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Mr. Heath : Of course, it was part of our negotiations. Ireland is the exception that proves the rule. Most of us hoped that, when we became a member of the Community with Northern Ireland, like the Republic of Ireland, the Republic's attitude towards the common defence of Europe would change. I still believe that there is a possibility of that happening, but it has not happened so far.
Mr. Heath : I am sorry, but I shall not give way because I must be brief. If it were not for that, I would gladly give way, because the hon. Gentleman used to be a very strong supporter of European policy.
Looking still further east, I do not believe that there is evidence to make us work on the basis that Poland or Hungary, let alone Czechoslovakia, is in a position to seek membership of the European Community. For all Mr. Gorbachev's policies, is he prepared to see the break-up of the Soviet empire? I do not think so for one moment. Of course, I am strongly in favour of having a proper working relationship between East and West--we did a great deal to achieve that, from the first test ban treaty in 1963 onwards. I do not believe that Mr. Gorbachev is prepared to see the break- up of the Soviet empire, with those countries becoming members of the European Community when the Soviet Union is not.
It is becoming fashionable to say that Europe should go as far as the Urals. That raises an additional problem : what happens east of the Urals? Will that be the remaining Soviet Union? Will the Soviet Union break from east of the Urals? These are hard, practical questions. The idea is completely unrealistic. It gives everyone the impression
Column 1267that we want to abandon the treaties that we have signed and weaken the Community. Anyone who looks at a map knows that this is the utmost nonsense from beginning to end.
Our task is to make a success of 1992 ; then other countries that are prepared to become full members of the Community can do so. So long as the Soviet Union exists, I do not believe that Sweden, Finland or Switzerland will regard themselves as able to join--Austria may want the best of both worlds,b but I do not believe that it is possible for it to have it.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State used a word with which I am not familiar and which I cannot pronounce, but she said that it meant that we will go on doing everything we can. I am afraid that my view differs. A deep difference of philosophy exists. Our attitude in other aspects of international relations is that if we can do anything together, it is better to do it together. This is why the public have lost confidence in us, as evidenced in the
Euro-elections. They ask, "Why be in a minority of one?"
For example, why be in a minority about the notices setting out the dangers of smoking? Common notices would simplify the manufacturers' job, and that fits in with the rest of our philosophy. Why should they not be allowed to have such notices, or be told to have them? Public opinion is increasingly in favour of persuading people not to smoke. There is a big lobby, about which I am getting many letters, saying that smoking should be forbidden in Whitehall offices and that people should be able to work without being interfered with by smoking. We can take a legal view--even if it is not justifiable--that this action cannot be taken by the Community, but if it is a benefit to everyone, why not take it?
Exactly the same thing applies to languages. Our children desperately need more languages. Why do we say that this cannot be done by the Community but not do it ourselves? This is an extraordinarily extreme, legalistic bureaucratic approach. We are the bureaucrats, not the Community which is trying to achieve this aim. The same thing applies to cards for pensioners so that they can get their benefits wherever they go in Europe. That is what ordinary people want. They want to be able to get the benefits of Community life. Why should we stop it? The public do not understand why, as emerged clearly in the Euro-elections. The Government were obstructive, bureaucratic, rigid and dogmatic and we were not getting the benefits offered to us. The general public could not see anything more foolish than that.
There is a difference of philosophy. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will pursue her real belief that we should work together inside the Community to the utmost extent and not take a dogmatic line that makes us say that, if something does not happen to fit in with one or two views in Government, we should not follow it. We should be clear what our scope can be in the future, certainly until 1992, and by then, no doubt, the international picture of what will happen between East and West will be clearer. 11.35 am
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : Yesterday's debate on Hong Kong and China was rather sad--perhaps it would be better to say that it was "realistic", because that it the fashionable word to use. It harshly displayed where we now stand--something on
Column 1268which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) touched. It showed that our country, which recently--certainly within the memory of most hon. Members in the Chamber--dominated the world, is largely impotent and notably lacking in generosity. The rising sap of Empire has become like a dribble of spittle from the corner of an old man's mouth.
Even little poverty-stricken Portugal demonstrates greater responsibility towards its citizens in Macao, yet, after listening to the Minister of State, I believe that we still seem capable of remarkable self-deceit. The picture that she painted--she does it so well, persuasively and nicely--of a progressive, forward-looking Britain, leading policy in the European Community and in the world at large and widely admired by everyone, is one that I fail to recognise.
In the short time that I have to speak, I should like to touch on a few matters to which we could, in co-operation, make a more positive contribution.
I must point out that, although appeals were made to the Front Benchers as well as to ordinary mortals, the Minister took 34 minutes and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) took 35. It seems a bit hard for the rest of us, even if we speak for a party, to get 10 minutes.
