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Mr. Menzies Campbell: Does the Secretary of State agree that the history of the conflict in former Yugoslavia suggests that the Bosnian Serbs have been adept at taking advantage of any signs of disunity in the international community and, in particular, in the contact group? There have been substantial signs of that disunity since the congressional elections, to which he referred. What efforts are Her Majesty's Government taking to ensure that public disagreements of the sort that have occurred in the past two or three weeks will be eliminated?
Mr. Hurd: There are no public disagreements between Her Majesty's Government and the United States Administration on the right policy towards Bosnia. We are working together to further the policy that I outlined to the House today.
Sir Anthony Grant: Although I appreciate the splendid humanitarian work carried out by the British Army, will my right hon. Friend tell our United States allies that, from a military point of view, we shall heed the sound maxim, "Never reinforce a failure"?
Mr. Hurd: If my hon. Friend had been with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on his visit to British troops in Bosnia last week, he would have agreed with my right hon. and learned Friend's conclusion that they continue to do, as he said, a thoroughly worthwhile job. We hope that they can continue to do that. If it becomes impossible, we have to plan to withdraw. The American decision to help that withdrawal is a considerable comfort.
Mr. Robin Cook: May I press the Foreign Secretary on a question to which he did not respond in his statement last week? Is anything being done to make the remaining safe havens safe? Is there any prospect of the UN forces there being strengthened, or of the safe havens being demilitarised? Will air power be used the next time any of them come under threat? Does the Foreign Secretary
Column 914appreciate that if we do none of those things, there is a real risk that we will be held responsible on the next occasion when one of the safe havens suffers the same fate as Bihac?
Mr. Hurd: We should always look for ways in which what the UN is accomplishing in Bosnia through UNPROFOR and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees can be strengthened. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is doing precisely that at today's NATO meeting in Brussels.
We must constantly seek realistic ways of strengthening the role of UNPROFOR. We should not exaggerate; there is a role for air power, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but, as he himself said on the radio last week, it could not solve the problems and might make them worse. There is also a role for reinforcement and demilitarisation of the safe areas. We need to examine all those aspects constantly if we are to improve the situation on the ground.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Alastair Goodlad): British relations with Australia are excellent. We continue to develop close co-operation in all areas. We intend to organise a series of cultural, scientific and commercial events in Australia throughout 1997 as a showcase for this partnership.
Mr. Brown: Is my right hon. Friend aware that I had the opportunity and privilege of trying to further British-Australian relations in my own way when I was a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation that visited Australia two months ago? Will he take it from me that our relations with Australia in regard to the debate about the monarchy can best be strengthened if we allow Australia freely, in its own way, to make up its own mind in a responsible way about what it wants to do about the Head of State in the future? Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Australians are more concerned with opportunities to enter the European Community trade market? That, ultimately, is the way in which to improve our relations with Australia.
Mr. Goodlad: I recognise the contribution made by my hon. Friend. He is right: the Australian constitution lays down procedures for change in that constitution, and Her Majesty's Government have no role in the debate. The identity of the Australian Head of State is a matter for the Australian people to decide.
We are working hard to enhance our current very good trade relations. Our exports rose by 16 per cent. last year, and growth has been sustained since then. We have had extremely successful relations, and we shall build on them.
Mr. William O'Brien: When the Minister discusses trade with Australia, will he ensure that coal imported to the United Kingdom is economically priced, and that no subsidies undermine the United Kingdom's deep-mined coal? Will he assure us that he will investigate the position?
Mr. Arnold: May I commend my hon. Friend's work, and that of our hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor), the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Technology, during his recent visit to Havana, when much was done to develop British exports and investment? Should Cuba not realise, however, that Fidel Castro is now well past his sell-by date? Cuba should take a leaf out of the book of Hastings Banda or Kenneth Kaunda, and hold all-party elections in Cuba. If it did so, it would join every other Latin American republic in becoming a true multi-party democracy.
Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend is right. There is a healthy two-way exchange of Ministers between Cuba and the United Kingdom. As my hon. Friend pointed out, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Technology went to Cuba earlier this year, and I believe that Isabel Allende visited London earlier this year as well. We enjoy normal relations with Cuba, and they continue to develop; but it is certainly true that progress in those relations would be enhanced by improvements in civil and democratic rights in Cuba. Earlier this year, it received the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, and I hope that that will lead to co- operation with the UN special rapporteur, which would also be helpful.
