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House of Commons

Wednesday 29 November 1989

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Queen's Speech (Answer to Address)

The Vice-Chamberlain of the Household-- reported Her Majesty's Answer to the Address as follows :

I have received with great satisfaction the loyal and dutiful expression of your thanks for the Speech with which I opened the present Session of Parliament.


Private Bills (Procedure)

Motion made,

That--the Promoters of every Private Bill which originated in this House in the last Session and which is listed in Schedule A to this Order, or which originated in the House of Lords in the last Session and which is listed in Schedule B to this Order may, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bill in the present Session ; and the Petition for the Bill shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable thereto shall be deemed to have been complied with ; --every such Bill which originated in this House shall be presented to the House not later than the seventh day after this day ; --there shall be deposited with every Bill so presented a Declaration signed by the Agent for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the last Session ;

--every Bill so presented shall be laid by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office upon the Table of the House on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill was presented ; --every Bill listed in Part I of Schedule A shall, after being so laid on the Table, be deemed to have been read the first, second, and third time, and shall pass ;

--every Bill listed in Part II of Schedule A shall, after being so laid on the Table, be deemed to have been read the first and second time and reported from Committee and ordered to lie upon the Table ; --when any Bill originating in the Lords, which was brought from the House of Lords in the last Session and to which this Order relates, is brought from the Lords in the present Session, the Agent for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a Declaration, signed by him, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the last Session, and, as soon as a certificate by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office that such a Declaration has been so deposited has been laid upon the Table of the House, the Bill shall be deemed--

(i) in the case of the Buckinghamshire County Council Bill [Lords], the London Local Authorities Bill [Lords], the South Yorkshire Light Rail Transit Bill [Lords] and the United Medical and Dental Schools Bill [Lords], to have been read the first and second time and committed and shall be committed to the Chairman of Ways and Means, who shall make such

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amendments thereto as have been made by the Committee in the last Session, and shall report the Bill as amended to the House forthwith, and the Bill, so amended, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table ; (

(ii) in the case of the Nottingham Park Estate Bill [Lords], to have been read the first and second time and committed ;

(iii) in the case of the Medway Tunnel Bill [Lords] and the Vale of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill [Lords], to have been read the first time and ordered to be read a second time ;

(iv) in the case of the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No. 3) Bill [Lords], to have been read the first time and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills ; --in respect of all the Bills listed in Schedules A and B to this Order, the various stages deemed to have been taken shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been taken ;

--only such Petitions as were presented against any Bill brought from the Lords in the last Session which stood referred to the Committee on the Bill and which have not been withdrawn shall stand referred to the Committee on the Bill with the same title in the present Session ;

--in relation to any Bill to which this Order applies Standing Order 127 relating to Private Business shall have effect as if the words "under Standing Order 126 (Reference to Committee of Petitions against Bill)" were omitted ;

--in respect of any Bill originating in the House of Lords to which this Order relates and upon which the Examiners have reported in the last Session that no Standing Order not previously inquired into was applicable thereto, the Examiners shall, if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the present Session, be deemed to have made the same report in the present Session ;

--no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on any of the Bills to which this Order relates so far as Fees were incurred during the last Session ;

--this House doth concur with the Lords in their Resolution contained in their Message [22nd November] relating to the River Tees Barrage and Crossing Bill [Lords] , the Happisburgh Lighthouse Bill [Lords] , the Great Yarmouth Port Authority Bill [Lords], the Southampton Rapid Transit Bill [Lords] , the Heathrow Express Railway Bill [Lords] , the London Local Authorities (No. 2) Bill [Lords] and the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) Bill [Lords].

Schedule A

Part I 1. City of London (Spitalfields Market) Bill

2. Hythe Marina Village (Southampton) Wavescreen Bill

3. Isle of Wight Bill

4. New Southgate Cemetery and Crematorium Limited Bill

5. St. George's Hill, Weybridge, Estate Bill

6. Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill

Part II 1. British Film Institute Southbank Bill

2. British Railways Bill

3. City of London (Various Powers) Bill

4. Redbridge London Borough Council Bill

Schedule B 1. Buckinghamshire County Council Bill [Lords] 2. London Local Authorities Bill [Lords]

3. South Yorkshire Light Rail Transit Bill [Lords]

4. United Medical and Dental Schools Bill [Lords]

5. Nottingham Park Estate Bill [Lords]

6. Medway Tunnel Bill [Lords]

7. Vale of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill [Lords]

8. Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No. 3) Bill [Lords]--[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Hon. Members : Object.

