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House of Commons

Wednesday 30 March 1994

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- -- in the Chair ]

Oral Answers to Questions


Kashmir --

1. Ms Lynne : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Indian Government to ensure that Amnesty International is given every facility to monitor the situation in Indian-held Kashmir.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd) : The Indian Government have recently allowed visits to Kashmir by various independent organisations and groups. We did much to promote this. We shall continue to encourage the Indian Government to allow a visit to Kashmir by Amnesty International.

Ms Lynne : Do the Minister and the Secretary of State agree that although Amnesty International's visit to India was welcome and shows much more openness by the Indian Government, they would have shown their commitment to human rights a little more had they allowed free access to Indian-held Kashmir and allowed the prisoners of conscience--the political viziers of Kashmir--to be released ? Will the Minister continue to press the Indian Government about that ?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : As the hon. Lady said, there was a visit to Bombay and Delhi by Amnesty International. I understand that the Indian Government have agreed to further visits to different parts of India on a case-by-case basis. I must point out that other human rights groups have visited India. For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross has a group of people in Kashmir at this moment, and last August the International Commission of Jurists visited India. The right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) has also just been to that area.

Mr. Anthony Coombs : While recognising the significant human rights abuses reported by the Indian authorities, their troops and others in Kashmir, may I ask whether my hon. Friend agrees that it is important to recognise that, in the long term, the Kashmiri problem will be properly solved only if the Kashmiri people are given an opportunity of self- determination, as originally laid down in the UN agreement on that matter ? Although Kashmir may not be a sovereign state, it should at least have an opportunity to govern its own affairs.

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Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The important point is that bilateral discussions between India and Pakistan must take place to resolve that problem. We have always recognised that and advocated that there must be a political process and respect for human rights in Kashmir, and a cessation of outside interference in the process.

Mr. Madden : What pressure are Her Majesty's Government putting on the Indian Government to enable the Indian Human Rights Commission to investigate alleged gross human rights violations by Indian security forces ?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Discussions about Kashmir took place between Mr. Narasimha Rao when he visited this country and my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. I understand that in 1993, four Indian human rights groups visited Kashmir : the Committee for Initiatives on Kashmir ; the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre ; Citizens for Democracy ; and the People's Union for Civil Liberties. All those Indian human rights organisations have been in the area during the past 12 months.

Peru --

2. Mr. McFall : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Peruvian Government regarding the presidential decision on the La Cantuta case and its implications for Peru in the international community.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory) : On 23 February, ambassadors from the European Union expressed concern to the Peruvian Government about the handling of that case. They also emphasised the need for human rights violations to be speedily investigated and appropriately punished.

Mr. McFall : Despite international pressure on Peru, President Fujimori decided to refer that case to a military rather than civilian court. The issue is causing a great deal of international concern. The Minister will know that I led a parliamentary human rights delegation on the issue in September and have given him a copy of our report. Will he read the report regarding the opinions of judges and prosecutors, and join his counterparts in Europe and the United States in putting pressure on Peru to introduce a transparent and international system of justice that can be examined ?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The hon. Gentleman is not quite right. It was the Peruvian Congress which altered the law to permit that case to be tried by a military court. Although the judicial process was not altogether satisfactory, nine of the soldiers have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to 20 years. The hon. Gentleman has sent me a copy of the report that he mentioned. I shall read it and endeavour to discuss it with him in due course.

Mr. Jacques Arnold : Should not we bear it in mind that the Peruvian constitutional assembly passed the legislation that allowed the transfer of jurisdiction and should not we consider the reasons why it did that ? Is not the least of the reasons that the elected president and

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constitutional assembly of Peru have to cope with the barbaric terrorism perpetrated in that country by the Sendero Luminoso ?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : As I said, it was not an executive act that permitted the case to be heard by a military court ; it was an act of the Peruvian Congress. Peru faces a particularly violent and ruthless terrorist threat from the Sendero Luminoso, but that does not excuse breaches of respect for human rights by the security forces.

India --

3. Mr. Clifton-Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations relating to trade he received from the Indian Prime Minister during his recent visit.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and, separately, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, discussed bilateral trade and the Indo-British partnership initiative with the Indian Prime Minister during his recent visit. Both sides welcomed the success of the initiative. Since it was launched in January last year, business close to £2 billion has been generated.

