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House of Commons

Wednesday 18 December 1991

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Income Tax

The Vice-Chamberlain of the Household reported Her Majesty's Answer to the Addresses, as followsI have received your Addresses praying that the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Isle of Man) Order 1991 ; the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Morocco) Order 1991 ; the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Papua New Guinea) Order 1991 ; the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Czechoslovakia) Order 1991 ; the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Iceland) Order 1991 ; the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Finland) Order 1991 and the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Denmark) Order 1991 be made in the form of draft laid before your House.

I will comply with your request.

Oral Answers to Questions



1. Mr. John Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications for United Kingdom foreign policy of the outcome of the intergovernmental conference at Maastricht.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : We welcome the agreement reached at Maastricht on a common foreign and security policy. This will remain outside Community competence and therefore a matter for intergovernmental co-operation, with all substantive decisions being made by unanimity.

Mr. Greenway : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his formidable and invaluable contribution to the outcome of the Maastricht negotiations. Does he agree that perhaps the most significant development in regard to foreign policy was the clear and unambiguous agreement to widen the Community to embrace the emergent democracies in eastern Europe, and will he make that one of the key aims of the British presidency under the next Conservative Government?

Mr. Hurd : Yes. As the House knows, we have long believed that the Community should be open to European countries who want to join and can take on the responsibilities of membership. I am glad that at our

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initiative the summit at Maastricht reaffirmed that principle, and that it was agreed that negotiations could start in 1992. We look forward to giving further impetus to the process when we take on the presidency of the Community in the second half of the year. More immediately, it was very good to see the Prime Ministers of Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and the acting Prime Minister of Poland, in Brussels on Monday, signing the association agreements between those countries and the Community and thus bringing to fruition an initiative begun by my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher).

Mr. John D. Taylor : At Maastricht, the Germans argued for a common foreign policy for the European Community. Within 48 hours of the agreement, Germany announced that, irrespective of the Community, it was going to recognise Croatia before Christmas. Does the Foreign Secretary see any inconsistency in the German foreign policy approach to Europe?

Mr. Hurd : I shall be taking two questions about Yugoslavia a little later. There are now no legal obligations arising out of joint action, which will remain until the new treaty is effective.

Mr. Latham : In regard to widening the Community, does my right hon. Friend accept that there is now a powerful case for the admission of Austria and Scandinavian countries that are members of the European Free Trade Association? Would they not act as an invaluable bridge extending to the Baltic states and other parts of central and eastern Europe? Will my right hon. Friend try to speed up that process in every possible way?

Mr. Hurd : Several countries have already applied, and have strong cases for membership. Those cases will need to be examined individually, but, in principle, my hon. Friend is entirely right.

Mr. Ernie Ross : When the Secretary of State was helping to draft the declaration on the middle east peace process, did he have in mind the curfew that has been placed on the Nablus and Hebron areas and on the Al- Bireh area and did he have in mind the illegal occupation of the houses in the Silwan area of Jerusalem? Will he confirm that the occupation is illegal and that all settlements on the west bank are illegal? Will he confirm that curfews constitute collective punishment, which is punishable under article 33 of the fourth Geneva convention?

Mr. Hurd : Within government and through the Community we have often expressed our views and, sometimes our protests, about the nature of the Israeli military occupation of the west bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we believe that the policy of settlements on the west bank is illegal and deeply unhelpful to the peace process.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop : Will my right hon. Friend ensure that when the United Kingdom assumes the presidency of the EC the other Scandinavian countries, as well as Sweden, are encouraged to join as full voting members at the earliest possible date?

Mr. Hurd : Some of them have active debates within their countries on that matter. We believe that the

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Community should welcome all European countries that want to join and can take on the responsibilities of membership.

Syria and Iran

2. Dr. Godman : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last discussed with the Foreign Ministers of other member states of the European Community matters relating to relationships between the European Community and the nations of Syria and Iran.

Mr. Hurd : I last discussed Iran in the Foreign Affairs Council on 15 April. The last discussion of Syria, apart from discussions in the peace process, was on 10 July at a meeting of EC Ministers, which my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State attended.

