Considered ; to be read the Third time.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd) : I apologise for the absence of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who is in former Yugoslavia today.
My right hon. Friend has not recently discussed Afghanistan with representatives of the United Nations.
Mr. Hanson : In view of the continuing slaughter of innocent people in Kabul and other centres of population in Afghanistan, will the Foreign Secretary and the Minister arrange an early meeting with the United Nations to raise two matters--first, the need for an urgent arms embargo, especially on weapons from Pakistan ; and secondly, the early re- establishment of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Afghanistan, which was withdrawn from the country in January ? While the slaughter continues, both measures are needed.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We have regular contacts with United Nations representatives. In recent months, we have supported two Security Council presidential statements calling for an end to the hostilities and for support for the programme of humanitarian aid.
The United Nations is seeking to re-establish its presence in Afghanistan. A proposal is under consideration to put a mission from the UNHCR back in the country.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We are fully joining in international efforts to bring a halt to the bloodshed. On 8 June, the Security Council approved the deployment of an expanded United Nations force. We have offered 50 trucks to the United Nations Aid Mission in Rwanda, UNAMIR, and we are considering whether we can do more. We have supported the French initiative to mount a humanitarian mission until the expanded UNAMIR can be put in place.
Since 6 April, we have given more than £11 million in humanitarian aid, and a further Overseas Development Administration assessment mission is now visiting the region. Once it returns we shall consider what further bilateral assistance we can provide, including in the areas covered by the French initiative.
Mr. Hughes : I thank the Minister for his answer and for the letter to us all from the Minister for Overseas Development. Can he assure the House that we are giving as much humanitarian assistance as is needed ? Can he ensure that the people of Rwanda are protected in the humanitarian zone ? Given the finding that genocide has been perpetrated in Rwanda, can he assure the House that all responsible for it will speedily be brought to justice by the relevant international authorities ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I have outlined the humanitarian assistance that has been given to help refugees in the humanitarian zone and the neighbourhood, and a mission is assessing whether we should be doing more.
I can confirm that the French have established a humanitarian zone and that people can live there safely.
A Security Council resolution of 1 July established a commission of experts to analyse the information relating to violations of international human standards in Rwanda.
Mr. Worthington : Is not it true that the French stepped in only because of the failure of the United Nations to act with urgency, and that the French have committed themselves to pulling out at the end of July ? All my information leads me to believe that there is no commitment to replace them. Surely the Minister realises that 50 trucks are wholly inadequate as supplementary logistical support. Whatever else happens, can the Minister assure us that we will be spared the obscenity of the Government of Rwanda becoming the president of the UN Security Council in September ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The hon. Gentleman has heard what Isaid and he has been in correspondence with my ministerial colleagues. I can only reiterate that the provision of British equipment is the result of what has been requested of us by the United Nations. Of course, we are not the only country that has responded in that area. A number of countries have offered logistical support, including ourselves, America, Russia, France, Canada and South Africa. So there are others involved. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the troops sought by the Secretary-General are coming from a number of African countries, which I think is right ; they are from Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Congo and Mali. Local countries have taken the initiative at the request of the Secretary-General.
Mr. Lester : In his report to the Security Council, the Secretary- General suggested that, because the performance of the Security Council and the international community in dealing with the issue was, I think he said, deplorable, he would set up an inquiry into the operation of the international community when confronted with crises such as that in Rwanda. Has my hon. Friend any news about the inquiry ? Has it been set up, and at what stage will we hear the result of it ?
Dr. John Cunningham : The United Nations agreed a force for Rwanda, but did not agree its deployment. Now that its deployment has been agreed, we are told that it has been held up because of lack of logistical support from western countries. Why is further delay occurring ? Genocide continues in Rwanda and hundreds of thousands of terrified people are flooding across the borders of some of the most impoverished countries in the world. Of course, no sensible person blames all that on Her Majesty's Government ; I am not suggesting that. [Laughter.] I am dismayed that Conservative Members think that this is a laughing matter ; it just shows how pathetic their attitude really is. We want to know from Foreign Office Ministers whether it is lack of capability or lack of political will that is preventing the United Nations from getting its act together.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : No. I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman was seeking to cast blame widely--including, in part, on the British Government. We have responded to the request of the Secretary-General for the supply of equipment. We have made that equipment available ; it is being inspected by United Nations people at the moment and will be ready for deployment when the United Nations is ready. It is not lack of support from the British Government that is constraining activities in that area. As to humanitarian aid, we responded immediately and provided a substantial amount of help ; we are ready to do more. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the British Government cannot be accused of not taking our international commitments seriously as we are the fourth largest contributor to United Nations operations in the world.
