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Mr. Churchill : While warmly welcoming the enlargement of the Community, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that an overwhelming majority of people in the United Kingdom and a significant element of opinion among our European Union partners do not wish to see us end up in a centralised federal Europe ? Will he undertake to fight all the way to ensure that, when this matter comes up again for decision, in 1996, we shall have as many allies as possible to ensure that national rights and national sovereignty are not ridden over roughshod ?
Mr. Hurd : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Right across Europe, a growing number of people reject the idea of a centralised super-state. There was a time when people felt that in order to be a good European one had to believe that executive power should be moved gradually, step by step, to the centre. That is no longer the belief of sensible people--for example, Chancellor Kohl. However, we shall not have to wait until 1996 ; this will be a principal issue in the forthcoming European elections in the United Kingdom, as it is a point which separates Conservatives very clearly and plainly from both the main Opposition parties.
Mr. John Cunningham : Before the right hon. Gentleman continues to do what he did on Monday--misrepresent the position of the Labour party and, for that matter, I believe, the Liberal party, although that is a matter for its members--may I ask whether he recognises that there is no question of the Labour party's supporting a federal Europe ? No part of our policy commits us to abandoning the so-called Luxembourg compromise. Nor is there any part of our policy that would abandon our position on the need for unanimity on the issues of economic, foreign and defence policies. It is quite dishonest of the right hon. Gentleman to suggest otherwise.
Mr. Hurd : It is nice to have the right hon. Gentleman so clearly on the back foot and on the defensive. What I did on Monday--or whatever day it was ; I am happy to do again today--was remind the right hon. Gentleman what the Leader of the Opposition put his fist to in the Euro- socialist manifesto. I do not know whether he read it before he signed it, but what he said was that majority voting should be the norm. [ Hon. Members :-- "It is now."] It is not the norm now. I do not see how one can possibly make any sense of that sentence without supposing that it will at least dilute the unanimity rule, to which the Government hold firmly.
Mr. Paice : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the accession of the four countries will bring a shift in the voting balance from the south to the north of the continent of Europe, and from the recipients to the contributors ?
Will he confirm also that, by 1996, we will have a good idea whether there has been a perceptible shift in the direction of Europe, which we believe could come from the accession of the four countries ? Will not that be the time when we will rightly be able to address the questions of majority voting, the threshold and the weighting ? If that shift has not taken place at that time, will not the Government stand up for Britain ?
Mr. Hurd : My hon. Friend is exactly right. The three Scandinavian countries and Austria--for whose entry we have worked for a long time, particularly my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister--will be net contributors. It is certainly true that, when they take a full part in the discussions in 1996, they will be clearly equipped to make judwoments of their own.
I should take the point further than my hon. Friend. In 1996, I believe that we will be looking forward to a Community not of 16 countries, but considerably larger. The arguments that have been tossed about in the House during recent months and, indeed, years will be well out of date by then. I cannot think that the European Union will be able to accommodate more than 16 members without a radical look at many aspects, both of its institutions and of its policies, such as the common agricultural policy.
12. Mr. Grocott : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to discuss with the South African Government the extent of international support for the democratic process in that country.
13. Dr. Goodson-Wickes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance has been offered by the United Kingdom for the proper administration of the forthcoming general elections in South Africa.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We are in regular contact with the South African Government and other main parties to discuss international support for the transition to democracy. We have so far pledged 75 election observers to the United Nations, European Union and Commonwealth operations.
Mr. Grocott : Is not the crucial lesson of the tragedy in Angola-- and, it must be said, the dreadful failure of the international community in Angola--that it is no use sending observers before elections and monitors during
Column 924them unless there is full support from the international community for the democratic decision once it has been made ?
While those who decide to abstain in the South African elections will have made their decision, will the hon. Gentleman and the Government do all in their power to ensure that once the people of South Africa have made their decision on election day, the full and unequivocal weight of the international community will come in behind that democratic decision ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The hon. Gentleman knows full well that we give full support to the democratic process in South Africa and we will give full support to the people's democratic decision when it takes place. That is why we are doing so much to help bring that about. The hon. Gentleman talks about other matters which must be done before elections. One thing to bear in mind is the help--in a small way, but none the less significant-- that Britain is giving. Seventeen British police officers have been attached to groups involved in electoral administration, and a further nine for other electoral matters. Seven Army officers are involved and help with the media is coming from the BBC and from other consultants. We are giving practical help to the South African election process in that way.
Dr. Goodson-Wickes : Speaking as somebody who has lived and worked in South Africa, I am conscious of the significant role that has been played by the Government in dismantling apartheid. I hope that that will be recognised one day in the history books.
In welcoming my hon. Friend's answer, may I ask him to assure the House that he will react positively to any further requests from the South African Government for civilian, police or military aid, which this country is so superbly equipped to offer ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My hon. Friend may rest assured that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is considering sympathetically requests of that nature. When they are made, they may well be accommodated in the way that he would wish.
Mr. Gapes : Will the Minister make the strongest possible representations to Inkatha and make it clear to that organisation at this stage that its behaviour, its murderous activities and its refusal to participate in the elections will mean that there is no question of support of any kind from his Government, or even from some of the voices on the Conservative Back Benches ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has referred to a meeting that he and I hope, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman hopes, will take place shortly between all the leading representatives, including Inkatha, Chief Buthelezi, the South African Government, the African National Congress and others.
