Order for Third Reading read.
To be read the Third time tomorrow.
3. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Britain's contribution towards finding a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
12. Mr. Robert Hicks : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he intends submitting any fresh proposals aimed at resolving the middle east problem ; and if he will make a statement.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. William Waldegrave) : We support the efforts being made to establishdirect contact between Israel and a representative Palestinian delegation as an important step towards an overall settlement.
Does not peace require a three-stage operation comprising, as my right hon. Friend said, an early meeting to take on board the Mubarak, Baker, Shamir proposals ; elections on the West Bank and Gaza ; and full negotiations with Israel and the Palestinians, obviously involving the Palestine Liberation Organisation, for a final settlement based on United Nations resolution 242?
My hon. Friend has it exactly right when he says that ultimately, a multilateral peace conference will be needed. However, I was very pleased at a meeting with Bassam Abu Sharif of the PLO earlier this week to find that he was
Column 926clear in his mind that the first important step is direct contact with the Israeli Government. Therefore, I support the order of events that my hon. Friend described.
Mr. Townsend : In a distinguished speech on 18 October last, my right hon. Friend stated that resentment in the occupied territories was growing and that there was no way that the Israeli authorities could suppress the aspirations of the people of those territories. Presuming that my right hon. Friend still believes that that is so, will he explain to the Israeli authorities without ceasing that it is very much in the interests of Israel itself to work quickly for a speedy solution of this long outstanding problem?
Mr. Waldegrave : I certainly still hold the views that I expressed last October. I must place on record that the Israeli Government's latest step, which is to restrict the travel of a number of key Palestinian leaders at this particular moment, is most unfortunate. Powerful voices have been raised in Israel itself in support of the views expressed by my hon. Friend, and I hope that they will carry the day in due course.
Mr. Hicks : Does my right hon. Friend agree that if meaningful progress is to be made, sufficient pressure must be placed on the Israeli Government by the Americans, so that the objectives that we all seek can be achieved?
Mr. Waldegrave : The American President and Secretary of State, and the American Government, are fully engaged in the process that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) described earlier, and they are serious about bringing together in face-to-face talks for the first time representatives of the Israeli Government and a delegation from the Palestinians. It is right that they should do so. I believe that the Israelis are finding, perhaps to their surprise, that the Americans are serious in their diplomacy--which we strongly support.
Mr. Ernie Ross : Does the Minister join other right hon. and hon. Members in condemning the activities of the Israeli police in breaking up the peaceful demonstration in Jerusalem by 3,000 women on 29 December and by 15,000 Palestinians, Israelis and Europeans on 30 December--all of whom were endorsing a negotiated peace settlement? They should surely not have been attacked with night sticks, tear gas, rubber bullets and percussion bombs.
Mr. Waldegrave : We join the hon. Gentleman, as do many right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House, in condemning the events to which he refers. They reinforce our belief that speed is of the essence in getting the negotiating process under way before yet more bitterness is created.
Mr. Janner : Does the Minister accept that the only route to a peaceful solution in the middle east, which is something that we all want, lies in the consent of both parties? Will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence with both sides and demonstrate that he understands the very real anxieties, worries and suspicions of the Israelis in respect of the PLO, which has been the Israelis' terrorist enemy for so long that it is difficult for them to make that organisation a partner in a peace process?
Column 927taken steps to move forwards. Soon after I took office the hon. Gentleman gave me a book by Mr. Amos Oz, which sets out the fears and visions of what is possible. If only his vision were that of the Israeli Government.
Mr. Galloway : Is the Minister aware that one of the prominent individuals to whom he referred earlier who has been banned from travel, is Dr. Faisal Husseini? Anyone who knows anything about the area knows that Dr. Husseini's standing is such that he is indispensable to the peace process. Will the Minister join the United States of America's State Department utterly to condemn the decision to preclude him from overseas travel for the next three months or from any travel in the West Bank or Gaza, as that is a setback to any hope for a negotiated settlement in the area?
Mr. Waldegrave : I join the hon. Gentleman to make the condemnation that he asks for. I used words that I hope were fairly strong earlier today. I have talked with Dr. Husseini on several occasions and he is bound to be an indispensable part of any peace process, as are a number of other people who are under a travel ban, including some senior trade unionists.
Sir Dennis Walters : Does my right hon. Friend agree that progress towards a peace settlement remains painfully slow? In the meantime, conditions on the West Bank remain appalling. The PLO leadership, under Mr. Arafat in particular over the past few years, has shown great patience and statemanship. Is it not time for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to have a meeting with Mr. Arafat?
