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House of Commons

Wednesday 2 November 1994

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Oral Answers to Questions


Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty

1. Mrs. Jane Kennedy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty recently signed in Washington.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg): I attended the signing of the treaty which took place on theIsrael-Jordan border. It was a very moving occasion. The treaty is important and courageous and the British Government applaud it.

Mrs. Kennedy: Although we all welcome the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, does the Minister share our sense of disappointment at Syria's recent failure to condemn terrorism and to enter into direct negotiations with Israel? What measures has the Minister taken to encourage Syria to cease its sponsorship of terrorism in that region and to enter into the talks?

Mr. Hogg: Three weeks ago I had the opportunity of talking to President Assad of Syria on the importance of a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel. I stressed that it is an opportunity not to be missed. I believe that Syria is intent on peace and that Israel is as well. The problem is which will be the first to start the process. It is the unwillingness of the Syrians to embark on bilateral talks that I find most troubling.

Mr. John Marshall: In view of the treaty between Israel and Jordan and as it is many years since there was a state visit to Jordan, does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that it is high time that there was an official state visit to Israel by Her Majesty the Queen?

Mr. Hogg: That sounds a splendid idea.

Mr. Janner: In recognising that peace throughout the middle east is important, did the Minister meet with Mr. Nashashibi, the Palestinian Finance Minister? If so, and even if not, will he consider how Britain can help the Palestinians to re-establish themselves and their administration, police and education, because without that the entire process may collapse?

Mr. Hogg: Indeed, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Nashashibi about three weeks ago when he called on me in London. We discussed what the Government could do to assist in the Gaza strip and in the territories. I said that we had already contributed or were intending

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to contribute £75 million over three years. I drew his attention in particular to the recent grant of £5 million, of which £3 million was for the Palestinian police force.

European Union

2. Mr. Patrick Thompson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about action being taken by the United Kingdom Government to encourage further enlargement of the European Union to include countries in central and eastern Europe.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd): We support the enlargement of the European Union to include the associated countries of central and eastern Europe. We are working closely with the German presidency to ensure that a substantial package of measures to help these countries prepare for full membership will be ready for agreement at the Essen European Council on 9-10 December.

Mr. Thompson: When my right hon. Friend attends the summit in Essen next month, will he emphasise the benefits, especially to national and international security, of the enlargement of the Union to include eastern European countries? Will he urge examination--and, where necessary, reform- -of the outdated institutions and structures within the Union, for example, the common agricultural policy?

Mr. Hurd: It is hard to imagine the CAP in anything like its present form being extended to the new central and eastern European countries that we hope will join the EU. They simply could not afford it. The reforms that are already under way need to go a good deal further before we could envisage a common policy that would include those countries. The same is true of the structure plans.

Mr. Jim Marshall: In future enlargement discussions, will candidate countries be encouraged to join all the institutions, including associated institutions such as the Western European Union?

Mr. Hurd: That is up to those countries. It is what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister means when he talks about a flexible Europe. At the moment, Ireland is a full member of the EU, but not of the WEU--the defence organisation. I suspect that that will be true of Austria next year and probably of Finland. Those countries that join the EU can, if they wish, become members of the WEU, but they do not have to do so.

Mr. Dykes: Does the Foreign Secretary find it interesting that, coming back to the framework of the EU policies, without a single exception, all the existing or future, potential or actual applicants for membership, accept the acquis communautaire in all its aspects, Maastricht, Maastricht stage 2 and the future policies

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probably developing out of the 1996 conference? Is not that encouraging and will the United Kingdom Government do the same thing?

Mr. Hurd: We are not committed for the future and the applicant states were not in such a strong position as we have been as regards the social chapter.

Mr. Robin Cook: Does the Foreign Secretary have any view on whether the change in portfolios of the Commission this week has strengthened or weakened the progress towards enlargement? Does he recall the Prime Minister describing Mr. Jacques Santer as a reconciler and a healer--the right man for the right job at the right time? As the British Conservative Commissioner is the only one dissatisfied with his new job, would the Foreign Secretary care to repeat that description today and can he carry Sir Leon Brittan with him in that view? Or did not the events of last weekend confirm that the Prime Minister at Corfu picked the wrong fight over the wrong job?