Mrs. Kennedy : I am pleased to hear that from the Minister. Is he aware of concern about the British Government's attitude to the continuing Arab trade boycott of Israel ? Does he agree that British companies need the
Column 972shield of legislation to allow them unequivocally to reject demands that they comply with the boycott ? Will he consider introducing such legislation here ?
Mr. Hogg : There is concern about the trade boycott and we deplore that boycott. I am glad to say that the tertiary and secondary boycott has been falling away and that there has been a substantial increase in the volume of United Kingdom exports to Israel. In 1993, exports to Israel were up by 50 per cent ; in the first five months of this year, exports to Israel were up by 26 per cent ; and Israel is now the third most important export market for United Kingdom goods in the middle east.
Mr. Hogg : That is certainly a matter which should be given the utmost consideration by those who will have to negotiate Jerusalem's status. It has long been agreed that that status will be addressed at the very end of the peace process, which I consider both inevitable and right, but the parties to the negotiations will wish to think seriously about finding a way for Palestinians and Israelis to share Jerusalem.
Sir David Steel : Will Her Majesty's Government give a warm welcome to last week's political initiative from King Hussein of Jordan, which has received a ready response from the Israeli Government ? I understand that official talks between the two countries are taking place this very week.
Mr. Hogg : The right hon. Gentleman is quite right, and we do indeed give a warm welcome to the speech made by His Majesty the King of Jordan. Negotiations between Jordan and Israel will start on 18 July, and will deal with such important subjects as the border, security and water. That is a very welcome development, and we applaud it.
Mr. John Marshall : I welcome the recent improvements in relations between Britain and Israel, but may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to agree with people in Israel who--remembering what happened in the years before 1967--are reluctant for Jerusalem ever again to become a divided city ?
Mr. Hogg : I do not think that I can sensibly add to what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South-West (Sir D. Madel). The question of Jerusalem is of key importance, and is best dealt with at the end of the peace process. There are powerfully competing emotions among all sides in the negotiations, which must be dealt with sensibly.
Dr. Howells : I am sure the Minister will agree that the international community has a duty to help the new Administration in Gaza and Jericho. No doubt he is aware that that Administration requires an estimated £900 million of aid just to stabilise living conditions for the 700,000 Palestinians who live in Gaza, mostly in deplorable conditions. Will the Government give a lead in ensuring that the money promised by donor countries is delivered to those who have the great task of rebuilding Gaza ?
Column 973made it plain that, in addition to the £70 million that we would make available over the next three years, we were providing an additional £5 million in bilateral assistance. That will go largely to the Palestinian police force, but there will be other technical support. The hon. Gentleman should also bear in mind the fact that, for example, the Bank of England is now helping the Palestinians to establish a Palestinian monetary authority. We are already playing a full part, and we now look to others to do likewise.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I am glad to say that exports to the Asia-Pacific rim region rose by 28.5 per cent. in 1993 to £13 billion, and that since 1990 total export promotion effort at the Foreign Office posts in Asian and Pacific rim countries has risen by 23 per cent.
Mr. Butler : I welcome the increasing trade in what might be termed a frontier market, but I was seeking assurances about the amount of additional assistance that the Foreign Office is offering business men. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the increased co-operation with the Department of Trade and Industry will continue, so that our business men receive as much assistance in these important markets as business men in our European competitor nations ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My hon. Friend is quite right. As I have said, the export promotion effort has risen substantially : we have created 40 new front-line commercial jobs at posts in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Delhi, Singapore and Hanoi, and at the British trade and cultural office in Taipei. My hon. Friend can rest assured that a great deal of effort is going into meeting that frontier market.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : How many letters has the Foreign Office received from British business men or businesses suggesting--indeed, complaining--that Britain's attitude to China over Hong Kong is costing them business ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Some facts speak clearly for themselves. In 1992, exports to China were up 72 per cent. and in the first quarter of 1994 they were up 22 per cent., so we are on course to do the same again this year. I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. There have been assurances from Chinese Premier Li Peng and from the Vice Premier and Foreign Minister that China will not discriminate against British companies in commercial interests.
