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Ms. Short : While I am sure that all reasonable people agree with the Government that we must back the Arab League's efforts, does the Minister agree that there will not be proper long-term peace in Lebanon without a settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Is it not over time for the British and American Governments to put more pressure on Israel to have proper negotiations with the Palestinians for a settlement there that will assist the achievement of peace in Lebanon?
Mr. Waldegrave : I agree with the hon. Lady that the poison in the whole region is the lack of a settlement of the fundamental problem between the Palestinians and the Israelis. None the less, the restoration of peace and a sovereign Lebanon would do a great deal to help bring about peace in that region as well. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary recently met the Foreign Minister of Israel and once again made our views clear.
Mr. Maude : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on 3 October. Issues discussed included the television broadcasting directive, assistance to Poland and Hungary, trade relations with the United States and Japan and renegotiation of the Lome convention.
Mr. Yeo : Does my hon. Friend agree that enthusiastic British support for rapid progress towards a free market for goods and services inside the Community should be accompanied by robust resistance in the Council of Ministers to some of the bureaucratic lunacies emerging from the Commission?
Mr. Maude : We shall resist bureaucratic lunacies from whatever source they emanate. We look extremely carefully at every Commission proposal to ensure that it is properly framed within the competence of the Communities and under the proper legal base. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to our enthusiastic support for the completion of the single market, and to our pleasure that this is now broadly following a liberal approach of the sort that we can strongly support.
Column 838issue up in the European Council, with a view to trying to ensure that the Iraqis do not get the Alpha jet as a substitute?
Mr. Maude : I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman that that matter has been pursued in the Foreign Affairs Council, but certainly my right hon. Friend and I will want to reflect on what he said to see whether that is appropriate.
Mr. Gow : How much satisfaction is given to my hon. Friend by the prospect of one of Her Majesty's Ministers being summoned before the Court of the European Community to answer allegations about the condition of our drinking water?
Mr. Maude : We have every confidence that the quality and standard of our drinking water are exceptionally good. We strongly regret the action that the European Commission has taken. The Commission accepts that we are doing everything that we can to bring water up to the required standard. No one has suggested, not even the Commission, that any time scale more rapid than that which we propose is possible, and its action in taking infraction proceedings against us, as it has done against many other member states, is irrelevant and harmful.
Mr. Robertson : I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box on his first appearance as the Minister with responsibility for Europe. His predecessor, the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker), was ditched because she showed a slight glimmer of independence of mind. It seems clear from his career that he is in no such danger. Let me bring him back to the subject of the social charter. Why is it, according to today's newspapers, that when even all the other Right-wing champions of the social charter seem willing to accommodate the foot-dragging views of the British Government, we will still not agree to the charter? What sort of Community does the Minister envisage when we stand alone so consistently and regularly against proposals that all our partners believe are essential for the correct working of the single European market?
Mr. Maude : The hon. Member must not be too fulsome in his compliments. I can tell him what sort of social charter we would find acceptable. It would be a charter that accepted the principle that the Heads of Government enunciated at the Madrid Council with respect to the principle of subsidiarity, which leaves as much as possible to the national practices and voluntary traditions in other countries. The present draft of the social charter does not do that. That is a matter of considerable regret, and we hope that there can be further changes that will make it acceptable.
Mr. Aitken : Can my hon. Friend explain why he did not resist signing the television directive, which surely has nothing whatever to do with the creation of a single market? It was condemned by the United States Government representative, Carla Hills, as being one of the worst examples of protectionism and anti-Americanism and fortress Europeanism, and it makes it mandatory for television companies throughout Europe to carry 50 per cent. of European content. This has nothing to do with the single market.
Mr. Maude : I can remember discussing this matter with my hon. Friend on another occasion when I was in my previous role. This is an important measure which does have something to do with the single market, because it
Column 839prevents national Governments from erecting barriers to transfrontier broadcasting. It is quite an important single market measure. My hon. Friend may not have read it as carefully as others have. The formulation in the directive makes it clear that it is not possible for countries, the European Commission or national Governments to insist in all circumstances that over 50 per cent. of the programming is of European content. The United States Government made representations at a late stage in the discussions and the formulation that was arrived at was much more liberal than that which was proposed originally, to the extent that considerable embarrassment was caused to the French Government.
10. Mr. Norman Hogg : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the Spanish Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, and if the social charter was discussed on that occasion.