Dr. Godman : When next they meet will the Foreign Secretary urge upon his European Community colleagues the need for detachment and restraint in their dealings with Iran? That detachment must surely remain while the murderous fatwa inflicted upon Mr. Salman Rushdie remains in place. Until that evil burden is lifted from Mr. Rushdie's shoulders, the Government and the European Community should have nothing to do with Iran and its Government.

Mr. Hurd : There will be no dramatic or immediate change in our political relationship with Iran. I would not want to rule out closer contacts with the Iranians at the right time. Such contacts can reinforce the effectiveness of our views on the point made by the hon. Gentleman, which is that the death sentence on Salman Rushdie is an unacceptable infringement of his rights as a British citizen.

Mr. Adley : Can my right hon. Friend confirm that part of Syrian territory--the Golan heights--is still illegally occupied by the Israelis as are southern Lebanon and the occupied territories? That being so, will my right hon. Friend seek with his Community partners to reactivate the Venice declaration which seems to many of us to be the only likely forum within which positive political action can be taken?

Mr. Hurd : That point is being discussed now directly between Israel and Syria in the bilateral discussions in Washington. That is the best forum for that to be thrashed out and, I hope, in the end resolved.


3. Mr. David Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has on how the nuclear weapons in Ukraine are going to be controlled by the Soviet Union following the independence vote.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg) : We welcome assurances from the leaders of Russia, Ukraine anByelorussia that they intend that effective unified control is maintained over the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons. We are discussing with the relevant authorities how this will be taken forward in practice, and consulting closely with our NATO allies.

Mr. Evans : I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Is he aware that the people of Welwyn and Hatfield

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are concerned that three republics have a larger nuclear capability than the United Kingdom? Does he agree that British people should be told that if the Labour party were in control and there was a nuclear attack on Britain, there would be no response because the Leader of the Opposition has said that he would not push the button? Is not that the true face of the Labour party--no heart, no brains and a leader who is not only a joke but a jerk?

Mr. Speaker : A what? That was overdone again, I am afraid.

Mr. Hogg : In deference to you, Mr. Speaker, perhaps I had better not respond to the last part of my hon. Friend's question, but I entirely agree with the spirit of his comments. On the first part of his question, we are anxious to ensure that the republics of Ukraine, Byelorussia, Russia and--my goodness, I have forgotten the other one

Mr. Tony Banks : Kazakhstan.

Mr. Hogg : Kazakhstan--enter into the non-proliferation treaty as non-nuclear states, if that can be achieved.

Mr. Tony Banks : The Minister obviously does not know his head from his Kazakhstan. Given the need to rid the world of nuclear weapons, is not this a wonderful opportunity to approach the republics, particularly those that want to declare themselves nuclear-free zones--something that used to be sneered at by Conservative Members--in order to eliminate those weapons from the world? Should not the Government grasp that opportunity?

Mr. Hogg : It is indeed an opportunity. The Republic of Russia will probably seek to remain a nuclear state, but there is a reasonable prospect that the other three republics--Kazakhstan, Byelorussia and Ukraine--will be prepared to accept non-nuclear status. The western powers have an interest in seeing how we can assist with dismantling the nuclear arsenals of those three republics. One thing is plain : they do not wish to return the nuclear arsenals to the Republic of Russia.

Mr. Shersby : Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that it is the wish of many Ukrainian people that the nuclear weapons on their soil be dismantled and destroyed? What discussions is he having with President Kravchuk on that matter?

Mr. Hogg : I am aware that the President of Ukraine has made the point that he would like his republic to be a non-nuclear state and that he would like the west to assist with the process of dismantling and destruction. We should like to be constructive and we shall consider with our allies how best we can respond. There is, however, a problem : the judgment of the republics of, for example, Byelorussia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan may alter if the Republic of Russia chooses to remain a nuclear state. We cannot regard the present statements as necessarily being set in concrete.

Mr. Robertson : Does the Minister agree that perhaps a more urgent problem than the control of nuclear weapons in the republics of the former Soviet Union could be the vast amounts of conventional weapons that are in the hands of highly discontented and underpaid armed forces that have serious problems? Will the Minister assure us

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that the Government will give the maximum assistance with those weapons as well as with nuclear weapons and that in granting full diplomatic recognition to those republics the acceptance of full international obligations, including the Helsinki process and those features that relate specifically to human rights, will be a priority?

