The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Sainsbury) : The United Kingdom signedthe United Nations convention on the rights of the child on 19 April 1990. We intend to ratify the convention as soon as possible.
Dr. Reid : Can the Minister explain why, eight months after the convention was signed, and 66 years after the declaration of the rights of the child was first accepted by the League of Nations, we still do not have a timetable for ratification in Britain? Why is it that countries such as Ghana and Vietnam can ratify the United Nations convention but we cannot? Does the Minister not consider that our children are entitled to have their rights under the convention--such as the right to a decent education, a decent standard of living and access to a decent health service--enshrined in law when the rights of other children in other nations are obviously being ratified?
Mr. Sainsbury : The hon. Gentleman must be aware that although 90 countries have said that they would sign the convention, only six have so far ratified it. The explanation is to be found in the fact that the convention covers important, wide-ranging and complex areas of legislation, and no fewer than nine Government Departments are involved. The Government take our obligations under such conventions extremely seriously and we will not ratify until we are sure that our domestic legislation is entirely in harmony with our commitments under the convention.
Miss Emma Nicholson : I welcome the Minister's declaration in principle on the ratification of the convention on the rights of the child. Does he think it appropriate that on our visit to the West Bank and the Gaza strip next week, the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) and I should press the Israeli Government to look carefully at article 22, which deals with refugees, article 14, which deals with religious freedom, and article 38, which deals with children and armed conflict--especially as the purpose of our visit is to look closely at the devastating criticism of the actions of the Israeli army against the
Column 292children on the West Bank and the Gaza strip by the Swedish Save the Children Fund, which instigated the new declaration of the rights of the child?
Mr. Sainsbury : I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware, as we all are, that--unhappily--there are all too many countries where the clauses of the convention do not appear to be well observed. Happily, in this country, many, if not most, of the aspects of the convention are already enshrined in law, including the matters of education and health to which the hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) referred. That is not so in many other countries.
Miss Lestor : Is the Under-Secretary aware that since I first wrote to the Prime Minister about this matter in November, I have been referred both to the Under-Secretary--he kindly replied that he was taking the matter seriously--and to another Foreign Office Minister who referred me to the Home Office? The process has been going on for eight months.
I am glad about the signing, but can we now be told who is the overall co- ordinator for the convention? Has the programme of consultation with every Government Department, which I was told was taking place, finished? Does the Minister think it likely that the House will debate the matter before the recess and that final ratification will take place?
Mr. Sainsbury : As I said in an earlier reply, the legislation is wide ranging and complex. Many aspects of the convention are already dealt with in our domestic legislation. We want to make sure that our domestic legislation is entirely in harmony with our commitments under the convention, because we take these matters seriously and we are determined to get them right. There are nine Government Departments involved and-- inevitably, I am afraid--the consultations involve many lawyers because there are legal aspects to the matter. I am afraid that at this stage I cannot give a timetable ; I can only confirm that we shall complete the work as soon as we possibly can so that we can ratify the convention.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave) : The negotiations between the Ethiopian Government and the rebels are, sadly, deadlocked. We shall continue to work for their resumption.
Mr. Bennett : The Minister's answer is sad. What are the British Government doing to help both the rebels and the Ethiopian Government to resolve the problems and to bring peace to Ethiopia? What are the prospects for putting together a long-term aid package between Britain and the other EEC countries that could be offered to the Ethiopian Government and the rebel troops as soon as a peace treaty is signed?
Column 293vanguard of wanting to help with the rebuilding of Ethiopia, which will be a mammoth task. I am sorry to note that the Eritrean People's Liberation Front has now shifted its position. Having pressed for the presence of United Nations observers at the talks-- the Ethiopian Government accepted that--the EPLF has changed its position and withdrawn from the talks. We are no further forward.
Mr. Aitken : Why cannot the Foreign Office recognise that propping up the evil Mengistu regime is the most misguided policy, especially at present? Surely the time has come to dissociate ourselves from the well- meaning international pretence by the EEC and others that Ethiopia still has any form of moral or territorial integrity left, because it just does not.
Mr. Waldegrave : There is no question of propping up one Government or another. If my hon. Friend is seeking to pursue a course that will encourage the division of Ethiopia, I must urge him to recognise that he will be recommending a course that will prolong the war indefinitely. We should be saying to the Eritreans, "You have won by force of arms as much as it is realistic to win and you should now settle for the advanced autonomy that you can negotiate."