Mr. Hurd: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment to his portfolio and on the brio with which he has embarked on his job. I look forward to many such exchanges in the future. Whether he will prove to be the right man in the right job, we will know as time passes. I am sorry to read that, like Sir Leon Brittan, he is a little disappointed at the way in which things have turned out, but I hope that he will reconcile himself to the position that he has. I do not have any doubts about the views of Mr. Van Den Broek on these matters. I have known him for a long time and I do not have any doubt that the decisions that we have taken already on enlargement, on which we have touched already, will be continued. I do not have any worries about that. It is a pity that Leon Brittan, with his experience and achievements in this particular area, could not continue in it, but the essential thing so far as he and Britain are concerned is that he continues to hold the external trade portfolio.

Partnership for Peace"

3. Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the development of the NATO "Partnership for Peace" proposals, including practical co-operation.

Mr. Skinner: He is the only Minister with a clean pair of hands.

Mr. Hurd: I wish that the hon. Member would stop being so polite. It is extremely worrying.

"Partnership for Peace" is developing well. Partners have established offices at NATO headquarters and SHAPE.

The first military exercise under "Partnership for Peace", Co-operative Bridge, took place in Poland from 12 to 16 September, involving forces from 13 alliance and partner countries. Since then there have been two further exercises under "Partnership for Peace", Co-operative Venture, from 29 September to 7 October, and Co-operative Spirit, from 24 to 28 October. British forces took part in all three exercises.

Mrs. Lait: I thank my right hon. Friend for news of that encouraging process. I assure him that I do not treat this matter lightly.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that the volatile nature of many of the eastern European countries is such that they need to be drawn swiftly into the military and political ambit of NATO? Can he give me some idea of the progress made towards common standards?

Mr. Hurd: We see "Partnership for Peace" as a good idea in itself and we are delighted that it has had such good take-up from our former adversaries in the Warsaw pact, including Russia. I hope that my original answer showed the progress made on that. It may lead forward in some cases to the expansion of NATO, but the timing of that remains to be considered. I agree with my hon. Friend. We need to do everything that we can to show those who were our adversaries to the east in the Warsaw pact that for them NATO is not a hostile organisation and "Partnership for Peace" shows the practical ways in which that can be proved.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: But is not there an eloquent example of practical co-operation rather nearer to home in the proposal that the Royal Air Force and the French air force should now indulge in operational co- operation? Is not such practical co-operation essential to achieve an effective European defence, as the right hon. Gentleman clearly envisaged in his recent speech to the Franco-British Council?

Mr. Hurd: I am certainly in favour of close military co-operation between ourselves and the French. We see that in action in Bosnia at the moment and it is extremely valuable. We have not yet concluded arrangements for the combined air forces group but may do so at the Anglo-French summit soon. It will simply be a joint planning capability, which could draw together the air assets from Britain and France for use in suitable operations on which we agree.

Mr. Wilkinson: Is it not important that "Partnership for Peace" be not just a question of hanging around in antechambers but that it provides an opportunity for NATO applicant countries eventually to become full participants in the alliance? In that context, is it not vital that no obstacles be placed in their path, such as that for the right of collective security, and that they must make commensurate contributions, because smaller countries are the most vulnerable and needful of the alliance's collective security arrangements?

Mr. Hurd: I believe that some nations currently involved in "Partnership for Peace" will become full members of NATO, as my hon. Friend wants. That will be up to them and to us. Certainly we are not closing that door.

Mr. Cousins: Does the Foreign Secretary agree that an orderly and verified reduction of the bloated armament industries of eastern Europe is essential to achieve the objectives of "Partnership for Peace"? Does he see NATO and also the European Union playing a role in that achievement?

Mr. Hurd: The countries of eastern Europe and certainly Russia need to convert their industries, which are overbalanced on the military side, to civilian use. They find that difficult. We can help to some extent, but it is not so much a matter for NATO as for individual effort.

