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House of Commons

Wednesday 26 June 1991

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Mr. Devlin : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following the brief exchange that we had yesterday afternoon in the Chamber, is it possible for today's statement on pensions, which I am sure will deal with important matters, to be held over to another day in view of the large number of hon. Members who want to take part in today's Adjournment debate?

Mr. Speaker : I am not responsible for the timing of statements. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that I can do anything about it.


Midland Metro Bill

(By Order)

Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time tomorrow.

British Railways Bill

(By Order)

Order for consideration read.

To be considered tomorrow.

Oral Answers to Questions


Middle East

1. Mr. Robert Hicks : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the latest position concerning the establishment of a middle east conference ; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : The United States Secretary of State is continuing his attempts to secure the agreement of all parties to the convening of a peace conference. He has our full support.

Mr. Hicks : While acknowledging the error of judgment made by the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation during the recent Gulf crisis, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he agrees that the problems associated with the Palestinian people remain and, indeed, that their solving is central to obtaining any middle east settlement? Is not it about time that the international community, including the Americans and the Israelis, gave them some positive encouragement to act in a positive way?

Mr. Hurd : I believe that Mr. Baker's initiative is very much in the interests of the Palestinians. I agree with my hon. Friend that the PLO cannot be ignored because it

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made a grievious mistake in the Gulf war, but it can help by supporting the Palestinian leadership in the occupied territories and by re-emphasising its National Council strategy of 1988 on a negotiated settlement with Israel.

Mr. Strang : Since later today the United Nations Security Council will consider another aspect of the aftermath of the Gulf war--what proportion of future Iraqi oil revenues will be used for the rehabilitation of Kuwait--do the British Government support the proposition that 30 per cent. of those revenues should be used for that purpose or would they, like the United States Administration, prefer the figure to be increased? In any case, the sooner a settlement is reached the better, regardless of whether the figure is 30 or 50 per cent.

Mr. Hurd : I agree with the hon. Gentleman. The discussion has gone on long enough and we must bring it to a conclusion. It seems that a conclusion of about 30 per cent. is attainable and, I think, about right.

Sir Dennis Walters : With regard to the middle east peace process, as the weeks and months go by and no advance is made on the Baker initiative, does my right hon. Friend agree that the time has come for a more vigorous approach to be adopted, or are we going to accept that Mr. Shamir has the right to veto any progress towards peace while continuing to defy international law and the United Nations resolutions and that, therefore, double standards apply in the middle east and will be tolerated?

Mr. Hurd : The present position is that President Bush is waiting for a reply from several middle eastern leaders to letters that he sent after Mr. Baker's latest visit, setting out the areas of agreement and disagreement. There has been some progress, as my hon. Friend will know, but it is not decisive. I believe that an initiative backed and led by the United States is essential if there is to be progress towards peace and we should continue to support it as long as there is life in it. I believe that there still is.

Mr. Kaufman : With regard to two of the potential participants in any middle eastern peace conference, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Kuwaiti Government that those of us who were most determined that Kuwait should be liberated are among the most saddened and worried by the capital sentences being passed in Kuwait and by the capital trials taking place there? Will he ask the Kuwaiti Government to abandon them?

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Israeli Government that those of us who feel the warmest and closest feelings for Israel are those who feel most strongly that the continued building of settlements in the occupied territories is probably the greatest single obstacle to peace?

Mr. Hurd : I share the right hon. Gentleman's concern about the trials and sentences in Kuwait. As I understand it, the emir has not confirmed the sentences. Our views are known to him and he will read what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I also agree with what he said about the settlements. As we, our European partners and the American Secretary of State have made clear, there is no doubt that the continued policy of establishing settlements is one of the major obstacles to any sensible peace process.

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Commonwealth Governments

2. Mr. Gerald Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what priority the Commonwealth attaches to the promotion of good government among its members.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker) : There is wide interest among Commonwealth members in promoting good government. Moves by the Commonwealth

Secretary-General to put emphasis on the promotion of democracy will receive our full support. An excellent start, for example, has been made with election monitoring.