Mr. Hogg : On the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question, he will know that the Foreign Ministers of the European Community considered the subject earlier this week and made it plain that, when considering recognition, regard would be had to the extent to which the republics were ready to undertake the treaty obligations to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The most worrying problem about conventional weaponry relates to the implementation of the conventional forces in Europe treaty, because, as the hon. Gentleman will know, there is a mismatch between the military districts as defined in the CFE and the republics. We hope that the republics will be willing to ratify the treaty and implement its terms. But there is a serious problem here.

Mr. Sillars : Does the Minister agree that to resolve the problem it is very important to engage those countries in the United Nations and that as Byelorussia and Ukraine are already members of the United Nations it becomes imperative--in view of his earlier answer about Russia remaining a nuclear power--for them to obtain membership of the United Nations and of the Security Council in their own right ?

Mr. Hogg : I shall not deal with the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question because it raises difficult issues which will no doubt be the subject of discussion later. Clearly, these republics will apply for admission into the United Nations in due time and we shall define our views at that time. However, the most recent statement of our approach to the question of recognition, which is also likely to guide our attitude to the adherence of these countries to the United Nations, was that set out in the meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers earlier this week.

Miss Emma Nicholson : Does the Minister agree that Chernobyl probably happened because of incompetence rather than by a deliberate action ? Will he assure the House that proper British expertise in all matters--in the provision of food as well as nuclear issues--will be made available to the republics to help them towards full and truly free independence ?

Mr. Hogg : I cannot answer in the unconstrained sense in which my hon. Friend asked the question, but, clearly, we are prepared to play our part--bilaterally through the provision of know-how and technical assistance in appropriate matters and, of course, through the European Community to which we are a substantial subscriber.


4. Mr. Battle : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many United Kingdom staff there are at the British embassy and consulates in Brazil ; and how many have specific duties with regard to (a) human rights and (b) trade.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones) : There are 19 United Kingdom-based staff at the Britisembassy and

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consulates in Brazil. Five are engaged in trade promotion. Six report on political and economic issues, including human rights.

Mr. Battle : Is the Minister aware of the continuing violence against rural workers' leaders and their supporters in Brazil and of the fact that according to recent evidence from the Brazilian Church's Pastoral Land Commission since 1964, 1,667 rural workers have been murdered, that there have been 23 trials and only 13 sentences? That is in areas in which the British Government have an environmental programme in conjunction with the Brazilian authorities. Is there any way that our embassy staff can positively support the efforts of the procurator general in Brazil to tackle that terrible situation?

Mr. Garel-Jones : Yes, we are in close contact with

non-governmental organisations, lawyers and Brazilian authorities involved in cases relating to rural violence. Indeed, the embassy will certainly be represented at the forthcoming trials to which I think the hon. Gentleman is referring. For some time our policy towards Latin America and, indeed, towards other parts of the developing world, has been guided by a speech made by my right hon. Friend some months ago on good government. We seek to ensure that our reporting staff focus especially on human rights and in Latin America where democracy is now the norm, a great deal of our effort goes towards assisting those democracies in reinforcing human rights and, in particular, in upholding the rule of law and justice.

Mr. Jacques Arnold : How many of our diplomatic officers in Brazil are concerned with the environment? Have they noticed the recent decision of the federal Government of Brazil to allocate 94,000 sq kilometres of tropical rain forest as a preserve for the Yanomami Indians?

Mr. Garel-Jones : The Overseas Development Administration--under my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development--has two officers in Brazil who are concerned with our environmental projects and our embassy of course keeps a running brief. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Brazilian Government have recently declared that 94,000 sq kilometres will be set aside for the Yanomami Indians. That is a good response by the Brazilian Government to the concerns that have been expressed on both sides of the House.


5. Mr. Douglas : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to recognise further states as a consequence of developments in the Union of Sovereign States and Yugoslavia.

Mr. Hurd : On 16 December we and our Community partners set out guidelines to inform our decisions on the recognition of new states in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. We have not yet taken decisions on the recognition of the republics of the Soviet Union--apart from the Baltic states--as they are still discussing among themselves their future relations.

The Foreign Ministers agreed to recognise Yugoslav republics who meet certain conditions. The arbitration commission of the conference on Yugoslavia, chaired by

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Lord Carrington, will advise whether republics meet those conditions. A final decision on implementation will be taken on 15 January, after advice from the arbitration commission.