Mr. Waldegrave : When I met Mr. Bassam Abu Sharif on Monday I said, and I hope that I represent the majority of opinion in the House, that we support the tenacity with which the Palestinian leadership has stuck to its negotiating mandate. The longer that it sticks to that, and the more it resists any return to the methods of terrorism, the greater the moral force it gains for its cause. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary takes the same stance as both his predecessors, with whom I worked on this issue, and if a meeting between him and Mr. Arafat would take things forward, he would have a meeting, but meetings for meetings' sake are not our style.
Mr. Kaufman : I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment to the Privy Council. Is he aware that when Mr. Rabin wisely released Dr. Husseini from prison, that was a signal for moderate Palestinians that dialogue was available? Only a few weeks ago, at an international conference in Milan, Dr. Husseini was engaged in discussions with among others, General Dayan's daughter, who is one of the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who wish to achieve peace through dialogue with the Palestinians. Will the right hon. Gentleman inform Mr. Shamir that no amount of manoeuvring within the Israeli Cabinet for internal party political advantage will stop Israel having to talk to the Palestinians in the end? The Israeli Labour party has wisely recognised that fact by accepting the proposals of President Mubarak and the principles of Mr. Baker. Will the Government do everything possible to make it clear to the Likud section of the Israeli Government that they are standing against history?
Mr. Waldegrave : I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's kind words. He has summarised the truth eloquently. There is no question but that, at this moment of all moments, when we may be approaching the first face-to-face talks between genuine Palestinian representatives and the Israeli Government, to put those kinds of restrictions on moderate leaders of the Palestinian side is foolish in the extreme.
Mr. Nellist : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you tell us whether it is in order for a Minister to engage in multiple linking of questions? It restricts the number of Back Benchers who can be called to ask supplementaries. Following the linking of four questions dealing with what is obviously the most popular topic for today, only one Back Bencher has been called per three questions, and none of the others have been called at all.
Mr. Speaker : Order. It is up to the Minister concerned to decide whether questions are linked. I have given the previous question a fair run, and there are others on the Order Paper, on which the hon. Gentleman may well be called.
4. Mr. Jack : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what arms control negotiations he is presently involved in ; what stage each has reached ; and if he will make a statement.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : The United Kingdom joins in the two sets of conventional arms control negotiations taking place in Vienna, and in the chemical weapons negotiations at Geneva. All three are making progress ; in particular, we hope that the negotiation on conventional armed forces in Europe--the CFE talks--will meet our ambitious target of agreement during this year. I shall be attending a conference in Ottawa in February, following up the initiative taken at last year's NATO summit to promote an open-skies agreement.
Mr. Jack : My right hon. Friend's response bears impressive testimony to the strength and resolution shown by the Government and their allies on defence matters. Does he agree that, had Conservative Members listened to the CND apologists on the Opposition Benches, he could not have made that response?
Mr. Cohen : Is not there some dispute over the specification of weapons to be included in the arms control talks? Has not the Soviet Union accused the West of dragging its feet, particularly in its failure to include dual-capable--that is, nuclear-capable--aircraft in the talks?
Mr. Hurd : The hon. Gentleman is a good bit out of date. A plentiful programme of work for the CFE negotiations still lies ahead and there is hard work still to be done, which is why the Canadians have suggested that, among other things, we should review progress at the Ottawa conference and establish whether any obstacles
Column 929can be removed. Nevertheless, although some arguing remains to be done, I think that we are on course for an agreement this year.
Mr. Anthony Coombs : Although I welcome the political developments in eastern Europe, does my right hon. Friend agree that the situation is fluid and potentially dangerous? Although Warsaw pact countries such as Czechoslovakia may demand the withdrawal of Soviet troops from their territories, as happened yesterday, it is surely in the interests of NATO, of this country and of Europe generally to resist reciprocal demands by the Soviets for the withdrawal of British and French troops from West Germany.
"be considered when the agreements on reductions in conventional arms have been completed."--[ Official Report,
9 January 1990, Vol. 164, c. 814.]
Last spring's NATO declaration, however, made it clear that negotiations on short-range nuclear weapons could begin as soon as the conventional arms reductions had begun. Why does the Prime Minister not tell the truth to the House?
