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Oral Answers to Questions


Intergovernmental Conference

1. Mr. Raynsford: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's objectives for the European Union intergovernmental conference in 1996.     [14939]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd): The IGC will be an opportunity to consolidate the achievements of the European Union and prepare for enlargement to the east. Our goal will be a Union that is flexible, efficient and responsive to popular concerns.

Mr. Raynsford: The Foreign Secretary referred to consolidating achievements. Given the deteriorating position in Bosnia and the European Union's recorded failure in recent years to respond effectively to the tragedy in the former Yugoslavia, the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that the lack of co-ordinated action on security and foreign affairs is one of Europe's current weaknesses. Does he see the IGC as an opportunity to remedy that?

Mr. Hurd: I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's analysis. We have worked closely with our European partners on Bosnia, and continue to do so. For example, 10 days ago we put together our policy again--particularly with the French and Germans, who are fellow members of the contact group. But, however well we co-ordinate our policy within the European Union--as we do--that in itself does not guarantee our ability to provide a solution to the conflict in Bosnia. The fighting in Bosnia will end when those who are doing the fighting decide to end it.

Sir Timothy Sainsbury: Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the greatest achievements, which should certainly be consolidated, is the creation of the single market? Will he consider giving more publicity to the results of that--for example, the greater success of our exporters in the Spanish market? Instead of an adverse trade balance of nearly £250 million, we now have a strong positive balance of well over £1 billion, which means many more jobs in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Hurd: My right hon. Friend is right, and he speaks from his own experience. The achievement of the single market is one of the big benefits of our membership of the European Union. It is not yet complete, however, and during the next few years we shall seek to ensure that it is complete and that the remaining protectionist devices that impede it are swept away.

Mr. Charles Kennedy: On earlier occasions, the Foreign Secretary has confirmed that in drawing up the objectives for the IGC the Government will want to take account of the views of all political parties. What mechanisms does he propose for consultation--not least with former members of his party who have had access to the Home Secretary for such a discussion, have been denied access to the Chancellor for such a discussion and,

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presumably, are very keen to know whether the Foreign Secretary would be willing to meet them--and, if he did meet them, to what extent he would empathise with them?

Mr. Hurd: My door is always open to the hon. Gentleman--and, of course, to my hon. Friends.

Mr. Dykes: In the last few words of his original answer, my right hon. Friend referred to consulting the public properly. Does he agree that, if Ministers boldly tell the public more about the reasons for European Union combined policies, they will be both reassured and more enthusiastic? Will he assure us that from now on Ministers will do that?

Mr. Hurd: We do that all the time; whether the media report it is a different matter.

Ms Quin: Did the Foreign Secretary hear the chairman of ICL tell the "Britain in the World" conference this morning that negative and backward- looking views of Europe were undermining Britain's ability to be taken seriously in the world? How does he respond to the fact that the Conservative party is now the only party of its kind in the European Union that is not a full member of the European People's party? How will that isolation help the Tories to win allies in the 1996 process?

Mr. Hurd: I cannot think that the nature of the connections between our MEPs and the European People's party is central to the issue.

I heard Sir Peter's remarks. He made a very good speech to the conference that is in progress today, and I think that his basic point was entirely right. It is in the interests not only of the British business community but of Britain as a whole for the House and the country, in the coming months, to work out coherently an approach to the future of the European Union with which we, as a nation, can be at ease. The Government are now doing that. It is perfectly possible to arrive at conclusions and proposals that will have wide support in the House and in the country.

Anglo-Israeli Relations

2. Mr. John Marshall: To ask the Secretary of Statefor Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he willmake a statement about relations between Britain and Israel.     [14940]

Mr. Hurd: They are excellent. During the recent visit to Israel of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, he and Mr. Rabin agreed that our relations have never been better.

Mr. Marshall: Does my right hon. Friend welcome the success of the visit by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, on which he was accompanied by 30 leading industrialists? Does my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary agree that one issue affecting peace in the middle east is the continuing incarceration of Ron Arad, who has been a prisoner of the Iranians and their allies for eight and a half years?

