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Mr. Hurd : It is very important that British business, with the interests in South Africa that my hon. Friend mentions, should follow carefully the opportunities and prospects that are now opening up. They are different and there will certainly be difficulties. The road ahead is bound to include a good many rocks. However, if British business follows the developments with the care that those developments deserve, I hope and believe that the future for British interests and British investment in South Africa will be bright.
Mr. Robert Hughes : Having had the privilege of witnessing at first hand the election that took place last week, may I ask the Foreign Secretary to agree that it was a most massive and convincing approval of democracy ? Given the immense tasks of reconstruction to end the legacies of apartheid, will the Foreign Secretary guarantee that he will not simply regard South Africa as yesterday's problem but will realise that it is an issue in which he must keep an overriding interest in the future ?
Mr. Hurd : I hope that what I have said today already shows that. Of course the election difficulties were very great and they have not all been overcome, as the news today shows. Nevertheless, it has been a remarkable feat. I am grateful--and the House should be grateful--to hon. Members on both sides of the House who took part and helped to ensure that.
Sir Michael Marshall : Does my right hon. Friend accept that those who have been in touch with political leaders in South Africa in recent weeks are aware of their keen interest in having support for the maintenance of their new democracy in practical terms in respect of assistance to political parties and for the new Parliament itself ? While the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association will wish to play a full part in that, will my right hon. Friend assure us that the Government will consider practical ways to carry forward that programme ?
Mr. Hurd : Indeed, and we shall look to the Westminster Foundation, which is already active in South Africa, to take up--and, where it thinks it justified, to finance--projects to help advance democracy based on parties.
Dr. John Cunningham : The Opposition join the Foreign Secretary in expressing our great joy at the ending of the dreadful tyranny of apartheid, and we send our warmest congratulations to our friends in the African National Congress, Mr. Nelson Mandela, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, Mr. Mendi Msimang and many others. Should we not also record our respect for the role played by Mr. de Klerk in the historic victory for democracy in South Africa ? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept, however, that this is simply the starting point in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the social and economic fabric of a great country ? Not only do we owe a great historic debt to that country, but we have significant economic links with it.
For all those reasons, will the right hon. Gentleman work in the European Union, the United Nations and the
Column 715Commonwealth, and with the Treasury within the British Government, to seek significantly to increase the package of support to which he has referred today ?
Mr. Hurd : I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is the end of one chapter--the chapter of apartheid--and the starting point of a new one. It begins with great hope, but it will certainly include many difficulties, as everyone agrees. Those difficulties must be solved by South Africans within South Africa, but the world outside can help--through investment, through the sort of technical assistance that I have summarised today, and through trade. That is why we and the Germans have paid particular attention in recent months to the new trading arrangements that South Africa will need with the European Union.
Mrs. Knight : Does my hon. Friend consider that the new Italian Government are likely to share the attitude of our Government in their approach to the European Union, especially our opposition to the creation of a socialist super-state ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : We do not yet know the attitudes and policies of the new Government, but I expect them to bring some fresh thinking to the issues facing the European Union. We hope to work closely with them to promote British interests, particularly in budgetary discipline, subsidiarity and the promotion of free markets and free trade. We also hope to agree on keeping the European Union outward looking and diverse, respecting the nation state and preventing the creation of a socialist super-state. There is a great deal of evidence that the new Italian Government and the constituent parties in the future coalition share many of our attitudes. We look forward to maintaining a close working relationship with the future Italian Government, as we did with the last.
Mr. Winnick : Given that it is 50 years since the liberation of Italy from fascism, is it not a matter for concern that some of the people involved in the new Government have highly praised the notorious war criminal and mass murderer, Mussolini, and that the Speaker of the Italian Parliament has made similar remarks ? Is it too much to ask the Conservative Government here to make it absolutely clear that we consider Mussolini a notorious mass murderer and that we hold in contempt all in Italy who consider him some sort of hero ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Signor Mussolini is not participating in the new Italian Government. If any supporters of his were to do so, we should naturally take that into account in our relations with them. It is for the Italians to decide who governs them. If the new Ministers are properly elected and appointed by the Italian people, we shall look forward to working with them.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The Italians have been through something of a democratic revolution in recent months. We respect their choice in electing the parties that they have elected. Judging by the programme on which those parties have been elected, we believe that there are fruitful areas for co- operation between the British Government and the future Italian Government.
Mr. Hurd : We are certainly willing to do the second and, as my hon. Friend probably knows, there have been discussions on particular projects. As regards the first point, the arms embargo was imposed because of Israeli action in Lebanon and we would be prepared to review the arms embargo in the light of progress on the Lebanese track of the peace process.
Mr. Janner : Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, following my extraordinary and refreshing visits to Saudi Arabia and Oman last week, I was privileged yesterday to attend the multilateral discussions in Qatar about middle east disarmament ? Will the right hon. Gentleman join me in congratulating Qatar on its courage in holding the discussions there, Israel and the other participants on taking part and the Saudis on at last taking a thoroughly active and, one hopes, soon constructive part in the proceedings ? Will the Foreign Secretary ask the Syrians now to join as without them there is little hope of the proceedings achieving the results that we all want ?
Mr. Hurd : The hon. and learned Gentleman is a notable pilgrim to places of interest at times of interest and, whether by coincidence or as a consequence, things do on the whole seem to be moving in the right direction. I do not know whether he has yet booked his passage to Damascus.