Dr. Spink : I congratulate my hon. Friend on the performance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in trade development in recent years. Notwithstanding the statistics that he has just given us in relation to China, is my hon. Friend satisfied that we are doing as much as we can--and as much as our major competitors--to capture that fast-growing market ?
Column 974they are difficult to make. I believe that we are making an enormous effort to help British exporters, who are responding.
5. Mr. Hutton : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the work of the war crimes tribunal investigating atrocities in the former Yugoslavia.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : We co-sponsored Security Council resolution 827 which established the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. We welcome the recent appointment of Judge Richard Goldstone of South Africa as the prosecutor. In the meantime, we have been co-operating with and supporting the work of the acting deputy prosecutor, Mr. Blewitt, who has been setting up the prosecutor's office in The Hague.
Mr. Hutton : I thank the Minister for that reply. Can he tell the House when he thinks that the first indictments will be issued by the tribunal and when the first prosecutions are likely to start ? Does the Minister think that the time may be right for the British Government to give serious consideration to the establishment of a permanent United Nations tribunal to deal with war crimes and human rights violations around the world ?
On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, the position is that the United Nations International Law Commission has produced suggestions--a draft--for the establishment of an international criminal court. Clearly there are attractions in that. We now have to consider whether it is practicable. If one were to be set up, it might be the appropriate forum in which to try war crimes such as those to which the hon. Gentleman refers.
Mr. Jenkin : Given the situation in the former Yugoslavia, which is symptomatic of the failure of our common European foreign policy led by Germany, will my right hon. and learned Friend join me in welcoming the Karlsruhe judgment in Germany this week ? Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the speeches by President Clinton proposing a leadership role for Germany oversimplify foreign policy in Europe and are rather more reminiscent of Joseph Kennedy than of J. F. Kennedy ?
Mr. Hogg : What is happening in former Yugoslavia has more to do with the bloodiness of human nature than with anything on the part of the German Government or any other Government. I disagree with my hon. Friend on that point.
Column 975Kingdom UNPROFOR contingent has played an active part in monitoring the ceasefire, chairing the joint liaison commissions and assisting humanitarian work in the area.
Mr. Raynsford : Does the Minister agree that to establish a lasting and successful peace framework in central Bosnia it will be essential to respect two principles : first, that the internationally recognised boundaries of Bosnia should be preserved in any peace settlement and, secondly, that there is a right for refugees and displaced persons to return to their areas of origin, from which many were forced out by the horrors of ethnic cleansing ? Will the British Government be resolute in pressing for those principles as part of a peace settlement ?
Mr. Hogg : Both are important principles. The map worked out by the contact group provides for the preservation of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a complete entity, the external frontiers of which will be respected. The return of refugees is also tremendously important, but we must keep in mind the fact that before people will go back and, a fortiori, stay there, they must have confidence that they will be safe. If there is a settlement, the international community can achieve some things by way of implementation. I hope that it can instil confidence, which is a necessary precondition for the achievement of that second element.
Mr. Cormack : Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the achievement of peace in Bosnia--we all wish the Foreign Secretary well in his difficult mission--depends primarily on the Serbs ; that the Bosnian Government have behaved extremely responsibly in recent weeks ; and that, as he himself said, the alliance with the Croats has held ?
Mr. Hogg : I welcome the alliance with the Croats, and it is true that the federation between the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats seems to be holding firm. It is important to keep in mind the fact that the recent infringements of the ceasefire were committed by both sides--by the Bosnian Government as much as by the Bosnian Serbs. It is important to be aware that the contact group's proposal will not work unless it is accepted by both sides ; so we look to both sides to accept it.
Dr. John Cunningham : Everyone wishes the Foreign Secretary well on his mission to former Yugoslavia and we hope that he will be successful in impressing on the combatants the fact that this is perhaps their last opportunity for a negotiated settlement. It is sad that the current offer to the Bosnian Government is worse than was available when they had the opportunity to reach a settlement in 1992. Of course we wish the Foreign Secretary well, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that, if a success is not achieved in the next few days, there will be no early abrogation of either the sanctions against Serbia or the arms embargo on Bosnia ?
