Previous Section Home Page


9. Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Secretary fo State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Britain's relations with Colombia.

Mr. Maude : We have excellent relations with Colombia. President Barco will be a welcome visitor when he addresses the world ministerial drugs summit here in April.

Mr. Arnold : Does my hon. Friend recall the carnage in Bogota last December in which a narco-terrorist bomb aimed at the security police went off killing 70 people , wounding 1,000 and causing immense devastation within a radius of 2 km? Has he noticed recently the disarming of a similar bomb of 500 kg in a car park beneath a building in Bogota? Is he aware that it was disarmed by British "wheelbarrow" remote control bomb disposal equipment? Is that not a practical way in which Britain can help President Barco in his fight against the narco-terrorists? Should not we be doing more?

Mr. Maude : I vividly remember the devastation and carnage to which my hon. Friend referred. He is right to note that the practical help that we have given to the Colombian authorities has been very much appreciated by them and has already had direct and measureable benefits for the people of Colombia, by helping the authorities to win their war against the narcotics dealers and traders. I shall certainly see whether we can do more. I think my hon. Friend will recognise that we were very quick to provide immediate practical assistance.

Mr. Corbyn : Does the Minister agree that in addition to the appalling terror perpetrated on the people of Colombia by the drug barons, there is also a serious problem of human rights abuses by the police and armed forces against human rights workers, peasant leaders and trade unionists? When he next meets the Government of Colombia will he press upon them the real concern of many people round the world about the fate of trade union leaders, peasant leaders and others who seek to bring genuine peace, freedom and democracy to Colombia?

Mr. Maude : There is concern about human rights abuses in Colombia. There is no reason to suppose that the Colombian Government are involved in those abuses. None the less we express concern to the Colombians whenever it is suitable.

Mr. Heffer : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When did Question 9 come before Question 8? We were discussing No. 8. If you have made a mistake--

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman was not listening. What I said was that, due to a distraction at the Chair, I called the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) on the previous question. I had not intended to do so. We were on Question 9. I now call Question 10.

Mr. Heffer : Then you called Question 9.

Mr. Speaker : If the hon. Gentleman looks at the Order Paper, he will see that Questions 8 and 9 are very similar and that 9 comes after 8.

Column 881

Lukanov Inquiry, Bulgaria

10. Mr. Stern : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has yet received any request to contribute any information to the Lukanov inquiry in Bulgaria.

Mr. Waldegrave : We have been asked by the Bulgarian Government to help, and will naturally do what we can.

Mr. Stern : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware of the persistent rumour in Bulgaria that much of the money secreted by the Zhivkov regime was laundered through London? Will he ensure that before complying with any possible request from the new Bulgarian regime he seeks out the destination of that money?

Mr. Waldegrave : As I said, we will respond positively to any sensible request that we receive from the Lukanov commission.

Mr. Faulds : Will the Minister suggest to the Bulgarian Government that their inquiry should also look into the implications of the death of Hugh Gaitskell?

Mr. Waldegrave : That had not occurred to me.

Drug Misuse

11. Mr. Butler : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contribution he or his Department expects to make to the forthcoming special session of the United Nations assembly concerned with drug misuse.

Mr. Hurd : I shall be going to the special session. The United Kingdom will work for a commitment to improving the effectiveness of the United Nations effort against drugs, and for agreement on a practical programme of international action, including ratification of the relevant United Nations conventions, measures to strengthen the monitoring of the movement of precursor chemicals, and undertakings to develop a network of agreements to trace, freeze and confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking.

Mr. Butler : Will my right hon. Friend press for the appointment of a United Nations drugs czar to co-ordinate the present efforts?

Mr. Hurd : I am not sure about a drugs czar. If my hon. Friend means that there is a certain diffusion or scattering of United Nations effort through the different agencies in Vienna, he is on to something. That is what I meant when I referred, in Foreign Office language, to the

"effectiveness of the United Nations effort".

We need to ensure that our contributions to that effort go where they are needed in the prevention of drug trafficking.

Mr. Vaz : Does the Foreign Secretary share my concern that the draft programme that he has put in the Library for the United Nations conference in London has no special session covering young people and the reduction of drug demand? Does he agree that at a conference of that kind, which will attract people from all over the world, it is very important to have people with direct, relevant experience of drug-taking? With respect, long speeches by the Prime

Column 882

Minister and others who have not had direct, relevant experience of drug-taking will not help us solve the problems.

