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House of Commons

Wednesday 16 January 1991

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Mr. Speaker : Before we start Question Time, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the digital clocks are not working and that hon. Members should therefore keep an eye on the clocks at each end of the Chamber--particularly when speeches are limited to 10 minutes.

Oral Answers to Questions



1. Mr. McMaster : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has had any discussions with the Government of Australia on Antarctica.

7. Mr. John P. Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he plans any discussions with the Australian Government on Antarctica.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones) : We have had no formal discussions with the Governmentof Australia on Antarctica since 30 October 1990 and there are no plans at present for such discussions. Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and from other Departments informally discussed our respective Antarctica policies with their Australian counterparts in the margins of the recent 11th special consultative meeting of Antarctica treaty parties in Vina del Mar, Chile.

Mr. McMaster : Is the Minister aware that the Australian Foreign Minister is fast losing patience with the British Government's refusal to agree to a mining ban? Will he think again, talk to the Australian Government, and support their plans to stop exploitation of Antarctica's minerals?

Mr. Garel-Jones : With respect to the hon. Gentleman, that is not an accurate reflection of the case. At the Vina del Mar meeting, only eight countries supported the Australian-New Zealand position in support of a total ban, whereas 18 did not. The British Government's policy is to deal first with the immediate threats to the environment and at the same time to seek a consensus among the treaty parties on a way to deal with the minerals issue.

Mr. John P. Smith : The Minister and the House will be aware of the link between research in Antarctica and the excellent work of the National Environmental Research Council based in Barry Dock in my constituency. Are we

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to assume that in the same way as the Government decided to close that centre of excellence, they intend to oppose a mining ban in Antarctica and to continue to allow the dishonourable situation in which Japan will be allowed to undermine any future compromise, such as a moratorium?

Mr. Garel-Jones : The reverse is true. As I pointed out to the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster), the majority of the parties to the treaty do not support a total ban and the British Government's objective is to find a compromise that will enable that issue to be dealt with at the same time as we confront the more immediate threats to the environment.

Mr. Colvin : Is Australia party to the Antarctic treaty? I understood that under that system the consensus decisions reached over the past 30 years have led to Antarctica becoming the most environmentally protected continent in the world.

Mr. Garel-Jones : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Australia is party to the treaty and my hon. Friend is also right to suggest that one reason why the Government are so anxious to preserve the consensus basis of the treaty is that, as a result of it, Antarctica, which is already designated a special conservation area, is probably the most protected continent on earth. We intend to underscore that and to introduce even stronger environmental protection.

Mr. Summerson : Does my hon. Friend agree that if the minerals convention is not ratified, that will put at risk the entire Antarctic treaty system? If that happens, the whole continent will be open to exploitation by all the countries of the world.

Mr. Garel-Jones : We know of no company in Britain or anywhere else in the world that has any intention to explore for minerals or hydrocarbons in Antarctica. My hon. Friend is right to the extent that the convention on the regulation of Antarctic mineral resource activities, which was orignally agreed by consensus by all the parties to the treaty, is unlikely to be ratified because two of the claimant countries--Australia and France- -have declined to do so. We therefore consider it a priority to find a compromise that will allow the minerals issue, even though it does not pose a current threat, to be dealt with at the same time as the more immediate threat to Antarctica's environment.

Mr. Foulkes : Does the Minister recall that at the previous Question Time he said that if no consensus existed round CRAMRA now he would take the lead in trying to find another consensus? Will he see Senator Gareth Evans, the Australian Foreign Minister, when he is in the United Kingdom next week and talk to him about this matter? As the American delegation leader in Chile said that the minerals convention is now dead, will the British Government come to terms with that and, at Madrid in April, join the growing clamour to close the door on all mineral and oil prospecting in what is nature's last unspoilt wilderness?

Mr. Garel-Jones : First, Antarctica can rightly claim to be an unspoilt wilderness because of the consensus that has existed among Antarctic treaty parties for the past 30 years. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be seeing the Australian senator when he comes to the United Kingdom and I should certainly be prepared to do so if

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asked. However, I stress again to the hon. Gentleman that the United Kingdom suggested the protocol, which involves protection against tourism, waste disposal, marine pollution and species and habitat protection--all moves to protect the threat that we know exists to Antarctica. Britain led the way by saying that by the time we agree on those matters in Bonn later this year we expect the minerals issue to be decided. As the hon. Gentleman suggests, and as I pointed out in a letter to him on 19 December, we are working to find a bridge between the two opposing views among Antarctic treaty parties.