Mr. Hogg : If a settlement is not reached because the contact group plan is rejected--I am focusing now on the question of rejection by the Bosnian Serbs--it is certain that sanctions will remain in place and that they will almost certainly be toughened. It is probable that the arms embargo will not survive. The pressure to relax the arms embargo in the event of the Serbs rejecting the plan will probably prove irresistible.
Lady Olga Maitland : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, at this stage, it would be a tragedy if the contact group were not successful, bearing in mind the sacrifices that have been made by French and British troops in delivering aid in Bosnia ? I hope that he will continue in his endeavours to encourage everyone to sign the agreement.
Mr. Hogg : I agree with my hon. Friend. This is a critical moment. If the parties do not accept the plan that has been proposed and worked out by the contact group, there is a grave danger that war in Bosnia will re- ignite and develop with ever-increasing intensity.
8. Mr. Austin-Walker : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he has taken or proposes to take in the light of Serbian aggression against Albania and Macedonia.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Following the occupation by Serbian troops of a hill near the Serbia-Macedonia border in mid-June, the British charge d'affaires in Belgrade made representations to the Serbian authorities. We welcome the recent agreement brokered by UNPROFOR, under which Serbian and Macedonian troops withdrew from the vicinity of the hill. We are not aware of any recent cases of Serbian aggression towards Albania. We continue to watch developments in the region carefully.
Mr. Austin-Walker : Does not the Minister recognise that the west's inaction when Milosevic first used his tanks and aircraft against Ljubljana gave a green light to Serbian aggression against Bosnia-Herzegovina ? Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that appeasement of Serbian aggression and acceptance of their ability to gain territory by force encourages acts of aggression against Macedonia and Albania and the further persecution of the Albanian majority in Kosovo ?
Will the Government now stand firm against Serbian aggression and try to prevent the conflict in the Balkans from getting completely out of hand ?
Mr. Hogg : The hon. Gentleman should not indulge in generalities ; he needs to be careful not to induce people to suppose that the Government mean, or that he means, things that we do not or he does not really mean. It is our policy to try to persuade the parties to accept the plan worked out by the contact group. We are not in the business of waging war ; the hon. Gentleman sounds as if he is, but that is not the policy of his party's Front-Bench spokesmen.
Sir Peter Emery : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the Macedonian resolution passed almost unanimously by 53 nations in the Parliament of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe demanding of Greece the recognition of Macedonia and the withdrawal of any trade restrictions ? Would that not greatly assist Macedonia with any problems that might arise in the future ?
Mr. Hogg : I have indeed seen the resolution to which my right hon. Friend refers, and I welcome it. The Greek Government's policies towards Macedonia are quite wrong, especially that of imposing sanctions. We were very pleased when the European Court of Justice took up
Column 977the issue. Proposals worked out by Cyrus Vance address all the relevant questions which divide Macedonia and Greece, and I very much hope that Macedonia and Greece will be prepared to accept the compromises worked out by him.
Ms Quin : Is not Macedonia facing a grave crisis in terms of its security and economy, with industry virtually at a standstill and unemployment rocketing ? I welcome the Vance initiative, but what contact is the Minister having with the Greek Government and his European Union partners to resolve the problem, as it seems that the European Court avenue is not going to provide a speedy solution ?
Mr. Hogg : The hon. Lady is right that the European Court is not prepared to take interim action--a fact which I very much regret, as it would have been a useful way forward. We have been in frequent bilateral contact with the Greek authorities and the issue has been raised frequently by Ministers in the context of various European Union Councils. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary intends that it should be raised at the next Council meeting which, I believe, is early next week. It is a very important issue and we will continue to press the Greek Government on it.
10. Mr. Ian Bruce : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further plans he has to try to persuade the Nigerian authorities to respect the result of last year's presidential elections.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The Secretary of State is worried about developments in Nigeria. The Nigerian Government claim to want a speedy transition to democratic government, but their actions contradict their claims : their decision to put Chief Abiola on trial cannot help to achieve that end. Meanwhile, their regressive economic policies are stifling industrial production and domestic and foreign investment and damaging Nigeria's standing with its creditors. We are urging all sides in Nigeria to join in constructive political dialogue.
