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Oral Answers to Questions



1. Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the security arrangements devised to safeguard the independent future of Belize.     [25429]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis): Belize is an independent country within the Commonwealth. Since 1 January 1994, Belize has had responsibility for its own defence.

Mr. Davidson: Having withdrawn British troops from Belize, are the Minister and the Government satisfied that sufficient arrangements are in place to ensure that the territorial integrity of Belize is safe in the event of any external aggression? In particular, are there arrangements in place which will assist Belize in the event of substantial illegal migration affecting the territorial integrity of that state?

Mr. Davis: The Government do not believe that a renewed military threat is likely. The Guatemalan Government have made clear their intention to resolve their disputes peacefully through negotiation. As to the ability to cope without the support of British forces, we agreed with the Government of Belize that the British garrison should be reduced to a training presence and that the Belize defence force would assume responsibility, as I said, on 1 January 1994. We have made it clear that we shall maintain our programme of assistance for the development of the BDF to sustain and improve the force's capability through the provision of loaned service personnel, equipment, training and advice. In addition, Belize continues to receive substantial amounts of British aid.

Mr. Jacques Arnold: One possible cause of instability in that area is, of course, the run-up to the presidential elections in Guatemala in October. Will my hon. Friend assure the House that he will make it clear to the Guatemalans that any playing with Belize would be extremely unhelpful because that country is a member of the United Nations and the Commonwealth and would get our full backing, and that we should like to see our warm relations with Guatemala extended and developed?

Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend, as ever, asks a wise question about Latin American affairs. We have maintained good relationships with Belize and Guatemala. Guatemala is clear about our stance with respect to Belize, and I think that that had a sizeable influence on their current position on the matter.

EU Council of Ministers

2. Mr. Barnes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals his Department has to increase the transparency of decision-making in the European Union Council of Ministers; and if he will make a statement.     [25432]

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Mr. David Davis: We will continue to press for more transparency in the Council's decision-making, building on the principles agreed during the United Kingdom presidency.

Mr. Barnes: In democracies, formal legislative decisions are made by Parliaments, with full details provided of their votes and the state of Bills and amendments. This place is full of volumes of documents listing such material, yet the Council of Ministers, which is effectively the Parliament of Europe, meets in secret and all we get from it are its final directives and decisions and, occasionally, a final vote, if a vote happens to take place. Is not there a long way to go before transparency, meeting democratic requirements, is introduced into the Council of Ministers?

Mr. Davis: The United Kingdom is interested in all practical improvements which command broad support in the Council. The hon. Gentleman does not give credit where credit is due. The achievements so far include routine publication of votes, wider public access to Commission and Council documents, full briefing of the press before and after meetings of the Council and some Council sessions being held in public and televised.

Mr. Wilkinson: Is not this House a good place to start in achieving real accountability of the European Union Council of Ministers? In that context, could not my hon. Friend have come back from the ministerial meeting at Messina and made a statement to the House about the preparations for the intergovernmental conference? The stand that he took at Messina was welcome, and he should never fear to stand alone.

Mr. Davis: I thank my hon. Friend for that compliment. Throughout the course of the next six months, there will be some 15 meetings of the reflections group and I shall ensure that a clear account of what I say at those meetings will be given in a written answer.


3. Mr. Enright: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met his European Union counterparts regarding the situation in Rwanda; and if he will make a statement.     [25433]

4. Ms Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Rwanda.     [25434]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry): Rwanda has been discussed oa regular basis in the European Union, most recently at the Development Affairs Council on 1 June attended by my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Chalker.

Mr. Enright: Since we beatified the blessed Baroness Chalker yesterday, I would not wish to canonise her today. Although I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the efforts that they have made in the European Union, in spite of quite disgraceful opposition, to continue to support Rwanda in the way that it is being supported, may I urge on them the necessity of taking to task the French Government for continuing to supply arms outside Rwanda to parties to the conflict and ask the Government to consult about that in the European Union?

