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13. Mr. Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps Her Majesty's Government propose to move forward the middle east peace process; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: We strongly support the peace process. As I have already said, we regard the treaty between Israel and Jordan as a very important step. We now look to progress in the negotiations with Syria and Lebanon and to further negotiations with the Palestinians.
Mr. Alexander: Will my right hon. and learned Friend welcome the decisions taken at the Arab-Israeli conference in Casablanca last week to end the Arab boycott and establish a regional economic community? Does he agree that that helps to underpin the peace process and that countries that trade with one another are the least likely to go to war with one another? Will the Government co-operate to the greatest possible extent in those economic developments?
Mr. Hogg: I had the pleasure of going to Casablanca to participate in the conference. It was an important occasion, partly because it brought Israel and many of the Arab states together in discussion, which is greatly to be welcomed, and partly because it drew the attention of the wider world to the economic opportunities in the region. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander) that if nations trade together they are much less likely to fight.
Mr. Ernie Ross: The Government have identified the protection of human rights as a key confidence-building measure. Will the Minister assure us that when the temporary international presence for the calling of elections in Gaza and Jericho is established, pursuant to Security Council resolution 904, he and our European partners will insist that a viable human rights mandate is to be a central plank of that protection force? That would be in contrast to what has happened with the temporary international presence in Hebron, which is regarded as an absolute failure by the whole Palestinian community.
Mr. Hogg: I would rather deal with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, about elections, which are very important. I had the opportunity of talking to Yossi Beilin last week on that issue. I should like elections to be called, and called soon.
14. Sir Thomas Arnold: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to attend the Kenyan investors conference in London on 17 November.
Mr. Baldry: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will not be attending the investors conference. However, he will be calling on President Moi during the President's stay in London. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will deliver the opening address to the conference.
Sir Thomas Arnold: Does my hon. Friend agree that, since last year's meeting of the Paris club of Kenya's creditors, the Kenyan Government have embarked on a truly remarkable programme of economic reform? Is not the outlook for British investors in Kenya better now than it has been for some time?
Mr. Baldry: Yes. The United Kingdom is by far the largest overseas investor in Kenya, with assets valued in excess of £1 billion. I am glad to say that this year United Kingdom exports to Kenya have increased by 22 per cent. on a similar period last year. We very much welcome the action being taken to improve Kenya's economic performance and look forward to discussing those issues further with President Moi and his colleagues during their forthcoming visit.
Mr. Corbyn: When the Minister meets the President of Kenya, will he convey to him the concerns of many people about the fact that Kenya does not have a genuine multi-party democracy or genuine freedom of speech, and that far too many people have spent too long in Kenyan prisons for attempting to speak out against the current regime?
Mr. Baldry: We shall have a constructive dialogue with President Moi when we meet him and, of course, whenever there are concerns relating to human rights or other issues, we raise them.
15. Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has held with United Nations counterparts with the aim of establishing an international judicial tribunal to rule on war crimes in Rwanda; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: The preliminary report of the UN Commission of Experts has been received, and work is now being done within the Security Council on the question of a draft.
Mrs. Ewing: That is welcome news, but does the Minister accept that strong representations have been made by, among others, Amnesty International, to the effect that there must be a judicial review of what has happened in Rwanda? Does he accept that it is essential that war crimes are examined and war criminals tried and sentenced, especially when they have been guilty of genocide? Will the Government ensure that all initiatives undertaken by the Security Council are given the full moneys and the support of the House?
Mr. Hogg: It is entirely right that those who have committed serious crimes should be brought to trial. It is
Column 1560equally important that when we set up, define and formulate a tribunal we try to ensure that the processes are as just as they can be made.
Mr. Worthington: Is not it better to prevent war crimes? What do the Government intend to do to prevent future war crimes? We were promised in May that 5,500 troops would be deployed in Rwanda, but we have now been told by Baroness Chalker that the deployment of those troops will take another 10 weeks. Now, in November, we are still two battalions short because of the failure of the major powers to provide the logistical support to get the troops there. Is not that in great contrast with what happened recently in the Gulf? Is not it true that, to the Government, oil wells are more important than African lives?
Mr. Hogg: War crimes will stop when human nature changes.
Mr. Brazier: Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, although Britain has made an outstanding contribution in Rwanda, as in many other countries, it really is pushing it when a party that has consistently called for defence cuts suggests that our overstretched armed forces should make even larger contributions to try to prevent incidents that, as my right hon. and learned Friend rightly says, are ultimately the result of the ugliness of human nature?
