The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd): There are encouraging signs of progress between Israel and Syria, most recently during talks in Washington between their chiefs of staff. We hope that the Israelis and Palestinians will soon agree on arrangements to hold elections in the Palestinian territories and redeploy Israeli forces. I hope that that will happen by the new target date, 25 July, agreed by Mr. Peres and Mr. Arafat. We and our European Union partners are preparing to co-ordinate international observation of the elections and to provide 300 EU observers. Negotiations between Israel and Jordan on a series of agreements to follow up their peace treaty are on track.
Mr. Marshall: I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. May I also thank him for the skill, dedication and charm with which he has undertaken his duties for a number of years? It must be a matter of great satisfaction to him that he leaves the world a safer and freer place than it was in 1989.
In view of the territorial concessions made by Israel, and as several of her neighbours have received an official royal visit, is it not high time that there was an official royal visit to the state of Israel?
My hon. Friend has raised an important point. There are currently no plans for a state visit to Israel, but there is no bar to such a visit in principle. His Royal Highness Prince Philip was there last year, and we warmly welcomed the President of Israel when he was here on VE day.
Mr. Burden: I welcome yesterday's announcement that a date has been agreed for confirmation of arrangements for self-rule between Israel and the Palestinians, but does the Foreign Secretary share my concern--which, I believe, is shared by many--about Israel's apparently ambiguous attitude to peace negotiations? It appears constantly to demand more concessions from those whose lands it occupies, while at the same time jeopardising the peace process by its attitude to settlement building and the building of facts on the ground in Jerusalem.
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the help that the international community wishes to give the peace negotiations could be aided by our making it clear to Israel that we expect all parties to abide by all United Nations resolutions concerning the middle east?
Column 364it, and it is important that it should not lose impetus. The next step is to proceed with the redeployment of Israeli forces and the holding of Palestinian elections. It will be followed by a series of further steps that will have to end with a resolution of the question of Jerusalem.
Mr. Hurd: There are a good many projects and our aid totals £83 million for the four years 1994-97. The projects include technical assistance to the police, involving vehicles and communications, training of nurses in Gaza--I have seen for myself how important that is--hydrology training and improving health care in Jericho.
Mr. Murphy: I am sure that the Secretary of State will welcome, as all hon. Members will, yesterday's resumption of peace talks between the Israelis and the PLO, but does he agree with a recent commentator that unless this country and its allies provide proper and tangible aid to Gaza and the west bank, the lack of jobs and the lack of cash in those regions will provide Hamas with its best recruiting sergeant?
Mr. Hurd: We are doing that. We were among the first to do so, even when Mr. Arafat and the PLO had no proper accounting procedures in place. We pressed them on that. Eventually, they got procedures in place and we started to pay and to help the police. With our European partners, we have been among the first to give precisely that practical help for the reasons that the hon. Gentleman stated.
2. Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what study his Department has made into the economics of EMU; and what assessment he has made of the strength of argument in favour of the formation of a single currency. 
Mr. Hurd: The economics of economic and monetary union are a matter on which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer advises the Cabinet. It is not possible to assess fully today the pros and cons of a single currency that might be introduced in 1999. I am encouraged by signs that elsewhere in Europe an increasingly hard-headed debate about the implications of a single currency is under way.
Mr. Duncan Smith: May I begin by offering my right hon. Friend my sincere best wishes for his future retirement and extend a warm welcome to the Back Benches, where I know he will make a huge contribution, as he has on the Front Bench? Furthermore, as there is such inconsistency about the economic rationale for going into a single currency, does he agree that this country should not endeavour to do so unless a massive, overwhelming economic rationale exists in favour of it?
I have always found my hon. Friend a most courteous and constructive critic and I am grateful to him for that. I cannot add very much to what the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have said on this subject. The Prime Minister has shown over and again his wariness--
Column 365that is the phrase that he rightly uses-- [Hon. Members:-- "Weariness"] No, W-A-R-I. My right hon. Friend has shown not only his wariness on the substance of this question, but his firm belief that Britain should be part of the preparation. That is why, over and again, he has made clear his view that we should retain the freedom that he gained for us at Maastricht. Of course, a single currency would be an important step. It would have important political and constitutional implications and we would have to weigh the economic arguments to which my hon. Friend refers. The whole point of the case from the Conservative Benches is that that weighing of the economic advantages and disadvantages cannot be done at this time.