Mr. Clifton-Brown : I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Following the most welcome visit by the Indian Prime Minister, his excellency Narasimha Rao, is not the Indo-British partnership initiative, which has signed £2 billion worth of trade agreements, even more important ? Does not the recent visit cement the final order of £1 billion by British Aerospace for Hawk trainers, providing jobs in my constituency and elsewhere ? Is not it thoroughly good news for British industry, as a result of the 1994 Budget which deregulated industries involved in the Indian trade agreements ?

Mr. Hurd : Our exports to India are doing extremely well. They reached £1,130 million last year--a 20 per cent. increase. New contracts were signed, including those that my hon. Friend mentioned with British Aerospace. New contracts were signed during the Prime Minister's visit, in particular a memorandum of understanding for a 1,000 MW power plant in Maharashtra state worth £700 million.

Dr. John Cunningham : Good political and economic relations with the Republic of India should be welcomed and so should our developing trade relations with the republic. I made that clear during my visit to India last week. As we all claim to be friends of the Indian Government, should not we take every opportunity to remind them of their duties and responsibilities for the human and democratic rights of all their people, including the people of Kashmir--which, as the Under-Secretary of State said, I was allowed freely to visit last week--and the people of the state of Punjab ?

Mr. Hurd : I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. We do not have any substantive conversations with Indian Ministers without drawing attention to that problem, as, indeed, he did. He will know that there has been a substantial improvement in the Punjab. There are now elections there and the position has been transformed for the better since a couple of years ago.

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Middle East --

4. Mr. Gallie : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to meet the Israeli Foreign Minister to discuss the middle east peace initiative.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg) : At the moment my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary hasno such plans.

Mr. Gallie : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister is about to lead an Israeli delegation to Oman--the first Israeli delegation to a Gulf state ? Does he welcome this, as he welcomed in the past the talks that were initiated with the Israelis and the PLO ? Will he urge the PLO to resume its place at the negotiating table ?

Mr. Hogg : My hon. Friend is right. The impending visit of Yossi Beilin to Oman is greatly to be welcomed. As to the second part of the question, the answer must be yes. Negotiations are taking place in Cairo at the moment and it is important that the Palestinians and the Israelis get into full negotiations as soon as possible.

Mr. Faulds : Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree with me that the British Government should be putting pressure on the Israeli Government, first, to accept an international presence in the occupied territories to protect the Palestinians, and, after many years of not doing so, to implement international law in those territories, again to protect the Palestinians ?

Mr. Hogg : That is an important point. The hon. Gentleman will bear in mind the fact that we were a co-sponsor of the resolution passed through the Security Council on 18 March, which contained a call for an international or foreign presence in the occupied territories. The British Government support that and would be anxious to participate in such a presence if the conditions were right.

Mr. Brazier : In any such meeting, will my right hon. and learned Friend stress the importance of taking into account the interests of the Lebanese people in the middle eastern settlement ? They have rights as well, and the presence of large numbers of both Syrian and Israeli troops in their country makes their claim to independence rather hollow at present.

Mr. Hogg : My hon. Friend will know that Security Council resolution 425 calls for the withdrawal of the state of Israel from southern Lebanon. We support that resolution and take every opportunity to make it plain to the Israeli Government that they need to comply with it as soon as possible.

Malaysia --

5. Mr. Eastham : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings he has had with representatives of the Malaysian Government to discuss trading relations with the United Kingdom.

Mr. Hurd : Malaysia and our trade with that country matter greatly to us. We cannot afford to see our hard-won market in Malaysia, a thriving south-east Asian economy, surrendered to our competitors.

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I have taken a close interest in efforts to resolve the difficulties. The British high commissioner in Kuala Lumpur and his staff, and members of my Department in London, have been in close touch with the Malaysian Government, the business community and others here and in Malaysia. The Malaysian Government have made it clear that the embargo is limited to new Government contracts. Private sector business is not affected. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education will visit Malaysia after Easter to pursue a range of opportunities in the education sector.

