Order for Third Reading read.
To be read the Third time tomorrow.
Mr. Secretary Rifkind presented a Bill to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936, relating to Strathclyde Regional Council (to be presented under Section 7 of the Act) : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be considered upon Tuesday 13 March and to be printed. [Bill 92.]
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : We shall maintain our policy of encouragement and pressure on the South African Government to bring about an end to apartheid, giving a measured response to progress as it occurs.
Mr. Carlisle : Is it Her Majesty's Government policy to offer British taxpayers' money to Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, as recent reports stated? If that is the case, does my right hon. Friend accept that many Conservative Members would find that policy somewhat repugnant, particularly because the ANC is still in favour of the armed struggle and Nelson Mandela still rejects the lifting of sanctions, which would create the conditions whereby peaceful reform could take place?
Mr. Hurd : I told the House last month that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is consulting hon. Members of different parties on whether it would be a good idea to set up a public body outside the Government, which could help and support groups or parties, whether in eastern Europe or southern Africa, as they move towards democracy. That is the state of affairs. Our whole emphasis in South Africa is on peaceful dialogue and helping to get that going.
Rev. Martin Smyth : Does the Foreign Secretary accept that the Government might lift the greatest sanction of all, the non-recognition of Bophuthatswana's independence, in the light of a recent statement by its President welcoming the release of Nelson Mandela and saying that it maintained its independence not because of apartheid, but through its historic identity?
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : Does my right hon. Friend agree that after the Dublin summit, his European colleagues tried to keep Britain on board, and that the concept of an official visit to South Africa and of the carrot and stick policy was accepted by them? In the light of that, was it wise for the United Kingdom to break the resolution? As we are encouraging the Soviet Union to release its last political prisoners, should not we do the same in South Africa?
Mr. Hurd : I do not flatter myself that I attended a summit. At Dublin we put forward the compromise proposal that if other partners were prepared to move once the state of emergency was lifted, we would postpone any action on our part. I am sad that that compromise did not find immediate favour. I hope that perhaps as a result of the Troika Mission, or in other ways, all members of the Community will register what many of them feel and have expressed--the need to give practical encouragement to President de Klerk to continue along the road on which he has started.
Mr. Anderson : Will not the Foreign Secretary honestly admit that one of the crosses that he must bear is the perception among our allies and in Africa that the Prime Minister shares the view of the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) on this issue? With his troubles in Dublin fresh in his memory, will he try to persuade the Prime Minister to give a clear undertaking that we shall not break any more of our legal international obligations in respect of sanctions?
Mr. Hurd : As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have broken no legal obligations. We believe not only that we have taken the right action but that it would be stupid to do otherwise. We believe that it is wise to take a measured approach of not relaxing all sanctions, but taking limited steps to recognise and encourage what has been done. Others have recognised it in words, but we felt it wise to go further and give some recognition in substance. That is abundantly justified.
Mr. Wells : Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be better not to move any further on sanctions or any other policy towards South Africa until he has had an opportunity of speaking to Mr. Nelson Mandela? Will he confirm that he will ask Mr. Mandela to this country for that purpose among others?
Mr. Hurd : My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already invited Mr. Mandela to discuss the whole situation in South Africa with her. I hope, and am encouraged by some of the answers that he has been giving, that that may be possible.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave) : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs told the Romanian Foreign Minister when he met him in Ottawa on 11 February that the British Government expect to see steady progress towards a pluralist democracy in Romania. Free and fair elections later in the year will be vital. I raised similar points when I visited Romania on 15 and 16 January.
Mr. Flynn : Does the Minister agree that both Government and voluntary aid to Romania has been swiftly provided and that it is of great value? I pay tribute to the people of Newport, who have worked heroically to equip several lorries and dispatch them with medical aid. Is not the paramount need now to ensure that the elections in May are conducted fairly? In the unique situation in Romania where the apparatus of terror is still in place, is not it our right to intervene and use our influence in a thoroughly exceptional way to make sure that democracy is firmly rooted in that still unhappy land?
Mr. Waldegrave : Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman talks a great deal of sense about Romania, which he knows well. He pays tribute to the people of Newport. I join him in that and hope that it will not be misunderstood in any way. I hope that he will forgive me if I also pay tribute to the people of Bristol, because Bristol Mencap, under the leadership of Mrs Hannam, exposed the horrors of mental asylums there. The hon. Gentleman paid tribute to the Government's work. We have sent about £6 million of emergency aid, but all the voluntary aid is needed. As I said in my principal answer, it is now essential to ensure that there are free and fair elections, with access to the media for the opposition parties.