Mr. Winnick: Should we not learn from the experience of what some people--certainly myself--would say was the nightmare of having been in the exchange rate mechanism, when conventional wisdom argued that we should go in and we saw what happened? Does the Foreign Secretary accept that there is a distinction to be made between the xenophobia that may be found among his own Back Benchers and those of us who believe, as he has just said, that a genuine constitutional issue is involved: a single currency would undoubtedly take away this country's right to determine interest rates and other issues, which should be in the competence of the Government and the House of Commons? There is bound, therefore, to be concern about the possibility of a single currency.
Mr. Hurd: The hon. Member can address that point to his Front-Bench team. Of course, this is an important issue and it has political, constitutional and economic aspects. We do not believe that the pros and cons can be fully assessed in 1995.
Mr. Garel-Jones: Is my right hon. Friend aware that, when historians look back at his period of office in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and specifically Britain's position on economic and monetary union, they will see that during that time not only did we begin to tidy up what I suppose one might call the excesses of the Single European Act but the foundations were laid of a European Union of nations, in which Britain will feel comfortable, and at the centre of which it will find its place?
Mr. Hurd: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. His personal example has encouraged me to follow him into an active and eager life on the Back Benches. As he has raised this point, may I take the opportunity to thank and congratulate any of the present Foreign Office Ministers of State who may be promoted or moved during the afternoon.
Sir Russell Johnston: Nevertheless, the tone of the Foreign Secretary's reply suggests that he would agree that opposition to a single currency in a single market derives more from theology about sovereignty than economic common sense. Does he recognise that if the Government continue to pay too much attention to all these crazy Europhobes, sterling could well be left with about as much room for manoeuvre as the Luxembourg franc?
Mr. Hurd: The hon. Gentleman misunderstands the position. Thanks to the Prime Minister's efforts at Maastricht, we are in a remarkably advantageous position. That is seen clearly--all too clearly perhaps--by our partners on the continent. We are able to take a full part in preparing this project without being committed to joining it. It is not often in life that we can have our cake and eat it, and the hon. Gentleman should rejoice.
Column 366Mr. Dykes: What is wrong with a single currency in a true single market?
Mr. Hurd: I do not think that anything is wrong with a single currency in a true single market. I believe that a single market can exist without a single currency and it follows that the merits--the pros and cons --of a single currency need to be carefully weighed when and if the choice comes before us.
Mr. Robin Cook: May I offer my good wishes to the Foreign Secretary for his retirement and the appreciation of the House that he is answering questions today in what appears to be overtime in his post?
As this will be the right hon. Gentleman's last opportunity at the Dispatch Box, may I tempt him to show the same robustness as he showed last week when he described the views on the single currency of the challenger to the Prime Minister as a "Right wing extremist agenda"? Was he at all surprised that well over a third of Conservative Back-Benchers voted for that right- wing extremist agenda? Did that fact confirm him in his good sense in opting for retirement rather than continuing to pretend that any Conservative can represent Britain in Europe when half his party wants to be rid of Europe and three quarters of Britain wants to be rid of his party?
Mr. Hurd: I lost the hon. Gentleman in the last bit. I was trying to find a way of paying him a compliment as the third shadow Foreign Secretary with whom I have had the honour to match. They have all had their pluses and minuses, but I have found the hon. Gentleman courteous. Normal courtesies between us have been performed--and perhaps from time to time exceeded.
The extremist agenda turned out not to be quite so rigorous and extreme as I had expected, and I think that that is good. There was a thoroughly cool- tempered contest for the leadership of my party. I think that we all feel the better for it, particularly those of us who backed the winner.
Mr. Hurd: Our co-operation with Argentina has developed rapidly since we restored relations in 1990. Trade and investment are growing fast. Our exports have risen by 165 per cent. since 1991, and we have made agreements on visa abolition, air services, judicial co-operation against drug trafficking, investment promotion and fisheries.
We disagree over the Falklands and South Georgia. Argentina continues to assert her claim to sovereignty, and we remain firmly opposed to any discussion on sovereignty. The Falkland islanders want to remain British and we will continue to uphold their right of self-determination.