To be considered on Thursday 30 November.

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Scottish Episcopal Clergy Widows' and Orphans' Fund Order Confirmation

Mr. Secretary Rifkind presented a Bill to confirm a Provisional Order under section 7 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936, relating to the Scottish Episcopal Clergy Widows' and Orphans' Fund ; and the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be considered on Tuesday 5 December and to be printed. [Bill 6.]

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Oral Answers to Questions



1. Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what new representations he intends to make to the President of Romania on human rights.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave) : We will continue to protest strongly to the Romanian Government on every appropriate occasion about their appalling human rights performance.

Mr. Flynn : Does the Minister agree that today's news of the escape of Nadia Comaneci proves once again that life in Romania is unbearable, even for its top privileged people? Has he noticed that Ceaucescu has called on the butchers of Tiananmen square to join him in a crusade to make permanent the Stalinist gulags of China and Romania? Will the Minister today announce a counter-crusade by East and West--a panEuropean crusade-- using the powerful instruments of broadcasting and international pressure to persuade and to encourage Romania on its long march towards democracy?

Mr. Waldegrave : The hon. Gentleman has already played some part in such a crusade. I know that he has been broadcasting on the BBC, which has helped to keep alive the guttering flame of freedom in Romania. I shall certainly talk to the BBC authorities to see what can be done to help through the Romanian language service of the world service.

Mr. Hunter : In his dealings with President Ceaucescu on human rights, will my hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that the further isolation of Romania will achieve little? Will he seek to explore and improve the existing contact through trade that is to the advantage of the United Kingdom and Romania?

Mr. Waldegrave : I take a rather different view from my hon. Friend on this matter. We do not intend to interfere particularly with trade, but this is a time to bring all pressure to bear on Romania. That Her Majesty's Government have been making some headway on this may be evidenced by the fact that recently, on instructions, the Romanian abassador accused me of menacing revisionist Hungarian plots. That may show that we are making some progress.

Mr. Skinner : Did the Minister see the report the other day that the President of Romania got 67 standing ovations? Is there any truth in the rumour that the British Prime Minister will continue in office until the Tory party conference gives her--

Mr. Speaker : Order. Supplementary questions must be made relevant.

Mr. Waldegrave : It is our privilege to be able to make such jokes. If only such jokes were available to the inhabitants of Romania.

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2. Mr. Brandon-Bravo : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his plans for an international conference in London on reducing the demand for cocaine and other illegal drugs.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : Her Majesty's Government are holding a world summit of Ministers in London in April 1990 to look at ways of reducing the demand for drugs, and confronting in particular the growing threat from cocaine and crack. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will open the summit and President Barco of Colombia and the Secretary-General of the United Nations have both agreed to speak.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo : My right hon. Friend will agree that if this 20th century evil is to be defeated every individual, family and community must be made aware of the problem and must be prepared to will the means to defeat it. My right hon. Friend, in his previous high office of Home Secretary, took a lead role nationally and internationally in this matter. How many Departments are co-operating at home, and at what level? Apart from the London conference, what plans does my right hon. Friend have to take this matter further internationally?

Mr. Hurd : On the second point, the United Nations general assembly will hold a special session on drugs from 20 to 23 February. I hope very much to attend and to speak on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, as I mean to retain the personal involvement to which my hon. Friend kindly referred.

It now falls to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to take the lead in co-ordinating the efforts of all the Departments involved--not just in enforcement, although that is important, but in education and in reducing the demand for drugs, which in my view is even more important.

Mr. Vaz : The Foreign Secretary should be aware that in the past two years the amount of crack seizures in Britain has increased 20 times. Does he agree that the main thrust of conferences such as that to be held in London should not necessarily be international co-operation between Governments, but learning from the experiences and failures of countries such as America? America has established cocaine helplines and the Select Committee on Home Affairs has been urging our Government to do likewise. Does he agree that we should look at the examples of preventive measures that have been introduced by other nations?

Mr. Hurd : Certainly it needs enforcement and prevention. Enforcement is crucial, and we shall press ahead as fast as we can with negotiating agreements with other countries for the confiscation of the assets of drug traffickers. Eleven such agreements are now in place and I shall be looking for more. The hon. Gentleman is right that we must also learn from the experiences, good and bad, of other countries, in particular the United States. In some places effective preventive measures have been introduced, but in others they have not and we need to learn from both experiences.