Mr. Richard Shepherd : Does my right hon. Friend agree that his response, welcome as it is in a sense, betrays a fundamental contradiction in British foreign policy? We are giving praise to and pushing Romania towards full democracy, for which we have no constitutional responsibility, yet we deny it to Hong Kong, for which we have constitutional responsibility. Is it not better to pursue those interests for which we have responsibility? Full democracy in Hong Kong may ameliorate some of the difficulties that the Government face in terms of giving passports--
Mr. Waldegrave : I think that I would get into trouble with you, Mr. Speaker, if I launched into an answer on Hong Kong. It seems a little paradoxical to blame my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who introduced democracy in Hong Kong for doing so.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Sainsbury) : We warmly welcome the freelections that have taken place in a number of Latin American countries, most recently in Nicaragua. We have made it clear through numerous statements, sometimes with our European partners, that we strongly support the return to democracy of Latin America.
Mr. Arnold : Now that the second last dictatorship in Hispanic Latin America has returned to democracy with the defeat of Daniel Ortega and his Socialists by a woman leader, what are the prospects for the last such dictatorship in Latin America, which is supported by so many Labour Members, that is, that of Fidel Castro in Cuba?
Mr. Sainsbury : I hope that all parts of the House will join me in hoping that the people of Cuba will be given an early opportunity in free and fair elections to express their judgment of the way that their country has been run.
Mr. Corbyn : Does the Minister agree that there has been considerable hypocrisy on the part of the Administration of the United States and the British Government in denying aid or trade to Nicaragua for the past 10 years, supporting a military attack upon that country and then taking pride in the fact that the Government of the Sandinistas called elections and abided by the results? Does he not think that the real problem and issue facing the people of all Latin America is the appalling debt crisis, which can be solved not by debt for equity arrangements, but only by proper commodity prices and a write-off of the debt burden that falls upon the poorest people of that continent?
Mr. Sainsbury : We applaud the manner in which President Ortega accepted the result of the elections. I must disagree with the hon. Gentleman about the real problem that faces the people of Nicaragua. It seems to me that they have clearly rejected the Socialist management of their economy that led to a massive drop in living standards and hyper- inflation, which devastated the economy of their country.
Mr. Bellingham : Is the Minister aware that the deputy Chief Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), who has some Latin blood in him, is currently in the oriental republic of Uruguay? Does my hon. Friend agree that there is no one more suitable to represent our Government in that country?
Mr. Sainsbury : I shall not express a view about whether my hon. Friend is right about the Latin blood, or perhaps the Welsh blood, of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones). I am glad that he has already been to Nicaragua and, on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Government, he warmly congratulated Mrs. Chamorro on her victory and has already discussed with her the help that our Government can give to her Government.
Mr. Kaufman : Will the Minister acknowledge the signal contribution of President Ortega and the Sandinistas in moving Nicaragua out of the Somoza dictatorship into a genuine democracy, with free elections, acknowledged as such by outside observers, and a peaceful transfer of power? Will the Government now resume substantial economic, bilateral aid to that country? Will they monitor
Column 859the progress of the new regime, to ensure that the unrivalled achievements of the Sandinistas in health and education is maintained?
Mr. Sainsbury : I should have hoped that the right hon. Gentleman heard what I said when I congratulated President Ortega on the manner in which he accepted the result of the elections. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will join me in calling upon the remaining Socialist countries of Central America and the Caribbean, including Cuba, to hold free and fair elections. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge the error of the ways of all the Socialist local authorities that gave so much support to the
Sandinistas--perhaps they will now return that money to their ratepayers.
Both Governments reopened their embassies on 26 February and appointed charge s d'affaires, pending the arrival of ambassadors.
Mr. Evans : I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I am pleased that both sides of the House recognise that we have restored diplomatic relations, but is he aware that many families lost loved ones in the fight for freedom and sovereignty? Will he assure the House and British people that sovereignty is not on the political agenda?
Mr. Sainsbury : I am happy to be able to give my hon. Friend that assurance. Our position on sovereignty has not changed, nor will it, and I am glad to say that the Argentines appreciate that. The resumption of relations was made possible only because the Argentine Government agreed to talks about practical measures without prejudice to either side's position on sovereignty.