Following his recent election victory, President Menem will be inaugurated for a second four-year term next Saturday. We wish him well and look forward to strengthening our relations further on this basis.
Column 367side under, as he said, an umbrella? Have we returned to the level of trade and investment enjoyed with Argentina before that dispute? What specific measures are we taking to strengthen further trade with that country, which is very much based on good will?
Mr. Hurd: I shall send my hon. Friend the comparative figures. We are certainly building up our trade fast and rebuilding those assets and investments in Argentina which, in fact, we had to sell to win two world wars. The British position in Argentina is being rebuilt fast. That certainly owes something to the policies of President Menem, as my hon. Friend said, and a good deal to the energy of British business men, including those working in the newly privatised utilities. We and Her Majesty's ambassador in Buenos Aires are doing our utmost to encourage that energy.
Mr. Tony Banks: Would I be correct in assuming that relations between Her Majesty's Government and the Argentines are considerably warmer than relations between Her Majesty's Government and the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold)? I entirely support the rights of the Falkland islanders to remain British, but would it not be appropriate to encourage a limited amount of tourism between Argentina and the Falkland Islands?
Mr. Hurd: I think that that is something which the islanders have to work out for themselves. I have often told the Argentine Foreign Minister that I am not prepared to start leaning on the islanders about the question of contacts with Argentina. There has been some movement, an example of which is the small but very sensitive matter of Argentine next of kin visiting newly discovered war graves on Pebble island. It has been agreed that they will be able to stay the night there. Such movement may occur, but really it is something that islanders have to work out for themselves.
Will my right hon. Friend use his influence to ensure that a Cabinet Minister attends the inauguration of President Menem--not least as an expression of good will--to maintain the momentum for the crucial oil and natural gas talks around the Falkland Islands?
Mr. Hurd: I am grateful to my hon. Friend--another invariably courteous critic. I would have liked, and I think that we would all have liked, a Cabinet Minister to attend President Menem's inauguration. That was in hand, but certain rearrangements have made it difficult to carry through. I am glad that Lady Trumpington will be going. She has proved herself a doughty and highly successful representative of this country on many such occasions.
Mr. Trimble: Is it realistic to work to strengthen relations with Argentina while it continues to seek to advance its territorial claim? Are we not in danger of repeating the mistake made before 1982 of making the Argentines think that our relations with them are more important than the Falkland Islands and thus encouraging an invasion? Should we not make it clear to Argentina that there cannot be strengthening of relations and developing of trade unless it adopts a more realistic attitude?
Column 368the agreements that we have struck with Argentina about fish and we are now seeking--we have not found it yet--a way of agreeing with Argentina on the exploitation of oil. Both those things are very much in the interests of the islanders if they can be achieved. The policy that we have been following--I think that it has been very successful--is to say to the Argentines frequently and very clearly: "We do not agree about sovereignty. We are not prepared to discuss sovereignty, but if you are willing to put that aside, we will be perfectly willing to develop trade, investment and other contacts." The visit of the Duke of York last year and the visit of the president of the Argentine Senate this year are illustrations of the good working of this policy.
6. Mr. Dykes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to present new proposals for European Union developments in the Spanish presidency period which begins on 1 July. 
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis): May I seek your indulgence, Madam Speaker, to add my comments with respect to the last appearance at the Dispatch Box of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary? I express my personal sadness at that. It has been a great privilege and, indeed, an education to serve under him and I look forward to his continuing to keep me in line from the Back Benches.
We shall continue to press for developments that will increase the competitiveness of European industries, create jobs and secure a better return from the application of Community resources.
As we are back at the heart of Europe after yesterday's dramatic events, does my hon. Friend agree that we can now set aside the corrosive British disease of "pas trop de ze le"--excuse me for using the French words, Madam Speaker--which should be translated, in the words of the headmaster of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's old school, as, "I distrust enthusiasm of any kind"? Does my hon. Friend agree that we can now switch to Ministers appearing to sound enthusiastic about Europe, as they do about other Government policies?
Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend and I sometimes see the same coin from opposite sides. There is no lack of enthusiasm among Ministers for the Europe that we want to create--a Europe of free markets, a Europe of free movement and a Europe of nation states.
