Home Page

Column 1181

House of Commons

Wednesday 4 April 1990

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

South Yorkshire Light Rail Transit

(No. 2) Bill-- Read the Third time, and passed.

Oral Answers to Questions



1. Mr. Orme : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy towards Cyprus following the breakdown of United Nations talks.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Francis Maude) : In line with Security Council resolution 649, we will continue to support United Nations efforts to bring about a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement to the Cyprus dispute.

Mr. Orme : I thank the Minister for that reply. Can he tell the House what action he is taking, along with our European colleagues, to bring meaningful negotiations, especially with Turkish Cypriots who want negotiations? What part are the Government taking in that regard?

Mr. Maude : That matter is properly raised when there are discussions between the United Kingdom Government and the Turkish Government. The right hon. Gentleman asked about action by our European partners. We have taken the view, as have many others, that the best chance of achieving serious negotiations leading to an enduring settlement is the initiative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to which we have given strong support, and we have done all that we can to help it move forward.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : Will the Government continue to set their face like flint against any recognition of the Denktas regime in the north of Cyprus? Bearing in mind the enormous demographic changes that have taken place in the north of Cyprus as a result of the arrival of a large number of Turkish settlers, should not we regard any elections that take place there with some sceptism?

Mr. Maude : On the first point, there is certainly no intention to recognise the proclaimed so-called republic of Turkish northern Cyprus. It was illegally declared and we shall not recognise it. On the second point, it is certainly the case that there are some settlers in northern Cyprus. It is difficult to know the exact number, but I understand that the proportion of settlers to the indigenous population is not such as to have a decisive effect on any elections that

Column 1182

may take place. It remains the case that we have to look for a representative of the Turkish Cypriot community with whom business can be done.

Mr. Corbett : Now that the United Nations Secretary-General has felt justified in complaining about the intransigence of Mr. Denktash in the intercommunal talks under his sponsorship, will the Minister have a word with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister before she goes to the Gallipoli commemorations later this month and ask her to seek discussions with the Turkish Government to get them to make better efforts to use whatever influence they may have over Mr. Denktash? Does the Minister agree that the best key to the solution of the problem for the two communities in Cyprus lies in Ankara?

Mr. Maude : There will be discussions with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when she goes to Turkey later this month, and it seems likely that this subject will come up then.


2. Mr. Gill : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assurances he has sought that the policy of subsidiarity would operate to the benefit of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Maude : We support the principle of subsidiarity as an important way of avoiding unnecessary legislation at Community level. There is widespread support for the principle across the Community, and we believe that it should be rigorously applied in practice.

Mr. Gill : Given the reluctance of large organisations and bureaucracies to devolve powers to the lower orders, does my hon. Friend consider that for the principle of subsidiarity to be acceptable it will be necessary for a full and detailed prospectus to be issued showing what powers will be devolved to the national Parliaments?

Mr. Maude : I am not sure that I regard the nation states of Europe as the lower orders. I accept my hon. Friend's point that it is important that there should be the maximum leaving of powers to the nation states, the member states of the Community. On the desirability or otherwise of a comprehensive list of what should be done at each level, the best way to proceed is for there to be a presumption, effectively, that matters are best dealt with at national level unless it can be shown that that is better done at Community level. That is the principle of subsidiarity, which has been widely subscribed to by political leaders across the European Community. Our concern is that the words are not yet matched by deeds. It is important that they should be.

Mr. Spearing : Will not the Minister reconsider the use of the phrase, "principle of subsidiarity"? Has he seen the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs about the operation of the Single European Act, HC 82 of this Session? When I was asked about the issue as a witness, I said that the only thing that was clear about it was that it was not clear. Has he read the opinion of Mr. Speaker's Counsel about this use of the word and its meaning? Does he recall the exchanges that he had with the Select Committee on European Legislation? Bearing all those matters in mind, will he reconsider his definitive use of the word?

Column 1183

Mr. Maude : I have certainly seen the excellent report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, produced under the Chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell). I have not read in detail the evidence that the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) gave to the Committee, but, having been alerted to its seminal importance, I shall do so. The point that he made, that there was no universally accepted definition of subsidiarity, is fair. It is important that it should be defined in a way that exerts pressure for matters to be dealt with at national, not Community, level, unless a case can be made for matters to be dealt with better at Community level. That is something we support and shall seek to promote.