Mr. MacShane: On a more serious point concerning Cuba-- [Interruption] --is there any way in which the British Government can simply ask our friends in Washington, the American Administration, to lift the unnecessary and self-defeating boycott? The quickest way to bring Cuba to democracy would be to allow hundreds and thousands of Americans to go there as tourists and business men, to travel and to trade. That would undermine Fidel far more quickly than the absurd boycott that Washington insists on maintaining.
Mr. Davis: The subject of human rights is rather a serious point, and I hope that the first phrase in the hon. Gentleman's question was simply a slip of the tongue. We take the view that the relationship between America and Cuba is a bilateral issue. What we do is aimed at improving our relationship with Cuba, which we have done in a number of ways and which has been marked by an increase of about 140 per cent. in our trade with that country, from £8.8 million in the first nine months of last year to £21 million this year. We shall continue that process in a way that will encourage democracy and economic reform in Cuba. We think that that is the best policy both for ourselves and for Cuba.
Mr. Goodlad: British relations, including trade relations, with Vietnam are now better than they have ever been. Our exports to Vietnam in the first three quarters of 1994 were up by 380 per cent. on last year.
Mr. Marshall: Does my right hon. Friend agree that Vietnam is a rapidly growing economy offering great potential to British industry? As English is one of the main languages of international trade, what are the Government doing to try to satisfy the thirst of the Vietnamese to learn English?
Mr. Goodlad: As my hon. Friend says, there is a great appetite in Vietnam for English language training. When my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary visited that country in September, he promised to provide English language training for officials in key ministries. That has been delivered, and the British Council and the Voluntary Service Overseas have received much acclaim for their English language training programmes. We are considering how we can do more. English is extremely important to Vietnam as it develops international commercial relations.
Mrs. Clwyd: Does the Minister accept that the desperate problem of the 26,000 Vietnamese boat people still in camps in Hong Kong has to be sorted out--and not, as in recent months, by riot squads, tear gas and water cannon? I urge him to visit the camps, as I have, and to see for himself the awful circumstances in which those people live. Will he then, with the three Governments involved, urgently work out a practical formula to repatriate people in a humane and dignified way, instead of in straitjackets, as happened a few days ago?
Mr. Goodlad: The hon. Lady is right to raise the problem of the remaining migrants in Hong Kong camps. I have visited the camps myself a number of times over the past 15 years, and we are working closely with the Vietnamese Government and the Hong Kong authorities to ensure that Vietnamese migrants leave Hong Kong well before China takes over in 1997.
10. Sir David Madel: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit Syria in 1995 to discuss the middle east peace process; and if he will make a statement.
Sir David Madel: In view of the lifting of the arms embargo on Syria by the European Union, and other efforts to improve relations with that country, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that Syria should now do much more to control the terrorist groups that want to
Column 917wreck the middle east peace process? Should not Syria now spell out in detail what it means by normalisation of relations with Israel?
Mr. Hogg: The second part of my hon. Friend's question is important. It is quite plain that we will not see a permanent agreement between Israel and Syria unless Israel makes it plain that she will withdraw from the entirety of the Golan Heights and unless Syria makes it plain that she will establish with Israel the kind of relationships that are properly to be established between one friendly state and another. It is important that in negotiations both parties make their provisions plain as speedily as they can.
Mr. Ernie Ross: The Minister will know that the Syrians have offered full peace for full withdrawal and that the Israelis have responded by saying that the depth of peace will be based on the depth of the withdrawal. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will also know that everyone in the area is concerned about the military machine that still exists in Iraq and that any depth of withdrawal or scaling down of Syrian forces is bound to be based on the potential that Iraq has to cause trouble, as it recently tried to against Kuwait. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that the war machine in Iraq is taken into account to help along the peace process in the middle east?
Mr. Hogg: I think that both parties to the negotiations between Israel and Syria are primarily concerned with the position of Israel on the Golan Heights, the need for Israel to withdraw and the nature of the relationship that thereafter will be established between Israel and Syria. I do not think that the wider question to which the hon. Gentleman referred is playing a very large part in the Israeli-Syrian negotiations.