Mr. Hurd: I agree. My right hon. Friend met Mrs. Arad, and we will continue to do anything that we sensibly can to improve the prospects of solving the problem and bringing about Mr. Arad's release. My hon. Friend is right to say that opportunities for British trade

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with Israel have greatly improved. British exports with Israel rose from £586 million in 1992 to £1,032 million last year, which is good progress.

Mr. Foulkes: Surely the Secretary of State is aware that the per capita income of the Palestine National Authority has decreased nearly 50 per cent. since it was established, and that only just over a quarter of the promised aid has been pledged. As the success of the middle east peace process depends on relieving people of economic distress, does not the Foreign Secretary need to match his fine words with a clear commitment to genuine assistance to the peace process?

Mr. Hurd: Oh, dear. The hon. Gentleman should study the facts before he poses such questions. Britain is among the countries giving the quickest and most substantial help to the Palestinians with what they are trying to do in Jericho and Gaza. While my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was in Israel, he handed over 25 Land-Rovers and 25 minibuses for the civilian branch of the police, and we have helped to pay police salaries. My right hon. Friend also announced £7 million of new bilateral aid for the Palestinians, in addition to the assistance that we give through Europe. Britain is among the foremost in encouraging the Palestinians to make a success of their new responsibilities.

Mr. Budgen: Does my right hon. Friend agree that in conducting Britain's relations with Israel he is responsible to Parliament? Does he accept that all parts of the House admire his courtesy in operating an open -door policy for all hon. Members? Does he agree that where such courtesies are not extended, that is not only insulting to individual hon. Members but denies them the opportunity properly to represent their constituents?

Mr. Hurd: Over many years, I do not think that my hon. Friend has knocked on my door in vain.

Middle East Peace Process

3. Mr. Janner: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the current progress of the middle east peace process.     [14941]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg): The recent visit by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Israel, the occupied territories and Jordan emphasised Britain's firm support for the peace process, which continues to offer the best hope for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

Mr. Janner: I much appreciated the recent visit by the Prime Minister and others to Israel. During the visit to Jordan, did Ministers form the impression that Jordan is playing an active, useful and important part in the peace process? If so, has not the time come to remit its debt to this country, which in any event is not likely to be paid?

Mr. Hogg: Jordan is playing an important and continuing part in the peace process. The hon. and learned Gentleman may know that £46 million of Overseas Development Administration debt was transferred into grant, so it has effectively been written off. He may know also that there has been substantial rescheduling of debt, supported by the British Government and the Paris Club. The United Kingdom has contributed more than $200

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million so far. That rescheduling will expire in 1997, when we will be willing to consider prospects for further rescheduling.

Mr. Rathbone: Despite what has been said in answer to previous questions, does my right hon. and learned Friend appreciate the horror at Israel's treatment of imprisoned Lebanese in southern Lebanon and of fishermen along the Lebanese coast, which has put thousands of Lebanese out of work, and at the continued aggression towards the country of Lebanon by Israeli forces and those under their control?

Mr. Hogg: We stand by resolution 425, which calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that, for the moment at least, the blockade of the fishing boats to which he referred has been discontinued, following strenuous representations by the British Government and others. The imprisonment to which my hon. Friend refers is a serious matter. The British Government, and I in particular, have made representations to the Israeli Government on a number of occasions. We welcome the fact that quite recently the Israeli Government released at least 32 prisoners from Khiam prison. We also welcome the fact that it was recently decided to allow some families into the prison for visits. I agree with the broad thrust of my hon. Friend's remarks: there is much more to be done. People held without due process of trial should be released.

Mr. Ernie Ross: Does the Minister accept that one of the most pleasing aspects of the Prime Minister's recent visit to Gaza was the press conference that he gave at the conclusion of his meeting with President Arafat? Given the Prime Minister's statement that the European Union is to take a leading role in the elections, which are due to take place once the second stage of the interim agreement has been agreed, can the Minister tell the House that Britain intends to be the main co-ordinator of the elections? Will he further assure the House that the many Members of this House who have had experience of helping with other elections in emerging democracies--I think particularly of the useful help they gave in the South African elections--will be called upon to help the Palestinians in the forthcoming elections?