Mr. John Carlisle : Given the wide range of political activity in South Africa, from active communists in the African National Congress to the so-called neo-fascists in the AWB, does my hon. Friend agree that many people will feel ostracised after the election in April and that, therefore, international support could be given to the idea that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) proposed, of some sort of federal state, so that
Column 925there will not be too many people outside a system which many will find distasteful and, indeed, extremely dangerous ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said in answer to earlier questions, all these matters must be for the South African people. As I have repeated, and repeat now for the third time in the House this afternoon, there is shortly to be a meeting between all the leading parties at which we hope, and I am sure my hon. Friend hopes, outstanding issues such as he mentions will be resolved.
Mr. Worthington : As members of the party that helped to build up Chief Buthelezi during the 1980s, will the Government use their influence in South Africa to tell him that there is no sympathy whatever for his posturing, and particularly for his role in the killings on Monday in Johannesburg ? Will he say that there is no sympathy whatever for the posturing of King Goodwill in delaying the meeting that is crucial to agreement between the major parties in South Africa, and urge on them both that there have to be free and fair elections ? Then we can see the true extent of Chief Buthelezi's support.
Mr. Hurd : We are rebuilding a close friendship with the Baltic states. Trade is increasing quite fast. I visited Latvia in February and had warm and positive talks with the Foreign Ministers of the three Baltic states. Our strong support for Baltic sovereignty and independence and gradual Baltic integration into European structures will be maintained.
Mr. Colvin : I am sure that the whole House will applaud the signing up of all three Baltic states to NATO's partnership for peace. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what will be done to evaluate their military capability ? What are Her Majesty's Government doing to assist the Baltic states in setting up the so-called Baltic battalion ?
Mr. Hurd : We are helping to train the battalion composed of units from the three Baltic states as part of a multinational programme of help. Royal Marines will provide individual and company-level training. We are working on the programme with Scandinavian countries. It is very much welcomed by the three countries involved and it is a clear proof, I hope, of our support for Baltic sovereignty and independence.
Mrs. Ewing : Given the importance of trade for the three Baltic states, will the Foreign Secretary consider the possibility of enabling those countries, perhaps through the know-how fund or the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, to mount stands at international exhibitions,
Column 926particularly in Britain, at which they could learn and could also sell to this country much of the expertise they have-- for example, in agriculture and forestry.
Mr. Hurd : I will look at the hon. Lady's suggestion. The know-how fund is already active in the three countries and, as I have said, our trade and investment is increasing rapidly. We are the largest overseas investor in Lithuania, and Cable and Wireless has just won a very large telecommunications contract in Latvia. Let me look at the hon. Lady's suggestion.
Mr. Hurd : That is a very important point ; I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I am not exactly sure how the discussion stands, but we have certainly been strongly urging the point which my hon. Friend makes.
15. Ms Eagle : 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.
Ms Eagle : Would the Minister care to comment on reports that Ameristar, a company taken over by Mark Thatcher, has just landed a lucrative contract with the state-owned Malaysian Oil Corporation ? Does he think that this is due to merit, or to services rendered by Lady Thatcher when she gave the initial go-ahead to the Pergau dam project ? Does he think that British taxpayers' money should be used as a sweetener to enrich the fortunes of the son of a former Prime Minister ?
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : Will my right hon. Friend make a point of congratulating the Malaysian Government and their defence forces on the admirable work that they have done in recent days in seeking to rescue the climbers of the British Army ? Will he pay tribute to the courage of one pilot in particular, who certainly risked his life to extricate our climbers, and will he do all he can to make sure that relations between the defence forces of our country and Malaysia remain warm and cordial ?
Mr. Goodlad : I agree whole-heartedly with my hon. Friend. The contribution of the Malaysian armed forces was absolutely crucial-- particularly that of the pilot mentioned by my hon. Friend. Their professionalism was absolutely exemplary ; without it, the outcome could have been very different indeed.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has sent a message of thanks to Dr Mahathir, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has written to his opposite number in Malaysia. The co-operation to which my hon. Friend rightly draws our attention shows the real
Column 927strength of the relations between the United Kingdom and Malaysia. I am pleased that the press, too, have recognised that.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made full written statements to the House following the negotiations at the Foreign Affairs Councils on 7 March, 8 March, 15 March and 22 March. I made a written statement on 25 March. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made an oral statement to the House yesterday on the outcome of the negotiations on the institutional implications.
Mr. Hoon : Does the Minister accept that the so-called concessions claimed by the Prime Minister yesterday as a significant success on social policy questions were, in fact, no more than a reminder of well- established, well-known European Commission policy for 1994 ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : No, I do not accept that at all. It was very important to get this matter clarified. The House has heard already from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that the Commission has confirmed that health and safety measures will be brought forward on the right treaty base and that Britain's opt-out from the social chapter will be respected in full. This is a side issue to the main issue of majority voting, but the fact that the Opposition regard it as unimportant shows their true attitude about the social chapter.
Column 928their ancient sovereignty and their ancient culture, yet all accept fully the acquis communautaire and all the provisions of the Maastricht treaty and future developments ? Can we follow their good example, bearing in mind the fact that they have no significant opt-outs in any major constitutional areas ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : My hon. Friend is right. We know that those four states, which I hope will all accede on time on 1 January next year, will not agree with us about everything, but that, in the main, they will be our allies in ensuring budgetary discipline and keeping the Community diverse and outward-looking. They believe, as we do, that the nation state is the foundation and the building block for European Union.
Ms Quin : Given the confusion in the press today, does the Minister think that a reasonable delay is two months, as has been claimed by other countries in the European Union, or indefinitely, which is what the Prime Minister seemed to imply ?
Mr. Dickens : Does my hon. Friend agree that, since the United Kingdom liberated France during the war and the French voted no against us for 10 years because of their interests, it would not have been the end of the world if we had asked our friends in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Austria to wait two years until we had served our interests ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Yes, but we have been able to do both. We have protected British interests and secured the accession of the four states on time next year, if that is agreed in their referendums.
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