Mr. Hicks: Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the involvement of Syria is not only crucial but central to a long-term middle east settlement and, indeed, to reaching an accommodation with Israel? Do not the Government have an obligation, given our history in the region, to take initiatives with our partners to achieve those objectives?
Mr. Hogg: It is obviously important that we should see a permanent agreement between Israel and Syria as soon as it can be achieved. The Americans have an important intermediary role to play, and are playing it. The parties must hold face-to-face bilateral discussions if we are to secure an agreement soon. The British and, indeed, other Governments in the European Union have a supportive role to play, but a permanent agreement will come not from outside pressure but from bilateral face-to-face discussions between Israel and Syria.
Mr. Hardy: Does the Minister accept that the next, and perhaps most urgent, step that has to be taken in pursuit of the peace process is to ensure elections for Palestinians at an early stage? Will he ensure that Britain and the rest of western Europe send sufficient support and monitoring personnel to ensure that those elections proceed satisfactorily?
Mr. Hogg: The hon. Gentleman is quite right. It is obviously important that elections should be held as soon as possible. It is rather unlikely that they will take place before next spring or summer, but I wish it were sooner.
Column 918I do not think that they will take place unless Israeli forces are redeployed quite soon. I am sure that, if elections are fixed and there is a request for assistance, as I suspect there will be, the British Government, in common with other western countries and others, will wish to play a part and respond.
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend: Will my hon. Friend try to get the partners in the peace process back to some pretty basic United Nation principles: that territory should not be conquered and occupied by force of arms, in Syria or elsewhere, that, where territory is occupied, the Geneva convention should apply--it certainly does not apply in southern Lebanon today--and that the local population should have the right to self- determination?
Mr. Hogg: Where territory is occupied, the Geneva convention most certainly should apply. Security Council resolutions 425, 242 and 338 apply and should be the basis of discussions and ultimate settlement.
13. Mr. Galloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last had discussions with his Saudi Arabian counterparts on the state of British-Saudi relations; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Galloway: The Foreign Secretary will have noted the threat to this country by the brother of King Fahed, which was reported in The Independent on Monday, and he will know of the second consecutive 20 per cent. cut in the national budget of Saudi Arabia as its economy heads deeper and deeper into slump, with the unrest that that inevitably generates. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, as the Al-Saud royal dictatorship is so unstable, it is rather foolish to place all our eggs in her basket? In the light of the threats to the lives of Saudi Arabian dissidents here in London, which were confirmed by Scotland Yard in a report that appeared in The Mail on Sunday a couple of weeks ago, would not it be extremely unwise to proceed with the deportation of the leaders of the Saudi opposition movement here in London, on the principle that today's dissidents and opposition might be tomorrow's Government in Saudi Arabia?
Mr. Hurd: The hon. Gentleman puts together a mass of misinformation in one question. I do not agree at all with his premise about the stability of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia simply because it is dealing with its budget deficit. That seems to be way beyond the mark. He referred to the decision taken by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary that Mr. Al- Massari should be returned to Yemen, the country from which he reached us. Mr. Massari has appealed against that decision and it would be wrong to comment further while the process is under way.
Mr. Dalyell: May I, first, thank the Foreign Secretary for seeing me in his room on Monday night about Allan Francovich's film entitled "The Maltese Double Cross". Could the Crown Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office--the lead Departments--be persuaded to question the right hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), who was Secretary of State for Transport in March 1989, and who, I believe, said in good faith to reputable members of the Lobby, that the bombers were about to be identified? Should not the investigation ask him what prompted him to say that, and why he was subsequently removed by Mrs. Thatcher from her Cabinet? Could not it also be asked whether any serious investigation into the truth of Lockerbie can take place without asking Mrs. Thatcher how, in 800 self-serving pages, she did not mention Lockerbie once, but she did say, in justifying the 1986 raid, that never again, after the raid on the working-class tenements of Benghazi and Tripoli, would there be any kind of Libyan terrorism. If, with her access to intelligence, she believed that, how could she possibly think that the Libyan state was responsible for Lockerbie?
Mr. Douglas Hogg: I refer to the answer that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has already given the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford). [Interruption.] With respect, I have already answered Question 15. [Interruption.]
Mr. Hogg: I understood that Question 15 had been called and, in response to that, I was referring to the answer that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has already given to the question posed by the hon. Member for Greenwich.
