not think that that process would be helped or hastened by any further moves on sanctions.
Sir Peter Blaker : There are now more than 43,000 Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong. They are arriving at a rate which necessitates the building of two new camps each week to hold them. Will my right hon. and learned
Column 903Friend explain to President Bush that there are many people in this country who find it impossible to understand how the American Administration can justify its argument at Geneva that there should not be a policy of compulsory repatriation of economic migrants to Vietnam, with appropriate guarantees from the Government of Vietnam, when it is the policy of the United States for economic migrants from Haiti who arrive in Florida, to be sent back compulsorily and for the same to be done for economic migrants who arrive from Mexico across the American border?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : My right hon. Friend is entirely right. Indeed, the Prime Minister and I impressed on President Bush and Secretary of State Baker the extreme gravity of the situation facing Hong Kong as a result of the continuing inflow of Vietnamese boat people. I had the opportunity to raise the issue of Indo-Chinese refugees again yesterday at the Geneva conference, and I put to the representative of the United States the same arguments as my right hon. Friend has now put to me. It is of crucial importance that, aside from any arrangements to handle those classified as refugees--that is something on which some progress may be made at the Geneva conference--there is a recognition of the need to secure a return flow from Hong Kong to Vietnam of those who are not classified as refugees. I had the opportunity of discussing that also in Geneva with the Vietnamese Foreign Minister, and discussions on that topic will be continuing.
Mr. Kaufman : When the Foreign Secretary next meets President Bush, will he discuss with him the very positive response by President Gorbachev to President Bush's own historic offer on conventional disarmament? Will he discuss, too, with President Bush the historic agreement reached this week in Bonn between the Soviet Union and the Federal Republic of Germany and the statement by the Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman that an agreement with France is next on the cards--that Paris is the next stop? However, that same Soviet spokesman did not think that an agreement with Britain was possible or that Britain was a willing partner. Why is it that, while the United States, France, West Germany and other western allies speak positively and constructively in discussions with the Soviet Union, this country, and especially this Prime Minister, simply whips up the cold war?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The right hon. Gentleman can be relied on to have an insight that is fundamentally mistaken. The series of successful visits by President Gorbachev to western European countries commenced with his visit to this country. Our Government--and nobody more than the Prime Minister--have emphasised the extent to which we welcome President Gorbachev's progress on perestroika. We regard the outcome of his visit to the Federal Republic of Germany in the same light. It is not our practice to issue comprehensive joint declarations of the kind recorded in the Federal Republic this week, but a large number of the matters dealt with in that joint declaration have already been the subject of similar agreements between ourselves and the Soviet Union. The right hon. Gentleman need have no fear. The United Kingdom is not lagging in the prudent promotion of better East-West relations.
11. Mr. Knapman : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what matters were raised at the most recent summit meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Mrs. Chalker : The OECD Ministerial Council covered a wide range of subjects, including macroeconomic developments and policies, structural reform, trade and debt. Environmental issues also featured prominently.
Mr. Knapman : Does my right hon. Friend agree that Britain is helping Third world countries not only through the quality of its aid programme, but by direct investment in Third world countries and through attempts to open European Community markets to them?
Mrs. Chalker : Indeed I can. Britain has led the way, with the initiative by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on sub-Saharan debt. We have been cancelling aid debt for the poorest
countries--almost £1 billion world-wide. We have led the way in converting loans into grants. We have targeted our aid much better than every before. That is an important help for the developing nations.
The other aspect that my hon. Friend mentioned was direct investment in developing countries. Between 1984 and 1987, the United Kingdom's direct investment was greater than that of the whole of the rest of the European Community put together.
Above all, we believe in open trade, world-wide, in giving opportunities to these countries for trade with the European Community and for avoiding fortress Europe.
Mr. Pike : Can the Minister assure us that urgent consideration will be given to the need for aid for Namibia following independence, especially recognising the debt that it will inherit, which was incurred by the present non-representative Government?
Mrs. Chalker : We are well aware that Namibia will need support and aid further to that which we already give it. We are working hard to ensure, through our representatives with the United Nations force, that the peace plan stays on course, so that free and fair elections will give independence to Namibia in November and we shall be able to work on a further aid programme thereafter.
12. Mr. Michael Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports has he received on the process towards internal reconciliation in Angola.
Mrs. Chalker : We welcome the security conference of Angola's neighbours in Luanda on 16 May and President Dos Santos' announcement of a peace plan for Angola, including a zone of peace along the line of the Benguela railway. We shall continue to encourage African countries in their mediation efforts.
Mr. Brown : In addition to that answer, does my right hon. Friend agree that the United Nations agreement of last year is most important? Does she not think that we
Column 905should ensure that the United Nations increases the number of observers in Angola, to make sure that the withdrawal of Cuban troops materialises?
Mrs. Chalker : The Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola is going ahead in accordance with the Geneva protocol. The net withdrawal of 6,885 troops was completed by the end of April. My hon. Friend will probably know that the United Nations has doubled up the monitoring force, because it is by monitoring what is going on that we can assist. I have every confidence that the actions taken by UNAVEM--the United Nations force--will bring about the clear recognition that the plan has been fully executed.
13. Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on relations with Panama.
Mr. Eggar : Relations would be improved if General Noriega were to stand down and open the way to democratic government.
Mr. Arnold : Does my hon. Friend feel that Latin America has made considerable progress towards representative democracy in almost all countries? Do not the actions of General Noriega, this ninth-rate villain, do much to tarnish that reputation? Should not our relationship and that of the European countries towards Panama be modified accordingly, until such time as Panama chucks this viper from its nest?
Mr. Eggar : I very much agree with my hon. Friend in welcoming the movement towards democracy in Latin America. If, as we all hope, Chile moves to democracy at the end of this year, that will leave only Nicaragua and Panama as non-democratic states.
Already, together with our European Community partners, we have made a clear statement calling on General Noriega to stand down, to open the way for a peaceful democratic resolution of Panama's problems.
15. Mr. Robertson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met either of Britain's Commissioners in the European Community ; and what was discussed.
Mrs. Chalker : Following official calls paid on him by the British members of the Commission in December 1988, my right hon. and learned Friend and I have been in contact with them and other members of the Commission on a range of Community issues, and look forward to continuing such contacts.
Mr. Robertson : When the Minister discusses with the Commissioners the business that is before them, could she read to them part of Herr Genscher's speech to the 40th anniversary meeting of the Deutsch-Englische Gesellschaft in Dusseldorf last week? He said : "The Community must be a community for all citizens ; it therefore needs a social dimension so that it can evolve into a community of social progress."
How does that square with the Government's attitude to the social measures that are being put forward? Specifically, how does it square with the veto on Monday on the equality provisions in the Social Minister's council and the Marxist veto on the social charter that the Christian Democratic Union Minister believed was too bland and needed to be sharpened?
Mrs. Chalker : Of course there is a social dimension to what we do in the Community. Nobody has ever denied that, and that social dimension is the key to improving living standards and working conditions. Getting non- inflationary growth is the way to do that. We shall not achieve that if many of the aspects of the so-called social charter are carried through. We must do everything that we can to continue the fall in unemployment that we have had in this country and throughout the Community. That will be done by deregulation. It is not done by heaping on to business restrictions that are not necessary to improve our economic life.
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