Mr. Watson: We are now in the Spanish presidency and the Minister will be aware that one of the outstanding issues relating to Spain is the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement. Will he give an undertaking that the Government will include in those discussions firm statements to the Moroccan Government that they must give way on the outstanding referendum on Western Sahara before any accommodation will be given to them in terms of renewal of the fisheries agreement?
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg): Iraq has consistently failed to comply with its internationaobligations as set out in the relevant UN resolutions. We particularly look to Iraq to fulfil the requirements relating to weapons of mass destruction, to account for the Kuwaitis detained after the Gulf war and to respect the human rights of all Iraqis.
Lady Olga Maitland: I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his reply. Does he agree that it is outrageous that four years after the ending of the Gulf war the Iraqis are still holding 625 missing Kuwaitis and prisoners of war? More than that, does he agree that the Iraqis are still prevaricating, weaving and dodging whenever there is an opportunity to try to get them to discuss this important issue? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the Iraqis failed to turn up to a key meeting on the Kuwait border on 18 June? Will he ensure that the Government make strong representations on the matter when the coalition Governments supporting the Gulf states meet the Iraqis in Geneva on this issue?
Mr. Hogg: My hon. Friend makes an important point which troubles us greatly. There are 609 files on missing Kuwaitis; 168 have been the subject of discussion and in 70 cases Iraq has prevented an intermediate result. I very much regret that the most recent planned meeting did not take place. The International Committee of the Red Cross has invited the parties to a tripartite commission meeting in Geneva. I very much hope that all the parties attend.
Mr. Dalyell: Is it not within the knowledge of the Foreign Office that Russian, French, German and Italian, not to mention Greek, business men are busy in Baghdad putting together contract after contract? Is it not a pity that as most of the Iraqi decision makers were educated at British universities, we are not rethinking this whole area of policy?
Mr. Hogg: I know that the hon. Gentleman, understandably, is deeply concerned about the plight of the Iraqis. But he will forgive me if I point out that under United Nations Security Council resolution 986, Saddam Hussein was given the opportunity to export oil to the value of $2 billion every 120 days, so long as he used the proceeds for humanitarian purposes-- although the operation would have been subject to various constraints. He chose not to do so, and that is the primary reason why we see the privation in Iraq now.
Mr. David Davis: Good progress is being made in the negotiations for a comprehensive test ban treaty, especially in areas such as scope and verification. Much remains to be done, but we remain committed to work for the conclusion of a treaty before the end of 1996.
Column 370Are the above-ground non-nuclear experiments, lasers and computer simulations proper safeguards, as the Minister of State for Defence Procurement said yesterday, that will enable Britain to give a commitment not to resume tests? If so why, in another place on 20 June, did Lord Henley, on behalf of the Government, refuse to rule out the use of the Nevada test site for further British tests? Do the Government suspect France and other nuclear states of trying to kill at birth the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty?
Mr. Davis: The hon. Gentleman is showing his Labour-CND roots, I am afraid. We recognise and understand the concern that the French decision has caused in some countries, but the decision is one for the French. It is not for us to comment on French requirements and how they decide to meet them. Our principal objective is the early conclusion of an indefinite comprehensive test ban treaty, and the French commitment to that has been reaffirmed by President Chirac. Our policy on testing remains unchanged. We are actively working for a comprehensive test ban treaty, and we have said that we shall not seek to test while the United States moratorium remains in force.
Mr. Colvin: Does my hon. Friend agree that, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the growing risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, the nuclear deterrent is more important today than ever? Does he further agree that for a nuclear deterrent to work, and to be seen to work, it has to be tested? What scope is there for the United States, the United Kingdom and the French to join forces to develop credible simulation tests, therefore avoiding the need for explosions? Will my hon. Friend confirm that following the introduction of Trident, and bearing in mind the foreseen abandonment and scrapping of the free-fall bomb, we shall have fewer nuclear warheads in our armoury than before?
Mr. Davis: I start by confirming the latter point. My hon. Friend is right; since 1970 there has been about a 59 per cent. reduction in explosive power, and reductions in warheads too. As for the need for a deterrent, my hon. Friend is right to say that the world is still a dangerous place, and the first concern of any British Government must be to maintain the security of the British nation. Everything that we do concerning a comprehensive test ban treaty, and our attitude to testing in general, takes that into account and works with it as our primary objective.
