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Mr. Douglas Hogg : We have repeatedly urged all sides to show restraint and we are supporting UN efforts to extend the ceasefire. We are also pressing the parties to accept the proposals put forward by the Geneva ministerial meeting on 5 July. My right hon. Friend the Foreign
Column 980Secretary and his French colleague Mr. Juppe are taking action with the key players in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia on their current visit.
Mr. Wareing : Does the Minister agree that the breaches of the ceasefire have been mainly by the Muslim Government from Sarajevo since the recent ceasefire agreement was arranged ? It is important that we get the right message through to the Bosnian Muslim Government. Does the Minister agree that it is erroneous to tell the Bosnian Serbs that whenever they have breached the ceasefire agreements they may be confronted by air strikes when there are not tit-for-tat threats against the Muslim leaders in Sarajevo ? If there is to be a successful conclusion to the present peace negotiations and if there is to be agreement by the Bosnian Serbs, this country and the United Nations must show an even-handed approach.
Mr. Hogg : On the first three paragraphs of the hon. Gentleman's question, the factual position is as follows : in terms of the number of infringements during the past month's ceasefire, the Bosnian Serbs committed the most, but perhaps the most serious infringements were committed by the Bosnian Government. Looking forward, I greatly welcome the fact that Mr. Akashi was able to negotiate an extension to that one-month ceasefire.
Mr. Charles Kennedy : In the context of what the Minister said earlier, when he surmised that the arms embargo could be lifted, and given the fairly trenchant position that the Foreign Secretary and the Government have taken on the issue, what would be the British Government's position if such a development were to come about or draw near ?
Mr. Hogg : It is true that for two years or so we have argued strongly against the relaxation of the arms embargo as we believe that such a relaxation would run the risk of seriously re-igniting the war in Bosnia. That remains our view, but it also remains a fact that if the present negotiations do not succeed and, in particular, if they are rejected by the Bosnian Serbs, the pressure to relax the arms embargo--most especially, although not exclusively, in Washington--will probably prove irresistible. We shall have to judge our own policy as the facts develop.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I am pleased to announce that the Minister for Overseas Development has today informed the acting chairman of the Commonwealth Institute that the Government are willing to provide a grant of £2.4 million over the three-year period from 1996-97 to enable the institute to regenerate its galleries and become self-supporting by March 1999.
Mr. Eastham : I thank the Minister for his reply and also for kindly telephoning me this morning in relation to the matter. Is he aware, however, that the Commonwealth Institute in London is desperately in need of cash to finance the refurbishment of the building, which will cost about £5 million ? Given that grants were previously in the order of
Column 981£2 million per year, does not £2.4 million over three years pale a little in comparison ? Does that not show a negative attitude towards the Commonwealth ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : No. The Government are most certainly committed to the continued strength of the Commonwealth. The offer that the Government have made is under discussion with Mr. David Thompson, the acting chairman, and it is on condition that the institute raises £5 million in sponsorship and submits satisfactory business and building maintenance plans. Mr. Thompson is confident that, with the restructuring in hand and with the assistance that he will receive from private sponsorship, he will be able to maintain the building and make the Commonwealth Institute a viable and flourishing institution for the future.
Mr. David Howell : Does my hon. Friend accept that that is excellent news which will be widely welcomed on both sides of the house ? Does he further accept, as I am sure that he does, that that institute or club, the Commonwealth, is not only thriving, but growing and that more and more countries are seeking to join it ? Does he realise, as I am sure that he also does, that the provision is a very good move which reflects the growing interest of this country and Commonwealth members in grouping together for the future ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I very much agree with my right hon. Friend and I am grateful for his encouraging comments. We hope that the Commonwealth Institute will thrive and flourish with an injection of private sector funds as well as Government assistance in the interim period because it is an important institute for the development of the Commonwealth which we wish to see flourish and thrive. As my right hon. Friend will be aware, we paid some 30 per cent. of the costs of the Commonwealth secretariat in London and 60 per cent. of our bilateral aid goes to Commonwealth countries.