Mr. Hogg: We have indeed made a contribution in Rwanda, and an even larger contribution in the former Yugoslavia. I do not think that the British Government can in any way be criticised for the steps that we have so far taken.
16. Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his European counterparts on the accession of new states to the European Union; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. David Davis: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have had discussions on that matter with our opposite numbers in the European Union at several meetings, up to and including the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday.
The Foreign Secretary said earlier that the Essen Council will propose a strategy for the accession. That will contain substantial measures--for example, trade liberalisation, political dialogue and integration with the single market. Meanwhile, we welcome the progress already made by the European Free Trade Association members.
Mr. Salmond: Now that Austria and Finland, as small European states, have voted to join the European Union, and we hope for further progress from Scandinavia, will the Minister tell the House why the nation of Scotland should settle for B-league status in Europe--as part of Britain, with Commissioners who are humiliated and a Government who are out of step with all other
Column 1561Europeans--instead of aspiring to an independent status and to equality of status with those other small European nations?
Mr. Davis: It seems to fall to me today to defend our nation state against its main aggressors.
Mr. Salmond: The enemy within.
Mr. Davis: The hon. Gentleman describes himself as the enemy within. I am a Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and that United Kingdom brings benefits to all its members, in Scotland, in England and in other parts. I am proud of that fact, and so are most people in all parts of the United Kingdom. For that reason, the hon. Gentleman's question is not only hypothetical but implausible.
Mr. Colvin: I have always advocated the widening of the European Union rather than its deepening. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the recent four new members of the European Union, the Scandinavian countries and Austria, are all net contributors to the European budget, but that the next four waiting to join--Poland, Hungary, the Czech lands and Slovakia-- will all be big beneficiaries of the European budget, which will more than double its size? Therefore, is not further widening of the EU to be regarded as a long-term aim and not something to be rushed into quickly?
Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend raises an important point which relates to how we must prepare for the next accession and the next stage of the enlargement of the Union. The two principal components of the fund flow that he describes from the current Union to the accessionary states of the Visegrad four would be the structural funds and the common agricultural policy. If we took the route of enlargement with those policies as they currently stand, we would see a transfer of--probably--some 50 billion ecu. That tells me, and the whole Union, that we have to get those policies properly corrected and properly structured before the next accession and the next stage of enlargement.
Ms Quin: Can the Minister clarify the Government's policy towards a defence role for the enlarged European Union? I ask this question given the different reports in the press last week. It was reported one day that the Foreign Secretary was keen to see a defence role for the enlarged European Union, but the next day that there was deep disquiet among Government Back Benchers about the matter.
Mr. Davis: I welcome the hon. Lady back to her old role and I am glad that she is still there. Security in the European Union and its enlargement, which is what this question is about, after all, is an extremely sensitive issue, and it is important that people understand public statements. To that end, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has put the text of his speech in the Library of the House of Commons.
Mr. Jessel: Could enlargement entail too many Commissioners? Has my hon. Friend noticed that both Sweden and Norway have nominated Commissioners
Column 1562although they have not yet had their referendums, the results of which are uncertain? Are not they pre-empting the results of their referendums?
Mr. Davis: Yes, they have put forward names for their Commissioners, but that is a matter of practicality. The European Parliament votes on the proposed Commissioners very quickly after the accession date. Yes, we think that there are too many Commissioners. Indeed, our policy is to reduce the number.
Mr. McAvoy: Does the Minister accept that the overwhelming majority of Scottish people believe that their interests are best served by being part of the United Kingdom? However, does the Minister also accept that the best interests of the United Kingdom in the European Union would be best served by the maximum subsidiarity in the United Kingdom through the maximum devolution of a Scottish Parliament, a Welsh assembly and English regional assemblies?
Mr. Davis: I commend the hon. Gentleman. For a long time I have known him to be a bastion of the Union--indeed, he is built like a bastion of the Union--but this is a rather long stretch of the subject of enlargement.
19. Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on relations with Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Dalyell: What have the Saudis said to the British Government about the commercial activities of Mark Thatcher?
21. Mr. Hanson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on British support to the Palestinian authorities in the Gaza strip.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: We support the negotiations and are providing £75 million over three years.
Mr. Hanson: Will the Minister recognise that, while that sum of money is very welcome, it does not go very far towards meeting the needs of the Palestinian authorities? Indeed, it is not as much as some other western countries are contributing. Will he kindly review the amount of money that we are giving? In addition, will he put pressure on Syria, following last week's Casablanca conference, to ensure that it contributes to the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and, in doing so, avoids the threat of militancy and extremism?