Mr. Hurd : My visit to the Falkland Islands was the first by a Foreign Secretary. It is a heart-warming place. The islanders are proud of their way of life and much attached to it and to Britain. They have made great strides since 1982. Their population has increased, the fisheries revenue
Column 717has brought new prosperity and they are confident about the future. I was able to reassure the islanders that, while we seek improved relations with Argentina, their sovereignty is not for discussion and we shall continue to support their right to self- determination.
Mr. Shersby : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he has discussed developments in the Falkland Islands continental shelf with legislative councillors, particularly the plans for a licence round for oil exploration and exploitation starting this year and coming to a conclusion in 1995 ? Will he confirm that those plans will go ahead as quickly as possible ?
Mr. Hurd : That was something which I discussed in general terms with the councillors in Port Stanley and, as I said in answer to an earlier question, we expect to have discussions with the Argentines about oil before long. The islanders, I found, were interested in exploiting and benefiting from the oil if--it is still a big if--it is found to exist in marketable conditions. We have not excluded co-operation with Argentine interests in this, but it is clear from our general policy that any arrangements of that kind must not prejudice our sovereignty over the islands.
Mr. Foulkes : As the present and previous Argentine Governments have made it absolutely clear that they pose no military threat whatever to the Falkland Islands, and as the Foreign Secretary said earlier that Argentine and British soldiers are fighting side by side in UN peacekeeping forces, why is it necessary to continue an arms embargo on Argentina ?
Mr. Hurd : I welcome very much what the Argentine Government said about the use of force, but one cannot peer with any great certainty into the future for ever. As I said in answer to an earlier question, it would be a great simplification of all the matters if Argentina were to drop its claim to the islands.
Mr. Bendall : In view of the remarks that my right hon. Friend made about a review of the Israeli arms embargo, may I ask him what time scale would possibly be in mind ? Clearly, to take off the embargo, which the other European countries would also do, would help British exports and British jobs.
Mr. Gunnell : Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the agreement that we have welcomed today is really the beginning of a peace process in the sense that it represents the first fruits of the discussions ? Will he make it clear that we expect that those discussions will go forward and bring other rewards and, indeed, that the behaviour of people in the territories that have self-rule will to some extent depend
Column 718on whether there is movement forward ? Will the Foreign Secretary spell out the things he hopes that the peace talks will achieve next ?
Mr. Hurd : There are three remaining tracks. There is the Syrian track, on which the American Secretary of State is seeking to make progress now, and I warmly support what he is doing between Tel Aviv and Damascus. There is the Jordanian track, in which there is a problem of frontiers and other practical matters, and we are in close touch with the King and the Israelis about that. Then there is the Lebanese track. Progress is needed on all of them.
Mr. Hurd : The Syrians say that they want total Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The Israelis say that they want total peace with Syria. The discussions turn on how one defines and, indeed, how one times total withdrawal and total peace. That is what the American Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, is trying to elucidate.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The United Nations Secretary-General's special representative on Cyprus, Mr. Joe Clark, held talks in Cyprus last week. He was attempting to secure agreement on the implementation of a package of confidence-building measures which we actively support. President Clerides agreed to the UN implementation plan some time ago, but Mr. Denktash continues to have objections to it. The Secretary-General will shortly submit a report on the talks to the Security Council.
Mrs. Roche : Does the Minister agree that it is about time that the British Government took a very tough stance indeed with the illegal regime of Mr. Denktash, who is clearly blocking any possibility of settlement in relation to Cyprus ? Would it not help if the British Government would more actively back Cyprus's application for membership of the European Union ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : We have been playing an active role in trying to get the confidence-building measures accepted by both sides. That cannot be done by force. It has to be done by persuasion and diplomatic effort. We regret that Mr. Denktash has, at least for the present, refused to take forward the measures. The Security Council will be considering what future measures to take in due course.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I understand the emotions that lie beneath my hon. Friend's question, but we must try to live less in the past and look more to the future. That is why we are doing all that we can to bring about a reconciliation between the two parts of that divided island.
Mr. John D. Taylor : Does the Minister agree that originally both the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots accepted in principle the confidence-building measures proposed by the United Nations, and that the collapse of the talks last week was a result of a new map being submitted by the United Nations at the request of the Greek Cypriots which contradicted the original one presented on the table ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : There have been some changes in the original confidence-building measures plan, but they would still have benefited both communities. I think it is clear to impartial observers that it is Mr. Denktash who has not shown the political will on this occasion.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The Copenhagen European Council in June 1993 agreed that the associate countries of central and eastern Europe that so wished could join the European Union as soon as they were able to assume the obligations of membership by satisfying the economic and political conditions required. We are fully committed to that objective.
Mr. Duncan : Does my hon. Friend agree that, having pressed those countries to shake off the shackles of communism, it would be negligent if we were then to deny them the benefits of free trade ? Does he agree with me that free trade and democracy are not only the guarantees of peace but the best means by which those countries can qualify for membership of the Community in the future ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Yes, I think that we have a duty to try to help stabilise the democracies in those newly liberated countries. One of the best ways of doing that is to trade with them--in other words, not just to encourage them to promote market economies but to provide a market for the goods that they produce. This country is at the forefront of those member states that are calling for exactly such access.
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