Mr. Hogg: The hon. Gentleman makes a serious point. I hope that there will be elections before the end of the year. They have taken much longer to be held than we would have wished; it is unlikely that negotiations on the electoral process will be concluded before 1 July, which suggests, I am afraid, that the elections will be held in October and not sooner.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, it was at the Prime Minister's initiative that the proposal for EU electoral observers was made. We are now in contact with our European partners to see how that can best be carried forward. I very much hope that British observers will be among those sent to watch the elections.


4. Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit Cyprus to discuss its accession to the EU.     [14943]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis): We are in regular contact wit

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the Cypriot authorities to discuss Cyprus's application for EU membership. President Clerides visited London in January and met my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Waterson: Will my hon. Friend confirm that the British Government are lending their full support to the efforts of the French presidency to broker a settlement in Cyprus that will involve an agreement to a customs union with Turkey--and also, importantly, the accession of Cyprus to the EU?

Mr. Davis: I certainly agree with the view implicit in my hon. Friend's comments--that the conclusion of the Foreign Affairs Council on Cyprus's accession and the Turkish customs union is a good deal for all parties concerned. Accordingly, the United Kingdom gave strong support to the French presidency in its successful efforts to reach an agreement. That agreement was rightly welcomed by the Cypriot Government, and President Clerides singled out the United Kingdom among all the EU nations for its helpful contribution.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones: The Minister will be aware that Cyprus is one of a long list of countries that aspire to membership of the European Union. The list, as he knows, includes many countries from central and eastern Europe which will, perhaps, be watching these exchanges carefully. Where does Cyprus come in the pecking order?

Mr. Davis: I do not think that there is a pecking order. The Corfu Council made it clear that Cyprus and Malta would be in the next stage of enlargement, as will the central European countries to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Mrs. Roche: Does the Minister agree that the Government could do much more to help in Cyprus, where there are still problems with missing people and refugees who, sadly and tragically, cannot return to their own homes? Is it not about time that the British Government did much more, in ministerial visits and using their good offices, especially as they are a guarantor power, to bring about a just and lasting solution?

Mr. Davis: The best answer to the hon. Lady would be President Clerides's comment, when he said what a good job we did in supporting the accession discussions. We have taken a strong interest in the missing persons problem. Our view is that if both communities helped more, we would make further progress.

Mr. Bill Walker: Does my hon. Friend agree that we owe it to the memory of the British service men who died on active service in Cyprus to ensure that Cyprus becomes the kind of community that we want within the European Union before it is given any kind of nod and wink that it is likely to join?

Mr. Davis: We look forward to Cyprus joining the Community. We would hope to see it join as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, and to join in such a way that all the people of Cyprus gain from accession.

Arms Sales, Burma

5. Mr. Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultations he has held on the embargo on sales of arms to Burma; and if he will make a statement.     [14944]

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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Alastair Goodlad): Our policy towards Burma, including the EuropeanUnion arms embargo, is kept under review in our regular contacts with European Union partners.

Mr. Miller: I am grateful to the Minister for his response and for his earlier responses to written questions. Is he not concerned, however, that other Government Departments are being less unequivocal than he is in supporting the arms embargo against Burma? The Department of Trade and Industry, for example, refers in written answers to information being "commercially confidential". Given today's revelations about the Chief Secretary's supposed role in the sale of arms to other countries, does the Minister think that it is time that we had a full and open inquiry about the role of all Government Departments in the sale of arms to such regimes?

Mr. Goodlad: Exports of arms and ammunition to all destinations are subject to strict controls according to agreed international criteria. No licences have been granted for the export of military equipment from the United Kingdom to Burma since the imposition of the European Union arms embargo in 1991.

Mr. Wilkinson: Can my hon. Friend look beyond the question of the arms embargo to Myanmar to the rich potential that that market offers British business men? In particular, can his Department build on the excellent British week that was recently held in Rangoon, continue the admirable role in export promotion and encourage British business men to take advantage of a market that is of increasing attraction to regional neighbours, such as Japan, Singapore and Taiwan? British business men should be benefiting too.

Mr. Goodlad: Trade between this country and Burma, with which we have historic links, is at a low level at the moment. Our exports last year amounted to no more than £13 million. Our industrial and trading reputation remains high. There is no obstacle to British firms exploring business that is not covered by the arms embargo. They must be in a position to take advantage of opportunities and to meet competition from rivals, but, of course, the Government offer them no financial support.