Mr. Eastham : Is not it becoming increasingly clear that the so- called job benefits of the dam scheme turned out to be entirely specious ? Far more economically advantageous work could have been done with, say, gas turbines rather than the hydro scheme. Moreover, are not we denuding other, more deserving, countries of aid--countries in Africa and Latin America, for instance ? Jobs would have been created if we had dealt with those countries instead.

Mr. Hurd : The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs is looking into questions such as that. I entirely disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The aid and trade provision in the aid budget was introduced in 1977 by Mrs. Judith Hart, as she then was, and I think that it was justified. We tightened the rules then, but we do not see why we should find ourselves in a position in which soft aid is given only by our competitors, within the rules, and never by us.

Mr. Couchman : In regard to the dam project--and, in particular, the Public Accounts Committee report on the issue which was published today-- will my right hon. Friend make it entirely clear in discussions with Malaysia that that country, as a sovereign state, had a perfect right to diversify its power supply into hydro-electric, particularly in view of its previous experience with unreliable gas turbine supplies ?

Mr. Hurd : That is essentially a matter for Malaysia. I cannot comment on the PAC report today, but my hon. Friend is entirely right : we have invested heavily in building the friendship between our countries and we want to return relations to a sound and flourishing basis as soon as possible. Despite what is sometimes written, Malaysia's international reputation and economic success are beyond dispute and its vigorous leadership puts a strong emphasis on education, training and determination. We cannot allow the press to get between us.

Mr. Skinner : Does the Foreign Secretary agree that a very careful and deliberate set of negotiations will be needed to sort the matter out and get the show back on the road ? In view of what has occurred over the past fortnight, the lesson is clear : do not send the Prime Minister.

Mr. Hurd : I thought for a moment, given the job description, that the hon. Gentleman was volunteering himself. I am sorry that that is not the case.

South Africa --

6. Mr. Nicholas Winterton : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on what consultations he has had with President F. W. de Klerk about the safeguarding of the interests of all the peoples of South Africa under its new constitution following elections at the end of April.

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Mr. Hurd : My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met President de Klerk on 8 December. He made it clear that we strongly support the establishment of a stable, non-racial and democratic South Africa in which the rights of all citizens are equally respected, and we are prepared to help in any useful way.

Mr. Winterton : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his reply. Having had an opportunity to spend some time in South Africa recently

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : Missing a three-line Whip.

Mr. Winterton : --for which leave of absence was officially granted, and having met representatives from all population groups, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend is aware that there is considerable opposition to the unitary state constitution that could come into effect after the elections at the end of April ? Bearing in mind the lack of safeguards for all the peoples of South Africa under the proposed constitution and the vital part that the South African economy plays in the whole of the African continent, not just for the people of South Africa, will my right hon. Friend urge upon F. W. de Klerk and other political representatives the importance of considering a federal structure to safeguard all interests in that important country ?

Mr. Hurd : It is for South Africans of all communities to discuss and resolve that point. I understand that a summit meeting is soon to take place between the leaders of the main parties. We call on the leaders of the parties to spare no effort to ensure that the transition to a multi- racial democracy is peaceful. All differences, such as those mentioned by my hon. Friend, have to be resolved by peaceful negotiations. That means speaking out clearly against violence, urging restraint among their followers and promoting reconciliation by pursuing their aims and objectives with flexibility and a view to a compromise.

Mr. Robert Hughes : Does the Foreign Secretary agree that by far the best opportunity for peace and progress in southern Africa after the elections is the absolute need for people to accept the results of the elections as being free and fair ? Therefore, will he not listen to the siren voices who advocate federalism and thus give encouragement to Chief Buthelezi and Inkatha, who will not take part in the elections ? Will he make it clear even now that if Chief Buthelezi and Inkatha refuse to accept the elections, they will stand condemned and isolated and will have no friends in this country ?

Mr. Hurd : I and many others have made it clear over many months that the elections are crucial to the future of South Africa. Therefore, we hope that all concerned will take part in them. The hon. Gentleman mentioned observers. There will be about 40 British observers in the United Nations team, 30 in the European team and five in the Commonwealth team. A group of about 20 parliamentarians is, with agreement, going to take part also. It is crucial that the elections should be free and fair and should be seen to be free and fair.