Mrs. Maureen Hicks : In acknowledging the decisions taken by the Government to tackle the drugs problem--

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demonstrated by initiative after initiative- -and welcoming the international conference, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is satisfied that our European partners and international friends recognise sufficiently the seriousness of the problem that we face?

Mr. Hurd : Yes, I think so. In my previous job I had occasion to discuss it with all the European Ministers of the Twelve who were involved. Although the approach is somewhat different in some countries, they all realise the danger. That is particularly true of the countries of the southern part of Europe--Italy and Spain--which recognise the danger of becoming motorways for the passage of cocaine from Latin America into the rest of Europe.


3. Mr. Wray : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to discuss the situation in Nicaragua with his European counterparts ; and if he will make a statement.

10. Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance has been offered to the Government of Nicaragua in preparation for February's election.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Sainsbury) : We have regular discussions on Nicaragua with our European Community partners. At the invitation of the Nicaraguan Supreme Electoral Council, we have appointed an official British election observer for the elections. The European Community is currently considering providing assistance.

Mr. Wray : Does the Minister agree that the Nicaraguan people are not the Communist menace as stated by the Honduran Government and the United States? Why does Britain act as a Trojan horse to the Nicaraguan people? Does the Minister agree that President Ortega was treated in an appalling manner when he visited this country? He was shown the floorboards, but when President Cristiani of El Salvador visited he got the red-carpet treatment.

Mr. Sainsbury : The hon. Gentleman will agree that we should judge the performance of the Nicaraguan Government carefully and on the facts. We wish to see free and fair elections. When they take place, and are not interfered with by the Government, and when the constitution has been restored to normal and lost its present features--whereby the Sandinistas keep control of the army, police and judiciary, come what may--we shall know that there is democracy in Nicaragua.

Mr. Tony Banks : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am assured that it is normal custom to be notified when questions are linked. These questions should not have been linked in the way that the Minister has done, and he should have had the courtesy to--

Mr. Speaker : Order. They are linked by Government. It is normal courtesy to inform Members. I call on the hon. Gentleman to ask question No. 10.

Mr. Banks : Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Nicaraguan authorities require about $25 million to ensure that elections are conducted efficiently and fairly.

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So far they have received about $10 million from western European Governments, but not one cent from this country, despite their request. The electoral board wants that money for registration and identity cards and for training electoral returning officers. Will the Government provide resources for the Nicaraguan Government to ensure that the elections are conducted fairly and openly, or does the Minister want the elections to fail, just like his masters in Washington?

Mr. Sainsbury : The best help to ensure free and fair elections in Nicaragua would be for the opposition to have equal access to the media. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support that. About his question being linked with question No. 3, I apologise to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Bowis : Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the European counterparts to whom he should talk about Nicaragua is the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union? Will he take time to talk to him about the arms and missiles going into Nicaragua and being used from there to destabilise other countries in Central America? If the Soviet Union is serious about wanting world peace, it should desist from that practice.

Mr. Sainsbury : I assure my hon. Friend that we share the view of the leaders of Central America and our European Community partners that the supply of arms to the region is one of the most destabilising factors and one which most endangers progress to democracy.

Mr. Wilkinson : Further to that point, will Her Majesty's Government, in concert with their European counterparts, produce a joint policy to ensure that every possible pressure is brought to bear upon the Nicaraguan authorities to stop the vile practice of supplying arms and guerrillas equipment to the guerillas in El Salvador who are destroying democracy and seeking to subvert a democratically elected Government?

Mr. Sainsbury : The supply of arms to the FMLN is a flagrant breach of the Esquipulas commitment and even goes against the recent promises made by President Ortega at the Tela summit in August. It must make it more difficult--

Mr. Banks : Yankee lickspittle!

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) must not utter such words in the Chamber. Will he withdraw his remarks?

Mr. Banks : Would you, Mr. Speaker, accept "lackey"? Frankly, the Government are a bunch of United States lackeys in relation to--

Mr. Speaker : Order. These are foreign affairs questions and we should behave with decorum.

Mr. Sainsbury : I hope that even the hon. Member for Newham, North- West (Mr. Banks) would agree that we should seek peaceful solutions to disputes in the area and progress to real democracy. The supply of arms does not assist that process.

