Home Page

Column 869

House of Commons

Wednesday 7 February 1990

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Oral Answers to Questions


Eastern Europe

1. Mr. Anthony Coombs : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further steps are being planned by the Government to assist east European countries.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave) : We have announced the Government's plan to extend our existing know-how fund for Poland and Hungary to the other countries of eastern Europe. This will make available substantial sums of money to finance projects aimed to help the transition to democracy and a market economy. We are also helping through the EC and other multilateral organisations.

Mr. Coombs : Given the current instability in eastern Europe, does my right hon. Friend agree that our strategic policy should be one of caution, and that in terms of individual development towards democracy and a free enterprise system, there is a great deal to be done? In that context does he recognise the power of American and German institutions, such as the National Foundation for Democracy, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and others, to influence policy in eastern Europe? What will the Government do to bring on such institutions in Britain?

Mr. Waldegrave : I agree with my hon. Friend's overall assessment. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have suggested that we might consider proposals of the type that he put forward. This is new and quite difficult territory, because the fund will be channelling support to political organisations, which is quite different from normal aid. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) has made suggestions on this issue, which we are considering.

Mr. Alton : Has the Minister had a chance to study reports from Bucharest that suggest that up to 28 per cent. of children in the hospitals there are infected by HIV, and are AIDS victims? Has the Minister had the chance to consider the request that packs for detection of the disease, sterile needles and scientific and medical help be provided by the Government? Will he tell the House how he intends to respond to that?

Mr. Waldegrave : The whole House will have been moved by the terrible stories that have emerged in the past few days. I am delighted to say that, as a first response, the

Column 870

Government have decided today to send 1 million disposable syringes, and we shall respond to further requests.

Sir Peter Blaker : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the unanimous welcome that has been given by the countries concerned to the British know- how funds, and how welcome it is that those funds will be extended to other countries in eastern Europe? Is he further aware that, with the aid of the funds, BBC external services are planning this year to train 40 Polish broadcasters how to operate a free broadcasting system? Will he join me in paying tribute to the BBC external services for the fact that over these momentous months they have been broadcasting the truth to the countries of eastern Europe?

Mr. Waldegrave : I am delighted to join in that tribute and to confirm the accuracy of what my right hon. Friend said about the new role that the BBC is taking in training proper journalists in the East. Later on today I am going to a party given by the Romanian services of the BBC, and I pay particular tribute to them, but all the external services have played a crucial role in telling the truth and facilitating the changes that we have seen.

Mr. Anderson : The Minister will know that we join wholeheartedly in the broad thrust of Government policy on the know-how funds, which allow us to play to our strengths, be it in management or in our experience of parliamentary democracy. On the more general theme of relations with eastern and central Europe, does he agree that, at this time of fundamental change, it is important and in our national interest not to be left isolated and irelevant in the eyes of our American and European allies? Will he therefore persist in his efforts to synchronise the Prime Minister with history?

Mr. Waldegrave : My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made an important speech in Germany yesterday, which I think was widely welcomed. Of all the countries in Europe that are central to the processes now taking place, only Britain and France are members of all the crucial organisations --the four powers, the European Community, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and so forth. Our position is and will remain central.

Helsinki Final Act

2. Mr. Amess : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications of the proposed Soviet Emigration Bill for fulfilment of the obligations imposed by the Helsinki Final Act.

Mr. Waldegrave : The draft Soviet emigration law is an improvement on present law and practice, but still places unjustified restrictions on travel abroad by Soviet citizens. We shall continue to press the Soviet authorities to bring their law into conformity with their international obligations, and to resolve the refusenik problem once and for all.

Mr. Amess : Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that the Soviet emigration law still places restrictions on the free movement of Jewish people on the grounds that they might have held sensitive state jobs or

Column 871

come from what could loosely be described as broken homes? Will he please undertake to raise those concerns with his opposite number in the Soviet Union?

Mr. Waldegrave : My hon. Friend puts his finger on two of the exact points that are unsatisfactory in the present draft. I raised those very points with vice-Minister Adamishin when I was in Moscow recently and we shall continue to urge for much greater clarity and a proper law to get rid of those problems once and for all.