I should like to say a last word on Hong Kong. Yesterday, the debate did not address the question of what we will do if, at the agreed time of handover in 1997, events similar to, or worse than, the massacres in Peking are taking place. If contingencies are to be discussed with other Ministers in the Council of Ministers, they should consider what we would do if it were unthinkable that the handover should take place when it was supposed to take place. I should like to refer also to our position in the European Community. It is difficult to add much to what was said so effectively by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and the hon. Member for Hamilton. It is certainly a travesty of the truth to suggest that the United Kingdom is taking a lead. We are following in economic respects, kicking and struggling against Delors, who is backed by the French and Germans, in our response to the social charter, and in our ideas on regional and social policy. We are isolated and we are not being terribly diplomatic. I shall not go over again the remarks that the Prime Minister has made about the French revolution, but they were hardly diplomatic.
The hon. Member for Hamilton mentioned President Gorbachev's speech in Strasbourg a week ago yesterday. I heard that exciting speech. Having heard the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, I should like the Minister to say something about what the Government think the Council of Europe should do. It is a perfectly fair question. Apart from its work in human rights, which is largely the work of the court, there is its work in culture, which is useful. It also appears to be now developing a role in making a bridge across the iron curtain. It is possible for Hungary to become a member of the Council of Europe. It will not be possible for a long time yet for Hungary to become a member of the European Community or to leave the Warsaw pact, but it is possible for Hungary, Poland and others and, if the process accelerates, even the Soviet Union itself, to join the Council of Europe, as Mr. Gorbachev said. That is a role that the Council of Europe may fulfil and I would like to know the Government's
Column 1269view. If the Council of Europe is to have such a role, it will need a higher profile and more money, as it has none at present. Mr. Gorbachev's speech was less encouraging in one respect, which was that it emphasised the limitations of interference in state powers and the fact that a limitation of state powers was inadmissible. In other words, he was against interference in domestic affairs. However, with human rights, there is no such thing as other people's business. The fate of the Turks in Bulgaria, the Hungarians in Romania and the Kurds are all our business. I would like the Minister to describe the Government's view on that.
The Government could have said that we would not sell the Hawks. I do not know what further deep discussions are necessary. We all know what Hawks can do or not do and the argument about whether they can be used only as trainers or in other roles. I would have thought that it was generally agreed that they could be used in other roles. Mr. Gorbachev has pointed to the great potential of the United Nations now that the Russians co-operate fully. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East referred to that. We have a chance to develop peace-keeping forces that will be more effective than the United Nations force has managed to be in southern Lebanon. The Government have not been very supportive of the United Nations. When are we going back into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation? It is about time that we did.
What are the Government doing to further the concept of an international conference on the middle east? I know that the Minister takes a steady, sound and sensible view of the middle east. I want to refer briefly to the death of Moshe Kol, of whom many may not have heard. He was one of the founding fathers of the state of Israel and a former leader of the Israeli Liberal party. He was a man with a great commitment to pluralism and he represented the good, positive side of Israeli politics, which is in retreat at present, although it is still there--if hard pressed.
I also want to pay tribute to another individual who is about to leave the political scene and whose example of high courage has been an inspiration to many. I refer to Mrs. Helen Suzman, who has served for a long time in the Cape Town Parliament and who will shortly cease to sit where she has so consistently and bravely attacked apartheid. What is the Government's present relationship with the Commonwealth on the degree of pressure to be applied to South Africa to bring about the end of apartheid? What role are the Government playing in the difficult, but hopeful, negotiations which will follow the ceasefire in the Angolan civil war? There is still a wide gulf between the view of President Dos Santos from Luanda that the rebels should be absorbed and President Savimbi's view that there should be an interim Government and free elections. As we are in favour of pluralism, I imagine that we are working to further the latter view, and I would like to know the position.
I am afraid that my time has all but run out and I hate to be told to sit down, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although fortunately that does not often happen. I want to conclude by myself by saying that the right hon. Members for Leeds, East and for Old Bexley and Sidcup, in different ways, were both wholly right in saying that the way forward for
Column 1270this country is not to go round shouting about nationalism, but to develop a real community sense within the European Community and to make the fullest possible contribution to the international agencies, many of which we have sadly shunned in the past.
Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge) : It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) : I agree with him strongly on one point. I attended virtually the whole of yesterday's debate, and I agree that it was a sad debate. To add a footnote, I am extremely grateful to the Government for responding to the application made by me and other hon. Members that Chinese students should have their visas extended for six months, which at least gives a breathing space. There is also a private fund, for which Sir Alec Cairncross is responsible. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends whether, if the need arises, the Government will consider contributing to that fund. I know that many of my own students in Cambridge are under severe financial difficulties.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that we do not debate foreign affairs very often. I recall when I first came here in 1955, in a different capacity, that one of the great features, apart from episodes such as Suez, was that there was virtual agreement between the parties on foreign affairs and defence. A signal example of that is the approach to Namibia. Resolution 435 was passed under a Labour Government and was supported by the Conservative party in opposition. The present Opposition, and especially the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), have strongly supported the Government throughout the process, which we hope will end happily. There are still difficulties, and I have real apprehensions about intimidation in the elections, but I am still optimistic that the Rhodesia-Zimbabwe experience will be important. I would welcome warmly Namibia's arrival in the Commonwealth. I want to concentrate on the middle east, where we are dealing with a rapidly changing scene. The adage about a week being a long time in politics has particular reference to this week, because the position now is different from the position on Monday. The new conditions on the elections of Palestinians imposed by Likud must be regarded as a major setback, although I do not regard it as disastrous. None the less, the process has begun and must be encouraged. I do not share in the criticism of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary for meeting yesterday Mr. Bassam Abu Sharif of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. However, I understand the concern it has caused in certain quarters. When we talk about Israel, I hope that we do not give the impression of interfering in the internal affairs of a friendly country. I much regretted the remark of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), who described the democratically elected leaders of a friendly country as "deluded bigots". Such language coming from a party spokesman is helpful to no one.
There is a long record of British involvement in the Jewish national home and in Israel. One thinks of people such as Arthur Balfour, Churchill and Victor Cazalet. That friendship is enduring and durable. However, it also often requires considerable patience as well as understanding. I was struck by the final words of my right hon. Friend
Column 1271the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) in yesterday's debate. He was referring to Hong Kong, but his wise words have great relevance to the middle east.
"Let us be open and frank. We now face the most difficult task in politics : to remain patient in unknown circumstances that we cannot control and to which we can see no immediate answer."--[ Official Report, 13 July 1989 ; Vol. 156, c. 1183.]
Our role with Israel is to encourage and to praise as well as to warn and to criticise. There is much about which to warn and much to criticise, but I hope that the people of Israel of all parties, not necessarily the Government, will recognise that in this country there is not only a tradition of support and friendship which goes far beyond the Jewish community and which I call the wider diaspora, but a desire and belief that that nation should and must succeed. There may be dismay at particular actions and deep unhappiness about certain aspects of current policy, but the deep friendship is there and surely we are entitled to look not only at the area as a whole and to our friends in the Arab world, but to our friends in Israel and to exercise our right as friends to warn and criticise but also to encourage and praise.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) : I, too, propose to refer to the middle east, although the hon. Members' references to important aspects of European policy have been of considerable interest to me. Many of us regard the Community's attitude towards foreign affairs as one of its most interesting and perhaps one of its most defensible aspects.
When we discuss difficult questions such as the middle east, in this democratically elected Parliament, it is tremendously important that we remember that Israel is also a democratic state. In recent years we seem to have grown into the habit of holding forth about the difficulties of the Israeli Government without making it clear that we understand that Israel has always remained faithful to its democratic traditions. The Government party elects parliamentarians, which cannot be said of many other parties in the world. The party has also criticised many internal decisions, and the action of the Israeli Labour party, in seeking to debate in considerable detail the decision by Likud to limit the negotiating position of the Government, shows some of the best aspects of democracy at work. The Labour party is anxious not to destabilise the Government, but it cannot accept limitations on negotiating positions vis-a-vis its Arab opposite numbers.
Sometimes, in our anxiety to promote peace in the middle east, we seem to represent the PLO as the only democratic organisation. In fact, it is manifestly nothing of the kind, and the very welcome statement about the acceptance of the right of the Israeli state to exist has not been confirmed by the Palestine Council as a whole. In such circumstances, it would be helpful if this Parliament occasionally made it clear that we reject violence wherever it comes from. Those on both sides of the debate must accept that. It is true that we have seen more of what happens in the Israeli controlled territories, but my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) described the truly terrifying situation in which the Kurds in Iraq find themselves. He made it clear that one of the things that distressed him most before he was able to visit the camps was a television programme about the effects of the use of poisoned gases on the Kurdish people. But it is
Column 1272fairly unusual for that problem to be dealt with in the media. Although the appalling genocide against the Kurds is debated from time to time, media coverage is neither constant nor clear, and the reason is very simple. Whereas it is possible to get pictures and comment from Israel, it is not easy to get such comment from Iraq or the surrounding states. That is an important point.
One of the strengths of the Israeli people has always been their openness. Their openness in debating their internal problems can be disastrous. I admire the fact that, when the Israelis have a problem with their army personnel, for example, they make it clear that they propose to take action against the person involved. They have courts martial and open control of their army representatives. That is the right way to proceed. I hope that, in similar circumstances, we would have the same degree of openness in the United Kingdom, although I am not sure that we would. I should like to think that that was how democratic states dealt with problems presented by internal disturbances.