Mr. Howarth : May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her speech at Chatham house yesterday? Does she agree that as the whole of the eastern bloc and even the Soviet Union are following the lead set by the United Kingdom in dismantling state socialism and moving towards a market economy, it would be conducive to good government in totalitarian and often corrupt regimes in Africa and elsewhere if they did the same? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the readmission of South Africa into the Commonwealth might help to set a good example?

Mrs. Chalker : I thank my hon. Friend for his comments on my speech yesterday. The promotion of good government knows no boundaries. Every country that expects to work in harmony with its people needs to pursue good government, accountability, respect for the rule of law and respect for human rights. I agree with my hon. Friend that dismantling state socialism is one of the most important things that we can help those countries to do and it is part of the good government programme that there should be divestment of parastatals. I further confirm to my hon. Friend that as we told the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in May, in reply to a report on United Kingdom policy towards South Africa, we would support an application from a post-apartheid South Africa to join the Commonwealth when there is a non-racial democracy.

Ms. Abbott : Does the Minister agree that there is a good Government in Sierra Leone? Do the Government take seriously the question of supporting the Sierra Leone Government against incursions by Liberian rebels?

Mrs. Chalker : I know of the hon. Lady's great interest in Sierra Leone. She will be aware that I have been able to respond to the Sierra Leone Government's call for help by the provision of non-lethal equipment to try to help them to restore the order that they used to have there and which I know they very much want to have again.

Mr. Lester : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the essence of good governance is that the government are accountable to their own people and that the people are satisfied with the government? We should be careful, when we promote good governance, which is essential, that we do not try to impose an external model on countries that already have systems that are genuinely accountable to their own people.

Mrs. Chalker : I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend. That was exactly what I said yesterday in my speech. It is not for us to impose a system on emerging democracies,

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but for them to develop a system that is fully accountable to their own people and involves the participation of those people in the system of government.

South Africa

3. Mr. Hain : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if when he visits South Africa, he will discuss policy on sanctions and boycotts with representatives of the African National Congress.

Mr. Hurd : I hope to discuss many matters with the South African Government and with representatives of all the main parties in South Africa, including the ANC.

Mr. Hain : Does the Foreign Secretary agree with South African political and sports leaders who say that sanctions have been the main pressure for change, but that the negotiations that are going on risk being jeopardised? There is still no commitment by President de Klerk to one person, one vote. The sports negotiations, although they have made a far greater advance, still have some way to go. I know from personal experience that whites change only when there is no alternative. The Foreign Secretary's premature call for sanctions to be lifted risks jeopardising progress and reversing the momentum for change. Does he really think that he knows better than Nelson Mandela?

Mr. Hurd : The hon. Gentleman is hopelessly out of date. The ANC representatives who came to see me a few weeks ago said that 29 June--in a few days' time--will see the foundation of one non-racial united cricket board for South Africa. The ANC said, "Please do your best to ensure that the International Cricket Council readmits South Africa to international cricket when it meets next month." I hope that the hon. Gentleman will back the ANC in that respect.

Mr. John Carlisle : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the last person to whom the House should listen on the subject of the abolition of apartheid is the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), who has done more to delay the process than probably any other individual inside or outside South Africa? Will my right hon. Friend send a message to the International Cricket Council and to Mr. Colin Cowdrey, its chairman, when it meets in London next month, that the British Government are totally satisfied with the moves by the South African cricket authorities and Government and with the fact that cricket there is now fully integrated? Does he further agree that we should resume test matches against South Africa immediately?

Mr. Hurd : My hon. Friend is well placed to modernise the education of the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) in these matters. Surely it is sensible that, as South African sport becomes integrated sport by sport, those sports should be readmitted to the international family. That is what is about to happen with cricket. I hope that the whole House will support-- and will urge the Caribbean countries and India to support--South Africa's readmission to international cricket.

Mr. Winnick : When one examines the tragedy that befell South Africa from 1948 onwards, is not it clear that it is precisely the people who fought that tyranny--first and foremost people in South Africa, but also those outside who urged sanctions and boycotts--who have

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helped to bring about the present situation? Is not it a fact that time and again Tory Members, such as the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), have defended in every possible way the tyranny that is now being disbanded in South Africa?