Sir Russell Johnston : Will the Minister simultaneously make representations to the United States about the obstacles that it is now placing in the way of refugees from the Soviet Union settling there?

Mr. Waldegrave : The United States, like all other countries, undertakes its proper obligations to refugees. The right of countries to refuse access is not the same basic human right as the right to leave one's own country. That has been long established.

Mr. Budgen : Did the Russian Minister express any disagreement or annoyance about my right hon. Friend's impertinence in telling the Russians how to run their emigration laws?

Mr. Waldegrave : No, he did not, because, like all other Russian Ministers, particularly in the present climate, he rejoices in the fact that Mr. Brezhnev, surprisingly, signed the final Helsinki document. That gave us the perfect legal right to inquire into such matters.

South Africa

3. Mr. Nellist : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations Her Majesty's Government have made to the Government of South Africa ; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : We make frequent representations to the South AfricaGovernment on a wide range of issues.

Mr. Nellist : Is the Secretary of State aware that following President de Klerk's weekend announcement about the unbanning of the African National Congress and the release, after 27 years in prison, of Mr. Nelson Mandela, heads of western Governments sought to claim responsibility and ignored the white Government's retreat in the face of mounting defiance of the black workers and youth of South Africa? That is a bit like a chicken and a pig discussing an egg and bacon breakfast : for the chicken, it is a small contribution, but for the pig it is a total commitment. Are not the only negotiations that the black majority would seek, and consider worth while to enter into, ones that were about the transfer of power, a genuinely freely elected constituent assembly, the ending of segregation, laws of emergency and the Labour Act and the reinstatement of the right of black workers to bear arms for their own defence?

Mr. Hurd : I should have thought that even the hon. Gentleman could bring himself to welcome warmly the decision announced by President de Klerk. Those changes, and the way that they were announced and are to be brought about, vindicate our policy of contact rather than

Column 872

isolation. The South African Government have taken major steps, opening the way to negotiations, and I hope that even the hon. Gentleman will expect the ANC and others to respond positively to them. We certainly do.

Mr. Gardiner : As President de Klerk has taken such significant steps to set the stage for constructive negotiations and discussions with all sections of the community, culminating in the expected release of Nelson Mandella, will my right hon. Friend do all that he can to impress upon the leaders of the ANC that they must put the concept of the armed struggle behind them and join the

representatives of other blacks in constructive negotiations?

Mr. Hurd : Indeed, I agree with my hon. Friend. When Mr. Mandela is released, we hope that the ANC and others will agree to join in negotiations in conditions of peace and that the remaining emergency restrictions will be lifted.

Mr. Winnick : The changes announced last week by the South African President are certainly welcome. It is a step in the right direction, but does not the Foreign Secretary agree that much more must be done? Will the British Government make it quite clear to the South African authorities that if the people of eastern Europe have a right to freedom and democracy, the people of South Africa--black, white and coloured--have no less a right? Does not the Foreign Secretary recognise that the policy of sanctions and disinvestment followed by the United States played an important role in forcing the South African authorities to recognise the realities of life?

Mr. Hurd : I agree with the hon. Gentleman to this extent : there is a long road still to travel. However, I am sure that he will agree that President de Klerk has shown courage and wisdom in moving further at this time than anyone had expected. If the British Government had yielded to pressure from hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and many others outside the House, and had supported the imposition of comprehensive sanctions against South Africa, the result would have been an impoverished black majority in South Africa and the virtual impossibility of the South African Government being able to take the measures that they have announced.

Mr. John Carlisle : As the Prime Minister has sensibly and bravely lifted the cultural and scientific boycotts against South Africa after President de Klerk's excellent initiatives, will my right hon. Friend consider pursuing the same policy for sporting contacts, in particular for sports which, under the Gleneagles agreement, have proved that selection is not based on race, colour or ethnic origin? May we have some carrots please, instead of all the sticks of the past?

Mr. Hurd : As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear, we believe that that is rather further down the road. We remain committed to the Gleneagles agreement.