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In the context of Lome , will the Government also take to task Zaire and South Africa who--equally--are supplying arms outside Rwanda to parties to the conflict?

Mr. Baldry: I am always grateful for the hon. Gentleman's congratulations. I am grateful that he has recognised that we have been taking a constructive role in trying to find a way forward for the resumption of sensible EU aid to Rwanda. Indeed, we have been taking a leading part in that effort. I hope that full resumption of EU aid will be possible in the very near future. Of course, in a situation such as that in Rwanda, armed groups wandering around the place do not help anyone. Certainly it behoves everyone in the international community to try to ensure that everyone behaves responsibly, supports the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General and of peacekeepers in the region and does nothing else which may undermine the peace process taking place in Rwanda.

Ms Anderson: Does the Minister accept that reconciliation can be achieved only when those responsible for the genocide are brought to justice? Does he also accept that the identity of the ringleaders is widely known, as is their whereabouts? What pressure are the Government putting on African Governments to see that those war criminals are brought to justice?

Mr. Baldry: I do not think that there is any disagreement that those who committed grave breaches of international humanitarian law should be brought to account for their actions. That is exactly the reason why the United Kingdom Government sponsored the Security Council resolution establishing an international criminal tribunal for Rwanda. As the hon. Lady says, bringing such people to trial is an essential pre-condition for efforts of reconciliation. We have been supporting the tribunal with funds and it will soon start its work. We clearly hope that, in the not too distant future, those who were responsible for some of the earlier atrocities will be brought to trial and to book, which will be part of the reconciliation process in Rwanda.

Mr. Tony Lloyd: Returning to the question of arms and the arms embargo, is the Minister aware that human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch are concerned about the fact that arms are getting to former members of the Rwandan armed forces in refugee camps outside Rwanda? The suggestion is that Governments, individuals and organisations in France, South Africa and Zaire are actively involved in that process. Will the Minister and the Government, in supporting the retention of the United Nations role in Rwanda, press for the UN to have monitoring powers not only inside Rwanda but outside, to ensure that arms do not get through to would- be combatants? If that does not happen, we face the prospect of a return to intertribal conflict and the resumption of the genocide that the world saw last year.

Mr. Baldry: I think that I answered that point fairly fully in reply to the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) and there is nothing else that I can say on the subject. The facts speak for themselves. We have been determined to try to ensure that there is the maximum number of international and UN monitors, and we have been among the foremost nations in helping to fund those monitors, outside as well as inside Rwanda. That will make a considerable contribution, because what is going on will be more widely known.

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EU Reflections Group

5. Mr. Dykes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the main items in his briefing instructions to the Minister of State as the United Kingdom representative for the start of the EU reflections group proceedings this month.     [25435]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd): The Prime Minister set out the Government's approachto the intergovernmental conference in his speech in Leiden, and in the House on 1 March. That is the basis on which the Minister of State will operate in the study group. The study group is designed to prepare options for the conference; the start of the IGC itself is at least seven months away.

Mr. Dykes: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that a normal enthusiasm for the European Union does not reduce our ability to look after our own vital national interests? Quite the reverse, it enhances that ability. In that context, will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Minister of State will be as enthusiastic as he is about our membership, and will not be like Mr. Bretherton at the original Messina conference?

Mr. Hurd: We want to make a success of British membership of the European Union, and that means that in preparing for the IGC there are certain specific things that we aim to achieve and to persuade others to achieve, and certain other things that we say that we shall not do, and would not accept if others put them forward. That is the line that my hon. Friend has begun to set out in the reflections group, and it will continue through the IGC.

Mr. Spearing: Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that under the existing treaty of union signed at Maastricht the obligation to change or even to review the existing treaty is extremely limited? Can he tell us where any obligation to change is listed, if it is listed at all? Anything wider than that on the wide topic that has been the subject of many documents is not an obligation under the existing treaty. Indeed, it is outwith the terms, so is it not therefore optional for all members of the Union?