Mr. Hurd : I do not think that that is true of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle). It is certainly not in any way true of the Government. Whatever the past arguments, sanctions are now out of date. We have now dealt with sport. On investment, I believe that the more investment that is made in South Africa now, the better the chances for building the new South African nation after apartheid.


4. Dr. Twinn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will next meet the Secretary-General of the United Nations to discuss Cyprus.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones) : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State discussedthe Cyprus problem with the UN Secretary-General on 20 May and next plans to meet the Secretary-General at the UN General Assembly in September. We maintain regular contact with all parties, including the UN, in support of the UN Secretary-General's initiative.

Dr. Twinn : Given our special and close relationship with Cyprus, will Britain take an active part in the renewed round of efforts to secure a just solution to the Cyprus problem? Will my hon. Friend confirm that the British Government will encourage Turkey, our NATO ally, to take a more positive response to this round of talks?

Mr. Garel-Jones : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. He takes a close interest in the subject and, as he knows, the United Kingdom is closely involved with Cyprus, through traditional links, and is a guarantor power. We have put great efforts into helping the United Nations to find a way forward through continuous diplomatic contacts with all parties, including our fellow guarantor powers, Turkey and Greece, and the secretary-general himself. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have had valuable talks with the President of Cyprus. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister saw the Turkish Prime Minister in April and spoke to him on the telephone a few days ago.

Mr. Cox : The Minister said that we were one of the guarantor powers of the island of Cyprus. Will he assure the House that we will use the influence that that role gives us to ensure in any settlement, first, that lands and properties that have been taken from either Greek or Turkish Cypriots are returned to their rightful owners and, secondly, that any settlement will include free movement for people throughout the whole island, be they Greek or Turkish Cypriots, without any restrictions whatever?

Mr. Garel-Jones : Yes, Sir. In their position as a guarantor power the Government believe that the best way to exercise their influence is by supporting the United

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Nations Secretary-General. Certainly, any settlement will have to take into account both communities' concerns, some of which the hon. Gentleman outlined.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : Does my hon. Friend agree that this is one of the rare opportunities since 1974 to make progress on this vexed issue? Is not it deplorable that we have an army of occupation inside a Commonwealth country? Does he realise that the so-called green line in Cyprus, which is made of concrete and rusty barbed wire, is one of the few divisions between peoples that are still allowed in Europe?

Mr. Garel-Jones : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The situation in Cyprus is, indeed, a tragedy. The fact that the United Kingdom Government have to maintain the level of troops that they do as part of the United Nations Force in Cyprus underlines that tragedy. I agree with my hon. Friend that the new authority that we believe that the United Nations has and which should be sustained by us all, should enable the Secretary- General of the United Nations, with all our support, to work towards a settlement of that terrible tragedy.

Mr. Anderson : The Minister must be well aware that there is a strongly held view that despite our long, traditional and community links and our position as a guarantor power for Cyprus, Britain has been too laid back in dealing with the affairs of that tragically divided island. Do the Government accept that the road to a settlement must lie through a change in the position taken by Ankara? If so, have the Government made it clear to the Government of Turkey that Turkey's European ambitions will be mightily affected one way or the other by their response to the current prospects of a settlement in Cyprus?

Mr. Garel-Jones : I hope that neither the hon. Gentleman nor the House believes that Her Majesty's Government's attitude to the problem is laid back. As I said before, we are the largest single contributor to UNFICYP. We take the position in Cyprus extremely seriously and we are in constant dialogue with our fellow guarantor powers, two of which, as the hon. Gentleman will know, are Turkey and Greece. As I said to the House a moment ago, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has continual contacts with President Ozal and we keep up a continual dialogue with all parties in the matter. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and the House do not feel that we are anything other than wholly committed to supporting the secretary- general in his struggle for a settlement.