Mr. Kaufman : The Foreign Secretary has just referred to the dangers of an impoverished black population in South Africa. When he visits South Africa next month, will he ask to be taken to Alexandra or Soweto by the sea, or to any of the other black townships where he will see the unbelievable grinding poverty that has been imposed on the black people of South Africa by the white supremacists

Column 873

in South Africa? As to what the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) has just said, will the right hon. Gentleman explain why it is that when he and the Prime Minister say that we must not lower our guard against the Communist regimes that are toppling day by day in eastern Europe, they nevertheless want to get rid of such puny sanctions as we impose on South Africa at a time when the whole structure of apartheid remains intact? [Hon. Members :-- "No."] Yes, apartheid remains totally intact ; it has not been touched in any way. Can it be that this Government's hostility to Communism, which is becoming defunct, is greater than their hostility to apartheid, which still flourishes?

Mr. Hurd : Of course, there is black poverty in South Africa, though less than in many other African states. However, that poverty would have been made much worse and the ability of blacks slowly to rise to positions of responsibility in their society would have been made impossible had we yielded to the right hon. Gentleman's policy on sanctions. He cannot say that every aspect of apartheid remains intact. He is justified in saying that there is a long way to go, and I have already said that. If, however, he talked to holidaymakers in Durban and said that apartheid remains intact, he would get a very negative response. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take the opportunity to make it clear whether the Opposition are wholly committed to comprehensive sanctions or whether they, too, acknowledge that the sort of steps that President de Klerk has taken deserve encouragement and a response from them.

Mr. Nelson : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is about the exchanges on that question.

Mr. Speaker : No, unless it is a definite matter of order that requires my immediate attention.

Mr. Nelson : I submit that it is. The prospect of reaching another question on South Africa--

Mr. Speaker : No. There is another question relating to South Africa on the Order Paper. The hon. Gentleman may be fortunate then.

Papua New Guinea

4. Mr. Key : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the United Kingdom's relations with Papua New Guinea.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Francis Maude) : Our relations with Papua New Guinea are good

Mr. Key : I am delighted to hear that. Does my hon. Friend agree that the fighting that led to the closure of the Bougainville copper mine is both a human and an economic tragedy, since 20 per cent. of the foreign exchange earnings of that country are now lost? Will Her Majesty's Government support the Government of Papua New Guinea in their application for assistance from the International Monetary Fund?

Mr. Maude : I am aware of the economic difficulties that the closure to which my hon. Friend referred has caused Papua New Guinea. We have a good record of supporting

Column 874

the IMF's activities, when appropriate. In this case we shall look at any applications that are made to determine whether it was a proper decision.

Mr. Dalyell : Are the Government aware that the Port Moresby Government have done their very best to introduce sustainable rain forest legislation? Do the British Government support the enlightened and sensitive speech by the Prince of Wales on rain forest matters that some of us heard at Kew last night? Will they apply the Prince's idea for an international convention on the rain forest to countries such as Papua New Guinea, where it really would be of benefit?

Mr. Maude : I have not read the Prince of Wales' speech in detail, but I am aware of its general thrust. I know of the support that he expressed for the sort of measures that we are taking and supporting in respect of Latin America. I am aware that there is anxiety about the rain forest in Papua New Guinea. I do not have a detailed analysis of the environmental impact of the logging that is going on there, but the inroads being made into the rain forest are a matter of concern to us all, and we shall look into that carefully.

South Africa

5. Mr. Robert Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans Her Majesty's Government have to ensure that South Africa implements the measures agreed by the United Nations in the declaration on South Africa at the United Nations 16th special session of the general assembly.

Mr. Hurd : The measures that President de Klerk announced on 2 February come very close to implementing the steps called for by the Commonwealth eminent persons group, with which the declaration is consistent. More is needed, but a warm welcome for the steps already taken is surely deserved.

Mr. Hughes : Will the Foreign Secretary join me today in paying tribute to the many South Africans of all races whose decades of struggle and suffering have brought President de Klerk to the position that he is in today? Will he listen to their voices, which are saying almost unanimously that the potential, the promise and the hope that President de Klerk's statement brings may well remain unfulfilled if the external arm of the struggle is abandoned or lessened? Will he say clearly that sanctions and external pressure can be dismantled only when apartheid itself is dismantled?