Mr. Douglas : Does the Foreign Secretary accept that there should be general acceptance of the criteria laid down by the European Community on recognition, but that there might be some stricture about the speed of recognition, especially for Yugoslavia? Delay might give a spurious temptation to the so-called Yugoslavian army to exercise certain initiatives that could be detrimental to the freedom of other republics. Will the right hon. Gentleman pay particular attention to human rights, to the rights of ethnic minorities, and--

Mr. Speaker : Order. Brief questions, please.

Mr. Douglas : I understand, Mr. Speaker.

Will the Foreign Secretary keep the House informed and perhaps make a statement when the House returns after the recess?

Mr. Hurd : I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's first remark. As I have made clear, for some time the question of recognising Yugoslav republics, especially Croatia and Slovenia, has not been a matter of principle--clearly they will not be willing to go back into any entity called Yugoslavia. Recognition has been a matter of timing and judgment--a phrase that I have often used before.

The hon. Gentleman thinks that the timing is a bit slow ; others may feel that it is a bit fast. That is a matter of judgment, and on 16 December it was a matter of compromise.

Mr. Wells : Is it not like throwing petrol on a bonfire to promise to recognise Croatia and Slovenia? Does my right hon. Friend know about Lord Carrington's advice that such recognition would encourage Herzegovina to claim independence too, and thus excite the Serbs to fight?

Mr. Hurd : Lord Carrington's view has been that premature recognition would be a mistake, and Mr. Cyrus Vance--the Secretary- General's representative--has made the same point. I have been in touch with Lord Carrington since the EC decision. He is very much in action, and so is Mr. Cyrus Vance. They will both work hard and urgently to carry to a successful conclusion, if they can, the two processes of which they are in charge--the peace conference at The Hague and the prospects for a UN peacekeeping force.

Mr. Rees : Is the Secretary of State aware that those of us who recall the area 40 years ago believe that the German-led policy is the height of folly? The Germans should recall their experiences in the area, when the fighting tied down seven German divisions. Can we be sure that if this goes wrong and there is military involvement--as there might well be-- we will not be involved on the coat-tails of the Germans?

Mr. Hurd : One thing is certain : there is no question of German military involvement in any of the republics of Yugoslavia.

Mr. Favell : It has been suggested in several media reports today that if my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary were free to pursue an independent foreign policy, he would not now consider recognising Slovenia and Croatia. Is that correct?

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Mr. Hurd : For us, as for the Community, it would have been a matter of timing. There is a tradition of the main states of western Europe splitting in rivalry on Balkan questions. There is quite a history of individual countries backing a particular group, taking a particular line, and it all ending up on the battlefield. I do not believe that the history of that tradition is a good one. It is better to thrash out such differences round a table rather than--eventually--on the battlefield.

Mr. Kaufman : When the deadline for judging whether the republics should be recognised arrives in January, will the 12 Foreign Ministers meet again to decide collectively whether the criteria have been met and whether all of them will recognise or not recognise the republics? If not, and if there are to be individual assessments of the criteria, will the Foreign Secretary assure the House that if Germany decides that the criteria have been met and recognises the republics but Britain decides that the criteria have not been met, the United Kingdom will reserve the right not to recognise the republics?

Mr. Hurd : The decision asks for advice from the Arbitration Commission and from Mr. Badinter. If that advice suggests that the republics which have applied meet the conditions set out in the decision of 16 December, there will be recognition by all 12 Governments. If the Arbitration Commission expresses a negative view about any one of the republics, there is no collective decision to implement, and countries will be able to make their own assessment.

Mr. Cormack : Does my right hon. Friend accept that those of us who have watched the terrible destruction in Croatia are disturbed by the amount of killing time between now and 15 January? Does he also agree that one state which does not meet the generally accepted criteria for recognition is the federal state of Yugoslavia, which has lost control of its own army?

Mr. Hurd : I know my hon. Friend's view and I believe that he had an Adjournment debate on the subject last week. He must not create the impression that recognition will stop the killing. The main hopes for stopping the killing are, first, the peace conference and, secondly, the prospect--not yet a certainty--of United Nations peace keeping. I very much welcome the fact that the Security Council authorised the dispatch of a preliminary team. I hope that Mr. Vance, with whom we have been in touch in the past 24 hours, will feel able in the light of his further explorations to suggest to the Security Council that a peace-keeping force should be sent. The Foreign Ministers, on 16 December, warmly endorsed that effort.