Mr. Dunn : Has any British company--or indeed any company--expressed an interest in exploring for minerals and hydrocarbons in Antarctica?

Mr. Garel-Jones : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. He has written to me on a number of occasions and has taken a close interest in the matter. The most important thing that we have to understand is that there is a range of threats to the environment in Antarctica and those threats are being dealt with on the basis of a British protocol. We have also set down a timetable to ensure that by the time we meet in Bonn a compromise is found to deal with the minerals issue. As my hon. Friend underlined, we know of no company, either in Britain or anywhere else, that has any plans at this moment to explore for minerals in Antarctica.

Common European Defence

2. Mr. Douglas : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on discussions he has had with his European partners in relation to common defence.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : The NATO ministerial meeting in December agreed thatthe European allies should take a greater role. For NATO, the Western European Union and the intergovernmental conference of the Twelve on political union, discussion of European defence will be a key task for this year.

Mr. Douglas : Will the Secretary of State enlarge a little on that answer, especially in regard to our relations with the French? Have there been any discussions about the future role of the strategic deterrent, and sharing such a deterrent with the French, and about the role of naval power and its implications for bases in the United Kingdom? I know that that may be more a matter for the Secretary of State for Defence, but it has implications for bases in Scotland such as the Rosyth naval base and dockyard. Will the Secretary of State comment on these remarks?

Mr. Hurd : As I understand it, there is steadily growing defence co- operation between ourselves and France and that is something which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence welcomes and takes a hand in, but it does not take the form of proposals for a shared nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Teddy Taylor : Has the Foreign Secretary sought guidance from the Belgian Government about the reported refusal to supply ammunition to Britain in case it might be used in the Gulf conflict? As that could put British lives at risk in a prolonged conflict, does he believe

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that such issues should be clarified before he seeks to transfer our defence responsibility from NATO to some European organisation?

Mr. Hurd : There are no plans to transfer our basic guarantees of security from NATO to anywhere else. I am sure that the request to Belgium for ammunition is still being discussed.

The Gulf

3. Mr. Winnick : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest position in the Gulf.

4. Mr. Home Robertson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on progress towards the implementation of United Nations resolutions affecting the middle east.

Mr. Hurd : Since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on 2 August, we and many others have made sincere efforts to bring the Gulf crisis to a peaceful solution on the basis of the Security Council resolutions. Those efforts were redoubled in the last days, notably by Mr. Baker's meeting with Tariq Aziz on 9 January and by the United Nations Secretary-General's visit to Baghdad on 13 January. Iraq failed utterly to respond positively to any of these initiatives. We continue, as we did yesterday, to urge Iraq to choose the path of peace. But the deadline yesterday was a real one. If Iraq does not withdraw from Kuwait it will be forced to do so.

Mr. Winnick : Is not it clear that the wholly negative response of the Iraqi regime to the French proposals of yesterday and even more so to the visit of the United Nations Secretary-General shows only too well that it is Saddam Hussein who wants war to keep Kuwait and that it is poisonous nonsense to suggest that it is the allies who are keen on war?

Is not there a further lesson to be learnt by the democracies from this : that besides opposing appeasement, they should not arm dictatorships? Why is it that time and again dictatorships such as that in Iraq have been armed by the democracies? Admittedly, the Iraqis have not been armed by us in the past few years, but they have been by France, Germany and the Soviet Union. Do not we understand that these are the very arms that can be used against our own people?

Mr. Hurd : I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first point ; he put it well. As for his second, as he acknowledged, we have not been arming Iraq. We have been applying, at some cost to our manufacturers, an embargo against it since the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war. I agree that the whole issue of how arms are sent and how to prevent them from falling into the hands of possible aggressors needs to be discussed.

Mr. Home Robertson : Only one thing is more depressing than the refusal of the British and Americans to co-operate with yesterday's French initiative, and that must be the failure of the Iraqis to respond to that initiative, which could have established a link between United Nations resolutions affecting Kuwait and those affecting Palestine. When, as now seems inevitable, my constituents in the Royal Scots have to play their part in liberating Kuwait, will the Foreign Secretary take urgent

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action to ensure that they never again have to get involved in conflict in the middle east--by tackling the underlying instability of the area and ensuring concerted international action to resolve the Palestinians' legitimate rights?