Mr. Hurd: No member state can be compelled to accept any change in the Maastricht treaty. That treaty foreshadowed certain subjects that would need to be considered again, but it did not impose an obligation on any member state to accept any change.

Mr. Marlow: Does my right hon. Friend think that there is any real point in proceeding with the meetings of the reflections group at this stage, when the Chancellor of the Federal German Republic has made it clear that he will not agree with any decisions coming out of the IGC until after our general election, when he fervently hopes that the Labour party will be in power and will give him everything that he wants?

Mr. Hurd: Despite the blandishments of the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke in Bonn recently, I have the rather strong impression that that is not the Federal Chancellor's view. However, the British people will make the decision. We are entirely relaxed about the timing of the IGC. As the Prime Minister said in the speech that I have already mentioned, the Maastricht treaty has been in force for little more than 18 months, and it is rather soon

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to reconsider it all. The treaty says that the review should start in 1996, so that will have to happen, but it does not lay down when the review should end.

Mr. Robin Cook: Did the Foreign Secretary see the discussion paper from the Fresh Start group, which claims a membership of 50 Tory Members? Did he note its recommendation that his objective at the forthcoming IGC should be to create a crisis with the other members? Would the Foreign Secretary like to express his personal opinion on those of his colleagues who want a crisis with those nations to whom we sell most of our exports? [Hon. Members:-- "Rubbish."] It is true. The markets provided by those countries are the cause of most of the inward investment in Britain. Will he therefore tell them that the crisis that they want with Europe would also be a crisis within British industry?

Mr. Hurd: The hon. Gentleman is creating in his question a crisis where no crisis exists. The paper to which he referred is still in my pending tray. We are not aiming for a crisis. We aim for steady progress towards the kind of European Union with which the Government and the British people are at ease--a Europe of nations dedicated to opening markets, to free trade and to the institutions of Europe on the whole doing less, and doing it better.

Overseas Commerce

6. Mr. Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans his Department has to strengthen overseas commercial activities.     [25436]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Alastair Goodlad): On 1 March my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary announced plans to strengthen commercial activity overseas by opening 14 new posts and creating over 100 additional commercial staff slots. New export promotion targets and programmes, many of which will involve our posts overseas, are also included in the second competitiveness White Paper, launched on 22 May.

Mr. Hendry: Given that we are experiencing an export-led recovery and that firms in my constituency and elsewhere are actively seeking new markets overseas, will my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that our diplomats around the world see it as an ever more important part of their role to actively support British industry? Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what he sees as the key priority in that area?

Mr. Goodlad: Helping British companies to win business is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's largest single activity overseas, and accounts for 30 per cent. of front-line staff. We have 205 commercial sections in post world wide, and shortly there will be 217. The priorities for the commercial services are to provide market intelligence, to help find overseas business contacts, to support overseas market research, to provide information on overseas companies, to help promote products and services, to organise seminars and briefings and to give political and economic advice on overseas markets. They also provide a door-opening service for United Kingdom companies. I am confident that that work is being done professionally.

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Mr. Grocott: Does the Minister acknowledge that the size, scale and--to some extent--the status of our overseas embassies often reflects times past rather than changing patterns in the world? What steps are being made within the Foreign Office to review the strength of our overseas representation in different countries to ensure that it reflects new and emerging patterns in the world and is not frozen in the past?

Mr. Goodlad: There is a constant process of inspection; the Foreign Office is probably the most heavily inspected and reviewed part of the public service. That is reflected by the fact that we are continually closing posts where they are no longer needed, reducing them in size and opening them where there are new challenges and opportunities. We are going through a fundamental expenditure review. I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he looks for, as the list of embassies is updated on a continuous basis.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his positive response to that question. Does he accept that the major growth in the world in the next 10 to 15 years is likely to take place, not in over- regulated Europe, but in the middle east, the Indian sub-continent, the Pacific rim and south-east Asia? How many of the additional posts which he has announced will fall within the middle east, the Indian sub-continent, the Pacific rim, south-east Asia and China?