Mr. Rogers : I do not quite understand why the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) thinks that the Government are advancing when there is a cut in grant from £6 million to £2.4 million. The Minister and the Government are sending out completely the wrong signals to the Commonwealth. We should like to know whether the Government intend to privatise or to hive off that valuable and focal institution because that is what they are doing under the restructuring. Will the Minister tell us what status he envisages for the Commonwealth Institute after 1996 and whether, when the process which he seems to be undertaking starts, he intends to repeal the Imperial Institute Act 1925 and the Commonwealth Institute Act 1958 under which the institute is governed ? When will that process be put into train ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : No, I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. The Government believe that the Commonwealth Institute has a great future ahead of it, in the way in which I have indicated, with assistance from the private sector and help from the Government over the interim period. The institute is, of course, run by its own body of management, governing body and trustees. There is no plan to repeal the Acts of Parliament to which the hon. Gentleman referred, which established the Imperial Institute and later the Commonwealth Institute.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : It is too soon to know how the new leadership in Pyongyang will approach relations with South Korea, but we hope that the death of Kim Il-sung will not lead to a lengthy postponement of the summit talks between South and North Korea earlier planned for this month.
Mr. Garnier : Does my hon. Friend accept that the words "North Korea" are merely shorthand for the dangers posed by nuclear proliferation ? Has he seen reports that North Korea may have as many as six--certainly at least two--nuclear devices which it is seeking to develop to a state in which it can deliver them overseas ? Is he aware that North Korea is trading in nuclear technologies with a number of countries whose interests are not favourable to ours ? Will he use the hiatus caused by the death of the North Korean leader to accelerate rather than decelerate pressure on that country to reduce nuclear proliferation ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : There is no hard evidence that North Korea possesses nuclear weapons. There must be suspicions, however, because North Korea does not allow the necessary international inspections which would assure us that plutonium is not being diverted.We take the drive against nuclear proliferation extremely seriously. We are glad that North Korea has not denounced the non-proliferation treaty, and we hope very much that it will allow the necessary inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Mr. Winnick : In the context of North Korea, does the Minister know whether Marxism-Leninism now accepts entirely the Conservative principle of hereditary succession ? Will Ministers be writing to congratulate the North Korean leadership on a new development in Marxism-Leninism ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : They do like to try to keep it in the family in such countries. That is a feature of Marxist dictatorships. The succession to the leadership is a matter for the North Koreans. It is important to note that the dictator concerned is one of the last vestiges of a socialist world order that is now widely discredited.
Mr. Duncan Smith : It is pretty well established that both Iran and Iraq have been spending substantial sums--Iran has been spending up to $0.5 billion every year--on nuclear proliferation. Much of the technology has been transferred to Iran and Iraq from North Korea and China. Does my hon. Friend have any clear plan to deal with that ? It would seem that the policy of non-proliferation has pretty well failed in many countries and that we should be looking to something much harsher.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I do not agree with my hon. Friend that non- proliferation has failed. We are working to achieve an indefinite extension to the non-proliferation treaty. We are also working to negotiate a comprehensive test ban, provided that it is part of a wider move to prevent proliferation, especially among the states that my hon. Friend mentioned.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Relations with China have improved recently. On Hong Kong, we have reached agreement on defence lands and have made progress in our discussions on financing the new airport. Our trade figures show a 72 per cent. increase in direct exports to China last year and a 22 per cent. increase in the first quarter of this year. We also have an active dialogue on human rights and international and United Nations matters. The Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Goodlad), will be visiting China from tomorrow.
Mr. O'Brien : What representations did the Government make to the Chinese Government after the underground nuclear test on 10 June, which was conducted in defiance of international opinion and in breach of an international moratorium ? Can the Minister able assure the House that that second underground nuclear test in nine months met with firm representations from the Government and that difficult relations over Hong Kong did not prevent the Government from expressing concerns about real and important nuclear issues ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Yes. We have expressed our disapproval of the continuing underground testing in China and I am glad that China has at least indicated its intention to participate in negotiations for a comprehensive test ban.