Mr. Hurd : I certainly join in paying tribute to all whose work has made possible the present progress ; they come from all parts of South African society.

The House has argued about sanctions time and again. I believe that the statement of 2 February and the prospects now opening up for South Africa are justification for the policy of combined encouragement and persuasive pressure for which the Government have always stood. I believe that if we had followed the hon. Gentleman's sincerely given advice, South Africa would not have advanced to its present prospects.

Mr. Rathbone : Does my right hon. Friend accept that the developments in South Africa seem to have been hastened by the British Government's stand on continued commitment to fundamental change in that country, but

Column 875

--it is an important proviso--that some substantial changes are still required, particularly with regard to the most sinister aspects of apartheid, before we can relax our pressure on that Government? It might be unwise for the leader of this country to go to that country before those relaxations have taken place.

Mr. Hurd : My hon. Friend will have noticed how my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister responded to President de Klerk's announcement. I hope that he will agree that that response has been carefully measured. It seems a reasonable and justified first step to ask the President to visit the Prime Minister at Chequers and to say that Mr. Mandela, when free, would also be welcome here.

Ms. Abbott : Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, welcome as Mr. de Klerk's speech was, there were some grave omissions? In particular, there was no reference to the Group Areas Act whereby white people still own 87 per cent. of the land in South Africa and, more significantly still, no reference to one person, one vote. Welcome though the changes in eastern Europe have been, the Government have not seen them as the signal to abandon NATO, so does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be premature, on the basis of one speech, to abandon sanctions?

Mr. Hurd : As part of the measured response that I described, we have removed the discouragement given to academic, cultural and scientific contacts. In the present new climate in South Africa, when Mr. Mandela is released, we hope that the ANC and others will agree to join in negotiations in conditions of peace and that the remaining emergency restrictions will be lifted. In that climate, it is logical that we should discuss with our partners in the EEC lifting the voluntary ban on new investment in South Africa.

Mr. Grylls : Although trade matters are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, will my right hon. Friend give his views on the relaxation of trade restrictions that remain in South Africa? Would not it be good for people of all races in both countries if we could encourage trade in both directions?

Mr. Hurd : As my hon. Friend knows, there are specific trade restrictions. There is the arms embargo imposed by a Security Council resolution and there are various specific restrictions agreed by the EEC. The logical next step is to discuss with our partners lifting the voluntary ban on new investment.

Sir David Steel : The Foreign Secretary was right to give a warm welcome to the change of heart foreshadowed in President de Klerk's speech, but does he agree that we cannot discuss future democracy in South Africa while the legislative framework of apartheid is still in place--not just the Group Areas Act, but the Population Registration Act? It is inconceivable that the rest of the Community will agree to lifting measures until those measures of apartheid are lifted as well.

Mr. Hurd : The underlying importance of what President de Klerk announced is that he has done enough in the minds of most reasonable people to open the way to negotiations. I note that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with that. There is more to come and we are a long way from seeing the end of apartheid, which is our aim and his,

Column 876

but the next step is to have a reasoned response and the beginning of a dialogue with the ANC and other Africans, which goes along with the release of Mr. Mandela and the lifting of the remaining emergency restrictions.

Mr. Nelson : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker : Order. If the hon. Gentleman's point of order is to complain that he has not been called, I cannot hear it.

Mr. Nelson : My point of order is exactly the same as the previous one. The Opposition have had three calls on each

Mr. Speaker : Order. I have to be fair to everyone. If on raising a point of order of that kind an hon. Member was called immediately, there would be chaos in this place because I would have points of order all the time.

Mr. Knapman : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker : No, I shall deal with the hon. Gentleman's point of order later.

Hong Kong

6. Mrs. Gorman : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his Department's discussions with Dame Lydia Dunn.

Mr. Hurd : My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, met Dame Lydia Dunn and Mr. Allen Lee, the two senior members of the Office of the Members of the Legislative Council, on 23 January. They had a useful discussion, in particular about Hong Kong's constitutional development. He assured them, as I had done when I was in Hong Kong last month, that we are taking their views fully into account in making our decisions on this matter. Dame Lydia and Mr. Lee also saw my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mrs. Gorman : Did my right hon. Friend discuss with Dame Lydia the growing move in Hong Kong towards demanding full democratic rights for the people there now--something that we are applauding all over eastern Europe- -on which basis they could legitimately declare their independence and take their case to the world forum so that they have the right to remain in their own territory? Does he agree that, in the light of what is happening elsewhere in the world and the fact that two thirds of the land of Hong Kong legitimately belongs to Britain in perpetuity, they have a perfect right to do so?