6. Mr. Galloway : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of Yugoslavia on the situation of the Albanian population in that country ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : We strongly condemn Serbian abuse of human rights in the Kosovo. It is clear that any lasting solution for Yugoslavia must incorporate guarantees for minority communities such as the Kosovo Albanians.

Mr. Galloway : The Albanians in Yugoslavia are not a minority population, but the third largest national group in the country ; there are more than 3 million of them, but

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their national rights have long been abolished by the Yugoslavian Government. The Minister must know that if Croatia and Slovenia are allowed to become internationally recognised next month, the Albanian population--and Albania itself, just across the border- -will not sit quietly while the brutal reign of terror imposed by the Serbian authorities in the Kosovo continues. More than 600,000 people have passed through the rough hands of the Serbian authorities since the Parliament was abolished, and have been arrested and interrogated. Some 90,000 have been dismissed from their jobs for political reasons and thousands have been imprisoned for long sentences. Scores have been killed or are missing. What can the British Government do, both bilaterally and in the European Community, to ensure that the national rights of the Albanians and of the other nations in Yugoslavia are fully taken into account in the whole bloody mess?

Mr. Hogg : The safeguarding of national and minority rights is one of the most important issues which need to be addressed in the quest for an overall settlement. The Albanians are in a huge majority in the Kosovo-- well over 90 per cent. of the total population. There is also a substantial minority of Albanians in Macedonia. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the draft treaty that my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Carrington has prepared identifies a range of safeguards which should be extended to the ethnic minorities in Yugoslavia. The Serbian Government must recognise that they should extend to the Albanians exactly the rights and privileges that they seek to secure on behalf of the Serbs in, for example, Croatia.

Mrs. Currie : Does my hon. and learned Friend recognise that, whatever the concern in this country about the mess in Yugoslavia, there would be even more concern if we started sending in British troops, whether as part of a peace-keeping force or anything else? Will he ensure that, before any consideration is given to such a development, we are quite clear in Britain how long such troops would stay, what exactly they would be setting out to achieve, and how they would cope with the aftermath? The last thing I would want to have to sell to my constituents is the idea that they should go into that bloody mess and be shot at by the bandits on both sides.

Mr. Hogg : My hon. Friend makes a serious point, with which I largely agree. It is very important that a peace-keeping force should not be sent to Yugoslavia until there is a peace to keep, and until it is clear that all the warring parties both invite and allow that peace-keeping force to operate. At the same time, the United Nations is clearly contemplating the circumstances in which a peace-keeping force might be sent and I can well conceive of circumstances in which, in order to underpin a peace, a peace-keeping force should be in place. Nevertheless, there are perils associated with the matter, and my hon. Friend has identified a number of them.


7. Mr. Watson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he intends to make to the Government of Israel following their decision to continue the closure of Bir Zeit university for a further three months.

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Mr. Douglas Hogg : Together with European Community partners, we have already made strong representations on this issue.

Mr. Watson : Is the Minister aware that, by 9 January, Bir Zeit university will have been closed continuously for a period of four years and that a generation of young Palestinians will have been denied the right to higher education, which is surely one of the basic fundamental human rights? Is that not just one of the many human rights being denied to Palestinians in the occupied territories, which have been illegally occupied by Israel for 24 years? When will the Minister and the Foreign Secretary get together with their European colleagues, call Israel in, and say, "That is it--so far and no further ; no more Mr. Nice Guy," because the soft-soaping approach simply has not worked?

Mr. Hogg : That is the first time I have, by implication, been described as Mr. Nice Guy. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I can assure him that, in whatever role he cares to characterise me, I have spoken clearly to the Israeli ambassador on this. Moreover, both directly and through the medium of the European Community, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made it plain to the Government of Israel that we deplore the closure decision and that we believe that the universities, colleges and schools should remain open. We are deeply concerned by what is happening in the occupied territories and we are urging the Government of Israel to negotiate sensibly with the Palestinians within the occupied territories.