Mr. Hurd : Some 90 states, including us, have now signed the United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. I recently went to the UN special session on drugs in New York, which adopted a political declaration and a global programme of action. We shall host a world ministerial summit in London in April to look at ways of reducing the demand for drugs and combating the cocaine threat. Within Europe, anti-drugs co-operation is steadily increasing.
Column 860system as a result of drug trafficking? Does he further accept that while it can be detected when it first enters the system, once it is in the system it becomes almost impossible to detect? At the forthcoming conference, will he discuss with colleagues from overseas ways in which more reciprocal arrangements can be made between international banks to help detect and confiscate the money?
Mr. Hurd : My hon. Friend is quite right, and that is one of the purposes of the financial action task force that was set up at the Paris summit last year. As my hon. Friend knows, under our 1986 legislation we have strong powers for tracking and investigating laundered money. I agree that it is a matter not just of legal powers, but of co-operation and discussion with the banks, and certainly in this country that has, on the whole, been forthcoming.
Ms. Abbott : Does the Secretary of State accept that commodity prices play a part in the drugs crisis? It is hard to persuade Colombian peasants to stop growing cocaine when the price of coffee has dropped through the floor.
Mr. Hurd : I have heard the argument about that relationship and there may be something in it. It is important when discussing help to Colombia, which we have given promptly and effectively, that we, the Colombian Government and other Governments should take into account what we expect Colombian farmers to grow so that they can have a proper standard of living if they abandon cocaine.
Mr. Allason Does my right hon. Friend agree that despite the problems highlighted in the Blom-Cooper report, Turks and Caicos, which is an island group and a British colony, is still a staging post for drugs to the United States? Does he have any plans to allow the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and other American anti-drug agencies right of hot pursuit into Turks and Caicos waters?
6. Mr. Watson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has had the opportunity to discuss with the Israeli Government the Amnesty report detailing their treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
Mr. Waldegrave : We have frequently expressed concern to the Israeli Government about abuses of Palestinian human rights in the occupied territories. In particular, we have raised with Israel two of the cases investigated by Amnesty in its recent report.
Mr. Watson : Will the Minister join me in welcoming the decision made last week by the Israeli authorities to reopen two of the further education colleges in the west bank after a closure of two years? Will he reaffirm the Government's stated position that they wish the other 15 further education colleges and all six universities to be reopened and to stay open? Does he agree that one way to bring pressure towards that end would be to give support to the EC decision to review scientific agreements with Israel?
Column 861Mr. Waldegrave : I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should all press for the higher education institutions to be reopened. I had the opportunity to put that suggestion strongly to Minister Olmert, who was in this country this week. However, moving towards EC sanctions is not right at this stage. We welcome the steps that have been taken, and reinforce them by saying that the universities should be reopened, as the hon. Gentleman said.
Sir Dennis Walters : Bearing in mind the fact that all member states of the European Community are co-signatories of the fourth Geneva convention and that the convention is being flouted daily by the Israeli occupying forces in the west bank, although the convention applies to the occupied territories, should not that violation be pursued more vigorously by Her Majesty's Government and the Community?
Mr. Waldegrave : The Israeli Government are well aware of the vigour with which Her Majesty's Government and other Governments in the Community pursue their protests on these matters. The responses--sometimes of complaint--from the Israeli Government seem to show that our protests carry some weight.
Mr. Ernie Ross : Does the Minister agree that the actions taken by the Israelis on the west bank would be further heightened if the threat by Prime Minister Shamir to resettle Soviet Jews on the west bank were followed through? Does he think that Soviet Jews have the right to emigrate wherever they want, but that the countries to which they want to emigrate can decide whether to accept them? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be far better if we and the Israelis dealt with anti-Semitism wherever it arises in the world instead of using it as an excuse for emigration?
"it would be a very ironic and unjust reward for all our efforts, if their freedom were to be at the expense of the rights, the homes and the land of the people of the Occupied Territories."
That was a clear statement of the right position.
Mr. Hurd : Our many discussions with members of the Federal German Government are proof of our close relations. I will be having further talks in Bonn next week with Herr Genscher and Chancellor Kohl. As I explained to the House on 22 February, it was agreed at Ottawa last month that Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, the United States, France and the Soviet Union, and of the two German states, would meet to discuss the external aspects of German reunification.