Mr. Hogg: The most important and constructive thing that the Syrians could do is enter into discussions with Israel with a view to achieving a full peace treaty between Syria and Israel. That is the course of action that I commended to President Assad and it is something for which the British Government will continue to press.
Mr. Fabricant: Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that peace in the middle east is a very fragile flower and that the Palestinians are having much difficulty
Column 1563at the moment as a result of the terrorist actions of Hamas? Will my right hon. and learned Friend and his Department try to intervene with the principals of Hamas and, in particular, with the state of Iran to ensure that it will do everything in its power to encourage Palestinians to remain at peace with Israel?
Mr. Hogg: It is important that Chairman Arafat should do all that he can to prevent Hamas operating as against Israel. However, it is also fair to point out to the Government of Israel that it is sometimes rather hard to expect of Chairman Arafat a result and outcome which Israel herself, with all her forces, could not achieve.
Mr. Burden: Does the Minister accept that, while we condemn the kind of terrorist attacks that took place in Tel Aviv on 19 October, collective punishment of the Palestinian people is neither acceptable nor lawful and that we really require more progress to an early relaxation of the border restrictions between Gaza, Israel and the west bank?
Mr. Hogg: I would prefer not to address the two issues, as it were, in the same paragraph because that might suggest that there is some justification for terrorism and I know that that is not what the hon. Gentleman meant.
With regard to a relaxation in the prohibitions on people from Gaza entering Israel, there needs to be an early relaxation. I am glad to say that on 1 November, the Israelis announced that they would grant 8,000 licences for people in the construction industry to go into Israel. I welcome that. We look to a further and early relaxation with a view to a very substantial increase in the number of people from Gaza able to work in Israel.
22. Mr. Michael Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement on United Kingdom policy towards the further enlargement of the European Union to encompass the countries of central and eastern Europe.
Mr. David Davis: As I have already said, we support the eastward enlargement of the European Union. At the Essen Council, in conjunction with the Commission and the German presidency, we shall be looking for ways to help that process take place, including substantial measures, as I have said, in trade liberalisation, political dialogue and integration with the single market.
Mr. Brown: This is the first opportunity that I have had to congratulate my hon. Friend and next-door neighbour on his new responsibilities. Will he confirm that the impetus for the enlargement process with regard to eastern Europe has so far come largely from the efforts of the United Kingdom? Will he give an assurance and an undertaking that that impetus, which so far has been stimulated by this country, will continue?
Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend is right in a sense. It is rather more generally a mark of the success of our view of the future of the European Union. That view has been taken up by many other countries and many others subscribe to it. However, it is not the only example. One
Column 1564could also say that we have been successful in pushing the causes of subsidiarity, of enlargement--which my hon. Friend mentioned--and of the single market, and our arguments on deregulation with respect to increasing employment in the EU are now also winning the day.
Mr. O'Hara: With regard to enlargement, will the Minister give an assurance that the British Government will not make the accession of Cyprus to the European Union conditional on the prior resolution of the current situation in Cyprus?
Mr. Davis: Clearly, the division of the island of Cyprus is a problem for us, but we shall look at the matter in January.
Mr. Simon Coombs: What more can my hon. Friend and the Department do to encourage and promote cultural and trading links with the countries of central and eastern Europe, so that British influence in those areas can be sustained by direct contacts?
Mr. Davis: A great deal is already happening. As part of the PHARE programme, British companies are winning between 16 and 17 per cent. of technical advice contracts. That is already leading to enormous influence for British ideas in eastern Europe.
23. Mr. William O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what help is given to British industry and commerce by United Kingdom embassies to develop the export of United Kingdom goods to far eastern countries; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Goodlad: Commercial officers in our far eastern posts use their specialist market knowledge to give exporters practical help, advice and support. For instance, they provide exporters with targeted information about opportunities for their products and help exporters identify overseas representatives. They also give background information about local firms with which British companies plan to do business.
We attach high priority to expanding exports to the rapidly growing far eastern market. By using savings made elsewhere, manpower resources devoted to commercial work in Asia and the Pacific rim have risen by 23 per cent. since 1990. Last year, 28 new front-line commercial jobs were created in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. I am glad to say that exports to the region rose by 28.5 per cent. in 1993, to £13 billion.
Mr. O'Brien: Given that, in recent years, the Government have tended to emphasise the exporting of arms and military equipment, may we be assured now that there will be a greater emphasis on more domestic products, and that assistance will be given to exporters, especially in west Yorkshire, so that we can develop the export trade to the far east?
Mr. Goodlad: I have visited Yorkshire and spoken to exporters, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that they will get all the help that we can give them.
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