Eastern Europe (Elections)

4. Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received about the conduct of the elections in eastern Europe.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave) : We have received a number of representations expressinthe hope that the elections in eastern Europe will be free and fair. The East German election and the first round of Hungarian elections appear to have been conducted properly. They mark a major step forward in the creation of democratic, pluralist societies.

Mr. Thurnham : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing interest among would-be parliamentarians in eastern Europe to visit this country, to see for themselves how this mother of Parliaments works? Is he further aware of the great assistance given by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and by the Great Britain-East Europe Centre?

Mr. Waldegrave : I am well aware of the good work done by the Great Britain-East Europe Centre, which is financed largely by the Foreign Office. I am also aware of the good work done by the IPU, a number of other organisations and Members of Parliament from both sides of the House. There is a good deal of room for more such interchanges.

Sir David Steel : Has the Minister of State noticed one significant feature of the elections that were held in the German Democratic Republic and Hungary--and, indeed, Namibia--and that are now under way in Czechoslovakia? It was significant that not one of those emerging democracies was daft enough to imitate the British electoral system. Does he accept that the principle that a public minority should no longer hold sway in any of those countries is good, and one which might be followed here?

Mr Waldegrave : If I were the right hon. Gentleman, I am not sure that I should pursue that argument because one of the difficulties emerging in some of those countries is the incredible plurality of parties produced by the proportional systems that they are following. One country now has 68 parties. Those countries may face dire problems of weak Governments at times when they need a clear direction of policy. That may cause them great problems. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would be wise not to press that point. There is a matter relating to

Column 1184

the Hungarian election on which I can agree with him : Hungary has managed to hold a successful election which produced no Socialist parties.

Mr. Cormack : Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Romania, which I had the chance of visiting recently-- [Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."]--there is concern among the members of the historic parties about the position of the National Salvation Front and that elections there should be free and fair? One way in which Romanians believe that that can be achieved is to send a team of observers from this country. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that observers go in considerable numbers and early enough to see the preparations?

Mr. Waldegrave : I can announce today in response to the sensible point made by my hon. Friend that we propose to send a team of 12 professional election observers drawn from senior local government officers, some of whom have taken part in observing elections in Namibia and elsewhere, to observe the last part of the campaign and the election itself. That is in addition to the Members of Parliament who will be observing the election. That will go some way towards meeting my hon. Friend's legitimate concern.

Central America

5. Mr. Win Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to meet members of the Government of the United States of America to discuss human rights in central America.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Sainsbury) : We have regular discussions with the United States Administration on a wide variety of subjects, including central America.

Mr. Griffiths : The Minister will no doubt be aware that this weekend the five central American presidents met and issued a statement calling on the Contras to be disbanded when President Chamorro takes office on 25 April. What are the Government doing to ensure that that happens? It is essential for democracy that these destabilising forces be taken out of action.

Furthermore, what are the Government doing to persuade the Americans, who have had such a bad influence on Nicaragua, to help get rid of the Contras?

Mr. Sainsbury : We have consistently supported the Esquipulas process and the efforts of the central American states to find a peaceful solution to the disputes in the area. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will do likewise and not criticise the United States Administration all the time, perhaps concentrating a little more on condemning organisations such as the FMLN--Faraburdo Marti National Liberation Front-- which seek to overthrow democratically elected Governments by terrorist means.

Mr. Hind : Will my hon. Friend invite the new President of Nicaragua, Mrs. Chamorro, to London and to Westminster so that the House and the Government can congratulate her on removing another left-wing socialist regime in central America?

Mr. Sainsbury : I can assure my hon. Friend that the

President-elect of Nicaragua would be a very welcome visitor here. We warmly welcomed her victory in the

Column 1185

election, and we pay tribute to those who were responsible for the election being carried out in a free and fair manner--particularly to the numerous observers, including United Nations observers, who played a major role in ensuring that the election was free and fair.


6. Mr. Sillars : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent consideration the British Government have given to their relations with Lithuania and the Soviet Union.

Mr. Waldegrave : We support the right of the Baltic peoples to decide their own future, and have welcomed the considerable progress made in the past two years.

In view of recent developments in Lithuania, we think it vital that restraint should be shown on all sides and that progress should be made through dialogue between the Soviet authorities and the Lithuanians. We attach particular importance to the repeated statements by the Soviet leadership that there is no question of the use of force. We have made clear our concerns to the Soviet authorities.