Mr. Hurd : Yes, certainly ; when aggression against Kuwait is reversed we must all return with new vigour to look for a just solution to the Arab-Israel problem. But the hon. Gentleman has studied this matter for years and he cannot seriously believe that there would be any hope or advantage in an international conference, convoked in the context of the aggression against Kuwait, on the Arab-Israel problem. Which of the parties that he wants to be there would attend? That would not be a way of restarting the peace process on Arab-Israel.

Mr. Churchill : Will my right hon. Friend explain to hon. Members who believe that sanctions should be given more time to work the risks attendant on such a policy for the British and allied forces in the Gulf? Is not it the case that beyond the middle or the end of March temperatures in excess of 100 deg. F would make the use of nuclear and chemical protection suits almost impossible, that that could put British forces at risk for about six months and that there is no guarantee that at the end of that period the Iraqi regime will not have developed nuclear weapons?

Mr. Hurd : There is no guarantee that if the use of the military option were postponed for any length of time it would be as effective as it could be now. Without going into my hon. Friend's specific question, that is true. The will and the means exist now. In my view, it would be very rash to suppose that the two would come together again so well in the near future.

Sir Dennis Walters : The British Government have rightly confronted with great vigour the indefensible aggression of Saddam Hussein against Kuwait. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that equal vigour will be displayed as soon as possible to resolve the Palestinian issue and to deal with Israel's defiance of repeated United Nations resolutions and international law?

Mr. Hurd : We have to apply equal vigour, but, as my hon. Friend suggests, the one must come after the other. In both cases we need to follow the Security Council's guidelines. First, the Security Council resolutions that we debated yesterday are very clear as regards Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. Secondly, as my hon. Friend knows better than I, resolutions 242 and 338 cover Israel and suggest what is in essence a compromise--what is sometimes called land for peace. We have to follow with vigour every possibility of achieving such a settlement.

Sir David Steel : Does the Secretary of State accept that last week on both the west bank and in Gaza I found deep demoralisation and a sense of frustration among the Palestinians about the fact that the outside world has taken so long to deal with the very resolutions that he has just cited? That is why last night's statement by the Secretary-General of the United Nations was so important--promising that as soon as the Kuwait crisis was over there would be a middle east peace conference. That is something which I hope the Secretary-General will pursue in both the Security Council and the European Community, so that at last we may portray Saddam

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Hussein properly--as an obstacle to the wider middle east peace and not as an assistance to it, as, unhappily, so many think that he is.

Mr. Hurd : The latter two questions have been fairly put. That is exactly the position. Saddam Hussein has been an obstacle, not an effective advocate. However, the right hon. Gentleman knows that there is no magic about an international conference. It needs to be called in circumstances where it has a chance of success. That is why the vexed problem of Israel sitting down with representative Palestinians has to be tackled and solved first. It was that which James Baker and the Egyptians, with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, were trying to sort out before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In one form or another, we shall have to return to that problem before there can be a successful conference.

Sir Michael Marshall : Does my right hon. Friend accept that in the present situation the possibility of 11th hour initiatives, whether from Yemeni sources, France or elsewhere, and any possible future initiatives have to be viewed in the context of virtually every permutation having been tried, particularly by the Arab countries, with Saddam Hussein and all having foundered on his simple refusal to withdraw from Kuwait? Is not it the case, therefore, that we are in the position that the House endorsed yesterday and that further initiatives are unlikely to take us anywhere at this time?

Mr. Hurd : That, sadly, was the view to which we came at the European Community Foreign Ministers meeting two days ago, and events have proved us right.

Mr. Ernie Ross : Has the Foreign Secretary had time to reflect on the suggestion made to him last night that would effectively get us out of the problem of Saddam Hussein trying to link the two issues? Yesterday, Palestinians were shot by Israeli defence forces on the west bank. During the recess, 20 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli defence forces. These are grave breaches of international law. If we are to demonstrate to the Arab population in the middle east that we are determined to uphold the status of both international law and the United Nations resolutions, by means of parallel endeavours we could deal with these issues separately from the Iraq-Kuwait crisis.