Mr. Hogg : Is the Minister aware of the briefing given by Commissioner Papandreou in London last week, when she emphasised the flexibility of the social charter and spoke of the plurality of cultures that it contains? Will the Minister give an undertaking that the Government will learn something about consensus and will seek by 1992 to produce a commitment to Europe that at least will provide equality for all the people rather than just for some?
Mr. Maude : I am aware of the briefing that Commissioner Papandreou gave in London last week. The problem is that it is difficult to recognise the social charter, as it is drafted, from the words that the commissioner used.
Mr. Teddy Taylor : Does my hon. Friend agree that he and the Spanish Foreign Secretary should publish explanatory notes for British and Spanish trade unionists and others so that they can be aware that when the directives go through workers who believe that they are not getting union recognition rights, such as those at GCHQ and elsewhere, will be able to go to the European Court instead of this Parliament or their employers, and those who believe that they are not being paid satisfactory wages can go to the European Court instead of this Parliament or their employers? Why do not the Government publish a paper that explains what it is all about so that the British people can know before the directives go through?
Mr. Maude : We have been at some pains to set out our concerns about the draft social charter as it is now framed. Our concerns include those to which my hon. Friend has referred. The more widely these issues are understood, the better it will be.
Mr. Robert Hughes : Will the Minister take the earliest opportunity to express to Mr. Felipe Gonzalez the great outrage in Britain at Spain's refusal to return 30 children in defiance of court orders awarding custody, and despite the fact that Spain is a signatory to both the international convention and the Hague convention on custody? Will
Column 840the hon. Gentleman ask the Spanish Government immediately to enact domestic legislation that will give effect to the treaties that they have signed?
Mr. Cash : When my hon. Friend met the Spanish Prime Minister, did the issue of minimum wages within the European Community arise? Did he address the issue in terms of the effect that it would have on jobs and investment in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the European Community? Did he make it clear that the consequence of having a national minimum wage would be to create havoc for employment prospects here and elsewhere in the Community?
Mr. Maude : The burden of my original answer was that my right hon. Friend had not yet met the Spanish Prime Minister. The points that my hon. Friend makes are very much those with which we seek to argue the case against a prescriptive social charter. I was interested to read in today's newspapers that the UNICE, the Europeanwide body of employers, reflects many of the same concerns, especially the disadvantageous effect that a minimum wage provision would have on the poorer parts of the Community.
Mr. Sainsbury : The non-aligned movement and the Soviet Union have both recently come forward with formal proposals in the United Nations General Assembly for fuller use of the International Court of Justice. The United Kingdom which is one of the minority of United Nations members that accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the court, is carefully considering those ideas.
Mr. Sillars : Would the British Government support a proposition to extend the jurisdiction of the court so that Fourth world nations such as the Kurds, who have been subject to the most appalling tragedies, could take their state to that court?
Mr. Sainsbury : The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting idea, but one which appears clearly to be outside the terms of reference of the International Court of Justice, which is concerned with disputes between member states. I suspect that there would be no little difficulty in defining which or what organisations or bodies should come under the hon. Gentleman's "Fourth world" definition, and who would be responsible for deciding which should qualify.
Sir John Stokes : Is my hon. Friend aware that the International Court of Justice is entirely unlike the English courts of justice, which have given this country justice for many centuries? Is he further aware that judges at the International Court of Justice are political appointees, who are not always especially distinguished? Would we not do far better to stay with the English courts?
Mr. Sainsbury : I am sure that there is no stronger defender of our courts than my hon. Friend. However, the point and purpose of the International Court of Justice is to resolve disputes between states. I suspect that even those who are the greatest admirers of the British system of justice would be reluctant to refer such disputes to our domestic courts.
Mr. Sainsbury : As I said earlier, as the court is responsible for considering disputes between states, I cannot perceive an immediate application of its power or role in the position suggested by the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Sainsbury : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has not yet had an opportunity to visit central America. I visited Belize on 5 to 7 October. I hope to visit other countries in the region in due course.
Mr. McKelvey : I hope that the Minister has an opportunity to visit Nicaragua. However, in the event that he might not get there, can he say how much financial assistance the Government are prepared to give to the Nicaraguan Government to ensure free and fair elections next year? Will he consider giving some financial assistance for the training of the officers who have to run the elections? Were not those two of the areas that the British observer noted as having a distinct lack of resources?
Mr. Sainsbury : I am glad to note the hon. Gentleman's concern that there should be free and fair elections in Nicaragua. I hope that that view is shared throughout the House. I hope that the elections will allow equal rights to both the Government and Opposition and a fair opportunity for both of access to the media. These matters are primarily for the Nicaraguan Government, but we have made clear to them our concern that there should be free and fair elections.