None of that means that we should not have considerable reservations from time to time about the actions of Israeli political parties. It is precisely because the Israelis have a democratic system and a political divide that we can support those of our own political persuasions and those who support the democratic system. That is what we do and what we shall always do. It is most important that Britain, above all, should not be seen to be supporting only the PLO.
The opportunity exists to open talks. I would welcome the development of an electoral system in the West Bank and Gaza, but that can happen only when Arab candidates are allowed to come forward in safety and offer themselves for election. To that end, it is important that the Israeli Government do not impose preconditions on the negotiations. It is equally important that the PLO makes it clear that it will cease any form of physical attack against its own people if they offer themselves as candidates in an election. Only when the deaths cease will we begin to believe that the PLO wants to move towards some form of electoral representation capable of negotiating with the Israeli Government. There is a window of hope, but it is very small, and any action on either side that makes it more difficult to proceed will be savagely damaging.
The British have a particular role to play in the discussion. We should not always appear to be openly critical and not encouraging. We should not always highlight violence on one side and not on the other. Above all, we should say that, as elected representatives of a country with democratic traditions, we support an electoral system in which political power changes hands side to side at the wish of the electorate, and not at the wish of those who seek to dominate by the power of the gun. We should understand that those are the traditions that Israel seeks to support and encourage Israel to come to the negotiating table. We should not say, "You must agree to these conditions" or seek to lay down preconditions in talks with the large nations such as the United States and the Soviet Union. We should simply say to the Israelis, "You have a great deal of which to be proud. Do not retreat into the laager and give more power to your enemies who will then suggest that you have abandoned all that is best and most powerful in your tradition."
Column 1273The middle east is a vital area, and it is essential that we should support the democratic and properly elected representatives who can negotiate the peace settlement that we all seek.
Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South East) : I am afraid that constraints of time prevent me from responding to the various observations about our membership of the European Community. I think that it is true that some Conservative Members are disappointed about certain aspects of the stance of the British Government on our membership of the Community. Certainly, this was the case in the recent European elections.
I shall speak this morning about the situation in the middle east. Before discussing the conflict in general terms, I shall make a few remarks about United Kingdom bilateral relations with a number of countries in the region. Earlier this year, four members of Parliament visited the Yemen Arab Republic, North Yemen, and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, frequently called South Yemen or Aden. The PDRY, is the only Marxist Moslem state. Its economy is weak and it is a poor country by any standards. Hitherto, it has had close political ties with the Soviet bloc. However, there are signs that the PDRY is anxious to improve political relations with the West. For example, it is talking to the United States through a third country.
This change of emphasis is in part due to the change in leadership that has occurred in the Kremlin. In the Brezhnev era, there was a far cosier relationship than there is now, under Mr. Gorbachev. Incidentally, the same change in emphasis was also apparent when I visited Syria last October. Leaders of countries such as Syria, the PDRY and the Yemen Arab Republic no longer enjoy the automatic confidence and support of the Soviet leadership, whether it is manifested in political or economic terms.
I hope that the United Kingdom will respond positively to any favourable signals emanating from the PDRY. Any improvements in such relationships will be modest. We are talking about increasing the number of English language teachers, providing more student places in our universities for people from South Yemen and possibly helping tangibly to develop their agriculture. It is not without significance that, all through the period of difficult relationships with that country, following our withdrawal in 1968, British Petroleum continued to assist the state refining company.
The country now has mineral wealth, with high quality marble that is undeveloped, and it will need help from the West to develop it. There is also oil. The geographical location of the oilfield is significant, because it extends across the frontier into South Yemen, and the two countries, which until recently were at loggerheads, have formed a joint company for its development. Parallel to this commercial development between the two is the establishment of joint commissions at governmental level. These new arrangements are still in their infancy, but the United Kingdom should take a close interest in this development.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary visited San'a earlier this year. From the remarks made to us, I know that his visit was much appreciated, and there
Column 1274was universal agreement about its success. However, we cannot and must not rest on our laurels. North Yemen is very much flavour of the month as a destination for international statesmen and Ministers. The country has recently joined Egypt, Iraq and Jordan in forming a regional economic group. This relationship could have significant implications, and it is important that Britain should become as involved as it can with this development.
Our relationship with Iran has not yet been discussed this morning. As the House will know, I was one of five parliamentarians who visited Tehran some 13 months ago. During last summer and autumn, some improvements took place in our relationship with that country, because there was evidence that Iran was anxious, after eight years of Islamic revolution, and almost an equivalent time when it was at war with Iraq, to rebuild some bridges with the United Kingdom. We then had the Salman Rushdie affair, and our Government's decision to withdraw our presence from Iran. In other words, we were back to square one.