Mr. Hurd : We have not been silent on these events. As the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, the Security Council dealt with and passed judgment on these events in the occupied territories all the way through last autumn and no doubt it will continue to do so. In real terms, a serious chance to tackle again with greater hopes of success the Arab- Israel problem will have to await the reversal of the aggression. However, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we have to reject it. Everybody, including the Palestinians, will need to have fresh ideas if we are to do so with any success.

Mr. Brazier : Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is sad that so few of our allies in Europe seem to be willing to recognise, in terms of providing assistance to the forces in the Gulf, that their interests as well as ours and those of the Americans are fully bound up in the Gulf crisis? Does he also agree that it is particularly sad that some of our neighbours who have sent albeit token forces to the Gulf are apparently now instructing them to take no part in any conflict that may take place?

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Mr. Hurd : Let us see what happens. I hope to attend a WEU meeting in Paris tomorrow which no doubt will pursue that. I welcome strongly the statement made today by the French President.

Mr. Kaufman : Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the fact that Security Council resolution 681 carried on 20 December with regard to the Arab-Israeli dispute does not refer simply to an international conference, essential though it is, but to human rights violations by Israel involving shootings, deportations and other arbitrary actions on the population under Israeli occupation? That being so--of course, the international conference will have to await the end of the Iraq-Kuwait crisis, which we continue to hope will be resolved peacefully--action can be taken now because of the violations of United Nations resolutions.

Therefore, first, will the Government draw to the Israeli Government's attention their continued defiance of the United Nations? Secondly, if need be, will the Government raise these matters again urgently at the Security Council since, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) points out, the shootings and deportations continue? Thirdly, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Israelis that, although at present it is not possible to convene that conference, there will come a time when the world will turn its attention to this matter fully and a proper resolution involving self-determination for the Palestinians must result, so the Israelis would be well advised to start talking now?

Mr. Hurd : As the right hon. Gentleman said, the Security Council and our representative on it have not been silent or held back from expressing a view and strong criticism of the acts of repression and, particularly, the deportions in the occupied terrorities. On the future tackling of the problem, on behalf of this country I have gone to some difficulty to make it clear that we do not accept the policy of the present Likud Government in Israel which rests the security of Israel on continued occupation. That is not acceptable and it is not safe for Israel in any longer-term view. We hope that the time will come when Israel will accept that and settle down to working with others for a more stable outcome.

Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

5. Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had on the conclusions reached by the recent conference on the nuclear test ban treaty ; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg) : The partial test ban treaty amendment conference is due to end on 18 January. We have made it clear that we do not support the proposal to convert the treaty into a comprehensive test ban. Because our security will depend for the foreseeable future on deterrence based in part on the possession of nuclear weapons, we have a continuing need to test our nuclear weapons to ensure that they remain effective and up to date.

Mr. Kirkwood : Does the Minister accept that that is a disappointing answer? Will he assure the House that he will listen to the discussions that will continue until 18 January, when a vote will be taken on replacing the 1963

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partial test ban treaty with a comprehensive treaty? Does not he understand that there are now compelling reasons for moving towards a comprehensive test ban on nuclear weapons? Is he aware of the signals that would be sent if the United Kingdom Government voted against that and tried to veto any such decision? More important, does he understand the need to try to influence in a positive way the United States contribution to the conference, which may also be considering vetoing any such conclusion?

Mr. Hogg : Of course we shall listen to all the arguments that are adduced at the conference. We have reached the conclusion that our security depends on the possession of nuclear weapons. To maintain effective and up- to-date nuclear weapons, we have concluded that we must retain the ability to test.

Mr. Ian Bruce : Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that hon. Members are beginning to return to the consensus that as long as others have nuclear weapons we should have a credible deterrent? It is fallacious for the Opposition to suggest that we can have those weapons without testing them, because their safety and effectiveness cannot be proved unless they are tested in underground, safe conditions.

Mr. Hogg : My hon. Friend put the argument extremely clearly and I agree with everything that he said.

Mr. Robertson : Few people--I can think of no hon. Member--are not conscious, with some fear, of the prospect of the conflict in the Gult involving the use of nuclear weapons by countries such as Iraq. The Minister will therefore understand how depressing his answer was. This week, the Government have a chance to act rather than to agonise on the proliferation of nuclear weapons to countries such as Iraq. Converting the 1963 partial test ban treaty into a comprehensive test ban treaty would be an automatic method of stopping the dangerous expansion of nuclear weapons into the hands of other countries. Why, therefore, as the technology to verify nuclear tests is available and reliable, cannot the Government take a lead in ensuring that this small measure, which would make the world much safer, is taken?