Mr. Colvin : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the long-term stability of the Republic of South Africa will depend very much on the ability of the Government who are elected on 27 April to meet the economic and social expectations of the people of South Africa ? What

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initiatives are Her Majesty's Government taking with regard to trade and investment in South Africa which would assist economic progress in that country ?

Mr. Hurd : Like South African Ministers and the African National Congress, we are certainly encouraging British business men to look with fresh eyes at the new South Africa and to find there the opportunities that undoubtedly exist for trade and investment. The main incentive for trade and investment will be free and fair elections and an end to the violence. An end to the violence is the most crucial incentive.

Dr. Howells : Since this is the last session of Foreign Office questions before the South African elections, will the Government take the opportunity to condemn the terrible slaughter being visited upon that country even this very day by Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha movement and his supporters in the security forces ? Will the Government make clear to the people of South Africa and the rest of the world their total and unequivocal support for the free and fair elections that have been organised in that country and for the emergence of the sort of multi-party, non-racial democracy that is so vital for the economic and political well- being of the southern half of the African continent ?

Mr. Hurd : I have already met the hon. Gentleman's second point twice in answering the main question. On his first point, it is not sensible for us to start allocating blame for death and terrorism to one particular group after a particular incident. That is not our business, but it is our business, and that of all friends of South Africa, to emphasise the two points that I have tried to emphasise, I hope on behalf of the House as a whole. The elections are crucial to the future of South Africa. They will not be successful if they are marred by the terrible violence of the type that we have seen in recent days.

China --

7. Mr. Waterson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the record of the People's Republic of China on human rights ; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Alastair Goodlad) : There are a number of areas where China's human rights record does not meet internationally accepted standards. These include harassment of religious believers, detentions without trial, use of torture on detainees, lack of access to legal representation and continued use of labour camps.

Mr. Waterson : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that it is in our interest, as well as that of the People's Republic of China, to keep up the pressure on China to continue to make advances in the areas that he mentioned, such as the rule of law as we know it, religious tolerance and all the matters that we regard as everyday human rights here and in other countries in the west ?

Mr. Goodlad : My hon. Friend is right, and we take every suitable opportunity to do so. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State raised human rights at both his meetings last year with the Chinese Foreign Minister and handed over a list of prisoners. The matter was also raised by the European Union troika. We co-sponsored the

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resolution at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, but the Chinese again got a "no action" motion passed. My noble Friend Lord Howe led a human rights delegation to China in December 1992 and we are pressing the Chinese to follow up the issues raised by Lord Howe and to send a return delegation to study our legal systems. We have invited various people here--the deputy procurator-general, prison governors and young lawyers--and we are providing training to young Chinese judges and lawyers under Overseas Development Administration auspices.

Dr. Godman : Has the Minister read Amnesty International's report on the 14 Tibetan Buddhist nuns who have had their prison sentences doubled or even trebled for daring to sing pro-independence songs in their prison cells ? If the Minister has not done so already, will he raise that disgraceful affair with the Chinese authorities ? Some of the nuns are still teenagers and will serve many years in prison unless the repressive regime is told that it cannot get away with such disgraceful behaviour.

Mr. Goodlad : The hon. Gentleman raises a very serious matter and I am conscious of the report to which he refers. We have raised a number of human rights issues in Tibet with the Chinese and we will continue to do so in the future.

Mr. Allason : Does my right hon. Friend agree that one way of instilling confidence in the People's Republic of China's administration of Hong Kong after 1997 would be for the Beijing authorities to exercise some restraint in their treatment of dissidents now ?

Mr. Goodlad : My hon. Friend makes a valid point. The 1984 joint declaration on the future of Hong Kong lays down a series of guarantees for human rights in Hong Kong after 1997. In addition, the Hong Kong Government enacted a Bill of Rights which enshrines in Hong Kong law the international covenant on civil and political rights which the joint declaration and the future Basic Law guarantee will remain in force. However, to do what my hon. Friend suggests, which is what we and others continually urge the Chinese to do, would certainly reinforce that.