Mr. Churchill: Although it is clear that any extension of NATO's nuclear guarantee can be done only with great

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care and circumspection, does my right hon. Friend agree that countries that were our allies during the second world war and which were cut off from their alliances only because they were occupied by the Red army--specifically Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics--should be put on a fast track for NATO membership, and that Hungary should be included among them?

Mr. Hurd: It is likely that the countries that my hon. Friend mentioned, given the history that he described and their present policies, will want to become full members of NATO and will succeed. We and they must consider the timing--no dates have been fixed. Meanwhile, it is important that they all make full use of "Partnership for Peace", which offers experience of joint exercises such as those that I described, and joint training and planning.

European Parliament

4. Mr. Alan W. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards the future democratisation of the European Parliament.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis): All present Members of the European Parliament are already directly elected. MEPs who will represent acceding states will in the first instance be appointed by their national Parliaments, but they will be subject to direct election within two years of the accession of those states.

Mr. Williams: In view of the difficulties that surrounded the appointment of the President of the European Union earlier this year and, more recently, Sir Leon Brittan's responsibilities, where does the balance of the argument lie in terms of appointing a President of the European Parliament? Is there an argument for MEPs to be given the responsibility of electing their own President, and for that person then to appoint his own European Commissioners, as happens with every other directly elected Parliament?

Mr. Davis: The hon. Gentleman misses the importance of the role of sovereign states. The current arrangements are perfectly satisfactory.

Mr. Shersby: Is my hon. Friend aware of Malta's strong desire to play its full part in the European Parliament following its successful application for European Union membership? What is the Government's policy on the Maltese application, and when is it likely that consideration will be given to applications from micro-states?

Mr. Davis: The Government of the United Kingdom take a positive view of the application of Malta, and, of course, after its subsequent accession, whenever it occurs, one will foresee a point at which it is properly represented in the European Parliament. The intergovernmental conference, at its meeting in Corfu, issued a statement on that. We stand entirely by it.


5. Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has

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taken to implement the principle of subsidiarity in the levels of decision-making within the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Mr. David Davis: The Edinburgh European Council established clear guidelines for the operation of subsidiarity within the European Union, and the Government have pursued the application of that subsidiarity with great vigour in conjunction with other Governments and the Commission. The principle of subsidiarity does not apply to the internal arrangements within member states.

Mr. Jones: In his recent book entitled "The Europe We Need", Sir Leon Brittan describes subsidiarity as something that should "allow for the ebb and flow of responsibility between regional, national and European authorities."

Does the Minister agree?

Mr. Davis: That is a very thinly veiled expression of the hon. Gentleman's well-known views on the position of Wales within the United Kingdom. If I may, I will address that point directly, because it is predicated on three wrong precepts: first, legally, because it was made very clear at the meeting of the Heads of Government at Birmingham, and at other times, that subsidiarity does not apply within states, and that it is up to the states themselves to decide the distribution of power within the states. Secondly, there is a practical oddity. The hon. Gentleman likes to pretend that there is not a great deal of devolution of power within the United Kingdom. That is not true. In Wales, £3.6 billion of expenditure each year comes under the control of local government, so that is hardly a small issue. In political terms, the hon. Gentleman conveniently forgets that, when the Welsh people were asked what they thought of devolution, they voted four to one against it.

Mr. Forman: Is my hon. Friend aware that there is, perhaps, a minority opinion on the Conservative Benches, which might not be shared by him at the moment--that, as an English Tory, it is possible to welcome the principle of subsidiarity being applied within the United Kingdom as well as within Europe? One does not have to be a Welsh nationalist to see some force in those arguments.

Mr. Davis: With a name like mine, Welshness is not a monopoly of hon. Members on the Opposition Benches. The fact of the matter is that the United Kingdom Government see subsidiarity as a very important component of stressing the importance of the nation state within Europe. We have put our efforts principally into ensuring that the European Union reflects and respects that status. We have seen one of the best outcomes of that--the reduction of proposed directives from the Commission from 185 a few years ago to 39 so far this year. That is a very good measure of what subsidiarity is really about.