Since then, there has been the death of the Ayatollah. Contrary to some pessimistic predictions, the situation in Iran has not deteriorated as some thought that it would. There is probably an intense power struggle going on, but there are strong signs that Mr. Speaker Rafsanjani may emerge as the new president with executive powers, including power of co-ordination of the various sectors and groupings. If this is the case, and he decides to follow a more pragmatic approach, including a desire for better relationships with the West and the United Kingdom, I hope that the Foreign Office will not pursue an unnecessarily cautious line. Iran is a regional power occupying an important geographical position. It has considerable economic potential and we must not forget the implications of our overall relationship with Iran in the context of the three British hostages held in Beirut and Mr. Roger Cooper, in gaol in Tehran. Earlier this year, I became a little more optimistic about the overall situation in the middle east. Since the cessation of hostilities between Iran and Iraq, this peace has held, although it is a little fragile at times. In doing so, it has removed a major source of instability in the region. Egypt now enjoys a much better relationship with its Arab neighbours--a crucial factor in the jigsaw. The Soviet Union under Mr. Gorbachev has shown its willingness to undertake a more constructive role. Finally, the United States at least appears to have accepted--perhaps reluctantly--the principle that an international peace conference under the auspices of the United Nations might provide the most appropriate framework for negotiations to take place between the interested parties.
It is worth reminding ourselves of the objectives of any peace negotiations involving Israel and the Arab world, and the Palestinians in particular. A declaration at the recent Madrid summit confirmed the policy of the Twelve in respect of the middle east conflict, as defined in the Venice declaration. It includes, rightly, the upholding of the right to security of all states in the region, including Israel, and the right to live in secure, recognised and guaranteed frontiers. It also--
Column 127512.9 pm
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North) : We would like to debate many issues, one being the issue of Cambodia where there is a great threat and a great fear that the Khmer Rouge may once again inflict terror. I hope that the Minister will let us know how the Government view the Khmer Rouge and whether they stick by their proposition that it should have no future part to play in Cambodia.
I shall devote most of my speech to southern Africa, because there is some optimism that there might be peace and stability in that region. In Angola, there appears to be some rapprochement between the MPLA Government and UNITA. If the United States and South Africa have finally withdrawn their military, financial and strategic support for UNITA, there is some possibility of progress. The same is true in Mozambique, where there is a possibility of discussions between the Frelimo Government and the MNR. The key is that the South Africans must totally withdraw their support. In Namibia, the independence process is under way, and we are all hopeful that there will be independence under resolution 435.
There are still major concerns which are shared by the United Nations, the Security Council, and even by the Government, that intimidation is still being carried out by the South Africa Kovoet forces. More ominously, there are now reports of UNITA personnel acting with Kovoet and harassing and intimidating people in northern Namibia. The Government must look closely at that and investigate it to make sure that the situation is cleared up.
The current mood over South Africa is optimistic. I know of no other oppressive regime that has more defenders and more apologists. I know of no other such country that has been given more chances. No other repressive regime has had more money directed to it in order to allow it to continue in its wicked ways. The investment is made under the pretext that more investment will bring about change. People who believe that are naive enough to believe that if a tiger is fed more and more meat, one day it will turn into a vegetarian.
Whenever there is an element of change, it is met with euphoric headlines. The big bang of change is said to be upon us. We had P. W. Botha's crossing -the-Rubicon speech, and now we have the five-year plan put forward by F. W. de Klerk. Any objective examination of that reveals it to be a most disappointing document. It does not even begin to measure up to the challenge of a free and democratic non-racial South Africa. The truth is that F. W. de Klerk is nothing more than a P. W. Botha clone. The face presented to the West is genial, and the words are honeyed and sweet, but the face looking inwards to the republic is the stern face of harsh repression. It is the continued state of emergency and the continuing killing and the banning of all legitimate political activity. It is state terror and oppression, and there is now the new terror of paramilitary oppression and the assassination of anti-apartheid activists. Nothing so far in South Africa shows any sign of real progress. The five-year plan forms the basis of the National party's manifesto. Yesterday, I had a discussion on the radio with the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who sought to excuse the paucity of ideas by saying that the leader of the National party was only the President-in-waiting and not the President. People say
Column 1276that, because of that five-year programme, major change is on the way. For greater accuracy, the Library got a copy from the South African embassy. It says :
"The National party will, within the next five years seek agreement among leaders on a more just and meaningful basis on which groups may be defined for political participation ;".
What on earth does that mean? The only clue that we have is from a National party MP called Boy Geldenhuys. He said that apartheid is now being replaced by differentiation. That is playing with words, and is absolute nonsense.