3. Mr. Dykes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the principal policy objectives which Her Majesty's Government would wish to see in the twin intergovernmental conference preparations for economic and monetary union and political union, as specific components in a list of policies for the discussions at the end of the Italian presidency of the Council of Ministers in December.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Francis Maude) : We shall be working in both intergovernmental conferences timprove the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the Community, creating strong Community institutions, but respecting the diversity of national traditions and the principle of subsidiarity.
Mr. Dykes : I wish my hon. Friend and his colleagues at the Foreign Office the best of luck in developing those proposals. Does he agree that the Government and the parliamentary Conservative party can enthusiastically and totally unite behind this country's energetic and enthusiastic development of the various proposals for the twin conferences? Does he further agree that there are a number of important priorities, not least to ensure the accountability of member Governments to their national Parliaments, enhancing the role of the national Parliament, and to ensure the accountability of the Council of Ministers as a whole to the European Parliament and to increase the power of the European Parliament at the margins?
Mr. Maude : For the second intergovernmental conference, we have put forward a series of proposals for ways in which the Community can make itself more effective and better at doing those things that only the Community can do. As my hon. Friend has suggested, part of that process is to increase the accountability of Ministers to their national Parliaments. We believe that if
Column 294the role of the European Parliament is to be increased, the European Commission should be held more to account. We also need to look at reinforcing the rule of law in the European Community. There are a whole range of areas in which improvements could be made and we shall be making constructive proposals.
Sir Russell Johnston : Does the Government agree with the Italians, the Germans, the French, the Spaniards and the majority of the other members of the Community, in having as their aim the creation of a democratic federal European Community?
Mr. Maude : The hon. Gentleman is misinformed if he believes that all those countries believe in a democratic federal Europe in quite the simplistic way that he has suggested--they do not. There is no consensus or anything approaching a consensus in the Community in terms of such a development. There is, however, a growing belief that the Community should do better that which it has to do. That may involve decentralising decision making to the member states to a certain extent to enable them to do those things that do not have to be done by the Community.
Mr. Cash : Given the recent speech by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on economic and monetary union when he said that we shall not move towards a central bank, does my hon. Friend agree that the question of subsidiarity, with respect to both economic and monetary union, and political union, must be defined in such a manner as to rule out the political impetus that has been given to both the central bank and to the subservience of this House to the European Parliament and other Community institutions, which seems to be the fetish of some of the European leaders in the European Community?
Mr. Maude : There is a great deal of scope for increasing the economic and monetary integration of the Community. Our commitment to the single market is evidence of that. A good deal more can be done on monetary matters. We have wholeheartedly supported stage 1 of the Delors report and put forward some well-developed and sophisticated proposals on stage 2. Those are being seriously considered throughout the Community. A great deal can be done before developments such as those to which my hon. Friend referred take place.
Mr. Robertson : Is the Minister aware that the recent Dublin summit represented a comprehensive defeat for the Prime Minister, on establishing both of the intergovernmental conferences and also on the social charter, aid to the Soviet Union, lifting sanctions on South Africa and even the reappointment of that French Socialist Jacques Delors as President of the European Commission? How on earth can any of our partners have any confidence that proposals from the United Kingdom Government can be taken seriously or seen as anything other than a cosmetic camouflage for the same old obstructionism?
Mr. Maude : To take the last example from the hon. Gentleman's list, he failed to observe that, far from being isolated on the reappointment of Monsieur Delors, the Prime Minister nominated him. That is a pretty odd way of being isolated. Virtually everything that the hon. Gentleman said was wrong. He has simply got stuck in a
Column 295time warp. He is playing again records that were worn out a long time ago and should have been discarded. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that we are isolated, for example, on aid to the Soviet Union, he should consider what was decided at the Houston summit. He will find that the argument of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which was widely accepted as entirely correct, has gained even greater endorsement since the summit.
4. Mr. Gow : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic about the present arrangements for extradition between the two countries.
Mr. Gow : Have arrangements for extradition improved or deteriorated since 15 November 1985? Would not arrangements for extradition and Anglo- Irish relations generally be improved if articles 2 and 3 were removed from the constitution of the Irish Republic?
Mr. Waldegrave : The downturn in the success of extradition took place at about the turn of the year. I should not make the link with the Anglo-Irish Agreement that my hon. Friend implied in his question. I agree with his latter proposition.