Mr. Hurd : I note my hon. Friend's views in favour of independence for Hong Kong. When I was in Hong Kong I did not meet anyone who shared that view, although I do not deny that there are such people. The great majority of people in Hong Kong accept, albeit reluctantly, that their future is bound up with mainland China. Therefore, they want us to make a success of the concept of one country, two systems.

On my hon. Friend's first point, I hope that it is already clear to everyone that substantially more directly elected seats on the Legislative Council will be introduced in 1991 than was originally envisaged

Column 877

Mr. Janner : The Foreign Secretary, like me, has seen the revolting conditions in which Vietnamese boat people live. Did he ensure that their plight was raised with Dame Lydia Dunn? Does he think it right that those people, who come under Hong Kong, and directly ourselves, should sleep in layers of wooden racks surrounded by open sewers? What is to be done about that unworthy, uncivilised and thoroughly disgusting system?

Mr. Hurd : The people of Hong Kong feel extremely strongly that it is because they offered the right of first asylum, and others in south Asia did not, that they are landed with that problem. They feel that the burden, which they have shouldered with the British Government, should be more widely shared. The deduction that I draw from the hon. and learned Gentleman's point is that the sooner we can find ways of returning to Vietnam those in the camps who are not refugees, the better it will be for them and the people of Hong Kong.

Mr. Adley : For the avoidance of doubt, will my right hon. Friend make it clear that the Government's commitment to the 1984 joint agreement remains constant, that Her Majesty's Government recognise that it is the only sensible basis for securing the future of Hong Kong and that they have no intention of trying to renegotiate the terms of that agreement?

Mr. Hurd : The joint declaration and agreement are the right sheet anchor for the future of Hong Kong. My hon. Friend, who follows these matters carefully, will be aware of the anxieties which events last June created in Hong Kong. I and the Government hope that the Chinese will understand that, and take it into account as the drafting of the Basic Law proceeds.

Mr. Kaufman : The right hon. Gentleman will recall that his predecessor, the present deputy Prime Minister, speaking in the House about democracy in Hong Kong, said :

"The pace of development should reflect the wishes of the whole community. The unanimous view expressed by OMELCO on 24 May was a significant step towards the establishment of a consensus in Hong Kong."--[ Official Report, 13 July 1989 ; Vol. 156, c. 1170.] I am sure that Dame Lydia Dunn and Mr. Allan Lee told Government representatives what they told me a few days ago--that the consensus of OMELCO was that there should be 20 elected members next year and 30 in 1995. If that is the consensus, is it not time, after eight months of consideration following the Tiananmen square massacre, that the Government accepted it and announced that there will be a development of democracy in Hong Kong?

Mr. Hurd : The right to say hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in his description of the consensus of OMELCO. We must take that seriously because responsible people such as Dame Lydia Dunn have stressed to him, to me and to the Prime Minister that the best answer--the right hon. Gentleman would not disagree with this, as it flows from the answer that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley)--is an understanding with the Chinese Government that will allow direct elections to the Legislative Council to begin next year, on a substantially higher base than was proposed two years ago, and to continue through 1995 and 1997 and thereafter. We continue to have confidential discussions about that with the Chinese Government which cannot go on for ever. But we have to accept our responsibility for taking the

Column 878

decisions as regards 1991 and 1995. As I said in Hong Kong, I hope that we shall be able to reach at any rate the first conclusions in the next few weeks.

Mr. Sims : My right hon. Friend is right to say that in considering this matter we have to try to seek agreement between all the parties involved, but will he confirm that if that is not possible and a decision has to be taken in accordance with either the wishes of the Chinese Government or those of the people of Hong Kong, the latter will prevail?