Rev. Martin Smyth : We will continue to urge the Minister to keep pressure on the Chinese Government. Does he accept that the improper claims on Tibet and the treatment of the Tibetan people deserve condemnation from all communities throughout the world ? Will he continue to deal not only with individual rights, but with that territorial claim over Tibet ?

Mr. Goodlad : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support, and I can give him the undertaking he seeks.

Mr. Rogers : The Minister is absolutely right to condemn the Chinese for the conditions that prevail in their gulags, but, rather than just criticise them, why does he not take some positive action ? There are 1 million political prisoners in China, many of whom are involved in producing goods and materials, which are imported into this country-- especially, for example, coal, cast iron, paper, tea products and so on.

If the Minister is really concerned about the human rights situation and the condition of people in Chinese prisons, the Government ought to block the import of those

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goods under the Foreign Prison-made Goods Act 1897, in the same way as the Americans have blocked Chinese goods that are made in prisons from entering their country.

Mr. Goodlad : The import of goods from prisons in China is, indeed, illegal, as the hon. Gentleman says, and we continue to deplore with the Opposition the use of forced prison labour. There are severe practical difficulties in identifying products manufactured by forced labour, given the complex channels of production and distribution. The United States customs authorities may detain goods on suspicion and have had some access to prison camps, but they have had exactly the same problem as us in identifying specific consignments. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is advocating general trade sanctions, since that would be damaging to the people of China rather than its Government.

Mr. David Atkinson : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the new wave of repression against Christians in China, together with the continued suppression and occupation of Tibet, isolates China as the last of the evil empires in the world ? Will he ask the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the situation in China as a matter of urgency ?

Mr. Goodlad : My hon. Friend is right to say that two new regulations have recently appeared in China to ban foreigners from setting up religious organisations, schools or offices, and from proselytising, giving money and supplying religious materials. The European Union has successfully pressed for a call to respect freedom of religion in the current year's draft UNHCR resolution, and we will continue to include freedom of religion among the human rights topics that we pursue with the Chinese.

India And Pakistan (Human Rights) --

8. Mr. Bill Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met representatives of the Indian and Pakistani Governments to discuss human rights.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed human rights with the Indian Prime Minister during his visit to Britain earlier in the month. I last discussed human rights with the Pakistani Foreign Secretary in February.

Mr. Michie : Will the Secretary of State stress vigorously that the Indian Government should make public the names of those who are in detention from Kashmir and the Punjab ?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I understand that a great deal of information is disclosed in that area. If the hon. Gentleman has any cases that he wishes to draw to my attention, I will of course pursue them, as they are always pursued to seek information on any special subject.

Mr. Jessel : Is my hon. Friend aware that the most important human right is the right to stay alive, but that no terrorists should be given any quarter anywhere ? Only yesterday, in Srinagar, there was a bomb blast in which several Indian army officers were killed. Does my hon. Friend agree that such mindless violence should be rigorously denounced ?

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Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The violence in Kashmir must be handled by the Indian security forces and forces for order, who are the Government of that area. We recognise that. It has to be handled properly and that is why our concern for human rights in that policing operation is expressed on every suitable occasion.

Israel --

10. Mr. David Young : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to press Israel to dismantle Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas and to hand back the Golan heights to Syria.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : We regularly make representations to the Israelis urging them to cease the construction of settlements which we regard as illegal. The Golan heights are occupied territory. Under Security Council resolution 242, Israel should withdraw from territories occupied in 1967.

Mr. Young : In view of Prince Philip's impending visit to Israel, where he is to receive a posthumous award on behalf of his mother--[ Laughter. ]--his mother's posthumous award for rescuing Jewish families, is it not now time to remind the Israelis that peace will be more stable in the middle east if they return to Syria territory that they hold and which is legitimately Syrian, if they dismantle the settlements where Palestinians are harassed in their own lands, and if they further control their army units, which wish to behave to the Palestinians as the Germans did to the Jews ?

Mr. Hogg : I feel that Prince Philip will be a bit depressed by the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks. But leaving that aside, he made two goodish points : first, the settlements are an obstacle to the peace process ; and, secondly, if there is to be peace between Israel and Syria, Israel must be ready to withdraw from the Golan heights.

Mr. Hicks : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the positive involvement of Syria is central to the middle east process and, clearly, the illegal occupation of the Golan heights by Israel is a major obstacle to achieving that objective ?