Mr. Hurd : I note the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. He is perfectly right : the next big date on the calendar for drug misuse is our summit meeting here in Britain from 9 to 11 April. The agenda will have two points : the reduction of demand and the specific threat from cocaine and crack. It is important that those who discuss reduction of demand should have a vivid representation before them of what they are talking about. The hon. Member will have noticed that President Bush has steered the latest version of the United States anti-drug programme to demand reduction, and he will have noticed our own major new programme recently announced in that connection.

Mr. Wells : Does my right hon. Friend agree that reduction in the supply of drugs is extremely important in dealing with drug misuse? Will he therefore make certain that at this United Nations special conference there is discussion of alternative crops in the countries where drugs are produced? In particular, will he turn his mind to the consideration of banana production, which is an alternative to drug production in Colombia and much of Latin America, and to the prevention of the deleterious effect of the enormous increase proposed in Santo Domingo's supply of bananas to the European Community?

Mr. Hurd : My hon. Friend is subtly leading me from one subject to another--from drugs to bananas. He is perfectly right to say that where it can be shown that crop substitution is enforceable, it is right to support it--as we do, for example, in Pakistan. Enforceability is important as a great deal of money could be wasted otherwise.

Mr. Sheerman : Will the special assembly take Britain's contribution seriously if it realises that Britain is not taking on those banks which we know are heavily involved in laundering drug money and are operating freely in the City of London? Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman talked to his colleagues to ensure that something is done about that scandal?

Mr. Hurd : The hon. Gentleman's rhetoric is about four years out of date. This Government have been the pioneers in putting the necessary legislation through Parliament, in bringing that legislation into effect, and in negotiating agreements--of which there are now 13--with countries that have followed the same route. It is not just a United Kingdom effort, but an international effort. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is continuing and is beginning to produce useful results.

Hong Kong

12. Mr. Andrew MacKay : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on representations he has received from the people of Hong Kong on proposed direct elections in the colony.

Mr. Maude : We have received many representations from a broad cross -section of the community in Hong Kong. We shall take full account of the views of the Hong Kong people in taking our decisions about the development of the territory's political system.

Column 883

Mr. MacKay : Is my hon. Friend aware that many of us think that the OMELCO proposals have much to recommend them as a move towards direct elections in the colony? However, we are disappointed with the Chinese Government's response and hope that under no circumstances will their belligerent response influence my right hon. and hon. Friends' final decision.

Mr. Maude : As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, our decision--and it is our decision--for 1991 will be taken on what is, in our judgment, in the best interests of Hong Kong. The process of arriving at that judgment will be heavily influenced by the views of Hong Kong, which have been channelled through and articulated by OMELCO.

Mr. Shore : When does the Minister expect the Chinese Government to publish their final version of the Basic Law? If he is expecting that publication in the near future, it would make sense for the British Government to announce their views and decisions on the extent of direct elections before the Chinese Government publish their view in the Basic Law, so that we are not seen to be--as many expect anyway--simply following the Chinese.

Mr. Maude : The process of evolving the Basic Law has been continuing for a little time. The right hon. Gentleman will know that special groups on particular aspects of it have been meeting in recent weeks. The plenary session of the Basic Law drafting committee meets during next week, but that is not the end of the road. There is a further stage. As my right hon. Friend said, we have been engaging in confidential discussions with the Peking Government to ensure that, as far as possible, Hong Kong opinions are taken fully into account in the formulation of the Basic Law provisions.

Mr. Ian Taylor : Does my hon. Friend agree that progress in democracy in Hong Kong is only one of three parts of the British policy of maintaining stability? The others are the essential need to give passports to the 50,000 heads of families, and the necessity to deal properly with the Vietnamese refugees. Will he confirm that the world community--perhaps with the exception of the United States--now accepts that economic refugees must return to Vietnam? What is the Government's policy for helping Vietnam?

Mr. Maude : The whole international community, including the United States, has accepted the principle of mandatory repatriation of those who are determined by the proper authorities not to be political refugees. Everyone has agreed, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United States, that economic migrants have nowhere to go except back to Vietnam. There is no dissent on that point. The continuing argument is on when that process should be resumed. The Government believe that to give Hong Kong the confidence to face its future, we need to send a clear signal that no one should come from Vietnam because there is no promised land waiting for them.

As for what we are doing to help Vietnam, we have said in the past that we are prepared to contemplate a resumption of aid to Vietnam as long as Vietnam lives up to its international obligations.

Column 884


13. Mr. Caborn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has on the foreign debt incurred by the South African illegal administration in Namibia.

Mr. Waldegrave : Namibia's national debt totalled just over 716 million rand at 31 December 1989.