Mr. Barnes: Does not subsidiarity mean anything that anyone wants it to mean? It has no legal or constitutional significance. It is useless as far as the European Union is concerned, and therefore would be useless as far as the United Kingdom's provisions are concerned. We should have clear constitutional divisions and provisions, and democratic arrangements.

Mr. Davis: The hon. Gentleman condemns his own argument out of his own mouth, because subsidiarity is

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written down in the treaty and is specified very clearly. What is more, it has practical effects, which I have just described in terms of the reduction in the number of directives, and it will see continuing practical effects in future presidencies. I expect the French presidency coming up to treat it very seriously, too.

Inter-Parliamentary Union

6. Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what account he will be taking of the resolutions passed by the 92nd Inter-Parliamentary Union conference held in Copenhagen during September as they affect his Department.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry): We were grateful for the report from the leader of the British delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Copenhagen in September and have taken particular note of the adoption of resolutions passed, including those on human rights and the Uruguay round.

Mr. Bruce: My hon. Friend will know the welcome that the conference gave to the latest general agreement on tariffs and trade and how it can be used to help alleviate poverty throughout the world. Will he tell us, in respect of Her Majesty's Government, who have been at the forefront of the negotiations, how well her country has done with ratifying the treaty and whether we will meet the target of 1 January 1995?

Mr. Baldry: My hon. Friend, who was at the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, is absolutely right. The GATT round, which follows the excellent work done by, among others, Sir Leon Brittan, is good news for Britain. The deal agreed last December is a big step towards freer and more open international trade: it will lead to major tariff reductions for trade in goods. The round will bring major benefits for United Kingdom industry and consumers alike, in the form of increased growth, more jobs, lower prices and wider choice. Every hon. Member should be pleased about that.

Mr. Flynn: How do the Government react to the concern expressed at the conference about the potential military threat posed by Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave, the only route to which runs through Lithuania? Has the Minister had an opportunity in the past two days to discuss with the Prime Minister of Lithuania, Mr. Adolfas Slezevicius, the further moves that can be made to connect Lithuania and the Baltic states more deeply with the organisations for peace in the European family of nations?

Mr. Baldry: I have not had such an opportunity, but my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg)--the Minister of State--has.

Sir Michael Marshall: Does my hon. Friend accept that there is a direct relationship between the resolutions of the IPU conference that has just ended and the proposed United Nations social summit in Copenhagen next year? Will he take this opportunity to assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will give all

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possible assistance in ensuring that parliamentarians can play a full part in UN activities, not only in Copenhagen but throughout the year of the UN's 50th anniversary?

Mr. Baldry: I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in paying tribute to my hon. Friend, who has just completed his three-year presidency of the IPU. It was a very successful presidency, helping to establish a higher and well-deserved international profile for the IPU, for which thanks are owed to my hon. Friend. I am delighted that my hon. Friend will chair an IPU working group arranging a special meeting in New York to coincide with the UN's 50th anniversary celebrations. We too are organising a major national commemorative ceremony in Westminster hall in June next year for the 50th anniversary of the signing of the UN charter. We shall, of course, want to ensure that parliamentarians here can play a proper part in UN conferences, as they did at the recent very successful UN conference in Cairo on international population and development.

Mr. Donald Anderson: Is the Minister aware that one of the most remarkable and welcome features of the conference was the return of a multi -party, multi-ethnic delegation from the new South Africa? Will he continue to give priority to democracy-building in South Africa, and assisting the IPU and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in their relations with the country? Will he also give a special welcome to the newly formed British South Africa group in the House, which is chaired by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn)?

Mr. Baldry: Yes. I hope that all hon. Members will read the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in South Africa, in which he made clear our support for the new South Africa and referred to the large amounts of aid that the United Kingdom will devote to supporting it.

European Union

7. Sir Wyn Roberts: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage inter-regional relationships within the European Union.

Mr. David Davis: I welcome inter-regional and cross-border co- operation within the European Union. We have, for example, given full support to the Interreg II Community initiative, an important source of Community funding for such activities. The overall policy co-ordination for this is the responsibility of the President of the Board of Trade.