Mr. Hogg : Much as I should like to agree with the hon. Gentleman, I am afraid that I cannot follow him in his argument, not least for this reason : Iraq, the country which he mentioned, is a signatory to the non- proliferation treaty. Notwithstanding that fact, it is still seeking to develop a nuclear weapon.

European Legislation

6. Mr. Patrick Thompson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress is being made in the United Kingdom in implementing European legislation.

Mr. Garel-Jones : The Commission's latest report on single market implementation shows that the United Kingdom has implemented 84 per cent. of measures requiring national implementation. Only Denmark, with 88 per cent. and Portugal--taking into account its

derogations--with 85 per cent., had a better record than the United Kingdom.

Mr. Thompson : I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. As this country has such a good record in the

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implementation of European legislation, will he outline the steps that the Government are taking to ensure maximum compliance by the more laggardly members of the European Community?

Mr. Garel-Jones : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In this, as in so many other European endeavours, the United Kingdom has one of the best records in the Community. We intend to put forward ideas on implementation, enforcement and compliance at the intergovernmental conference, which we believe will strengthen the rule of law throughout the Community.

Mr. John D. Taylor : In view of the perception of many members of the European Community that the United Kingdom is a bad member of that club, what efforts have the Government taken to publicise in those countries its first-class record in enacting legislation for 1992?

Mr. Garel-Jones : I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. If we have been laggardly, I assure him that we are not being so now. Many of our partners are aware of our excellent record and are anxious to support our endeavours to strengthen the rule of law throughout the Community.

Mr. Dykes : In view of the obvious importance of hon. Members being able to follow European legislation and to scrutinise it in advance, through contacts with Community institutions in Brussels, and as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office takes the lead on EC liaison, will my hon. Friend make a point of liaising with the office of the Leader of the House and the Services Committee on the proposal for dedicated telephone lines so that Members here can keep in regular contact with Community institutions and the Commission in Brussels,

notwithstanding the obvious reality that a few nervous, hesitant Members think that it is dangerous to have regular contact with foreigners?

Mr. Garel-Jones : I am not aware that many hon. Members, with the possible exception of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), are reluctant to have contact with foreigners or with foreign parts. This specific matter is one for discussion between the usual channels and between my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House. We would certainly support them in any actions that would give hon. Members better and closer contact with events in the Community.

Mr. Anderson : Is the Minister aware that the EC Commissioner for social affairs, Mrs. Papandreou, following her meeting on Monday with the Secretary of State for Employment, said that the completion of the internal market by 1992 was in jeopardy because of what she called the negative British attitude towards elements of the social action programme? Following the Thatcherite hostility to the EEC, has there been only a change of style, or is there really a change of substance? Are the Government prepared to move towards majority voting in the social action sphere?

Mr. Garel-Jones : My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has already pointed out that the Government have the best record throughout the Community in implementing the directives that are

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associated with social action. We are in no way being laggardly. We contend that in this matter, as in so many others, we are at the forefront.


8. Mr. Arbuthnot : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the state of relations between the United Kingdom and Israel.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : Relations are correct and friendly, although important differences remain on the peace process and on Israeli policies in the occupied territories. My right hon. Friend had useful discussions in October when he visited Israel, as did my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when the Israeli Prime Minister called on him on 17 December.

Mr. Arbuthnot : Last week on a visit to Israel, I found that the Israeli Government were well aware of the dangers of becoming militarily involved in the Gulf crisis. Although Israel has, of course, every right to defend herself, will my right hon. and learned Friend urge the Government of Israel to continue to show the considerable restraint which she has so far shown? Will he confirm that, were Saddam Hussein to attack Israel, the consequences for him would be serious?

Mr. Hogg : We have taken every opportunity to impress on the Government of Israel the need to exercise self-restraint. They have done so and deserve the gratitude of the House.

Mrs. Dunwoody : When talking with the Israel Government, will the Minister make it clear that he has noticed the remarks by the Palestine Liberation Organisation leadership that it regarded the whole of the land of Israel as the Palestinians' birthright and that he will not be misled, confused or in any way diverted by those who try to excuse Saddam Hussein's inexcusable invasion by dragging in the issue of the Israeli settlements?