Mr. Boswell : Does my right hon. Friend agree that German reunification is as desirable as it is inevitable? Now that the Polish frontier issue is out of the way, will he use our membership of the four- plus-two mechanisms to ensure that the case is made positively for all- German membership of NATO as a contribution to the continuing stability of Europe? Finally, will he ensure that Britain plays a full and appropriate part in the rehabilitation of East German's economy and environment?
Mr. Hurd : Now that the framework for discussing external aspects of German unification is coming into place, we can certainly give a confident welcome to the process of German unification, which we have always supported in principle. We are strongly in favour of a united Germany being in NATO and we support what Chancellor Kohl and Herr Genscher have said on that subject. It will inevitably be for the German Government and people to shoulder the main task of restructuring and modernising East Germany, but I hope that British firms and interests will see the opportunities, for example, in the joint ventures, which will undoubtedly exist.
Mr. Soames : Will my right hon. Friend particularly welcome yesterday's decision by the Federal Republic to negotiate a treaty on the Polish borders? Does he agree that that most happily coincides with a major objective of British Government policy? Does he further agree that the events surrounding the two Germanies further underline the importance of our maintaining an ever closer relationship with the French?
Mr. Hurd : We strongly welcome the outcome of the discussions in Bonn yesterday and the decision of the German Government to accept the need for a treaty with Poland about her frontiers. We have been urging that, as my hon. Friend says, for a long time.
As I told the House on 22 February, I believe that, quite apart from any German considerations, it is important for both Britain and France to learn to work together more effectively, not just on these but on a wide range of issues.
Mr. Wareing : Does the Foreign Secretary agree that despite the irresponsible antics of Herr Kohl in recent weeks, compared with the more responsible attitude of Herr Genscher and the SPD, there is a problem with the German ethnic minorities in Silesia and other parts of former German territory now in Poland, and that it behoves any Polish Government to act in accordance with the Helsinki accords on human rights? What initiatives is the right hon. Gentleman taking to ensure that those accords are strengthened, to defuse tensions in those possible future troublespots?
Mr. Hurd : It is, of course, right that those who signed the Helsinki Final Act should respect the human rights obligations that they assumed. It is also correct that throughout many parts of central and eastern Europe there are problems about minorities dating back many centuries. Those are becoming more difficult to handle as countries emerge from the Communist freezer, if I may put it that way. That is one reason why I have suggested that as part of the CSCE machinery there might be a way of conciliating in such matters. It is for sovereign states, for individual countries, to decide how they respect those obligations. It is not a matter of shifting borders in an attempt to solve those problems. That is not the answer.
Column 863Mr. Robertson : Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the Opposition also welcome the statement yesterday by Chancellor Kohl on the Oder-Neisse border? We have also welcomed progress towards the unification of the two German states and the freedom that the German people now have to make that decision. We acknowledge the extremely difficult task of the Foreign Secretary in repairing the damage to British- German relations caused by the Prime Minister's crass insensitivity. Will he now ensure that the formal and permanent confirmation of Germany's borders with her neighbours is made an urgent and fundamental objective in the two-plus-four--not four-plus-two--talks which will take place in Europe and in other forums where these matters will be discussed?
Mr. Hurd : I cannot see much point in what the hon. Gentleman says. I am against attempts to divide Foreign Ministers from Heads of Government in Bonn or elsewhere, and I do not think that such attempts are very likely to succeed. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the Poles are entitled to a treaty. That is what I have just told the House. The way forward on that is now clear. It is also right that the Poles are entitled to be present when that is discussed. It cannot be dealt with exclusively in the two-plus-four or four-plus-two talks.
Sir Russell Johnston : Despite the Foreign Secretary's opposition in principle to separating or attempting to separate Foreign Secretaries from Governments, does he accept that many of us were very pleased when he gave overt support to Herr Genscher in the internal argument in the German Administration? Does he agree that those who fear a united Germany would, in practical terms, have their fears reduced if we pressed ahead with the unification of the European Community in which Germany would be one part and in which in due time national borders would become much less significant?
Mr. Hurd : I am all in favour of pushing ahead with fresh impetus inside the European Community, first of all by completing the single market. Where I may differ from the hon. Gentleman and from some people in the Community is that I do not think of that exclusively in terms of institutions.