Mr. Bayley: I, too, should like to refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford). He asked the Foreign Secretary about the statement made by Lord Owen on the "Walden" programme last weekend that the contact group plan would mean virtual independence for the Bosnian Serbs. I ask two very direct, brief questions: do the Government agree with Lord Owen's statement; and, if not, will they appoint a peace mediator who understands the Contact group plan?
Mr. Hogg: The position, which was reaffirmed in the Essen declaration, is that the Bosnian Serbs have to accept the Contact group plan--the map--and that must be the basis of the settlement. The question that then arises is what should be the relationship between the federation- -the Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian Muslims on the one hand, and the Bosnian Serbs on the other? There must be a relationship between the two within the external frontiers of Bosnia. That is a matter for discussion and negotiation between the parties. I believe that there will be a very loose association between the two.
The question remains as to the relationship between the Bosnian Croats and Croatia, and the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the federation has already agreed that there should be confederal rights-- whatever that means--between Bosnian Croats and Croatia, and parallel rights between Bosnian Serbs and Serbia.
Sir Michael Marshall: Will my right hon. and learned Friend take the opportunity of explaining the position on crimes against humanity in Bosnia and former Yugoslavia? Does he believe that what is happening in the United Nations represents useful progress and will the process have a deterrent effect?
Mr. Hogg: My hon. Friend will know that proceedings are currently afoot in Germany against one named alleged war criminal. Evidence is being gathered against other named criminals, but the problem is that they are not within the easy reach of the tribunal.
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Bayley), the Minister said something different from the Foreign Secretary's statement last week. The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred specifically to a confederal arrangement between the Bosnian Croats and Croatia and implied that in the current peace plan equal, parallel arrangements are available for Bosnian Serbs.
Is the Minister saying that the proposal in the current peace plan offers confederal rights to the Bosnian Serbs with Serbia? If so, where does that leave the future of the Muslim community in Bosnia?
Mr. Hogg: I used the words that I intended to use. The federation has agreed to confederal rights between the Bosnian Croats and Croatia. That phrase has not been used in respect of the relationship between the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia. There must be some relationship between the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia, and that has been agreed by the Bosnian Government.
Column 921The phrases "special rights" or "parallel rights" have been used to describe the relationship between Bosnian Serbs and Serbia, which is clearly different from "confederal rights". But it indicates a kind of relationship between Bosnian Serbs and Serbia that falls short of confederal rights. All of that must be negotiated within the external frontiers of Bosnia, as I have said already. The purpose of the negotiations is to preserve one entity-- Bosnia.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, if Secretary of State Perry's offer of American troops being committed to ground duties in Bosnia is taken up, it would be appropriate for members of UNPROFOR that have provided generously to the defence of that country to review their commitments? Would not that allow us to withdraw some of our troops?
Mr. Hogg: We are extremely grateful to the United States Government for what has been offered, but it is important to remind the House that what has been offered is the provision of troops within the context of NATO to assist the withdrawal of UNPROFOR troops, should that become necessary. I very much hope that it will be possible to keep UNPROFOR troops in Bosnia through the winter, because what they have been doing has been of enormous value and deserves the utmost praise.
Mr. Macdonald: Will the Minister address himself to the remarks made by Lord Owen last week, which he and the Foreign Secretary have refused to address up to now? Will he correct his reference to the confederal links between Croatia and Bosnia, because the link is not with the Bosnian Croats but with the whole of the Bosnian republic and all the peoples of Bosnia and Croatia? That is an important distinction to make.
Mr. Hogg: The second part of the hon. Gentleman's question is right and I am grateful for his clarification. On the former part of his question, the nature of the relationship between the federation--if I may use that word for these purposes--and the Bosnian Serbs within the external frontiers of Bosnia will inevitably be a matter for negotiation. I suspect that the relationship between the federation and the Bosnian Serbs will be very loose, but it is impossible at this stage--after all, negotiations have not even begun--to determine what the outcome of negotiations will be. That being so, it seems to be idle to speculate about the outcome.
Lady Olga Maitland: Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that President Milosevic in Belgrade is the key to peace in Bosnia? Does he accept that Milosevic has aided and abetted Karadzic in the gruesome war, but that only Milosevic can influence the Bosnian Serbs into accepting the peace plan?