Mr. Hurd : The right hon. Gentleman is nit-picking. The comprehensive concept--to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was referring, and to which the right hon. Gentleman also clearly refers--is not in dispute ; the allies are all agreed on it, and we are all adhering to it.
Mr. Ian Taylor : I welcome the progress in the talks at Vienna and elsewhere. Will my right hon. Friend nevertheless suggest to our NATO allies that they do not proceed too fast with reducing their own defence commitments? Britain--and, outside NATO, France--will maintain their own readiness while there is still uncertainty in the wider Europe ; many of our allies in NATO, however, are already showing that, far from meeting the 3 per cent. target, they are dropping further behind.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Sainsbury) : Her Majesty's ambassador and the charge d'affaires will continue to monitor the election process carefully. They will also offer whatever assistance is necessary to our official observer, Dr. David Browning.
Column 930should cease? Will he take this opportunity publicly to declare unequivocally his condemnation of the attack on the Nicaraguan embassy in Panama by the United States?
Mr. Sainsbury : I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman's reference to the intimidation of Nicaragua by the United States. He will be aware that the United States Government have apologised for the incident involving Nicaraguan property in Panama. I hope that he accepts that one of the important aspects in ensuring free and fair elections in Nicaragua is equal opportunity on the media being provided to both parties. He will be aware that the United Nations observers have said that the amount of bias towards the governing party and the attacks on its potential rivals have exceeded all reasonable bounds.
Mr. Norris : Does not my hon. Friend share with me a certain scepticism about the forthcoming electoral process in Nicaragua, based on the transparent inability of the Sandinista regime to separate itself as between government and party? That is demonstrated beyond peradventure by the way in which the Sandinistas dominate the electoral tribunal in Nicaragua and the Sandinista regime has suppressed opposition both on television and in the press in that country. Does he share with me a certain wry amusement at my experience when, having been in Nicaragua to look at the electoral process there, I then went to Panama to witness General Noriega's little election in May of last year and found that one of the few officials whom the general could find to legitimise his election process was a member of the electoral tribunal in Nicaragua?
Mr. Sainsbury : My hon. Friend has considerable experience and personal knowledge of these matters. He is right to draw attention to the constitutional anomaly, that the Sandinista party continues to exercise a constitutional monopoly of power over the army and all state apparatus. I hope that the Opposition do not find that a laughing matter.
Mr. Flannery : Was not the attack on the Nicaraguan embassy in Panama quite disgraceful and did not the President of the United States apologise for it? Nicaragua is being permanently attacked by the Contras who are being given money by the United States for that purpose. Is not an attack on an entire country even more odious than an attack on that country's embassy in another country?
Mr. Sainsbury : The hon. Gentleman seems reluctant to recognise that the situation has changed. The United States Government ceased to give military aid to the Contras a very long time ago. They have also undertaken to withdraw humanitarian aid from any Contras who are found to be involved in military action.
14. Mr. Maples : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance is being given to Poland in its efforts to restructure its economy and build up democratic institutions.
Column 931Mr. Waldegrave : We are already providing direct financial and other assistance to Poland and Hungary. On 2 January we made a grant of $100 million to the international stabilisation fund for Poland. We are looking carefully at the requirements of other East European countries, and my right hon. Friend and I will be visiting a number of them in the coming weeks. We will respond positively to these countries as they put in place political and economic reforms.
Mr. Howarth : I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's reply. However, as Socialism and collectivism have destroyed the economies of these East European countries, surely the best thing that we could do would be to give advice to them on how to create a liberal market economy, perhaps through a programme drawn up by my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) who is such an outstandingly able proponent of privatisation. Does my right hon. Friend agree that German reunification would not help to create stability in central Europe?
Mr. Waldegrave : The central part of my hon. Friend's remarks are quite correct. The Polish Government and others have made it quite clear that the last thing they want is statist and Socialist economies to advise them. They want to be told how to set up proper market economies. My hon. Friend may know friends of his and mine who can do that with a Scottish accent, and so much the better.
Mr. Maples : Does my right hon. Friend agree that private investment by western commercial companies will be an immense help to Poland and other eastern European countries in developing their economies? What help and encouragement are the Government providing in that process?
Mr. Waldegrave : My hon. Friend is entirely right. One of the perennial demands put to us, for example by Mr. Walesa when he was here, is for private investment. We are now helping the Polish Government in particular, and also the Hungarian Government, with the liberalisation of their economies, with privatisation and the establishment of capital markets. That is what they are seeking. The Opposition see despairingly the remains of their philosophy fading away.