Intergovernmental Conferences

5. Mr. Skinner : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the intergovernmental conferences.

Mr. Hurd : The conferences on economic and monetary union and political union have made good progress, but a number of problems remain to be resolved during the next months of negotiations before the shape of the final package becomes clear.

Mr. Skinner : Is not it ironic that at a time when the Soviet Union cannot handle the 15 nationalities in that empire, the Indian sub-continent is continuing to

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disintegrate and Yugoslavia cannot keep its nationalities together, people like the Foreign Secretary continue to waffle on about some grand political design in the Common Market? The truth is that British history and western European history show that in the past 11 centuries treaties have been drawn up between some of the oldest industrialised countries, every one of which, almost without exception, is in the dustbin of history. This latest grand political design will finish in the same place.

Mr. Hurd : I am disappointed with the hon. Gentleman. Up to now, I have disagreed with everything that the hon. Gentleman has said about Europe, but at least what he has said has been plain, blunt and brief. He is taking a bad example from his leader.

Mr. Soames : Does my right hon. Friend agree that sovereignty is not some kind of political football to be used for the vanity of politicians? If we are to cede some sovereignty in the interests of creating a modern and vigorous western economy in this country with greater prosperity for all our people, that is something devoutly to be hoped for.

Mr. Hurd : I understand that we are to discuss those matters later today and I look forward to doing so. Although it is not certain, we believe that it is increasingly possible that in both conferences at the end of the year we shall be able to reach conclusions of which the House will overwhelmingly approve. They will reconcile our desire and determination to keep our own identity with our wish to go forward and work increasingly in Europe.

Mr. Benn : Is the Foreign Secretary aware that, whatever may be the merits of a single currency, economic and monetary union and a federal arrangement, none of those issues was put before the electorate in a referendum or put before the public for endorsement in the 1987 general election? As they touch not only the rights of Parliament but the rights of the British people to elect and remove those who make the laws under which they are governed, will not the matter have to go back to the British people before any move is made to take away their rights through any of the proposals now before the intergovernmental conferences?

Mr. Hurd : I do not think that such matters are best tested in a referendum. They are best tested in the House. That is a continual process, which is continuing again today.

Mr. Janman : My right hon. Friend, more than most, will be aware of the problems being caused to the Government by the Single European Act, particularly in employment and the extension of majority voting. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that at the

intergovernmental conference on political union the British Government will veto any changes to the treaty of Rome that extend majority voting?

Mr. Hurd : I do not agree with my hon. Friend about the effects of the Single European Act. It is working out overwhelmingly beneficially to this country. As for our stance in the IGC on political union, perhaps my hon. Friend will await my full explanation in a few minutes' time.

Mr. Robertson : May I press the Foreign Secretary on that point? In the IGC on political union the Government

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are isolated on the social charter, the extension of qualified majority voting, any extension of powers to the European Parliament and reforms to the regional and structural funds. As all those matters are of central and fundamental importance to our 11 European partners, will the Foreign Secretary use the veto if they press it to a conclusion later this year?

Mr. Hurd : The hon. Gentleman's premise is wrong and consequently his sequence does not follow. The only matter on which we are sometimes alone is legislation that flows from the social charter. Even there, one directive was passed unanimously again yesterday. Others have failed to make progress not because of Britain but because a sufficient number of countries were opposed to them.


6. Mr. Simon Coombs : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of Romania.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg) : My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had wide-ranging discussions with the Romanian Foreign Minister, Adrian Nastase, in London on 9 May. He announced then the extension of the know-how fund to Romania.

Mr. Coombs : Will my hon. and learned Friend take this opportunity to pay tribute to the tremendous efforts of the voluntary sector in this country and to the many individuals who, over the past 18 months, have brought relief of many sorts to the people of Romania? I thank my hon. and learned Friend for telling the House that the know-how fund has been extended to Romania. What do the Government hope will be achieved by that?

Mr. Hogg : The know-how fund is a very important instrument of policy to assist the transformation from a command economy to a market- oriented economy. Officials were in Romania recently discussing a number of priority projects with the Romanian Government and we have been able to identify a number of areas in which it will be helpful to make progress there. I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend said about voluntary workers. I had the advantage of attending a meeting last week where I met many of those directly involved.