Sir Peter Blaker : Will my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations on securing international agreement that the external aspects of German unification are matters not just for the two Germanys but for other countries as well? Does he recall that only a few weeks ago the British Government were accused of being the only Government out of step on this issue? I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the fact that now everybody else is in step with us--except, apparently, the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson).
Mr. Hurd : It was thought by learned commentators that we were a bit out of step when six or eight weeks ago we emphasised that external matters connected with German unification affected Germany's allies and other European countries. We were criticised for stressing that, but now everybody is placing the same stress and emphasis on these matters.
8. Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy following the outcome of the Nicaraguan elections ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Sainsbury : The election, which was judged to be free and fair, gave the people of Nicaragua an opportunity to exercise their right to choose their own Government. We warmly welcome this development, which marks a further strengthening of democracy in the region, and look forward to working with the Government of President-elect Violetta Chamorro.
Mr. Allen : Is the Minister aware that figures in the Financial Times indicate that the cost of the American intervention in the election amounted to £2 per elector, which translated into British terms would represent a total of £86 million--even more than the £14 million that the Conservatives spent at the last election? Will he make representations to the American Government to ensure that they intervene similarly in the eastern Europe democracies so that at least there may be fair play throughout the free world? Will he also ensure that the British Government make a contribution higher than the know-how fund of £50 million rather than tie the eastern European democracies into the international debt system?
Mr. Sainsbury : I am interested to note that the hon. Gentleman, like the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), still wears his Sandino badge with pride. I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that of the $9 million allocated by Congress for the Nicaraguan elections the vast majority went to pay for observers and for the supreme electoral council. Only $1.8 million went to UNO.
Several Hon. Members rose
Mr. Norris : Will my hon. Friend accept from me a slightly less fulsome tribute to ex-President Ortega, whose election may have been free on the day but was most certainly not fair, given the widespread intimidation, the manipulation of state media, and the abuse of Government resources by the Sandinista regime, whose support from the eastern bloc far diminished anything from the United States? Will my hon. Friend therefore keep the transitional period under very careful review, because there is much evidence that several of the commandantes of the revolution are less than convinced of the desirability of a return to democracy?
Mr. Sainsbury : I note what my hon. Friend has said--and, of course, he personally observed the election. I join him in hoping that there will be a peaceful and full transfer on the due date. It is interesting that the United Nations observers--indeed, all observers--commented on the massive abuse by the Sandinistas of state facilities, including, in particular, the premises of the television station and the army. As my hon. Friend has pointed out, they also received very substantial help from overseas.
Column 865Mr. Foulkes : Will the Minister accept that, as one of the international observers, I can confirm the view of almost all the observers that the elections were conducted fairly, to the great credit of the Sandinista Government? President Ortega has not only gracefully accepted the result [Interruption.] I hope that Conservative Members will do the same at the next election here-- [Interruption.] Ortega is co-operating in the orderly transfer of power, which is now jeopardised by the failure of the Contra terrorists to disband. [Interruption.]
Mr. Sainsbury : On the hon. Gentleman's last point, we look for the early disbandment of the Contras and for their reintroduction into Nicaraguan society. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who was himself an observer, that on the day, the election was free and fair, as all the observers have commented. Indeed, it was the presence of the international observers--that very strong presence, and only that--which reassured the people of Nicaragua that they could cast their votes in secrecy and without fear of retribution.
9. Mr. Hayes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure that British military equipment supplied to Jordan is not used by Iraq to its benefit ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Waldegrave : Careful control is exercised over our export of defence equipment. Each proposed sale is subject to stringent licensing procedures, including an assessment of foreign policy and regional security implications.
Mr. Hayes : Will my hon. Friend confirm that all weapons sold by Britain to Jordan will be used solely for that country's self-defence capability and that none of the weaponry will be used by a potential aggressor to the state of Israel?
Mr. Waldegrave : I think that it was no secret that Jordan and Iraq were close allies during the Gulf war. Jordan is fully committed to a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israel problem. We intend to continue our support for King Hussain and his regime as they are an important part of the peace process.
Mr. Waldegrave : I know that a story in the Jerusalem Post said that joint Jordanian-Iraq training was taking place, but we believe that story to be exaggerated. It seems unlikely--we have had no such comment from anyone else--that it is threatening to Israel.