Mr. Bruce : I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he emphasise that the British Government's friendship towards the Nigerian people makes it absolutely clear that we want democratic accountability to come to Nigeria, that we want the President who was elected almost a year ago to be allowed to take his place, and that we want the Parliament that was freely elected to be able to take control from the military Government ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I can, of course, confirm that we wish Nigeria to return to democratic civilian government. Last June's elections were the most free and fair in Nigeria's history. It is important that Nigeria should have a President who is acceptable to all, and it must be for Nigerians to resolve whom that should be.
Mr. Robert Hughes : Is the Minister aware that there is grave concern about the arrest not only of Chief Abiola but of many other people who support the democratic process in Nigeria ? Some people in this country, including Nigerian students, say that we should at least impose an arms embargo, if not go further, to try to ensure that Nigerians accept the democratic process.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, in conjunction with our European partners and the American Government we have imposed certain sanctions against the Nigerian military : visa restrictions, bans on high level visits and on military training, and restrictions on defence sales. Those will remain in force for the time being.
11. Mr. Streeter : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's relations with Paraguay following the recent visit to the United Kingdom by President Wasmosy.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory) : Relations are excellent. We were delighted to welcome President Wasmosy to the United Kingdom for the first time last week.
Mr. Streeter : During the recent visit of the Paraguayan President, did my hon. Friend have a chance to discuss with him the difficult question of drug trafficking from Latin America ? Does he agree that it is time for a fresh initiative to try to stem the flow of life-destroying drugs from South America to Europe ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Yes, Paraguay is on a number of drug routes, which is why we so warmly welcome its Government's commitment to getting on top of that scourge. During the President's visit, we signed a drug assets confiscation agreement and we look forward to its being put into practical effect.
Mr. Grocott : Does the Minister acknowledge that a key issue for people concerned about strengthening the democratic process in Paraguay is the establishment of a civil service free of party political interference-- one which has security of tenure for its civil servants and is professionally recruited on merit ? Does he share my deep concern, however, that we are in a weak position to lecture any other country on such subjects, having so weakened our own civil service under the present Government ?
Mr. Jacques Arnold : Is not the significance of President Wasmosy's visit the fact that he is a directly elected Latin American President who received his symbols of office from a predecessor who was also directly elected--something for which Latin America is now once again becoming renowned ? Is it not of great value to have within Mercosur, the trading bloc of southern America, a country with a long-standing record of free enterprise and free trade ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Yes, we welcome the return to civilian democratic government of almost all the countries in that continent. There is an especially interesting development concerning trade in the southern part of South America, in that we hope that the Mercosur agreement will come into effect at the beginning of next year. There will
Column 979be a free trade zone among the countries of that region, and Paraguay will be at the centre of it, so our excellent trading relations with that country will stand us in good stead.
Mrs. Golding : I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he consider having talks with the Sri Lankan Government, who are taking strong measures to combat paedophile rings ? For example, they have established a Cabinet sub-committee and set up a separate unit in every police department, the tourist board is closely supervising hotels and guest houses, and the Government are carrying out a public awareness programme as well as conveying strongly to foreigners the message that they will not tolerate the exploitation of children. Does the Minister think that other Governments could learn from that ? If so, what could his Department do to co-ordinate a campaign against that vile practice ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : As the hon. Lady knows, I have myself been in touch with the Sri Lankan high commissioner on all these matters. I can tell her that there is a great deal of police co-operation between Britain, Sri Lanka and other countries. The national crime intelligence service has a paedophile unit which gathers information on known British rings and liaises with its counterparts in the region of which the hon. Lady speaks. British officers take an active part in the work of Interpol in dealing with offences against minors. Interpol provides a useful focus for international police co-operation in the area.
Mr. Dickens : Does my hon. Friend agree that the time of kid glove action is over and that we must go for a mailed fist result ? We must really go after the perverts--the evil people who prey on the bodies of children in an unnatural way. Would my hon. Friend consider discussing with people overseas and our Home Office whether, on a second conviction, castration might be a very suitable approach ? One would be surprised to see how few people would need to be castrated to stop this evil practice against children--and I would do the same for those who rape women.
13. Mr. Wareing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made to the Bosnian Government in respect of recent breaches of ceasefire agreements ; and if he will make a statement.