Sir Wyn Roberts: I welcome the progress that has been made, particularly with Interreg II, and in the context of Wales and Ireland. Does my hon. Friend agree that that programme, and others like it, will deepen and develop the relationships between British regions and their European counterparts, and that real benefits are in sight?

Mr. Davis: Indeed, I do. The Interreg programme will certainly help communication and trade between Wales and Ireland and will, therefore, help to deepen and widen

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those links. The Government are looking at the allocation of the programme, but I expect the overall benefit to amount to about 99 million ecu for the United Kingdom.

Mr. Charles Kennedy: Is the Minister aware of the tentative efforts taking place involving representatives from the Scottish highlands, Merseyside, Ireland and Northern Ireland over the collective anxiety that is being felt about the way in which objective 1 is proceeding in those areas, not least in regard to the smaller-sized private sector companies? As the Minister acknowledged, much of this comes under the remit of the Department of Trade and Industry, so if I send him the details, will he undertake to pass them on to the President of the Board of Trade so that the anxieties can be fully examined?

Mr. Davis: I shall of course do that. We secured objective 1 status for Merseyside and the highlands and islands in addition to Northern Ireland. The sum total was about £2 billion, so it is important that it is applied properly.


8. Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support his Department is offering to Rwanda; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hurd: Since 6 April, we have committed over £60 million in humanitarian assistance. The Overseas Development Administration and British non-governmental organisations have provided water and emergency supplies to 2 million Rwandan refugees. Within Rwanda we are financing rehabilitation projects, and human rights monitors. We have also provided 600 troops to the UN force. They have helped restore transport routes and have operated a field hospital which has treated over 106,000 people. This has been a substantial, timely and successful effort.

Mr. Llwyd: Given the continued and unmitigated disaster in Rwanda, does the Foreign Secretary agree that it is up to him to argue with those in the Treasury to secure the budget for the next two or three years? It is my understanding--I am sure that he will agree with this--that there is a projected cut of £60 million in the ODA budget for Africa over the next three years. Therefore, I call on him to do something about it. If he does not, his Department will not have the necessary flexibility to deal with similar future emergencies.

Mr. Hurd: I am discussing with the Treasury as part of the normal public expenditure round the ODA budget for the next three years. Comments such as that have been made from the Opposition Benches over and over again in past years. What we have done in Rwanda, and particularly what the ODA has done, has shown that we have been and remain capable, as much as any other country, of putting prompt, effective and substantial help in the field.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend: Is not one of the basic problems with Rwanda that the United Nations was slow to forecast and prevent that catastrophe? Will my right hon. Friend spell out what the British Government will be doing to try to get better forecasting of such situations?

Mr. Hurd: My hon. Friend will accept that it is difficult for the UN or anybody else to plan in advance the extent to which they will intervene in the internal

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affairs of a member state. It is not easy. When I talked to the General Assembly in September I put forward some British ideas about how we could help Africans forestall such problems in the future. That is the way that we should help. I have discussed the matter with the Secretary-General of the UN and we shall press on with those ideas.

Mr. Robin Cook: Is the Foreign Secretary aware that tomorrow the aid agencies will express their concern at growing intimidation in the refugee camps by militia of the former Government of Rwanda? Can he assure those agencies that Britain will support any UN measures to improve security in the camps to allow aid work to continue and to enable those refugees who want to return to Rwanda to do so free from intimidation by the very people who carried out the mass murders?

Mr. Hurd: The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on what I think is the most dangerous aspect of the problem at the moment. It is a real problem. It is not easy for the UN to decide how to deal with it without making it worse. I discussed it with Mr. Boutros Ghali when he was here last week and he knows that we will support any action that he thinks is justified.

Mr. Matthew Banks: Does my right hon. Friend agree that Britain is providing considerable support to the people of Rwanda, but that it is not the cash figure that is significant but the individual quality of the programmes concerned?

Mr. Hurd: I entirely agree. It is speed and quality that count on such occasions, and we have been good at providing both.