Mr. Bellingham : With the approach of 1992 businesses will face greater harmonisation, as will water companies, farmers and financial institutions. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only people who will not be affected by 1992 are terrorists? Does he agree that we should move towards a European treaty on extradition? Surely, instead of talking about monetary or political union, the intergovernmental conference should devote more time to the important question of extradition.
Mr. Waldegrave : I agree with my hon. Friend. There is, of course, the European convention on the supression of terrorism. Recent events in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany show that there is ever-increasing practical and efficient co-operation between the partners of the Community against terrorism.
5. Mr. McKelvey : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government have offered any assistance to the United Nations to conduct the referendum in the western Sahara.
Mr. McKelvey : Nevertheless, will the Minister use his considerable influence with the Moroccan Government and with Polisario in suggesting that they should co-operate to the fullest, so that the United Nations can get the referendum under way? Will the Minister confirm that assistance will take the form of the provision of
Column 296officials and observers? If we are to send observers, will the right hon. Gentleman consider including me as one of them?
Mr. Waldegrave : I cannot but accept the hon. Gentleman's offer, because it might be a rather arduous mission and we are therefore happy to have volunteers. More seriously, as a permanent member of the Security Council, we are entirely behind the secretary-general's efforts. There again seems some hope of making progress, and we stand ready to accept requests.
Mr. Conway : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that King Hassan of Morocco has moved considerably towards holding a referendum in the western Sahara? One of the difficulties with which the United Nations has to come to terms is defining who lives there and exactly where, in order that a referendum can be held. If there is any question of observers being sent to represent this Parliament or the British Government, will my right hon. Friend ensure that apologists for the Algerian Government or Polisario are not among them?
Mr. Waldegrave : I thought for a moment that another volunteer was coming forward. However, it is a serious matter. I do not want to appear, by what I say at the Dispatch Box, to endorse one side or the other in the dispute. It is far better to support the
secretary-general and to proceed on the basis of the census taken by the Spanish--which is the information the secretary-general is now working on-- in compiling a proper electoral roll and arranging a referendum.
Mr. Anderson : Will the Minister join us in paying tribute to the secretary-general for restarting last week the first direct talks between Iran and Iraq, the success of the referendum in Namibia, and now his work in respect of the western Sahara? Will the right hon. Gentleman respond readily and positively when, as we hope, the technical mission returns from the western Sahara at the end of the month? How seriously do the Government view the failure on Monday to establish a direct dialogue between the two sides?
Mr. Waldegrave : I happily join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the secretary-general, who has taken full advantage of the possibilities offered by making proper use of United Nations machinery that the improvement in the general world climate and between east and west has offered him. In the issues that the hon. Gentleman mentioned and in one or two others that one could mention, the secretary-general has played his proper, vital part. The secretary-general's initiative in respect of the referendum rather than any separate direct talks has our fullest support.
6. Mr. Robert Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his discussions with Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the African National Congress of South Africa.
Column 297Mr. Waldegrave : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and I had friendly and positive discussions with Mr. Mandela on 3 July about how best to take forward the process of ending apartheid in South Africa by negotiation.
Mr. Hughes : Does the Minister appreciate that there is a long way to go before negotiations on the full transfer of power can begin and that the peace process in South Africa is still very fragile? Does he accept that the people best able to judge when fundamental and irreversible change has taken place are the South African people themselves? If so, would not he be wise to listen to them and to maintain sanctions until they consider it reasonable for sanctions to be lifted?
Mr. Waldegrave : I wholeheartedly endorse the hon. Gentleman's argument that we should listen to the people of South Africa--all the people of South Africa. Mr. Mandela represents a considerable number of them, which is why it is very important to talk to him. However, I do not endorse the hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks. Nor would Mr. Mandela, who seems optimistic about the pace of progress. He has said :
"It is possible that by the next time the question arises in the European summit"--
that is, the question of sanctions--
"it will no longer be an issue because we may have reached agreement by then."
Mr. Mandela is talking in terms of a very optimistic time scale, which makes it clear that he is not now making sanctions a central issue of principle. It is just an argument about timing.
Mr. Hunter : While warmly welcoming Mr. Mandela's overdue public acknowledgement of the Prime Minister's opposition to apartheid, does my right hon. Friend agree that other black South African leaders outside the ranks of the African National Congress should be encouraged to play their part in the creation of a just and equitable society in South Africa--not least because Mr. Mandela and the ANC have too long and too closely flirted with murder and Marxism?