Mr. Sillars : Is the Minister aware that, given the increasing bullying and harassment of the Lithuanians by the Kremlin, his statement, which appears even-handed, is unacceptable to a growing number of people in this country? Will he now make a slight but significant change of policy and tell President Gorbachev boldly that the right of self-determination of the people of Lithuania was not extinguished by the secret protocol of 1939, and that President Gorbachev should be ashamed of claiming to be a beneficiary of that fact? That right of self-determination is enshrined in the Helsinki accord ; and no one can trust that there has been a fundamental change in the Soviet Union until it adheres to those accords, particularly in relation to Lithuania.

Mr. Waldegrave : The Helsinki accord, however, also recognised de facto the boundaries of the Soviet Union as they are. They also recognised that changes in boundaries should be conducted by negotiation. The sheer truth of the matter is that peaceful transition to the independent Lithuania to which the Lithuanians have a right must be achieved through negotiation.

I can inform the House of one optimistic development, which is that a Lithuanian delegation is now having discussions with a senior member of the Politburo Mr. Yakovlev. We hope that those talks will lead to progress.

Sir Peter Blaker : Is my right hon. Friend aware of reports that the Soviet Union is intimating that it would be prepared to be more reasonable towards Lithuania if the west were to make concessions on German unification? Presumably, that means that the west should agree that Germany should not remain a member of NATO. Will my right hon. Friend dissociate himself from any such thoughts? Would not the right course be for the Russians to stop bullying Lithuania and to agree that Germany should remain a member of NATO if it so wishes?

Mr. Waldegrave : My right hon. Friend is right to suggest that no such deal should be contemplated and, indeed, it would not be possible. I agree with him and with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) that

Column 1186

sabre rattling and threats by the Soviet Union are not the way to conduct the negotiations that should be carried through to a conclusion.

Mr. Heffer : Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Soviet Union, under Stalin, took over Lithuania, Latvia and other countries, and that that was an act of aggression against their peoples? However, is it not clear that Lithuania would not even be in a position to talk about independence had it not been for President Gorbachev's stand on perestroika? Although the Lithuanians have an absolute right to complete freedom from the Soviet Union, should not we endeavour to support sensible discussions and negotiations rather than military action by either side?

Mr. Waldegrave : The hon. Gentleman talks a great deal of sense. It is inconceivable that any Soviet leader during the past 40 years would have walked into the crowds at Vilnius to argue with the people about these matters. He would have sent a tank, and that would have been the end of it. We are anxious about the sabre rattling, but the hon. Gentleman is right to say that steps have been taken in the right direction, and that that would not have happened without the general progress in the Soviet Union during the past few years.

Mr. Kilfedder : In the circumstances, should the Government appoint a diplomatic representative to Lithuania?

Mr. Waldegrave : That would not be right at the present time. As the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said, the Lithuanian people are entitled to independence, and when that is achieved we shall recognise the state. To intervene now might arouse further tension, which would not be sensible. We know from past events that if the worst came to the worst and force were used--we urge that it should not--there is nothing that we could do to stop it. It would be foolish to raise expectations that we could.

American Television

7. Mr. McKelvey : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the United States authorities concerning broadcasting by American television on a Cuban frequency, in violation of international agreements ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Sainsbury : None.

Mr. McKelvey : Will the Minister explain why no representations have been made? Is he saying that the Government support such naked aggression by America on a small neighbouring country--

[Interruption.] Is not there an agreement, signed by 138 countries, that prohibits that sort of invasion of television and radio air space? As the Prime Minister has a special relationship with America, will he please tell that country to stop those naked aggressive cowboy tactics against a small country and ask it to abide by the agreement that it has signed?

Mr. Sainsbury : I find it astonishing that the hon. Gentleman appears to regard something that might allow the people of Cuba to receive information from a source other than that controlled by their Government as naked aggression. There are two reasons why we have made--

Column 1187

Mr. Kaufman : That is inviting lawbreaking.

Mr. Sainsbury : If the right hon. Gentleman would be quiet for a moment, he might hear my answer.

There are two reasons why we have not made representations. The first is that it is for the International Telecommunications Union and the International Frequency Regulation Board to decide whether the broadcasting of TV Marti complies with international regulations. Secondly, it is a matter for the countries concerned, not for the Government.

Mr. Hanley : Does my hon. Friend agree that countries should seek the protection of such international regulations only if they obey them?

Mr. Sainsbury : We have always taken the view that one cannot be selective about the laws that one obeys.