Mr. Foulkes : As all sides have agreed that the elections in Nicaragua should not only be fair, but be seen to be fair, will the Government agree to give technical assistance in the registration and voting procedure, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) reasonably and moderately asked-- [Interruption.] That

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was in the early part of his remarks. Will the Government also press the Americans to ensure that the Contra forces are demobilised and allowed to participate in the elections. and the United Nations supervisory force is in place and operating as soon as possible? Before the superpowers summit will the Government remind President Bush of the Americans' part in stoking up this conflict in Central America?

Mr. Sainsbury : The European Community is currently considering giving aid and we would make our usual contribution of 20 per cent. to any aid that is given. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have also provided an election observer. I reiterate that the important issue in ensuring free and fair elections in Nicaragua is that the Government there should provide equal opportunity, as we would expect in this country, for the Opposition to have access to the media.

Social Charter

4. Mr. Rooker : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which Ministers in his Department have participated in European Community discussions on the draft charter of fundamental social rights.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Francis Maude) : My right hon. Friend and I have discussed the charter with colleagues in the Community on several occasions.

Mr. Rooker : Will the Minister be good enough to share with the House exactly what parts of the charter are opposed by him and his colleagues? Do they oppose the right to annual holidays, to decent pay, to arbitration to settle disputes and to improve employee participation and health and safety, or do they oppose the fact that such rights as exist in member states cannot be lessened under the charter?

Mr. Maude : Our concern is straightforward. It is that the European Community should do what only it can do. By and large, the matters dealt with by the social charter are properly dealt with by member states themselves. It is surprising to hear the hon. Gentleman apparently supporting the extension of competence by the European Community to impose on member states matters that can properly be dealt with by those states. That shows that the hon. Gentleman wants a politicians' Europe, not a people's Europe.

Mr. Butler : Will my hon. Friend assure me that we will not accept any social charter which is Socialism by the back door?

Mr. Maude : We would strongly resist any such charter. The present draft has made some movement in our direction as a result of our standing firmly against the original draft. For the reasons that I have set out, it is still not acceptable to us and we shall continue to resist it.

Sir Russell Johnston : Does the Minister accept that if there is free movement of labour throughout the Community individual workers have a right to expect the same standard of treatment in each country?

Mr. Maude : That approach is unacceptable. Every member state in the Community is a democracy and it is

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for each country to establish for itself those conditions and principles that are appropriate to its history, background, relative prosperity and all other factors. A sort of identikit set of conditions should not be imposed from the centre regardless of whether they are appropriate in every country. Over-regulating in the way that the hon. Gentleman seems to suggest would price people out of jobs. That might lead to our present rate of unemployment, which is well below the Community average, rising to or beyond the average.

Mr. Rowe : Will my hon. Friend assure us that in his discussions he took into account the detailed and hard work of Members of the European Parliament? Does he agree that one of the best ways of controlling the Commission is to pay attention to what the Parliament has to say?

Mr. Maude : I discussed this matter with Members of the European Parliament and those discussions were useful. As the discussions proceeded and as more and more people looked at the fine print of the charter and the action programme that would follow its proposals, we found increasing sympathy for our view.

Mr. Anderson : Will the Minister honestly admit that in his discussions with our partners our negotiating tactics are much in question, and that the absolutist and strident rejection of the social charter by the Prime Minister has lost us much good will in the Community and has harmed British interests? Does he agree that far more constructive than that strident rejection would be a policy of, "Yes, but"? We should not have condemnation and rejection followed by grudging concessions.

Mr. Maude : The hon. Gentleman is wholly misguided. We have set out our specific objections in a reasonable and sensible way. As I said earlier, there has been some movement in our direction, which we welcome, but it is still not enough to enable us to sign the draft social charter. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that a sensible negotiating tactic in the European Community is simply to seek consensus on every occasion, it is lucky that he has never been a member of a Government.

Poland and Hungary

5. Miss Emma Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what progress Her Majesty's Government are making in setting up a know-how fund for Poland ; and if he will make a statement.

8. Mr. Butterfill : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance is being given to Poland and Hungary in their efforts to establish parliamentary democracy.

Mr. Hurd : We established a know-how fund for Poland after General Jaruzelski's visit to Britain in June. This will contribute £25 million over the next five years towards projects that will underpin Polish democracy and help economic reform. I am glad to announce that it will now be doubled in size to £50 million. Moreover, we shall be making a contribution of $100 million to a stabilisation fund set up in support of the agreement being discussed

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between the International Monetary Fund and the Polish Government. Finally, we shall be spending £15 million on a major project to improve the Polish food supply.

A know-how fund will provide British expertise for Hungary, amounting to £25 million over five years, and will operate from next year.

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