Mr. Waldegrave : It should be the Government's policy to talk to all those leaders in South Africa who are willing to negotiate a way to peace. There are other representatives of communities in South Africa as well as Mr. Mandela with whom we talk and with whom we should talk. However, my hon. Friend was right on one point. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is owed an apology from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) who said :
"She is the world's best friend of apartheid."--[ Official Report, 14 February 1990 ; Vol. 167, c. 278.]
The right hon. Gentleman constantly tells us to listen to Mr. Mandela. Will he now retract that in view of what Mr. Mandela has said?
Mr. Flannery : Despite what the Minister has just said and his comments about my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), is not it a fact that, as well as saying what he did, Mr. Mandela also asked us not to relax sanctions? Did not he ask that everywhere he went? Is not the Minister being a little gauche in the way that he just put that?
Column 298European Community and others are now coming closer to our position. As progress is made, there should be a steady relaxation of sanctions. Mr. Mandela takes a different view. As the Labour party's position is entirely that of Mr. Mandela on every other matter, we are owed an explanation of why it is different on the assessment of the Prime Minister.
Mr. Gardiner : Did my right hon. Friend detect any understanding by Mr. Mandela that, as South Africa puts the doctrines of apartheid behind it, the crying need of its people is for a far greater flow of international investment in that country to produce more jobs and to sustain an economy that is capable of investing far more in education and health services? Did Mr. Mandela give any sign of the encouragement that he is giving to international business men to invest in South Africa?
"Private capital, both domestic and international, will have a vital contribution to make to the economic and social reconstruction of South Africa This cannot happen without large inflows of foreign capital, including British capital."
Those are welcome steps away from the old socialism which I am afraid some Opposition Members have been misleading Mr. Mandela into following for many years.
Mr. Kaufman : Do I take it from the Minister's quotation from Mr. Mandela, the deputy president of the African National Congress, about the Prime Minister, that the Government now take their orders from the ANC? [Interruption.]
Mr. Kaufman : If the Government are selectively to quote one kindly and generous reference by Mr. Mandela to the Prime Minister, will they now accept what Mr. Mandela said in the hearing of the Minister and myself when we lunched together last week--that Mr. Mandela is adamant in his insistence that sanctions should remain?
Mr. Waldegrave : The right hon. Gentleman has answered the first part of his question with his final sentence. We disagree with the ANC about sanctions. Is it impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to admit that he was wrong?
Mr. Quentin Davies : Do my right hon. Friend the Minister and his colleagues on the Front Bench agree that it cannot make the faintest sense to promote aid and credits as the best way to encourage political progress and reform in eastern Europe and sanctions as the best way to encourage exactly the same developments in South Africa?
Mr. Waldegrave : I share my hon. Friend's view. The right hon. Member for Gorton witnessed an argument on this matter between Helen Suzman and Mr. Mandela which, I believe, once again Mrs. Suzman won. It is crazy to be seeking to bring back international capital to South Africa in six months time and to be trying to drive it away now.
Column 29915. Mr. Andrew Welsh : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to meet the European Community Foreign Affairs Ministers.
Mr. Salmond : Given the interest of European Foreign Ministers in easing the transition of eastern European countries from communist dictatorships to nascent democracies, does the Minister envisage that similar interest might be shown in easing the transition of Scotland from a province governed by the diktat of the House to a country that democratically elects its own representatives to the European Councils?
Mr. Maude : I thought for a moment that the hon. Gentleman sought to draw the analogy that Scotland might be transformed from a socialist economy into a free enterprise one, but I do not think that he had that in mind. East European countries are rediscovering that freedom and the ability to have a democracy and a free enterprise system is the way to go. They are keen to draw many of their lessons from the experience of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Welsh : Will the Minister discuss with his European colleagues joint action to defend and protect the continent of Antarctica? What steps has he taken to ensure that Antarctica remains free from military exploitation and disturbance and from economic exploitation and pollution? What steps will he take to ensure the future of that continent as a truly international asset that belongs to the world?
Mr. David Howell : When my hon. Friend meets other EC Foreign Ministers will he check how many of them have removed visa requirements for visitors from east European countries? I suspect that he will find that a number of them have removed, or plan to remove, those requirements. In view of that will he undertake to speed up the process undertaken by the British Government to review and remove the long visa delays imposed on many business visitors, as well as tourists and others, from eastern Europe?
Mr. Maude : This is a matter in which my right hon. Friend has taken a close interest and we are looking at it carefully. It is desirable, wherever possible, that the European Community should move forward together for such purposes and it is certainly something that has been and is being discussed among the Twelve.