Sanctions, Iraq

6. Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he now expects sanctions on Iraq to be eased or lifted.     [14945]

Mr. Hurd: The UN Security Council will modify sanctions against Iraq only when it is satisfied that Iraq has complied fully with all the relevant UN resolutions. The Iraqi Government know what needs to be done to comply: we look to them to do it.

Mr. Cohen: If the Government are so dead set against lifting sanctions on Iraq, why did the Department of Trade and Industry grant communication licences to a British trade delegation visiting Baghdad last month? Instead of starving the dictator, are we not simply starving the people of Iraq? While few would object to the arms ban remaining, why not ease, for example, the oil embargo, so that humanitarian assistance can get through to the people?

Mr. Hurd: The hon. Gentleman knows that there are already Security Council resolutions that enable Iraq,

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under certain conditions, to sell oil and buy food and medicine for its people. We are actually strengthening that. We are putting forward plans with the American and Argentine delegations in the Security Council to make that easier, to offer more supplies and less stringent monitoring. If the Iraqi Government turn down this new initiative it will be perfectly clear that it is they and not the international community who are imposing suffering on their own people.

Mr. Fabricant: Does not the unconfirmed report of the assassination attempt on the eldest son of Saddam Hussein clearly show that there is growing pressure on the evil Ba'athist regime in Iraq? Does my right hon. Friend agree that now is the very time when we should not let up on sanctions? I urge him not to listen to the wishy-washy policies of the Labour party.

Mr. Hurd: I agree with my hon. Friend. We have to be concerned about the suffering of the Iraqi people. That is why we are taking this new initiative in the Security Council. It is up to the Iraqi Government to respond to that initiative rather than to impose, of their own wish, fresh suffering on their own people.

Mr. Dalyell: At his convenience, could the Foreign Secretary undertake to give some personal reflection to the report that has been sent to him by Ryad Al Farid outlining the deaths of 400,000 or more Iraqi children in the past five years? There is no question, is there, of Her Majesty's Government endorsing military action against Baghdad?

Mr. Hurd: It depends on what Baghdad does. The hon. Gentleman is correct if what he is saying is that there has been a great deal of hardship and suffering throughout Iraq--in the north, in the central area because of sanctions and in the south. In that respect the sanctions are self-imposed. Security Council resolutions 706 and 712 have for a long time enabled Iraq to sell its oil under certain conditions, and to pay part of the proceeds in compensation to its victims, using the rest to relieve the needs of its own people. I hope that people such as the hon. Gentleman, who throughout has shown sympathy, which I understand, for the people of Iraq, will also take every opportunity to urge the Iraqi authorities to accept measures that are for the benefit of their own people.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: What assessment has the Foreign Secretary made of the consequences for the lives of those living in northern Iraq of the current military intervention by Turkey? What pressure is he bringing to bear upon Turkey, a fellow member of NATO, to discontinue that military action as soon as possible?

Mr. Hurd: The Prime Minister spoke about that today at the "Britain in the World" conference. I have sent a message to the new Turkish Foreign Minister, Mr. Inonu, stressing our concern and hoping that Turkey will bring this military operation to an end and withdraw its troops at the earliest opportunity.


7. Mr. Callaghan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met representatives of the Rwandan Government to discuss the current situation in Rwanda; and if he will make a statement.     [14946]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met the Prime Minister of Rwanda on 22 February during a visit to Britain. The Prime Minister of Rwanda made plain his thanks to Britain for the assistance that we have given in response to the tragic events in Rwanda. My noble Friend Baroness Chalker announced on Friday further aid commitments to Rwanda of £8.8 million, which brings our total aid to Rwanda since 1 January to £18 million.

Mr. Callaghan: I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he agree that, because of the rising tension and crisis in the area, the donor countries should make a long-term commitment to prevent further attempts at genocide there?