The only way to make real progress is for South Africa to accept that there is only one group on which it can base integration and a truly democratic society. South Africans, irrespective of race, class, creed or colour must be allowed to participate, and that is the only way forward. If South Africa would take that bold step, we could begin to see the binding together of the nation. Apartheid cannot be modified, reformed, or adapted ; it must be changed.
People say that meaningful negotiations are in prospect. Everyone who has taken an interest in South Africa for many decades wants a negotiated and peaceful settlement. No one says that there should be any other way. If there are to be proper and meaningful discussions, some pre-conditions must be met. Those have been made clear many times to the British Government. On Wednesday, they were made clear to the Prime Minister when she met Mrs. Albertina Sisulu and representatives of the United Democratic Front. I welcomed that meeting, and I hope that during it the Prime Minister learned some humility from their demeanour, their intelligence and the way in which the United Democratic Front is approaching matters. She has much to learn.
The first pre-condition is that Nelson Mandela and all the other political prisoners in South Africa must be released unconditionally. The state of emergency must be lifted and all the banned organisations must be legalised. The restrictions on political freedom must be lifted, and there must be the right of free assembly and discussion. Above all, the military must be removed from the townships.
There has been much speculation about Nelson Mandela's meeting last weekend with P. W. Botha. The statement was issued second-hand, and it is a pity that Mr. Mandela cannot make a public statement himself. He has made it clear that the people of South Africa must be properly engaged in the process of negotiation. Settlement cannot be imposed by the white-dominated Government. He has made it clear that the African National Congress and the UDF and all the other parties must be involved in the discussions.
How can we influence events from outside? External pressure is important and forms part of the struggle of people in South Africa. There must be more pressure because South Africa does not shift without pressure. Anyone who believes that the Namibian settlement was reached because the South Africans suddenly changed their minds, has never looked at realities. South Africa decided to move on resolution 435 because of the cost of military pressure. In a sense, it is the Vietnam syndrome. White conscripts were sent back with limbs missing, or otherwise badly injured and sometimes in coffins, and that made the white South Africans realise the price that they
Column 1277were paying. The economic and military pressure has made them change. F. W. de Klerk's visit to Britain had nothing to do with promoting the five-year plan. It had to do with defending South Africa's economy, which is in major difficulties. It faces debt rescheduling and problems about overseas debt repayments. The apologists for South Africans say that sanctions play no part, but the facts prove otherwise. The five-year plan makes, that pefectly clear when it says :
"Adversities such as the worst drought in living memory, a prolonged slump in the gold price and the most vicious international attempt--over more than two decades--to destroy the South African economy by boycotts, sanctions and disinvestment, having strained the economy of the country and of every business and household." There we have it, from the horse's mouth. Sanctions are having an effect, are important, and must continue to be imposed.
The whole of southern Africa is an area of immense riches in material and people, and the time for it to be developed in the interests of its people is long overdue. If only people would recognise the great promise that it holds for the future and the fact that the African National Congress, the United Democratic Front and all the people who stand for free and truly democratic non-racial society should be accepted as partners and equals, the enormous potential of that area could be enjoyed by all its people. 12.19 pm
Mr. George Gardiner (Reigate) : When my right hon. Friend the Minister of State opened the debate she rightly drew our attention to political changes of a kind that few of us dared to pray for and that are occurring in many countries and continents, most notably in central and eastern Europe. I was glad that she devoted part of her speech to developments in southern Africa because immense changes are taking place there, too.
I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). I believe that never has the opportunity to resolve conflicts across the troubled continent of Africa been greater than today. The starting point was almost certainly President Gorbachev's recognition that promoting the armed struggle with Soviet arms, funds and advisers represented far too great a drain on the Soviet economy, and that without increasing the effort by at least 10 times it could achieve nothing. The effect of this has been to stimulate a sort of peaceful revolution stretching across a continent.
In Angola this revolution has led to an agreed withdrawal of Cuban and South Africa troops and to warnings to the Marxist MPLA that Soviet support cannot continue. That has led to a cautious rapprochement with Dr. Savimbi's UNITA. In Namibia it has led to Cuban and South African withdrawal and elections in November under United Nations supervision to elect a constituent assembly which will draw up a constitution.
In Mozambique the peaceful revolution has enabled friendly relations to be restored with South Africa and the chance of reconciliation between the Marxist Frelimo Government and the RENAMO rebels. All this has had a potent effect on opinion, especially white opinion, in South Africa. The ruling National party under Mr. de Klerk is now entering an election on a programme promising an
Column 1278end to white domination, open-ended talks with black leaders on a power-sharing constitution and moving to abolish apartheid. Another significant factor has come into play. The deputy Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union has warned the ANC through Oliver Tambo that it must think of laying down arms and adopting a negotiating posture. That will make the release of Nelson Mandela politically possible and pave the way for him to make a constructive contribution alongside Chief Buthelezi and other acknowledged leaders to what will undoubtedly be a long negotiating process.