Mr. Janner : Will the Minister take an early opportunity to raise with the Government of Romania, directly or through its ambassador, the fears of Romania's small Jewish community at the resurgence of anti- semitism in that country, especially in the influential and popular press? Is he aware that an all-party group of hon. Members was recently in that country--where 400,000 Jewish people perished in the holocaust--and received assurances from the highest level of the Romanian Government that they would deal with an anti-semitic resurgence if it came about? As it has indeed come about, will the Minister ask the Romanian Government to take action now before the problem gets worse?

Mr. Hogg : The hon. and learned Gentleman makes a serious point, the force of which I accept. We have already made representations on precisely that issue to the Romanian authorities, and we shall keep the matter under

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careful watch because it is important. As and when necessary, we shall make further representations to the Romanian Government.

Miss Emma Nicholson : On behalf of the all-party parliamentary group on Romanian children, of which there are other honorary officers in the Chamber this afternoon, I thank the Minister and Foreign Office staff for the support given to that group and to other aid groups in the United Kingdom when they were addressed last week. There is much hunger and starvation in Romania. That was particularly true during last winter's dire conditions, and the position is not yet improving. Will the know-how fund be able to bring in expertise on food production, processing and distribution, perhaps by privatising the shops as there is a critical need in that country which will become even greater next winter?

Mr. Hogg : First, I thank my hon. Friend for her kind words. The work that she and other hon. Members have performed in the all-party group has been extremely welcome.

The know-how fund's application depends slightly on the project put forward. Some projects such as the kind that my hon. Friend has just described might well fall within the remit of the know-how fund. I will ask its officials to look sympathetically at the point that my hon. Friend has just raised.

Middle East

7. Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his proposals for security and co-operation in the middle east.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : It is for the countries of the region to reach agreement on future security arrangements. We support their efforts to achieve this and are prepared to help where we can. But we do not envisage stationing ground troops permanently in the region.

Mr. Cohen : Are the United States and United Kingdom Governments not sitting on their military triumphalism and doing little for the future security of the middle east? Is it not the case that the Baathists are still in power in Iraq, the future of the Shias and Kurds is unsafe, there is festering bitterness about the 100,000 dead, with more to come, the west and China have restarted arms sales, Syria and Egypt are already alienated from the allies and there is no hope of any justice for the Palestinians? Should not the Government act, for example, to stop the arms proliferation and set up a conference for security in the region? Or have the glorious victors not got an idea for peace in their heads?

Mr. Hogg : The hon. Gentleman has set a full agenda, and I fear that he was wrong in every particular respect. The Government have been active in all the respects he described. I re-emphasise the support that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has just given to the peace process, which is directed to one of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member should also keep in mind the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on arms control, and the strong support that we are giving to the Bush proposals for arms control in the middle east. We have made an effective response to the problems in north Iraq.

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Mr. Ian Taylor : Will my hon. and learned Friend note Conservative Members' welcome for the British Government-inspired series of initiatives in the European Community aimed at achieving a common foreign policy in the middle east, particularly in view of the historic problems of that region which have been somewhat provoked by divisions among the European powers? Is not a most important aspect of future attitude to both the Israeli problem and the initiatives relating to Iraq and the Kurds that a common policy should be developed in the Community, and then applied? Should not we continue to work on this problem through the intergovernmental conferences?

Mr. Hogg : I agree that co-ordinated policies are extremely important, but they are not limited to the European Community. For example, it is extremely important that we work closely with the United States Government in pushing forward the peace process, including its operation in north Iraq.

Sir David Steel : The Minister referred to the excellent statements that were made last month by both the Prime Minister and President Bush on the need to stem the flow of conventional arms into the middle east. Does he share my dismay that since those statements were made the Pentagon appears to be putting together massive arms sales packages to Israel, the United Arab Republic, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt? What effort will the Foreign Office make to ensure that the excellent statements are implemented and that we do not turn the powder keg of the middle east once again into a conflagration?