Mr. Caborn : I do not quibble with the figure, although I think that it is a little higher at 820 million rand. I think that the Minister will agree that those loans were illegal, both in terms of international law and in terms of United Nations Security Council resolution 435. In the light of that, will he make sure that the South Africans who loaned that money to the illegal regime in Namibia will face their responsibility? The £220 million-odd debt should not be loaded on to the new Administration in Namibia which will be undertaking total reconstruction and will therefore find it difficult to repay such an amount.

Mr. Waldegrave : The negotiations on this matter and on other aspects of the financial and commercial relationships between an independent Namibia and South Africa are now going forward. It would be unwise of us outside to lay down on what is about to be an independent Namibia its exact balance of interests. Namibia needs access to South African markets. There have been transfers--illegal transfers, one might say--from South Africa to Namibia in the past. The negotiation is complex and we must leave it to the independent Namibian Government to settle the matter.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton : Does my right hon. Friend agree that while we need to consider now what aid we can give to an independent Namibia, we should not concentrate on the negative aspects of any South African legacy, but should concentrate on the wonderful infrastructure that the South African administration has left in Namibia in the form of roads, reservoirs, welfare, education, health and industry. We should wish that country every success, prosperity, peace and happiness for when it becomes independent on 21 March.

Mr. Waldegrave : I hope that the whole House will support my hon. Friend's latter sentiment. I hope that the external supporters' club of SWAPO will note how far it is being left behind by the moderation of Mr. Nujoma and his colleagues who are very anxious to keep in Namibia many of the South African technicians and others who they realise are essential for Namibia's prosperous future.

West Bank

14. Mr. Ernie Ross : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will instruct the consul general in east Jerusalem to continue to monitor alleged breaches of the fourth Geneva convention in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Mr. Waldegrave : We take a close interest in Israeli human rights practices in the occupied territories, in accordance with our rights as a signatory to the fourth Geneva convention.

Mr. Ross : At the end of last year the British consul general made a number of direct interventions in connection with allegations of serious violations of

Column 885

international humanitarian law and was criticised for doing so by the Israeli authorities. Will the Minister assure the House that Ivan Callan will be given every encouragement to continue these efforts towards fulfilling Britain's obligation to ensure respect for the fourth Geneva convention, especially with regard to grave breaches?

Mr. Waldegrave : Mr. Callan, whom I know very well, has done nothing without instructions from the British Government. He has done nothing outside his proper role and we support him in everything that he has done.

Mr. Temple-Morris : Does my right hon. Friend agree that what is going on in the West Bank and Gaza is a disgrace and, more importantly, a continuing disgrace? Does my right hon. Friend see that as a challenge to European political co-operation about which we hear so much, but the results of which, at the end of the day, are sometimes difficult to see? In the European context, will my right hon. Friend cause an approach to be made to the United States to get a joint effort to tell Israel to stop and to deal?

Mr. Waldegrave : We are in close touch with the United States and strongly support its efforts to start direct dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. I cannot answer a question on this subject today without drawing to the attention of the House the terrible act of terrorism in which many Israeli and some Egyptian lives were lost. We deplore such actions by the enemies of the peace process.

Mr. Kaufman : In supporting what my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) and Conservative Members have said about breaches of human rights, may I join the Minister of State in condemning in the strongest possible terms the terrorist

Column 886

outrage against the Israeli tourist bus which led to the deaths of innocent Israelis and Egyptians? Does he agree that perhaps the only hopeful sign to emerge from that atrocity was the immediate condemnation of the outrage by the Palestine Liberation Organisation? Does he agree that that kind of murder and atrocity makes even more important the speeding up of the middle east peace process to avoid the loss of more innocent lives--Israeli, Palestinian or any other?

Mr. Waldegrave : Not for the first time on this subject, I wholly agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The fact that a number of the extremist organisations that are locked in battle with the present leadership of the PLO have, whether rightly or wrongly, claimed responsibility for the atrocity only confirms that the central leadership of the PLO is committed to the peace process at the present time.

Mr. Tredinnick : Does my right hon. Friend agree that, with democracy sweeping through eastern Europe and through repressive regimes, the Israeli Government will be swimming against the tide if they attempt--

Hon. Members : They are swimming against the tide.

Mr. Tredinnick : Does my right hon. Friend agree that they will be continuing to swim against the tide if they refuse to grant democratic rights to people on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip?

Mr. Waldegrave : One of the ironic, perhaps even tragic, contrasts has always been that between, on the one hand, the vibrancy and legitimacy of Israeli's own democracy and its attachment to that democracy and, on the other, its unwillingness to concede similar rights to the Palestinian people.

Next Section (Debates)

  Home Page