Mr. Hogg : I can promise the hon. Lady that I shall not be confused or misled in any of the respects that she mentioned or, I hope, in any other.

Mr. Adley : Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that, as the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said, because most of the world, particularly the Arab world, perceives double standards being employed by many countries towards illegal occupation of neighbouring territories, there is an increasing danger of public opinion in countries such as Egypt, Syria and Lebanon introducing an element of aggravation which is not apparent in the attitude of those Governments to the current conflict in the Gulf? Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that, if we are not careful, some of our allies in the present situation will be totally separated from public opinion in their countries?

Will my hon. and learned Friend make the Government's position clear and say that if either Iraq or Israel invades or uses Jordanian territory, our attitude towards any such incursion will be the same as our attitude towards Iraq's incursion into Kuwait?

Mr. Hogg : Our attitude towards Israeli policy in the occupied territories is wholly plain. I have taken the opportunity to stress our policy both to the Israeli

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ambassador and Deputy Foreign Minister and they know well that we regard the Israelis' occupation of the territories as unlawful and believe that they should withdraw.

Mr. Ron Brown : As members of the Iraqi national assembly wish to come here to brief this House about their country's intentions towards Israel and other parts of the middle east, should not formalities be waived, especially in view of the late hour and the serious possibility of war breaking out? Details of this matter have been known to the Prime Minister's office for some time and he has remained silent. Is not that an absolute disgrace? I hope that the Minister will reply today on the possibility of a peace mission from Baghdad coming to speak to hon. Members on both sides of the House. That is most important.

Mr. Hogg : If members of the Iraqi assembly have any influence at all, I suggest that they impress upon Saddam Hussein the need to leave Kuwait immediately.

Mr. Rhodes James : Is the Minister aware that, although the Friends of Israel has disagreements with the Israeli Government's policies, as far as we are concerned, the independence and freedom of the people and state of Israel are non-negotiable? Will he make that very clear not only to the Israelis but to our Arab friends?

Mr. Hogg : My hon. Friend makes a vital point. Israel is entitled to a secure existence and the world community must seek to achieve that.


9. Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the prospects for democratic government in Bangladesh ; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd) : The interim Government's main commitment is to hold free, fair and impartial parliamentary elections which have been set for 27 February. We hope that all concerned will co- operate towards realising that objective.

Mr. Hughes : May we hear from the Government a welcome to the end of the military dictatorship of ex-President Ershad? Particularly because Bangladesh receives so much money from this country and our links are so strong--I welcome the presence of the Minister for Overseas Development on the Front Bench--may we have a clear statement of our unequivocal view which is that there must be democracy in the other countries of the world, such as Bangladesh, and that we will not countenance giving support or assistance to those who seek to reinstate military rule, now or in the future, in what was once a democratic country?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I am happy to say that the prospects for democracy in Bangladesh are now much brighter. The interim Government of Mr. Justice Shahabuddin, in lifting the state of emergency and press censorship, are seeking to allow all parties access to the news media. They will be welcoming outside observers and restructuring the election commission. We are happy to welcome those developments.

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Sir George Gardiner : Further to my hon. Friend's reply, will he undertake that, when he and his colleagues give future consideration to applications for development aid from Bangladesh, proper account will be taken of the view enunciated by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to the Overseas Development Institute last June--that in deciding these matters, full account will be taken of whether the applicant country has proper, democratic institutions and, indeed, a pluralistic society?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I am happy to say to my hon. Friend that opportunities have recently been taken by the high commissioner in Bangladesh to stress that very point. He made a speech in the presence of former President Ershad, stressing the importance that aid donors attach to the maintenance of good government. A Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation of British Members of Parliament recently made the same point to the former President.

Mr. Madden : Will the Minister confirm whether the acting President of Bangladesh has made a formal request to the British Government, to the Commonwealth Secretariat and to other countries to provide representatives to monitor the elections due to be held in Bangladesh at the end of next month? If such a request has been made, will the Minister give an assurance that it will be treated with urgency and receive a positive response from this country and, I hope, the rest of the international community?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have said that they will welcome independent observers and I understand that an approach has now been made to the Commonwealth Secretariat to provide monitors.

Latin America

10. Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress towards democracy in Latin America.

Mr. Garel-Jones : Within the past year, democracy has been restored in Chile and Nicaragua and consolidated in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru by peaceful transfer of power following free elections. Except in Cuba, democracy is now the norm in Latin America.

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