Mr. Hogg : The right hon. Gentleman is right when he says that it is important that we actively carry forward President Bush's proposals to control armaments in the middle east. I have considerable sympathy, too, with the broader proposals of President Mubarak. The right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that in July, in Paris, there will be a meeting between officials of the Permanent Five to ascertain how we can advance the general concepts expressed by President Bush.

Mr. Dykes : As Israeli citizens will also benefit from a genuine peace settlement that is fair to both Palestine and Israel, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that a double tragedy would occur if Secretary Baker were to lose heart as a result of the obstinacy of Mr. Shamir, and if Mr. Shamir, with his hesitations and stubbornness, were to assume that a temporary abatement of the intifada would be a signal for him to go easy on the peace process?

Mr. Hogg : I agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said-- [Hon. Members :-- "Hon. Friend."] Forgive me, he is indeed my hon. Friend. This is an extremely important moment for the state of Israel. I think that it is important that it should take advantage of the opportunity that presents itself. It will be regrettable, I think, if the policy of settlements is pushed ahead, for that would stand in the way of genuine peace talks. Israel will benefit more than any other nation from a peace settlement.


8. Mr. Martlew : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the meeting of the Antarctic treaty nations in Madrid.

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Mr. Garel-Jones : There was general acceptance by most parties, including the United Kingdom, of the draft text of an environmental protocol to the Antarctic treaty and of four annexes dealing with marine pollution, waste disposal, conservation of wildlife and environmental impact assessment.

Parties failed, however, to reach consensus on the text of the review article, No. 24, of the protocol. In particular, the United States requested more time to consider the amendment procedure for any minerals ban. A further meeting will be held before October at which we hope that the protocol and its annexes will be adopted.

Mr. Martlew : Included in the Minister's statements in the past has always been the need for consensus between nations on the Antarctic treaty. Will he confirm that the United States Government have moved to a policy of majority voting? Will he confirm also that that is entirely opposed by the British Government? Does he agree that there has been a considerable amount of backsliding by the United States Government? What efforts is he making to ensure that the United States Government sign the treaty that was agreed in April in Madrid?

Mr. Garel-Jones : Fortunately, I do not have to answer at the Dispatch Box for the position of the United States. The hon. Gentleman is right in that the main purpose of the Government's policy has been to seek consensus. He will recall that shortly after assuming these responsibilities I advised the House, with the authority of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, that we were reviewing our policy. It was we who came forward with a proposal to seek consensus around a moratorium, and that has found favour with almost all our treaty partners. I am confident that the United States will find a way of joining the consensus that we very much support.

Mr. Foulkes : Does not the Minister recall that on 16 January he claimed that Britain had led the way on Antarctica? In his euphoric letter of 10 May to all hon. Members he said that he anticipated agreement in June. Did he know then that the Americans were planning to sabotage the agreement? If he did, he was misleading us. If he did not, he was being deceived by them. Will he now do what the director of the World Wide Fund for Nature asked in the letter of 20 May to the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, to which the director has had no reply, and put pressure on the American Government to accept the draft protocol, to agree a ban on mining in Antarctica and, to use the Minister's own words in the letter,

"hand over Antarctica in pristine condition to future generations"?

Mr. Garel-Jones : The hon. Gentleman is trying very hard, is he not?

Mr. Foulkes : Why don't you try harder?

Mr. Garel-Jones : I am glad that the hon. Gentleman referred to my letters, because they make it clear that the British Government, without being over-boastful, have some reason to claim that our initiative before the Madrid conference assisted our treaty partners to return to consensus. One leader of a non-governmental organisation, in an effort--misplaced, I believe--to put pressure on the British Government, told me before we went to Madrid that the United States had agreed to a world park.

The point about the negotiations is that it is not for me to answer at this Dispatch Box for other Governments.

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The United States knows very well what the position of the United Kingdom is. The United States is studying the protocol at the moment, and I am confident that we shall find a way of returning to consensus.

Several Hon. Members rose--

Mr. Speaker : Order. I regret that I was distracted for a moment and called two hon. Members from the same side of the House. Now I must redress the balance.

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