Mr. Gapes : When will the Government next have discussions on Bosnia in the United Nations Security Council ? Will the Government be trying to work with the Chinese to veto any move by the United States to lift the arms embargo ? In view of the remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg)--and of the Prime Minister yesterday, when he said that he was against the unilateral lifting of the arms embargo--may we have a categorical assurance that our Government will not give way to misguided pressure from the American Congress and President Clinton but will work with others to stop the lifting of the arms embargo ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it known to the United States Government that any unilateral move of the sort suggested by the hon. Gentleman would be strongly deprecated.
18. Mrs. Anne Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are the criteria for the establishment of a specialised science and technology section within British embassies abroad.
Mrs. Campbell : Does the Minister agree that it is crucial that scientists and businesses in the United Kingdom are kept aware of developing science and technology in other countries, particularly in the United States ? Will he explain why he has decided that the science and technology counsellor in Washington can be absorbed into another section when the German embassy in Washington maintains a section of five people, the French embassy maintains a section of six people, and the Chinese embassy maintains a section of 11 people ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I believe that we are extremely well served by the new arrangements established in Washington. We have created responsibilities at counsellor level for a counsellor with science and technology responsibility and also in other areas, including transport, energy and the environment, in line with the kind of arrangements which prevail in Paris, Bonn and elsewhere. We also have one full-time first secretary below him and a part-time first secretary assisting him.
The hon. Lady makes a comparison between France, Germany and Japan, or perhaps it was China. She should be aware that the academic contact between British academics and American academics, because of the common language and culture, is very extensive indeed and, I am sure, nothing like so extensive in the countries that she mentioned.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Goodlad), will take part in a post-forum dialogue which follows the south Pacific forum in Brisbane.
Mr. Luff : Does my hon. Friend understand the concern that Britain's role in the region is not always as significant as it once was ? Against that background, does he understand the welcome that will be given to my right hon. Friend's visit to Brisbane, emphasising the fact that we must take a very close interest in the affairs of the south Pacific ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Our annual attendance at ministerial level in discussions following the conference shows the importance that we attach to the area. There will be an opportunity to identify shared policy priorities and objectives. My right hon. Friend will continue with his visits in Australia and New Zealand. Furthermore, we maintain a significant aid programme in the area which shows our continuing interest.
Mr. Faulds : In view of the contortions of a slightly earlier question, will the Minister consider, on his way to visit the south Pacific forum in Brisbane this summer, the necessity to apologise to the Chinese Government for the-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Douglas Hogg : I welcome Mr. Arafat's return to Gaza and Jericho, which symbolises progress in the peace process. We shall continue to provide assistance to his new Administration. We welcome recent progress on the Jordanian track of the peace process and hope for progress on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.
Mrs. Dunwoody : Earlier, the Minister skated rather rapidly over the question of the boycott. Why is it that France, Germany and America and various other countries have very firm anti-boycott legislation, but the British Government, who know that British businesses are losing out in this matter, absolutely refuse to support the European directive or to introduce legislation in this House which would outlaw such activities ?
Mr. Hogg : I do not think that legislation would be helpful. We have already been successful in persuading the Arab states to relax the boycott. I have already spoken of the relaxation in the secondary and tertiary boycotts. Israel is now the third most important United Kingdom export market in the middle east, and there have been substantial increases in UK exports to Israel. That shows that the boycott is extraordinarily ineffective.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Our relationship with Cyprus is close. We regard the division of the island since 1974 as damaging and unacceptable. We continue to work, both at the United Nations and in our capacity as a guarantor power, for a peaceful, just and lasting settlement. We believe that the package of confidence-building measures put forward by the UN offers the best way to make progress towards such a settlement. The gap between the two parties is now narrow. I hope that they will be able to seize the present opportunity to take a decisive step forward.
Mr. Marshall : Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be quite wrong for Mr. Denktash to have a right of veto over Cyprus's application to join the European Union ? May we have an assurance that the Government will support that application, whether or not the current measures lead to agreement ?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : We do support and have supported the application. Neither Mr. Denktash nor anyone else has a veto over the application, but we recognise the difficulties of bringing in a divided island : that is why the position will be reviewed by a European Union observer at the start of next year.
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