Mr. Jacques Arnold : When considering the forthcoming elections in Nicaragua, will my hon. Friend exercise extreme caution in the light of the limitations on free speech in that country, its record on giving fair broadcasting time to the various contenders in elections and its disgraceful record on political prisoners?
Column 842highly respected Dr. David Browning--and we shall await with considerable interest his views on the conduct of the elections.
Mr. Watson : Will the Minister report on the outcome of the Prime Minister's meeting with President Cristiani of El Salvador in London last month? Will he tell us whether the Prime Minister condemned the increasing violation of human rights in that country where it is estimated that 296 people have either disappeared or been assassinated in the first three months of the ARENA Government? If, as I suspect, the Prime Minister did not voice that condemnation then, will the Minister now do so on behalf of the Prime Minister and her Government?
Mr. Sainsbury : I have made clear to their Foreign Secretary our anxiety about human rights. We condemn abuses of human rights wherever they occur. I hope that the whole House will join me in deploring the particularly reprehensible recent example when the 23-year-old daughter of the commander of the armed forces' centre of studies was shot in her car going to university. That is a breach of human rights which deserves universal condemnation.
Mr. Waldegrave : We fully support Egyptian efforts to seek clarification of Mr. Shamir's useful elections proposal and to promote talks in Cairo between the Israeli Government and Palestinians from inside and outside the occupied territories. We look to Israel to respond positively.
Mr. Townsend : Is it my hon. Friend's view that if the Palestinian people were granted the right of self-determination, which they certainly should be under the United Nations charter, they would inevitably voice support for an independent Palestinian state? Has not the time come for the British Government to commit themselves to working towards the creation of such a state in the middle east?
Mr. Waldegrave : We are working towards self-determination. It will then be entirely up to the Palestinians what they choose. The chairman of the PLO has said that they would then seek some form of federation-- confederation is probably a better word--with Jordan. Self-determination is the first issue.
Mr. Archer : Is there not a disturbing credibility gap between the protestations of Mr. Arafat that he has renounced terrorism and seeks peace, and the pronouncements of some of his close associates, including Abu Iyad, that the Palestinian strife must escalate in intensity? How are we to reassure the Israelis, at least until Mr. Arafat has publicly repudiated those sentiments?
Column 843way to peace. It is worth noticing that Mr. Arafat is threatened with death by Mr. George Habash and others who oppose that policy. We have said many times in the House that if Israel does not respond within a reasonable time, there are bound to be people in the broad movement of the Palestinians who return to violence.
Sir Dennis Walters : Bearing in mind that the Israeli Government have contemptuously dismissed every peace plan proposal put forward and that the United States Administration seem to be moving very slowly in the direction of putting some pressure on the Israeli Government, will my hon. Friend consider the possibility of a limited European initiative aimed at least at protecting the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza who continue to be terrorised by the Israeli occupying forces?
Mr. Waldegrave : Britain and the European Community have increased help for the Palestinians in the occupied territories, and it is right that we should do so. I deplore the increasing economic pressure on Palestinians. It seems wholly self-defeating in terms of finding moderate leaders with whom to negotiate.
Mr. Kaufman : I welcome what the Minister said about the Egyptian 10 -point plan. Is the Minister aware that the day before yesterday I had the opportunity in Cairo of discussing it with President Mubarak who made it clear that he framed the plan with the maximum effort to make it palatable to the Israelis? Indeed, General Rabin has made it clear that the Israeli Labour party agrees with the
Column 844plan, and Israeli Labour Ministers tabled it in the Israeli Cabinet, where it was rejected. Is the Minister further aware that on Monday I had an opportunity to speak to Mr. Arafat, who made it clear that he was ready to go along with the Egyptian plan and take part with a mixed delegation in discussions with the Israelis?
Will the Minister use the particular pressure that the Government can exert on the United States Administration--who are themselves playing a constructive part--so that when Mr. Shamir visits Washington next month it can be made clear to him that he and his party are the sole remaining obstacles to a sensible dialogue to settle the Israeli-Palestinian and middle eastern disputes?
Mr. Waldegrave : I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I share his understanding and belief that the American and Egyptian Governments--I pay tribute to the skilful diplomacy of the latter in recent months--are trying to build effective and practical bridges over which both sides can advance. If that is to lead anywhere, however, a response from Israel is essential. I do not think that it can possibly be fair for Israel to demand, as its objective, that it be allowed to pick the delegation of Palestinians that would then negotiate in the face-to-face talks that we all hope will begin soon.
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