Mr. Goodlad: The short answer to my hon. Friend is a lot. Information on the new posts has been placed in the Library. The list includes Australia, Turkmenistan, Thailand, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Mexico, Georgia, Laos and Armenia, and includes the very areas which my hon. Friend mentioned.


7. Mr. Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the United Kingdom's policy towards Iraq.     [25437]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg): Her Majesty's Government will continue to support the UN sanctions until Iraq complies with its obligations under all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. Recognising the suffering of the Iraqi people, we played a major part in achieving the unanimous adoption of resolution 986, permitting Iraq to export substantial quantities of oil in return for aid. Iraq's precipitate rejection of the resolution is a striking example of the regime's disregard for its own people.

Mr. Miller: I am grateful for the Minister's thoughtful reply. He will be glad to know that I shall not ask about past arms sales to Iraq. Will he assure the House that, as part of the sanctions, the United Nations is rigorously enforcing the question of arms imports into Iraq? Is he certain that no country is supplying armaments to that awful regime?

Mr. Hogg: I am not aware of any military support for Iraq, and we would do our best to frustrate it should we become aware of it.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend: My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that one of the reasons which he

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gave the House for continuing sanctions was the installation of elaborate monitoring equipment and the need to ensure that it works properly. Does it?

Mr. Hogg: We are still at an early stage in installing the systems. The real problem is that Mr. Ekeus has not yet declared himself satisfied that Iraq has complied with the requirements of the Security Council resolutions that deal with weapons of mass destruction. That is particularly, although not exclusively, true of biological warfare capacity.


8. Mr. Nigel Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further discussions he has had with his counterparts in the UN over further Serbian aggression in Bosnia and Croatia.     [25438]

Mr. Hurd: I have been in close touch with counterparts about the future of the UN force in Bosnia and the detention of UN troops by the Bosnian Serbs. We have been holding talks in London with the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Kozyrev, in the past two days. The new French Foreign Minister will visit me this evening and that will no doubt be our main topic of conversation. While the release of the second group of hostages this morning is welcome, we all agree that all UN troops should be returned unconditionally, unharmed and at once.

Mr. Griffiths: What does the Foreign Secretary think of the failure of the Bosnian Serbs to allow the Red Cross access to the hostages? Is not that in breach of recognised international codes of conduct and morals?

Mr. Hurd: The Bosnian Serbs are in breach of those codes by detaining the hostages in the first place. We are applying pressures, both direct and indirect, to bring about their unconditional and immediate release. There has been some progress, although not yet enough. While people are held, they should be treated decently, and access by the Red Cross should be allowed.

Sir Patrick Cormack: In view of the need to maintain firmness and cohesion among the nations of the contact group, are there plans for the contact group to meet either at Heads of Government or Foreign Minister level? If there are no such plans, will my right hon. Friend consider convening a meeting?

Mr. Hurd: We had a meeting at ministerial level last week, and I am sure that we shall need another such meeting before long.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: The Foreign Secretary will know that there have been some reports that Mr. Kozyrev is unenthusiastic about the proposals for an additional deployment of troops from the United Kingdom. Can the Foreign Secretary tell us as a result of his conversations with Mr. Kozyrev whether he is now reconciled to that further deployment? Is there now a risk that Russia will object at the United Nations to the deployment of those troops?

Mr. Hurd: Mr. Kozyrev said yesterday that he had been reassured by the explanations on that point. The draft resolution, which will need to go before the Security Council, will be designed to lift the ceiling of UNPROFOR, which is defined in the present resolutions

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and is too low, but it will not need to change the mandate. There is plenty of scope in the mandate for useful work by the reinforcements now going out to protect the British contingent in UNPROFOR--for example, supplying light artillery and equipment for mine clearing, while giving greater protection to those involved.