Mr. Foulkes : But the American Government are violating a large number of international agreements to which they and the British Government are signatories, in what is now being described as tele-aggression on Cuba- - [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order.

Mr. Foulkes : As you know, Mr. Speaker, Conservative Members often ask Opposition Members to condemn lawbreaking, so why do not the British Government condemn this lawbreaking by the Americans?

Mr. Sainsbury : I had hoped that Opposition Members would support the efforts of the BBC World Service, for example, to ensure that accurate information about world affairs is available in as many countries as possible. I suppose, from what the hon. Gentleman has just said, that he would regard that as radio aggression. As I said earlier, it is for internationally established organisations and the two countries concerned to make a judgment.

Mr. Burt : When my hon. Friend next discusses television transmissions to Cuba with the United States, will he encourage it to beam as many programmes as possible about the collapse of communism in eastern Europe, so that the Cuban population can see what will surely come to them within the next couple of years?

Mr. Sainsbury : I fear that my hon. Friend is on to an important point. The Cuban authorities, and the President in particular, may be most alarmed at the idea of the people of Cuba being allowed to know what has happened elsewhere and fear that yet another

Marxist-socialist regime would be overthrown if they did.

German Unification

8. Mr. Andrew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to have discussions with Chancellor Kohl concerning the prospect of German unification.

13. Mr. McWilliam : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet Chancellor Kohl ; and what issues will be discussed.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : Together with my right hon. Friend the Prime Ministe I met Chancellor Kohl at the

Column 1188

Anglo-German summit on 30 March. We had a good discussion on subjects that included the external aspects of German unification. We welcome Chancellor Kohl's commitment to resolve the external aspects of German unification before unification itself takes place, and to continued German membership of NATO.

Mr. Smith : Does the Secretary of State accept that the imminence of German reunification makes nonsense of the Prime Minister's insistence on pointing short-range nuclear missiles at the people of East Germany? In the interests of European and world security, will the Cabinet now get the Prime Minister to change her mind on that?

Mr. Hurd : The position was made pretty clear in the joint press conference that Chancellor Kohl and the Prime Minister gave. That NATO will continue to need a sensible mix of conventional and nuclear weapons in future is agreed generally in the alliance, and certainly between us and the Germans, and the hon. Gentleman will have heard what Chancellor Kohl said about needing full protection. We need to decide what that sensible mix of nuclear and conventional weapons on the continent of Europe should consist of--an important task, which has not yet been completed.

Mr. Cash : Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that whereas we wish to have and hope to continue good Anglo-German relations, the concentric circles proposals, which would tend to marginalise the United Kingdom in the context of our relations with the rest of Europe and with Germany, would not be acceptable to the United Kingdom, that we would not accept Mr. Christophersen's proposals on economic and monetary union, which were tabled recently at Ashford castle, and that we do not intend to move towards the political union currently being put forward through the European Commission?

Mr. Hurd : We are certainly opposed to any definition of political union in Europe which includes a central executive or a central Parliament removing powers from this Parliament. That is clear. As regards economic and monetary union, there was a meeting of Finance Ministers in Ireland last weekend which was the first stage in something for which we have always argued--full and adequate preparation. As my hon. Friend knows, we are in favour of beginning and completing stage 1 of the Delors plan, but we do not believe that stages 2 and 3, which have been debated in the House, should point us in the direction of central institutions in that sphere. That is a substantial discussion under way among the right people.

Sir Russell Johnston : Does the Foreign Secretary agree that a great many people take a different view from that which he has just expressed? In particular, Chancellor Kohl, when at Koenigswinter, indicated that he saw German reunification in the context of accelerating economic and monetary union within the European Community. Does the Foreign Secretary agree with that?

Mr. Hurd : We are in favour of and committed to moving towards economic and monetary union. It is just that, as the hon. Member knows, we have a different route for that process which we regard as a more liberal and open route. As was clear from the press comments on the meeting in Ireland, a substantial discussion is under way. The only people who would be surprised that we were

Column 1189

taking a substantial part in that substantial discussion would be those who have not listened to what we have been saying on the subject.

Mr. Robert Banks : Given that the uniting of the two Germanies is a natural desire of the German people and is unstoppable, is not the prospect of a united Germany nevertheless a chill reminder of two world wars? Would it not be appropriate to discuss with Chancellor Kohl the establishment of a ceiling on the military forces and types of equipment that Germany may use in future?