Mr. Churchill : Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a growing threat to regional stability and a potential threat to Europe from the determination of military dictatorships such as Iraq and Libya to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapon capabilities, allied to a long- range delivery capability? Bearing in mind the fact that some European Governments have, in the past decade, supplied military-grade uranium to Iraq, and given the recent saga of the long gun, for which parts were provided from this country and Germany, will my hon. Friend ensure that
Column 300that matter is raised at the next meeting of EC Foreign Ministers so that we do not aid and abet the future acquisition of such capabilities?
Mr. Tony Banks : When the Minister next meets his EC colleagues will he raise with them the trade in Hong Kong ivory? Does he recall that the Government gave an assurance in the House that the reservation entered into on behalf of Hong Kong would end at midnight on 17 July? Is he aware that a major loophole has emerged? It is clear that that trade will continue under the guise of personal effects moving out of Hong Kong. I know that the Government would not wish to have misled the House, but they have been misled by the Hong Kong authorities. Will he take urgent steps to close that loophole? If not, the only sufferer will be the African elephant.
Sir Peter Hordern : If the discussions with other European Foreign Ministers touch on aid to eastern Europe, will my hon. Friend impress on them that it is better to create the conditions for genuine investment in eastern Europe than to throw money at any of those countries? Would not it be even better to remove the restraints on trade imposed by the common agricultural policy and other European Commission policies?
Mr. Maude : My hon. Friend is entirely right. It is important that the programme of aid to eastern Europe should proceed on the basis of conditions. It should not go ahead unless the process of economic reform goes ahead, too. We believe, and others agree, that that principle should be applied to the Soviet Union. One important measure that we can take for reforming countries is to open our markets to their products, and agriculture is one such important sector.
Mr. Kaufman : When the Minister next meets European Community Foreign Ministers, many of whom were at the NATO summit last week, will he explain why last Thursday the Prime Minister said that she opposed a second round of conventional forces in Europe negotiations and on Friday she signed the communique agreeing to a second round of CFE negotiations? Did he agree with the Prime Minister before or after she was forced to change her mind?
Column 301Mr. Waldegrave : Our policy is unchanged. We continue to believe that pressure should be relaxed as progress is made in South Africa. We welcome the Dublin European Council's endorsement of this principle.
Mr. Carlisle : As Her Majesty's Government's attitude to sanctions, which was endorsed by my right hon. Friend the Minister this afternoon, is that they are yesterday's argument or, in the words of the Prime Minister, they have no part to play in policy towards South Africa, why do we still insist on supporting the obnoxious Gleneagles agreement which upholds sporting sanctions against that country? Does my right hon. Friend accept that the one message of encouragement for President de Klerk to pursue the path of reform that he would like would be an invitation to the Springboks to play cricket at Lord's and rugby at Twickenham?
Mr. Waldegrave : The Gleneagles agreement was an obligation which was entered into collectively and we shall honour it. That does not argue against our belief that as progress is made we should persuade our colleagues to move in step with it.
Mr. Winnick : Is the Minister aware that Labour Members have the highest respect and praise for all those in South Africa, black and white alike and in the African National Congress and outside it, who have fought and suffered all their lives, as Nelson Mandela did for more than 25 years in prison, for a democratic South Africa, but that we have the highest contempt, if that is the right expression, for people like the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) who throughout has done his best to side with the oppressors, taken free trips to South Africa and in every conceivable way opposed the progress now taking place in that country?
Mr. Waldegrave : As usual with the hon. Member, his remarks were unfair, overblown and exaggerated. My hon. Friends who have argued for many years that those who were seeking to damage the South African economy would damage all the South African people will turn out to be right. Although the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has not yet found a formula for these matters, the hon. Gentleman should accept what Mr. Mandela said--that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is an enemy of apartheid and all kinds of racism. I hope that he will accept that all Conservative Members share those views.
Sir Peter Blaker : May I reinforce the point made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies)? Has my right hon. Friend observed that those who call for the continuation of sanctions against South Africa tend to be the same people who call for economic aid to the Soviet Union? If it is right to help President Gorbachev to survive, must not it be right to help President de Klerk to survive?
Mr. Waldegrave : The analogy is apt. Mr. de Klerk faces exactly the same dangers and pressures as Mr. Gorbachev. It is no more certain that the one will survive than the other. It is surely in the interests of progress in those countries that both do so.
10. Mr. Hoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will review his policy regarding voting for the recognition of the Cambodian delegation at the United Nations.