Mr. Hogg : My hon. Friend is right--full participation by Syria in the peace process is essential. To make an effective peace settlement between Israel and Syria, it is important that Israel makes it plain that she will withdraw from the Golan heights. It is important that Syria makes it plain that there will be a full treaty of friendship between Syria and Israel.

Mrs. Jane Kennedy : Given that the Labour Government in Israel have made clear their willingness to discuss the return of the Golan heights and the future of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, does the Minister welcome the many initiatives that the Labour Government have taken, including the initiative mentioned earlier by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie)--the impending visit of Yossi Beilin to Oman ?

Mr. Hogg : Yes. The Labour Government under Mr. Rabin have indeed made important steps towards achieving an agreed settlement between themselves and the Arab states and between themselves and the Palestinians. However, we must recognise that there

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remain a number of important obstacles--for example, how best to secure the safety both of Palestinians and, indeed, of settlers who are in the present difficulties. That question must be considered positively by Prime Minister Rabin and the Israeli Government.

Mr. Batiste : Is not it clear that the closer any of the negotiations in the middle east gets to success, the more likely it is that extremists on both sides will do their best to disrupt them by further atrocities, such as those at Hebron ? Is not the best role for this Government to get the parties to the negotiating table and keep them there, despite the severe provocations they may face, because lasting peace can be achieved only through bilateral agreements ?

Mr. Hogg : My hon. Friend is right. As the parties to the negotiations get closer to a final agreement, there is a real risk that extremists on both sides will use violence in a way that this House understands. It is, therefore, important that the parties to the negotiations commit themselves to an early agreement, because it will reduce the risk of a permanent disruption in the process.

European Union --

11. Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement concerning the nature and content of any provisional or draft text of any treaty for the enlargement of the European Community or Union, including details of the likely date of initial signature and the nature of the ratification process in the United Kingdom Parliament.

Mr. Hurd : The text of an accession treaty with Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden is nearly ready. The applicant countries and member states will sign the treaty after the European Parliament has completed its assent procedure. A Bill giving effect to the treaty in United Kingdom law will be put to Parliament once the treaty has been signed.

Mr. Spearing : Does not the acceptability of the content of that treaty by Her Majesty's Government depend on various undertakings that the House heard specifically yesterday ? Will the Foreign Secretary tell us which of those undertakings will be incorporated in the content of the treaty and, if they will not be so incorporated, where else they will be written down ? Has not the right hon. Gentleman seen reports to the effect that when the undertaking said to have been given by the Commission was put to Mr. Delors yesterday, he said, "No, no, no" ? How does the Foreign Secretary reconcile that answer from Mr. Delors with what we were told yesterday ?

Mr. Hurd : On the hon. Member's first point, once the treaty has been signed, Parliament will be asked to consider a Bill giving effect to the accession treaty in United Kingdom law. The Bill will seek to add the accession treaty to the Community treaties listed in section 1(2) of the 1972 Act.

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's second point, the Commission has confirmed that its legislative programme does not envisage the use of the health and safety articles of the treaty, other than for measures directly and demonstrably relevant to health and safety at work.

The Commission has also confirmed that proposals brought forward under the social chapter will not apply to the United Kingdom. For the purposes of the agreement,

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the United Kingdom will be considered as a third country. These assurances were given by the Commission, with the full authority of Mr. Delors, and have been reconfirmed this morning.

Mr. David Howell : Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge that there have been some rather confused and mixed reports about what the Commission has agreed to in the way of relinquishing health and safety and social provisions ? Can he confirm that firm undertakings have been given that those functions will be relinquished back to national level ? I refer to very important regulations and controls over important health and safety and social legislation of the kind that we have always backed, but have always argued are best worked out at national rather than Community level.

Mr. Hurd : The assurances given are the ones to which the Prime Minister referred yesterday and which I have again detailed today. As I have said, they were given by the Commission, with the full authority of Mr. Delors, and have been reconfirmed this morning.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : On the question of minority and majority voting, was the issue of the threshold specifically excluded from the 1996 agenda prior to the agreement into which the right hon. Gentleman entered last weekend ?

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