Mr. Hurd : As my hon. Friend knows, the present discussions in Vienna deal just with the limits on Soviet and American manpower. We have to harvest that agreement, which may not be entirely easy, and get it in the bag. After that, it is possible that all of the allies may wish to go on to a wider discussion including troop limits not just for the two super- powers but for others, possibly the Germans and possibly ourselves. As the Prime Minister said in Cambridge, we do not exclude the possibility of reductions. That is the next stage. The first stage is to get the agreement which is on the board and which is a possibility at Vienna.

Mr. Kaufman : The right hon. Gentleman was less than

straightforward in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith). In view of the fact that Chancellor Kohl, when in this country last week, publicly joined all other sensible NATO leaders in opposing modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons--that is what he said--and in view of the fact that Britain is completely isolated on this issue, will the Foreign Secretary say which enemy the short-range nuclear weapons are aimed against? Is it the President of Czechoslovakia or the Prime Minister of Poland who were entertained at No. 10 recently? Is it the voters of East Germany or the voters of Hungary who have just defeated communism? Is it the Soviet troops who, as the Prime Minister herself says, should continue to be stationed in East Germany for the sake of European stability? We realise that the Prime Minister is totally irrational on this issue, but if the Foreign Secretary--

Hon. Members : "Speech."

Mr. Speaker : Order. It is rather a long question.

Mr. Kaufman : If the Foreign Secretary is to be at all credible as a candidate for the Tory succession, will he take the side of a sensible Chancellor Kohl against a loopy Prime Minister?

Mr. Hurd : The House was a little unkind to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). He needs a little time to disentangle himself and we must show him some tolerance.

The purpose of all force, be it conventional or nuclear, is to deter an aggressor.

Mr. Tony Banks : Which one?

Mr. Hurd : The point of the existing doctrine and of any future doctrine is to deter any possible aggressor. What is particularly agreed between Chancellor Kohl and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is that to achieve that in the case of Germany, Britain and the rest of the allies, there must be a sensible mix of nuclear and conventional weapons. That is what Chancellor Kohl said at his press conference, and that much is entirely clear.

Column 1190


9. Mr. Tredinnick : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications of the result of the East German elections for the NATO alliance. Mr. Hurd rose --

Hon. Members : Get on with it.

Mr. Speaker : Order.

Hon. Members : He is wasting time.

Mr. Hurd : I am sorry, but at least I have disentangled myself in silence, which is perhaps preferable to the alternative offered by the right hon. Member for Gorton.

NATO has long supported the cause for freedom in the German Democratic Republic and throughout eastern Europe. We welcome the democratic elections in the German Democratic Republic, because the establishment of a genuine democracy there will contribute to stability and security in Europe. We stress the crucial importance of continued German membership of NATO.

Mr. Tredinnick : Does my right hon. Friend agree that Chancellor Kohl's commitment to keeping West Germany within NATO is as important to West German security as to that of all western nations? Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great concern in the hosiery and shoe industries in my constituency in Leicestershire that the elections in East Germany and eastern Europe will herald a new flood of imports? Does my right hon. Friend further agree that to help British industry there must be strict regulations on imports from eastern Europe as a consequence of the democratic process there?

Mr. Hurd : I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's first point. His second point is also correct. Under existing arrangements, the western border of the Federal Republic of Germany is policed and controlled to ensure that East German goods do not enter the Community unfairly, and that will continue.

Mr. Wareing : Has the Foreign Secretary seen a report in Stern magazine of a poll in West Germany in which a majority of West Germans said that they were opposed to any form of NATO forces across what is now the boundary with the German Democratic Republic, up to the Oder-Neisse line? Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to reassure not only the West German people but the Soviet Union that, regardless of whether Germany is in or out of NATO, Britain will not support NATO forces moving up to the Oder- Neisse line?

Mr. Hurd : It is extremely important for the security of us all that a united Germany should remain in NATO. However, there is a wide body of reasonable opinion that so far as the eastern part of a united Germany is concerned, there should not be stationed there NATO--that is to say, United States, British, French or


Mr. Wells : Does my right hon. Friend agree that if war, tension and instability in Europe are not to result from the unification of Germany and democratic elections in East Germany, it is essential for each nation to follow the path

Column 1191

of negotiations on difficult issues, as in Lithuania? Will my right hon. Friend outline the careful and considered negotiations that he faces in the next two or three months?

Next Section

  Home Page