Mr. Hogg: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that the role of President Milosevic is central, and he is better placed than anybody to induce the Pale Serbs to accept the Contact group plan--the map--and to enter into the
Column 922negotiations to which I have referred. It is because of that that the Security Council has been willing to relax the effect of some of the sanctions.
Mr. John D. Taylor: Since Bosnia is clearly a failed entity that should never have been recognised as an independent sovereign united state, when will the Government extend to the Serbs who live there the right of self-determination?
Mr. Hogg: But that is to argue that existing frontiers can be disregarded and that international law can be flouted by armed aggression. If one were to follow what the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, one would begin to see the entirety of the former Soviet Union, and probably much of central and eastern Europe, dissolve into conflict. That is not something that he or I want, and it is important to go on asserting that existing frontiers must be respected unless altered with the genuine consent of all relevant parties.
Mr. Hurd: I last discussed Cyprus with the United States Secretary of State when I was in Washington on 22 June, but we have had many exchanges at official level since then, most recently with Mr. Williams, the United States special co-ordinator on Cyprus, here in London yesterday.
Mr. Clarke: As Britain and the United States are members of the Security Council, why are they not making the reunification of Cyprus a top priority in every sense? Cyprus has been divided for far too long, and many of the interested parties are dragging their feet. Why are the Government not pressurising Turkey, for instance, to make efforts to try to make the negotiators in the north come together in a meaningful and peaceful way to reunite Cyprus?
Mr. Hurd: We are, indeed, pressing constantly on behalf of the Secretary General in that direction. We believe that he is best placed to carry forward those discussions. I have encouraged him to persevere with them despite the disappointment last year, when it looked as though the parties concerned were close to an agreement on confidence-building measures, which could have led to an agreement on the substantive issue. It is disappointing that that agreement dissolved at the last minute.
The latest effort by the Secretary General is to call together Mr. Denktas and President Klerides. They have had meetings and I hope that they will have more meetings. We follow the discussions with great care and offer support and apply pressure wherever we believe that it is needed to reach an agreement.
Mr. Waterson: Does my right hon. Friend agree that in the face of the continued intransigence of the regime in the north of Cyprus, the only solution now is to press forward as fast as possible with processing the application from the Republic of Cyprus to join the European Union?
Mr. Hurd: We certainly do not believe that anyone has a veto on the application of the Republic of Cyprus. We were party to the decision of the Corfu summit earlier this year that the next phase of enlargement of the European Union will involve Cyprus.
Ms Hoey: As the Minister obviously does not want to answer a question about Dr. David Owen, I will not press him on that. Did he see a report in The Times last week that British soldiers had not just been held by Serbs, but taken out of their tanks and beaten up? What did the British Government do about that? Would they have reacted differently if British troops had been taken out of tanks by Saddam Hussein's troops?
Mr. Hogg: It is important to keep in mind the limited mandate that UNPROFOR has in Bosnia. We did not go into Bosnia to wage war, but to reinforce the humanitarian effort and to maintain peace and tranquillity where we could. We have achieved considerable success in both of those objects of policy. For example, we have been able to achieve a great degree of peace and tranquillity in central Bosnia. The consequences of the limited mandate is that British troops and UNPROFOR forces in general are not equipped in the way that they were equipped to go to war against Iraq in Kuwait.
Mr. Miller: Will the Minister make human rights a cornerstone of his policies towards Commonwealth countries? Will he, in particular, make it clear that the death penalty is repugnant? In his discussions with Commonwealth countries will he ensure that the view of the House--that the death penalty is primitive and should not be used--is expressed to them? Will he look in particular at cases in which children are under threat of the death penalty in one particular country?
Column 924to determine its own criminal code and that includes the penalties that it might deem to be appropriate. As to the generality of the hon. Gentleman's question, human rights are a cornerstone of our policy within the Commonwealth, as elsewhere. That is why we did so much to encourage the part of the Harare declaration which emphasised the importance of the respect for human rights.
Mr. Forman: To what extent is that part of the Harare declaration enforceable? What measures can be taken to see that members of the Commonwealth follow it to the letter? Are there some particular instances to which my right hon. and learned Friend can point where we have had some success with that policy?
Mr. Hogg: The Harare declaration is not a legal document but a political declaration. Therefore, and to that extent, it is not enforceable in the sense that my hon. Friend means. By political pressure, however, one can influence the policies of countries within the Commonwealth and we seek assiduously to do that.