All these factors represent recognitions of reality--that the days of the armed struggle are over and that far more can be achieved through reconciliation. I hope that we in the West can cut away from many of our former prejudices and recognise changing reality, too. I welcome my right hon. Friend's words on Namibia. Despite SWAPO's pre-emptive invasion earlier this year, we are now back on track to a peaceful settlement and SWAPO is returning without arms, as agreed in the first place. I urge the Government to use all their influence to ensure that the campaign for the elections in November is fair and open and that the democratic parties are not placed at a disadvantage.
There is undoubtedly anxiety about the situation in the camps for returning refugees. Many are administered by the Council of Churches in Namibia, which makes no secret of its open support for SWAPO. The CCN is still denying the SWAPO-Democrats, led by Andreas Shipanga, access to their members in these camps. It is essential for the election that all parties have access to all voters.
There are also worries about the preponderance of international aid going to SWAPO as that creates an unhealthy situation and an open invitation to corruption and bribery. There is, too, a continual flood of propaganda from Radio Zambia in favour of SWAPO. I concede that there appear to be two sides to SWAPO. There are some in the organisation who want to let bygones be bygones and who speak of national reconciliation ; but there is also a darker side, witnessed by refugees returning to Namibia, who tell of torture, rape and murder in SWAPO detention camps. SWAPO has asserted that if it receives a two thirds majority in the constitutional assembly it will impose a one-party state. That is not in the interests of Namibia or of the region. We need only look at other one-party African states, such as Zambia, to see how disastrous it would be. There needs to be open democracy in which SWAPO comes to terms with the other parties and, in fairness, the other parties come to terms with it. My right hon. Friend had some constructive words to say about South Africa. Anyone who has visited it this year, as I have, and spoken to the new generations of Ministers, to opinion formers of the Afrikaans press and to a wide number of opinion leaders outside Parliament, must be convinced that a real window of opportunity for reform is opening up. I cannot share the dismal and negative attitude of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North. That the National party can go into an election with such proposals, together with hints of Mandela's imminent release, is highly significant.
The whites in South Africa are coming up against reality, too. They are recognising the futility of trying to rule 20 million blacks who have no constitutional rights at
Column 1279national level yet who command growing economic power. Reality has caught up with black activists in the townships, too. Gone is the dream of three years ago that a wave of riots and strikes could topple the whites from power. Nor is there any illusion that economic sanctions will do the trick. Countless independently conducted opinion polls of recent months bear that out.
There is also a quiet revolution in the workplace. In the coal industry I watched black apprentices training side by side with whites for skilled jobs once reserved for whites, and at identical rates of pay. The greatest advance of blacks is seen in the economic clout that they have won for themselves. They command increasing purchasing power. Their minibuses are the fastest growing industry, followed by street trading. Small provisions shops are run from side rooms, and building materials are sold from back yards. I happily pay tribute to the work of the British embassy in diverting British funds into the squatter camps and into the townships, thereby getting the smallest of businesses going. Sewing machines for women, for instance, enable them to make dresses and contribute greatly to uplifting the blacks in these areas.
All these things increase employment, and black economic power is paving the way for political power. The entrepreneurs are achieving where the rioters failed.
Those developments underline the new mood of hope in South Africa. The old wind of change is blowing again. I urge the Government and Prime Minister to use all their influence to persuade other nations to help it on its way and to offer full encouragement to the reformers from all races in that country.
Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) : My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) has already spoken about the plight of the Kurds in Iraq. I have a list of towns and settlements that the Iraqi Government have already depopulated or are in the process of depopulating. They are deporting at least 100,000 Kurds from the north of the country to the south, from a fertile area where they have farmed for generations to an arid area, in most instances, where they will be unable to continue with their agricultural settlements. The deportation of Kurds has been continuing for a long time. The Iraqi regime has refused access to all international observers, both diplomatic and journalistic. Earlier in the year when, on behalf of the Campaign Against the Repression of Democratic Rights in Iraq, I went with some of my colleagues to see the Iraqi ambassador, he offered us a trip to a cultural festival in Baghdad. We said that we would be interested to go to Iraq but we explained that we wished to see the Kurdistan and not merely a cultural festival. For several months the ambassador played a cat-and-mouse game with us by sending telexes to Baghdad, receiving replies to the effect that the authorities were not happy for us to go to certain areas, and suggesting an alternative programme. The upshot is that none of us has been allowed to go to Kurdistan. We can draw our own conclusions from that.