Mr. Baldry: We would all agree with that. The Rwandan Government have declared their intention to encourage refugees to return home. That is the highest priority. Of course, that Government clearly need help with reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation policies. We are giving that help. We are providing further sums of money for immediate food aid and humanitarian needs, and looking to the future with financial support for human rights monitors, the war crimes tribunal and the reconstruction of the Rwandan judicial system. We shall continue to press the European Union and other multilateral organisations to respond as quickly and as effectively.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: When my hon. Friend discusses the position in Rwanda, will he take time to discuss the position in the neighbouring country of Burundi, which is much smaller, and where the increasing genocide is causing great hardship to the indigenous population? Will he inquire about what can be done?

Mr. Baldry: We are clearly keeping the position in Burundi under close watch. The position in Rwanda and in Burundi makes clear the need to develop in Africa and elsewhere preventive diplomacy systems to try to identify and avert humanitarian tragedies before they occur.

Mr. Robin Cook: The Minister will know that I have just returned from Rwanda. May I assure him that the top priority is to provide a justice system, as Rwanda has been left with no police, no courts and few judges? I urge him, therefore, to respond positively to Rwanda's request for British help in the training of a civil police force. Will he inject some urgency into the proceedings of the war crimes tribunal? Would it not be a disgrace for the international community if the anniversary of genocide in Rwanda were reached without a single ringleader being charged before the tribunal?

Mr. Baldry: I am sure that, following his visit to Rwanda, the hon. Gentleman wishes to acknowledge that Britain has responded promptly and generously to Rwanda's need for humanitarian assistance. Of course, this is more than a humanitarian problem. Rehabilitation and reconstruction are needed. We must work for a better future for Rwanda. That is why we are seeking to deal with specific problems, why the United Kingdom was the first bilateral contributor to the fund that was set up to finance human rights monitors, why it co-sponsored the Security Council resolution to establish an international

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criminal tribunal for Rwanda, why it has pledged £200,000 to fund UK personnel for the prosecutor's office and why it is helping the judiciary.

We have recently provided £100,000 in assistance to the Ministry of Justice, which is attempting to reconstruct the Rwandan judicial system. We are responding in every regard to the urgency of the need to build a better future for Rwanda.

European Union Institutions

8. Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to facilitate greater access for United Kingdom parliamentarians to European Union institutions.     [14947]

Mr. David Davis: A number of improvements have recently been put into effect, in particular by the House. In addition, Government Departments and the United Kingdom permanent representation in Brussels regularly advise and make arrangements for UK

parliamentarians who wish to make contact with representatives of the European Union institutions.

Mr. Sheerman: The Minister is well aware that a great deal of ignorance exists about Europe, especially among Conservative Back Benchers. Is it not about time that parliamentarians had proper access and positive leadership, with programmes to introduce Members of Parliament to a thorough knowledge of the matter? Is it not about time that the Government stood up for the European principle and said in a positive manner to Conservative Back Benchers and people outside that the country's future lies in Europe?

Mr. Davis: A competition in ignorance is one of the few competitions that the hon. Gentleman might win. in the past six months, contact between Parliament and European Union institutions has increased dramatically. For example, the number of Select Committees that visit European Union institutions has increased significantly.

More generally, the hon. Gentleman gave no credit to the Government for taking a lead. Largely at the UK's instigation, the European Union's workings have been made more accessible. Votes are routinely published, and the public have access to Council documents. There are open sittings of the Council, and the outcome of each Council is reported to Parliament. The hon. Gentleman attended to none of those matters.

Sir Roger Moate: Would not the very best way to improve relations between hon. Members and the European Parliament be to revert to the old system whereby the House selected members of the European Parliament from among its own Members? That could be facilitated by the benign new Jopling regime under which we all enjoy life so much. Is not that form of subsidiarity--whereby we choose the method of appointing members of the European Parliament--so attractive that it should be on the 1996 agenda?

Mr. Davis: It is open to my hon. Friend to write to the reflection group, of which I am a member, to make that recommendation. However, I do not think that it will have much chance of success.

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President of the United States

9. Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the state of relations with the President of the United States of America; and if he will make a statement.     [14948]

Mr. Hurd: Relations with the United States Administration remain close and friendly at all levels. The Prime Minister will visit Washington next week for talks with President Clinton and senior members of the Administration and Congress.