Mr. Madden : In responding to the undoubted wish of the vast majority of British people for the British Government to help the democratic process in eastern Europe, will the Minister give a clear assurance that no British industry, especially the textile industry, will be regarded as expendable nor will the jobs of large numbers of British textile workers be regarded as expendable by our Government turning a blind eye to flagrant dumping by eastern European textile industries?
Mr. Waldegrave : As defined under the international regulations, dumping is not permissible. However, I urge the House and the hon. Gentleman not to protect our own market. The best thing we can do for countries trying to join world trade is to open our markets for the benefit of our consumers and for their future.
Mr. Faulds : Is not a realistic assessment of the situation in eastern European countries the fact that a concerted European effort is needed along the lines of the Marshall plan? If the economies of those countries are not helped to work, democratisation will not work in those countries.
Mr. Waldegrave : I agree with the hon. Gentleman's analysis but perhaps not with the analogy of the Marshall plan as in some countries all the stock and investment was physically destroyed and had to be replaced in short order. The connection that the hon. Gentleman makes between freedom, democracy and the free market is right and his analysis of this issue would make him welcome on this side of the House.
Mr. Soames : I thank my right hon. Friend for the generous increased grant in aid that his Department has given to eastern Europe. Does he agree that cultural links will be very important in the next few years? Will he assure the House that he will do what he can to encourage those links which are so vital to increased understanding on both sides?
Mr. Waldegrave : I agree with my hon. Friend. One of the principal demands we are getting from all those countries is for English language teaching. It is the privilege and the luck of this country that all those countries consider English to be the language of freedom, so there is much that we can do not only in high culture, but in the practical aspect of English language teaching.
Mr. Robertson : Is the Minister aware that the Opposition join in the celebration of the movement to democracy, the rejection of Stalinist communism throughout eastern Europe, and especially the return of Romania from a particularly foul dictatorship since the House last met? Surely it is time for a more appropriately generous and comprehensive aid plan to be designed for the newly democratised countries of eastern Europe. Surely the Government could take a lead in bringing together the rich western countries to establish appropriate aid and the sizeable imaginative package which is required and which alone will safeguard and consolidate the movement to democracy where it was once crushed and repressed. What will the Government do to relieve the COCOM restrictions, the justifications for which are disappearing every day? What will happen about offers of future European Community membership to those countries that are still part of the European continent and which are now aspiring to membership in future?
Mr. Waldegrave : I note that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends welcome the steps that have been taken towards freedom. I further note from a debate in the House that even his few Trotskyite colleagues welcome the overthrowing of the Stalinist regimes--but I do not want to engage in that debate. The hon. Gentleman is a little out of date on the scale of what is being done by the West. Britain alone will contribute about £250 million to Poland this year, and in the past few days the Japanese Prime Minister has announced further measures. Britain took the lead in the European Community and in the Group of 24 to co-ordinate the measures that are now being taken on a massive scale. The hon. Gentleman asked about COCOM, but that is irrelevant. Do Poland and Hungary need to import carbon technologies? No, they need food and basic infrastructure. We should retain that basic military insurance for much longer.
Column 933Europe? Will he support further applications by eastern European countries, as that must be a positive step to help them on the road to democracy?
Mr. Waldegrave : The answer is a clear yes, as long as the criteria are met. I agree with my hon. Friend that the criteria for membership should not be watered down, but if they are met we should welcome new members.
Mr. Dalyell : May I ask the Minister a question of which I have given him notice? Do Ministers believe Sir Leon Brittan when he asserts that Mr. Powell approved the leaking of legal advice to the Government? Will Ministers do anything about an article in yesterday's Evening Standard, which said "Leon pays Westland debts" and in which it was asserted that there was some kind of a pay-off for--
Mr. Sainsbury : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his question. Despite that, I must tell him that this is not a matter for me. I have nothing to add to the numerous statements and answers to questions from the hon. Gentleman by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
9. Mr. Archer : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations Her Majesty's Government have made to the Iraqi authorities over the arrest and detention of Farzad Bazoft and Daphne Parish.
Mr. Waldegrave : We have made over 40 separate ministeral and diplomatic representations to the Iraqi authorities and Iraqi Ministers on these cases. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State raised the matter with the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, on 22 December in Paris. Consular access was finally given to Mrs. Parish on 4 December. She was also seen on 22 December by her daughter, accompanied by embassy officials. The Iraqis have now agreed to Mrs. Parish receiving legal representation. We continue to press for formal notification of any charges against her.