11. Mr. Robert Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit Indonesia to discuss bilateral relations.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Alastair Goodlad): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has ncurrent plans to do so. I visited Indonesia in April.

Mr. Banks: I am glad to hear of my right hon. Friend's visit in April. Does he agree that Indonesia continues to make rapid economic progress under a stable Government and that we should encourage contact and trade at all levels between our two countries? Does my right hon. Friend further agree that the National Human Rights Commission there must be seen to be independent and a power unto itself if it is to deal effectively with the exaggerated statements of the overseas media and to settle grievances?

Mr. Goodlad: My hon. Friend is right--Indonesia is a country that, while it still has a low income, has enjoyed rapid development, adopted sound economic policies and made good use of aid, from the Asian Development bank, the World bank, the Japanese, the Germans, ourselves and others, to reduce poverty. The country is a major potential market for the United Kingdom and will come to assume greater economic weight in the region.

The National Human Rights Commission was set up only earlier this year, but Amnesty International has acknowledged its active and energetic approach. The

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commission has already surprised its critics with the strength of its public statements on domestic human rights issues. I agree with what my hon. Friend says about it.

Mrs. Clwyd: I find the right hon. Gentleman's attitude amazing and complacent in the teeth of a recent report by Amnesty International. Does he not know that the Government in Indonesia are suppressing freedom of speech and assembly, and that arbitrary killing and widespread torture continue? Does he not realise that the hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) and some of his hon. Friends have just been on a visit to Indonesia, paid for by the Indonesian Government? Does he not realise that, while our Government fawn over that evil regime, it continues to violate basic human rights, both in East Timor and in Indonesia? Why does he not condemn that?

Mr. Goodlad: I welcome the hon. Lady to her new position and hope that we shall enjoy further exchanges in future. On reflection, she will not consider it wrong for hon. Members to visit overseas countries--she has done so herself. Through such visits, hon. Members are able to speak with greater knowledge.

The Indonesians are well aware of the importance that we attach to their living up to their human rights obligations. We raise our concerns whenever appropriate, both bilaterally and with our European Union partners. I did so when I visited Indonesia in April. Our experience of the Indonesian Government shows that confidential dialogue is often more effective in bringing about changes in attitudes than public hectoring. Independent observers of Indonesia have said that there has been an improvement there. Amnesty International acknowledges in its report that Indonesia has taken a number of steps to demonstrate its commitment to protecting human rights, such as setting up the National Human Rights Commission and granting more freedom of access--for example, allowing human rights representatives from the United Nations.

This year's session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights commented favourably on the greater access recently granted by the Indonesian authorities to human rights and humanitarian organisations. The commission agreed that Indonesia should invite Mr. Wali N'Diaye, the special rapporteur, to visit Indonesia. Indonesia has been elected as the chairman of the non-aligned movement and has recently been elected a member of the Security Council of the United Nations. I think that, on reflection, the hon. Lady will be ashamed of what she has said from the Labour Front Bench.

Indo-British Partnership Initiative

12. Mr. David Nicholson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will report on progress with the Indo- British partnership initiative.

Mr. Hurd: Our partnership with India is going splendidly. Bilateral trade has increased by nearly 50 per cent. since the partnership was launched by the Prime Minister in January last year. New British investment increased fivefold last year and the momentum is continuing. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Export Trade will lead an 85-strong delegation to India next month.

Mr. Nicholson: Will my right hon. Friend take this

opportunity--supported, I am sure, by the whole House--

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to pay tribute to the skill and bravery of the Indian police who effected such a dramatic rescue a couple of days ago? Does he agree that his reply shows how considerably Britain's relations with India have improved in recent years? Does he further agree that the increase in our investment there is partly a result of the significant economic reforms that India has introduced?

Mr. Hurd: I agree with my hon. Friend on all points, especially on the first. We were delighted and relieved that the three Britons held hostage were released so soon and we are most grateful to the Indian police for their professional and effective operation. On behalf of the House, I should like to express our regret about the deaths of two Indian policemen in that operation, and our sympathy to their relatives.

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