Mr. MacShane: Is it not a fact that, since the Prime Minister sent a couple of central office flunkies to try to sabotage President Clinton's election and behaved like a petulant child over the taking of telephone calls so that President Clinton will now visit Paris, Moscow, Brussels and Bonn but not London, we are incapable of having an adult relationship with our oldest partner and ally under this Government, and that the policy of unsplendid isolation can end only when others are responsible for this country's foreign affairs?

Mr. Hurd: The hon. Gentleman is wrong about the election and wrong about the American President's travel plans. The idea that our relationship with America depends on the timing of telephone calls between busy people is absurd and childish.

Dr. Twinn: When engaging in discussions with the American Administration, will my right hon. Friend make it clear that we in Europe expect the United States to put pressure on Turkey to ensure that it does not exercise a veto over the peace settlement in Cyprus or, indeed, the widening of the European Union?

Mr. Hurd: We are a guarantor power, with Turkey and Greece, of the Cyprus settlement. We work closely with the Americans and the Secretary- General of the United Nations to urge forward a settlement in Cyprus. My hon. Friend the Minister of State has just answered questions about the relationship between that and the accession of Cyprus to the European Union.

Rev. Martin Smyth: Does the Secretary of State agree, and share my concern about the fact, that the President of the United States perhaps pays too much attention to guidance on golf greens to support the so-called Irish Americans, forgetting that 60 per cent. of them are Scots-Irish? Is it not time that there was a campaign to inform the United States of its indebtedness, not only to the Scots-Irish, but to this nation as a whole?

Mr. Hurd: The hon. Gentleman knows that the British Government, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in particular, have been extremely energetic in presenting the truths about Northern Ireland to the American people. He and his colleagues have recently been playing a vigorous part in that, which I welcome.

There have been differences over Ireland with the United States Administration. In our view, it is important that substantial progress should be made on the decommissioning of weapons, and that any funds raised by Sinn Fein should not and could not be used to fund terrorism. These are matters that the Prime Minister will discuss with President Clinton. The responsibility for

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handling them rests with the Government who are responsible to the House, and that is accepted by President Clinton.

Mr. Duncan Smith: Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who go on about doom and gloom in respect of this so-called special relationship fail to take full account of opinion in the United States, not least that in Congress and the Senate? I hope that, like me, my right hon. Friend was heartened to note the other day that Senator Dole issued a press release in which, while urging the President to visit the United Kingdom for the VE day celebrations, he said that not only was Britain America's closest ally but that America owed a great debt to us for our position in the second world war and that the ties between the two countries are very close and very deep?

Mr. Hurd: Indeed, that is true. We cannot rest, though, simply on comradeship during a war 50 years ago, however important that was. That is why the particular ties which we have with the United States in defence, intelligence and other matters, remain strong and greatly in our interest. Of course the whole Anglo-American relationship does not just depend on relationships between Governments.

Everybody--parliamentarians, members of all professions in this country-- plays a part in that.

United Kingdom Diplomats

10. Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the role of United Kingdom diplomats abroad.     [14949]

Mr. Hurd: Their role is to protect and promote British interests: our prosperity, our security and our citizens abroad. The different elements of the work of the foreign service--political, economic and commercial--are intertwined, particularly at the level of ambassadors. Commercial work is already our largest single activity overseas and that emphasis is increasing further.

Mr. Bayley: Is the Foreign Secretary aware that, in the last year for which figures are available, Britain earned £8.9 billion from incoming tourism, which was more than twice as much as we earned exporting cars, three times as much as we earned exporting iron and steel and more than we earned from exporting fuel, including all the North sea oil? How much time will be spent by the 100 new commercial attache s, which he mentioned this morning, if I heard him correctly, on the "Today" programme, promoting tourism into Britain?

Mr. Hurd: A lot. If the hon. Gentleman visits any of the embassies abroad he will see the emphasis which is put, as foreigners come into British embassies, on tourism and the opportunities for it. I am delighted that, during the lifetime and under the arrangements of this Government, the city of York has made progress in this matter.

Mr. David Howell: Does my right hon. Friend agree with the very widespread view that our posts abroad and our diplomats do an excellent job, often in extremely challenging and personally dangerous conditions, on which they deserve to be congratulated? Does he also agree that an area of particularly good value for money in Foreign Office spending is the work of the British Council, which helps to promote the conditions in which

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