Column 934a journalist, from investigating the reasons for the explosion at Al Iskanderia, which the Iraqi Government wish to sweep under the table? Will the right hon. Gentleman say what sanctions the Government have in mind if these people are not released?
Mr. Waldegrave : I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that Mr. Bazoft was engaged in attempting to make a journalistic scoop which in our country would have been legitimate even if his methods were dangerous in terms of Iraq. Our duty, first to Mrs. Parish as one of our citizens and to him on humanitarian grounds, because he was travelling on British travel documents, is to see that they are given legal representation and consular access and that the processes of justice are brought to bear as soon as possible. That is the object of our efforts.
Mr. Marlow : I wonder whether it would be helpful to my right hon. Friend to put the matter in the context of 1946. If, after a long and bloody war someone connected with the enemy had been seen or was thought to have been seen spying in a sensitive area, should we have been sensitive about it? Will he also bear in mind the fact that we have important relationships and common purposes with Iraq?
Mr. Waldegrave : Our objective is to see that the two people in question are given legal representation, that charges are brought so that they can answer them and that they are given a fair trial. I remind my hon. Friend of different traditions in this matter. In 1913 a German naval officer was discovered sketching defences at Portsmouth. He was arrested and bound over to keep the peace for a year.
Mr. Hurd : I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) on 8 November in which I made plain the Government's repugnance for the Khmer Rouge and set out our policy towards Cambodia.
Mr. Evans : Following the recently reported attack on the Cambodian capital Pnomh Penh by Pol Pot's forces, will the Foreign Secretary give an undertaking that he will support the Australian peace plan when he meets his Security Council colleagues in Paris next week? Will he also inform them that he is utterly opposed to the Khmer Rouge playing any part in a future Government of Cambodia?
Mr. Hurd : I have seen no report of a military attack on Pnomh Penh. I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the interest and importance of the Australian proposal, which would give the United Nations a substantial role in running Cambodia while long-term arrangements were made. I have discussed it with the Australian Foreign Minister and several of my other colleagues. When the representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council meet in Paris this week, our representative will make clear our strong interest in the proposal.
Column 935Mr. Lester : Although I accept totally my right hon. Friend's condemnation of the Khmer Rouge, what it stands for and what it did in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, would it not be more helpful to the aim of reaching a settlement and encouraging the Australian peace initiative to recognise that the Cambodian Government, certainly within the past three or four years, have done a good job in difficult circumstances? Should we not strike a balance between condemnation of the Khmer Rouge and recognition that there is a Government in Cambodia who have worked hard in the best interests of the Cambodian people?
Mr. Hurd : I know my hon. Friend's view. He also knows that there is still widespread resentment and suspicion of the way in which Vietnam imposed that Government on Cambodia. The Vietnamese have withdrawn their Government troops from Cambodia and that has changed the position. That is why we sent a team to Cambodia recently. It had a successful mission as a result of which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development announced our new humanitarian projects in Cambodia. From that process and the progress made arose the Australian initiative and the meeting of the permament representatives of the Security Council in which we shall take part.
Dr. Goodson-Wickes : Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a useful role for China in the affairs of Cambodia? Might such a role have the agreeable side-effect of that country showing to the world that it is prepared to make some amends for the appalling events in Tiananmen square in June last year?
Mr. Hurd : I agree that the role of China is extremely important in this matter. Its representative will be present at the meeting in Paris and I hope that China will take note of my hon. Friend's points.
Mr. Foulkes : The Foreign Secretary is reported today as hinting at a policy shift towards Cambodia. In his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) he said that the Government are interested in the Australian proposal. Will he not come out openly today and say that Britain will abandon its support for the Khmer Rouge, which is totally indefensible? Will he also clearly say that, at the meeting in Paris on Tuesday, our representative will support the Australian proposal, the Soviet proposal for an arms moratorium and the ceasefire proposal? If the five permanent members of the Security Council are unanimous on this it will be a significant step forward in bringing peace to a country that has suffered for far too long.
Mr. Hurd : In his rhetoric, the hon. Gentleman has not noticed what is going on. I have updated our policy and I announced it to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe on 8 November. I have just repeated the changes that have been made. I believe that there can be further updating by bringing our western friends and our friends in south-east Asia forward together. I would much rather do that as I believe that moving together is the best way in which we can help, as much as outsiders can, to bring peace to Cambodia.