Against that background, it is obvious that there are not many details of how many Kurds have been evicted from their historic towns, which towns have been affected and to where Kurds have been sent. I stress that it is said that at least 100,000 have been involved. The Iraqi Government claim that the operation has been carried out
Column 1280for border security reasons. There is no evidence, however, that the Iraqi Government intend to evict border populations along the Arab part of Iraq's frontiers. Instead, the operation is aimed at the Kurdish people, and is the latest campaign in the long and bloody war of genocide that the Iraqi Government have waged against their Kurdish people and the opposition movement. Even the Iraq-Iran war did not prevent the Iraqi regime from pursuing its internal war against its own people.
More than 4,000 Kurdish villages have been razed to the ground since 1975. Massacres and evictions have been taking place since then. Many areas have been depopulated. Their inhabitants have been moved to so-called modern villages. The zones that have been depopulated have been declared security zones and an order has been issued that any human or animal found within them shall be shot dead on sight.
The attacks on the Kurds took a sinister turn in 1987 when chemical weapons were used for the first time. The attacks continued throughout that year with no comment by the international community, to its eternal shame. In March 1988, the Kurdish town of Halabja was bombed with canisters containing mustard and nerve gases and 5,000 civilians were killed. In August 1988, after the cease fire in the gulf war with Iran, a large military offensive was launched in Kurdistan in which chemical weapons were used on a mass scale, with the result that thousands more were massacred. More than 100,000 Kurds fled for their lives across the border to Turkey and Iran. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton said, many of them are living in appalling conditions. The regime has announced a number of amnesties for those whom it has deported, but few have taken those very seriously. We are told that those who took up the offers were later either imprisoned or redeported.
Large areas of Kurdistan lie empty. Villages have disappeared. Kurds have been scattered in camps and prisons throughout Iraq. This is not an internal matter ; it is a humanitarian issue of international concern.
I shall refer to recent developments concerning human rights. In August 1988 there was a decree that gave Ba'ath party local organisations the right to pass the death penalty on those suspected of desertion and the right to execute on the spot. They can bypass both military and civilian courts. In February of this year, Amnesty International published a major report on the torture and murder of children in Iraq. Children are held hostage to force relatives to "confess" or to give themselves up. Victims are often as young as five-month-old babies.
In April, the regime held phoney elections for a national assembly that has no legislative power. The regime is all the time attempting to improve its image to the world.
I shall deal briefly with economic ties with Britain. To the extent that we can influence events in Iraq, I think that we should consider carefully our economic ties with the regime. Iraq's economy has been shattered by the war. Its reserves are spent and it is crippled by foreign debt. It desperately needs loans and easy credit so that it can trade. The regime wants to continue to spend large sums on the military and it is interested in developing its own military industry. Despite the ever-continuing violations of human rights in Iraq and the growing scale of the violations, Britain has maintained easy term credit for Iraq. When I asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster about trade links, he said that we have export credit
Column 1281arrangements with Iraq that amount to £340 million. It is disgraceful that those record export credit loans should have been agreed at this time.
Several trade missions have been sent to Iraq. The Department of Trade and Industry sponsored four up to May this year--the British Water Industries Group, the Engineering Industries Association, the Association of British Healthcare Industries and the British Electro-technical and Allied Manufacturers Association. There have been three missions from the Nottingham, Coventry and Manchester chambers of commerce. When I asked the Department what briefings were given to those trade missions before they went to Iraq, I was told that they concentrated on commercial relations and aspects of doing business in that country. Apparently, no briefing is given on violations of human rights. That is disgraceful.
The Government should link those credits with an end to human rights violations. They should ensure that no deal is struck to help Iraq to develop its own military industry. We must try to prevent British Aerospace selling Hawk trainer jets to the regime. We must not forget the importance of the air force to the Iraqi regime--the same air force that attacked Gulf shipping with Exocet missiles during the war of the tankers, the same air force that dropped mustard and nerve gas shells all over Kurdistan. I ask the Minister to deal with those matters today and to assure us that the Government will review their policy in the light of the continuing human rights violations in Iraq.
I wish briefly to touch upon the subject of Cambodia, a country in which I have a great interest. Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of time available to do so. Once again I appeal to the Minister. There is about to be a settlement of the Cambodian problem, and it is essential that it excludes the Khmer Rouge. For the Khmer Rouge to be given official status within Cambodia would be equivalent to inviting Hitler and the Nazis to return to Germany and to give them a position of importance.
I ask the Government to spell out their policy on the Khmer Rouge. I hope that they will take an active part in the Paris conference. I ask them to deplore the fact that the Khmer Rouge is still sitting at the United Nations as part of the Cambodian delegation, something to which this country acquiesced. The people of Cambodia, who have suffered so much, would regard it as a positive step if the Government were to withdraw their recognition of the Khmer Rouge at the United Nations.
Above all, I ask the Government to give Cambodia the aid that it will need when the Vietnamese pull out at the end of September. That country has suffered so much and we have done so little to help it. We will have our opportunity to do so in September.