Mr. Budgen: If it be true that there is risk that the Bosnian war might spread across the map of Europe and involve Russia and the United States coming in on opposite sides, why are we talking about withdrawing the troops?

Mr. Hurd: Our aim is not to withdraw troops; our aim is to make a success of the present exercise. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and others have said for a long time that that is our aim and our wish.

One can conceive of circumstances in which that becomes impossible, in which case, obviously, we would need to withdraw. I think that then the arms embargo would probably be lifted, that the present half peace, half war in Bosnia would become once again a full and savage war and that there would be a risk of it spreading outwards to other parts of the Balkans, with the accompanying risk that the big powers might be divided as to which side, if any, they supported. However, our aim is not to withdraw. Our aim is to make a success of what we have set our hand to.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: The whole House will wish whatever negotiations are taking place about release of the hostages to be successful, but may we have an assurance that the British Government are not sanctioning a trade-off whereby we give, or anyone gives, undertakings not to make air strikes in return for the release of hostages? May we have an assurance that the British Government are not giving any sanction to any party that that might be our position?

Mr. Hurd: The Prime Minister gave that assurance to the House in the debate last week.

Mr. John Townend: Does my right hon. Friend accept that the majority of my constituents--I agree with them--consider that the only national vital interest we have in Bosnia is obtaining the release of our troops? Is it not strange that we have to have more troops there than any other country, especially when Italy, which presumably has a much greater national interest, and Germany, have almost none? Will he tell the House what will be the total monthly cost of humanitarian aid in the presence of our troops when all the reinforcements have been deployed, and who is paying that cost?

Mr. Hurd: We do not at the moment have the greatest number of troops; the French have the greatest number of troops, although my hon. Friend is right to say that, when the full reinforcements that have been promised are in place, we shall probably have the greatest number. The Prime Minister set out in the debate last week--I believe he had general support on both sides of the House--two main reasons why we sent troops to Bosnia. The first is the humanitarian one--to save lives. The second is the strategic one--that we wish to damp down that war if we can, to contain it and to prevent it spreading. Those are the two reasons for our decision that the Prime Minister explained, and I think that he was right.

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The humanitarian aid and UNPROFOR, the UN force, are financed by the UN, overwhelmingly. We make our contribution to that, as do other countries. The UN is not sufficiently financed at the moment. There are countries--not including us--who do not pay their dues, so there is a slowness in being repaid. Fundamentally, however, those are UN operations.

Mr. Robin Cook: May I join the Foreign Secretary in warmly welcoming the latest release of hostages, and express our full support for every pressure on the Bosnian Serbs for the early and safe release of all hostages? Does he agree that the release of the majority of the hostages shows that the international community was right to show a new resolve towards the Bosnian Serbs and to refuse to give in to blackmail, and that the House was right to set aside the voices urging an immediate withdrawal, which would have been the biggest concession that the Bosnian Serbs could have asked for?

Mr. Hurd: The debate in the House last week showed the House at its best. It was entirely right that anxieties were expressed, because anxieties exist; I believe that we all feel them. However, it was also right that the great majority of voices should support the line that we are taking. We will hold to that line.

Intergovernmental Conference

9. Mr. Riddick: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans the Government have to consider yielding at the next IGC additional powers to the European Parliament; and if he will list the powers concerned.     [25439]

Mr. David Davis: The European Parliament acquired important new powers in the Maastricht treaty, and we have heard no convincing case for extending them further in the 1996 IGC. If it is to address genuine public concerns, the European Parliament should devote more attention to tackling fraud and to holding the Commission to account. So I can answer my hon. Friend in one word: none.

Mr. Riddick: I thank my hon. Friend for his clear and unequivocal reply. Will he confirm that, in the unseemly horse trading that will no doubt take place at next year's intergovernmental conference, the Government will make no concessions on the issue of co-decision making powers which would hand over more powers to the European Parliament at the expense of Ministers, including British Ministers--something that has been supported by the leader of the Labour Members of the European Parliament, Ms Pauline Green, and that other well known Labour lady, Ms Glenys Kinnock?

Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend is exactly right about the Labour party's position. That is why, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) said, it is no surprise that some federalists entertain fantasies about a Labour victory. Fortunately, that will never happen.

Mr. MacShane: Is the Minister aware that last September, in an interesting speech at Leiden, the Prime Minister called for the House to be more involved with the European Parliament in overseeing legislation? The sort of fatuous, anti-European Parliament remarks that the Minister has just made do not contribute to resolving the

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difficult problem of the democratic deficit and the need to find some balance between the need to represent our constituents in the House and the role of the European Parliament.

Mr. Davis: The hon. Gentleman, with his incredible intelligence, clearly did not listen to my answer. I made no reference to national Parliaments. He is right to say that the Prime Minister said that we should pay attention to giving our national Parliaments a greater involvement in the legislation of the European Union, and we shall be doing just that.

Mr. Jenkin: But what do my hon. Friend and his colleagues intend to do about the fact that the European Parliament will progressively gather more powers by virtue of the legal framework that currently exists?

Mr. MacShane: Quite right.

Mr. Jenkin: "Quite right," says the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane). As the unions chip away at our opt-out from the social chapter through the courts and through the European courts, will not the European Parliament gather power over those competencies? Has not my hon. Friend got either to take to the intergovernmental conference a plan completely to reform the legal structure of the EU or go for much more comprehensive opt- outs to stop the European Parliament interfering with the success achieved by the Government in industrial relations in this country?

Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend is right to say that there is a problem of creeping competence, and it applies precisely to the area that he describes --the social chapter opt-out. I shall pay much attention to that issue in the next six months.

Ms Quin: In response to the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick), the Minister mentioned issues of public concern. Will he explain why the list of topics to be considered by the reflection group, of which he is a member, concentrates overwhelmingly on institutional issues and contains no specific mention of unemployment or issues such as the environment or the reform of the common agricultural policy? How does he intend to ensure that those matters are properly discussed? As the Minister also said that he was in favour of more openness, what specific plans does he have to inform the public and Parliament about the progress made in those discussions?

Mr. Davis: I have already answered half of those questions. If the hon. Lady had paid attention to the reports of what I said at the reflections group, she would have seen that I said that less than 50 per cent. of the people of Europe currently feel that their nation state receives a benefit from the European Union. That is precisely because individual citizens do not see themselves as gaining from the European Union. I said that that issue had to be addressed by the reflections group during its considerations in the next six months.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes: Does my hon. Friend agree that, when one strips away the noise and bluster that we have heard from the Opposition on the issue, the simple fact is that more power for the European Parliament would mean less power for this Parliament? If that is what the Opposition believe, they should put it to the electorate, who would reject the notion.

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Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend is exactly right. The Labour formula for the intergovernmental conference appears to be capitulation on qualified majority voting, collapse on co-decision and surrender on the social chapter--none of which would benefit this country.


10. Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the political situation in Cyprus.     [25440]

Mr. Hurd: We believe that the present division of Cyprus is unacceptable. We are actively supporting the United Nations Secretary General's mission of good offices, which offers the best hope for a just and lasting solution. Exploratory discussions between representatives of the two communities in Cyprus were held in London on 21 to 23 May. We are encouraging both sides in Cyprus to approach future negotiations positively and flexibly.

Mrs. Roche: Does the Secretary of State agree that, as a guarantor power, Britain could be doing much more to ensure, first, that refugees are able to return to their homes as part of a just solution and, secondly, that news is obtained of people who have been missing since 1974? When does the Secretary of State or one of his colleagues next expect to visit the island of Cyprus to discuss in person a long overdue speedy and just solution to the problem?