Mr. Hurd : It will be our decision as regards, first, 1991 and then 1995. That is a decision that we must take according to our best judgment, of the interests of the people of Hong Kong, for which we are accountable to the House. No other consideration has any particular bearing on the matter.

Latin America

7. Mr. Wray : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on British and European Community policies towards Latin America.

Mr. Hurd : We wish to build up our traditional friendships in Latin America. With the rest of the European Community, we support the return and consolidation of democracy and respect for human rights. We promote economic progress and trade liberalisation and are keen to co-operate with Latin American countries on other issues such as the environment and the fight against drugs.

Mr. Wray : Does the Secretary of State agree that the British Government have neglected Latin America over the past 10 years and have allowed the multinational corporations to exploit its people and remove its resources? Does he agree that it is a scandal that most Latin American countries have a negative gross domestic product of less than 10 per cent? What are the Government going to do about that?

Mr. Hurd : I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The fact that our friendship and co-operation with Latin American countries is not in the headlines every day does not mean that they are being neglected. In answer to the hon. Gentleman's first and second points, we were the second largest investor in many Latin American countries in 1989, after the United States. We have invested more in Colombia than has the rest of the world combined. In Brazil, the United Kingdom continued to invest while others disinvested. I am all in favour of encouraging constructive British interest of all kinds in Latin America. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will help us in that rather than whipping us into trying to stir up people in Latin America against the United States.

Mr. Jacques Arnold : Does my right hon. Friend recall our historic cultural relations with Latin America? Should we not put more effort into the activities of the British Council and the related Cuitura Inglesa? Should not we use Latin Americans' enthusiasm for the English language to foster closer ties with Britain rather than with the United States?

Mr. Hurd : We teach the English language better than anyone else and my right hon. Friend is therefore right.

Column 879

The British Council has additional funds at its disposal this year. Spurred on by my hon. Friend, I shall look carefully at the extent to which Latin American activities can be included in its activities.

Mr. Tony Banks : The Secretary of State said that it was the policy of Her Majesty's Government to promote economic development. What economic development have Her Majesty's Government promoted in Nicaragua? What are Her Majesty's Government doing to promote democratic processes in Nicaragua? Who has Her Majesty's Government sent from this country to observe the elections there on 25 February?

Mr. Hurd : We have a keen interest in the success of the elections in Nicaragua. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will use what influence he has to make sure that, contrary to some suggestions, those elections take place in conditions of fairness and with proper facilities for the opposition. The hon. Gentleman knows that we pay our whack--our share--of EC aid to Nicaragua. We contribute 20 per cent., and in 1988 our share of that aid was £3.3 million.

Sir Richard Body : Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the action planned to protect the rain forests in Latin America, to which this country is contributing a large sum, will protect them and will not cause a net loss of rain forest?

Mr. Hurd : I am not convinced that the efforts being made, which owe a great deal to our initiative, are yielding all the results that they should. I have a meeting in my diary before long with the agencies concerned ; that will enable me to discuss the prospects and their activities with them.

El Salvador

8. Mr. Winnick : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on the visit by members of the Metropolitan police to El Salvador regarding the recent murder of six priests.

Mr. Maude : A team of three detectives from the Metropolitan police arrived in San Salvador on 6 January and returned on 27 January. During that time they assisted the Salvadorean authorities in the task of bringing to justice those responsible for the murders.

Mr. Winnick : Is it not essential that those who ordered, not necessarily those who carried out, the murders of the six priests, their cook and her young daughter, should be brought to justice? Is the Minister aware that following the ghastly murder of the six priests, Hector Oqueli, the deputy leader in El Salvador of the party affiliated to Socialist International, was also murdered? Is there not a total absence of the rule of law in that country?

Mr. Maude : I am aware of the latter part of what the hon. Gentleman said. He will recollect that we debated the matter briefly last Friday, and that that murder took place in neighbouring Guatemala. It will be for the Guatemalan authorities in the first instance to bring to justice those who were responsible for it.

Mr Speaker : Order. It is my mistake. I was distracted and I called the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr.

Column 880

Arnold) on Question No. 7 because I thought that we were dealing with his question. I got it out of order. I suppose I shall have to call him again.

Next Section

  Home Page