Sir Dennis Walters : As my hon. and learned Friend has accepted the closure of Bir Zeit is part of the systematic infringement of the Geneva convention by Israel which has been going on for years, should not a more robust approach therefore be taken, both by our Government and by the European Community, and should not economic measures at some stage be taken in relation to Israel to prevent the continuation of such unacceptable violations of human rights and of the Geneva convention?

Mr. Hogg : We regard a number of the acts taking place within the occupied territories as illegal--most obviously the policy of settlement, which we believe stands in the way of the peace process. It is a great thing, however, that all the parties have now sat down to negotiate and I wish the negotiations well. We shall do all that we can to support and encourage the process of negotiation. For the moment, at least, I should prefer to rely on that process of negotiation rather than on anything else.

Mr. Janner : Does the Minister accept that when universities and other educational institutions are used as centres for terrorist activity-- [ Hon. Members :-- "Disgraceful."] However much some people may groan, that is the way in which Bir Zeit was being used, and that is why it was closed. With our own understanding of terrorist problems, we should understand what is happening--

Mr. Galloway : You should be ashamed of yourself.

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman's hon. and learned Friend has as much right to express his views as the hon. Gentleman had.

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Mr. Janner : May I say how much I appreciate the Minister's approach --that if, and only if, through patience and good will the present peace negotiations succeed, there is hope for an end to terrorism in that part of the world?

Mr. Hogg : We are strong supporters of the peace process, but I hope that the House will recognise that it will be a long and difficult road. I hope, too, that all the parties will adhere to it, however bleak the prospect may sometimes be. On the question of closures of universities, schools and colleges, I am against that.

Mr. Latham : When my hon. and learned Friend speaks to the Israeli ambassador, in the interests of fairness, does he also discuss with him how much freedom of speech there is in universities in Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia?

Mr. Hogg : As I have often said, I believe that Israel within her pre-1967 frontiers is a democracy, which is not true of many, if any, other states in that part of the world, but she is not a democracy in so far as the occupied territories are concerned.


8. Mr. Bill Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he plans to have with the United Nations Secretary General about a United Nations peace-keeping force in Yugoslavia.

Mr. Hurd : We expect to discuss that and other matters with the new secretary general when he visits London I hope, next month. Meanwhile, the British mission in New York is in constant touch with the secretary general and his staff and I have alredy told the House of Sir David Hannay's helpful discussion with Mr. Vance yesterday.

Mr. Michie : While the Secretary of State has tried to assure the House about the problems and implications of recognition of Croatia, will he try once more to reassure us about that recognition? Does it refer to territory already held by the Croatians or does it apply to old frontiers which are up for grabs? If it is the latter, how will Britain ensure or guarantee that the old or new boundaries are enforced?

Mr. Hurd : The decision of the day before yesterday related to any Yugoslav republics which fulfilled certain conditions that we set out. There was no mention of any particular republic. Obviously, recognition does not carry with it any guarantee of military protection. However, long before this immediate question arose, we and our partners--and, I believe, the whole world--made it clear that we are not prepared to recognise the alteration of boundaries by force.

Mr. Marlow : On Monday, we had a distinct and coherent policy with regard to Yugoslavia. Today we have an undistinguished and incoherent policy. If it is inevitable that the over-mighty Hun is to be in the driving seat of European security and defence policies, would it not be more honest and dignified if these matters were decided by a majority vote as we could then at least honestly state our position?

Mr. Hurd : I entirely disagree with that. I am sure that the right way forward in these matters is to discuss differences around the table for however long it takes,

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reach an agreement if that is possible, and act on it if we can. And that is what we do. If at any stage in the discussions on Monday, or in all the other discussions that I have attended in the past two years, it had been a question of majority vote, there would have been much less agreement, and to the extent that decisions had been imposed by a majority, they would have been much less effective. Everything that happened on Monday reinforced that view.

Mr. Alton : Instead of an obsession with Germany's position, should we not be obsessed with what is happening in Croatia, where one in eight of the population has been displaced, we have provided only £77,000 in humanitarian aid and the people are being pounded into the ground? Will the Secretary of State consider ways of ensuring that a sky shield can be erected by the international powers over Croatian air space to stop the aerial bombardment of Dubrovnik and Vukovar and also find ways to increase humanitarian aid to people who will otherwise continue to die over Christmas?

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