Mr. Hurd: In the past few years we have expended a lot of energy pursuing both the specific points that the hon. Lady mentioned. My colleagues and I are continually in touch with the President of Cyprus and the Foreign Minister of Cyprus, Mr. Michaelides, to discuss how we can help the two communities to reach a necessary agreement. We believe in one Cyprus with two communities and a federal constitution. It is difficult to turn that principle into a settled agreement. That is why we are in favour of private talks, which were held in London. They did not make as much progress as we had wished, but we must keep on trying, as the hon. Lady said.

Dr. Twinn: I thank my right hon. Friend for his clear statement of support for one Cyprus with two communities and also for the work that he and the Foreign Office have done to ensure that the two communities can meet to talk about matters which concern them greatly. They are the ones who must make a decision about a just and lasting solution, but does my right hon. Friend agree that Britain has a particular responsibility to Cyprus both as a guarantor power and because many British citizens who are also Cypriots look to the Government in London to become actively involved in finding a solution?

Mr. Hurd: My hon. Friend is quite right. He and many other hon. Members on both sides of the House rightly remind me constantly that we have a special responsibility to Cyprus for both the reasons that my hon. Friend mentioned. We take that responsibility seriously, and we act upon it energetically.


11. Mr. David Young: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what actions Her Majesty's Government are taking against the illegal harassment of Gibraltarians by unjustifiable border checks.     [25441]

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Mr. Hurd: I have raised our concerns with my Spanish counterpart, Mr. Solana, and our ambassador in Madrid has protested formally to the Spanish Foreign Ministry. We have also approached the Schengen secretariat, other Schengen states and the European Commission. We shall continue to raise the matter with the Spaniards until they take adequate measures at the frontier with Gibraltar to ensure that people can cross the border freely and without undue impediment.

Mr. Young: When the Falkland Islands were invaded, force had to be met with force. The harassment that has taken place over many months is affecting British citizens and the economy of Gibraltar. Does the Secretary of State believe that rebukes to the Spanish Government of which they take no notice will be adequate in this situation? Does he have any other thoughts about what can be done to stop the harassment? Will he also give an assurance that the Government will not remove any of the Gibraltar Government's existing powers?

Mr. Hurd: On the first point, the hon. Gentleman is not quite right. There have been problems at the frontier. They were solved temporarily as a result of a meeting that I had with the Spanish Foreign Minister on 20 December, but the trouble has recurred recently. We must keep up the pressure and the Spaniards know that we will do that.

The hon. Gentleman's second point raises a completely separate issue. As Gibraltar wishes to remain and prosper as a financial centre within the European Union, it is important that it should comply with the rules of the European Union for which the British Government, as the sovereign power, are responsible. We are in touch with Gibraltar, particularly about the need to bring legislation on money laundering into line with the standards in Britain. I am more hopeful than I was that we are making progress. It is a separate issue, but it is important.

Mr. Colvin: Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Schengen agreement on frontier controls is not the equivalent of the external frontier of the European Union, although Spain is using it as such and as a pretext for delays at the frontier? What action is the Foreign Office taking to persuade Spain to ratify the external frontier convention in relation to Gibraltar, as that could put an end to the circumstances which enable Spain to take destructive action in respect of Gibraltar?

Mr. Hurd: I look forward to talking about the subject in greater depth with the Spaniards before long. My hon. Friend is quite right about the distinction between the Schengen agreement and the external frontier. We do not believe that the Spaniards have any justification for their action.

Mr. Trimble: Does the Foreign Secretary consider that the threat which was reportedly made to impose direct rule on Gibraltar might encourage the Spaniards to believe that the constitutional position of Gibraltar could be undermined in view of precedents elsewhere? Does he acknowledge that the United Kingdom would have more credibility in regard to upholding the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar if it fully respected the democratic institutions in Gibraltar?

Mr. Hurd: We hold entirely to the undertaking given to the people of Gibraltar in the 1969 constitution that we would never enter into arrangements whereby the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another

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