Mr. Tony Lloyd: Does the Minister accept that the condemnation that the French Government have rightly received from nations friendly to us such as Australia and New Zealand is mirrored by criticism from the French socialist party and from most people in France? Does he also accept that a comprehensive test ban treaty is the price that the nuclear powers must pay for an extension of the non-proliferation treaty? That was the bargain that we undertook. Does the Minister seriously believe that the world, especially the non-nuclear powers, will accept that there is a basis for trust when France has announced plans to test, China has tested and even the United States now talks about resuming a testing programme?
Mr. Davis: I am afraid the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) is not the only one showing his Labour-CND origins. I repeat that our principal objective is the early conclusion of an indefinite comprehensive test ban treaty
Column 371and, as I have also said, the French commitment to that has been reaffirmed by President Chirac. That is the most important point, and that is what we put at the top of our agenda.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry): During a recent visit to Angola, my right hon and noble Friend Baroness Chalker was assured by both parties of their commitment to a successful outcome to the peace process.
Mr. Lester: May I preface my question by giving my personal thanks to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on behalf of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which I am the longest-serving Conservative member? I am very grateful for the relationship that we have had in terms of the work that the Committee has sought to do for the House.
Does not the case of Angola need to be carefully analysed? The UN operation during the original election was relatively underfunded and underworked and the consequences of that included a breakdown of the proposals, the loss of many hundreds of lives and a greater cost of trying to put together a destroyed and war-ravaged country.
Mr. Baldry: My hon. Friend is right that there are many lessons to be learnt from what has happened in Angola. I am glad to say that the May meeting between President Dos Santos and Dr. Savimbi has given fresh impetus to the peace process. There is still much to be done, but the prospects for peace are brighter now than at any time since the elections in 1992. The House should remember that the United Kingdom is doing much to support the peace process. In particular, since May we have provided some 645 troops from a UK logistics battalion, who are doing excellent work in helping UN forces to deploy in Angola.
Mr. Grocott: Does the Minister agree that if the peace process is to succeed after many years of the most devastating war there is an urgent need for an international programme of reconstruction? Has the UN set a date for its conference on reconstruction? If not, what steps are the Government taking to bring about that conference?
Mr. Baldry: We have provided about £30 million in emergency aid since June 1993, and we are encouraging longer-term development work through the Angola development fund which is dealing with long-term reconstruction. We are trying simultaneously to help the UN troops and, through the Angola development fund, to help in the longer-term reconstruction.
Mr. Baldry: Relations are excellent. Trade and investment are thriving. Our visible exports to Thailand last year were up 14 per cent. at £746 million. We are the leading European investor and the fifth largest overall. Contacts between our countries are extensive. My right hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Goodlad) visited Thailand at the end of May to underline the progress in bilateral relations and to mark the reopening of a British consulate in Chiang Mai.
Mr. Heald: Given the huge potential for trade and investment in all quadrangle countries, but particularly Thailand, will my hon. Friend give more details on the purposes of reopening the trade consulate at Chiang Mai and the objectives of that consulate? Does he feel that there is now adequate trade representation in that region?
Mr. Baldry: Helping British companies to win business overseas is the Foreign Office's single largest activity overseas. The Chiang Mai consulate will reopen as a trade-focused mission, and forms part of a worldwide strengthening of our commercial effort. The decision to reopen that post is a reflection of our growing commercial interests in Thailand, which have more than quadrupled in the past decade. Visible exports are now worth nearly £750 million a year, and it is for that reason that we have opened the new trade office which, it is hoped, will expand business into northern Thailand, a region of great economic potential.
11. Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his Japanese counterpart on the compensation of war victims. 
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met a group of former prisoners of war and internees on 21 June. He emphasised the Government's deep respect and sympathy for those who suffered as prisoners of the Japanese. We will continue contacts with the Japanese Government to try to resolve this long- standing problem.
Mr. Campbell-Savours: Is it not perverse and unacceptable for one of the richest countries in the world--a country with an immense tradition and cultural heritage--to equivocate on an apology to those people who were so gravely abused during the second world war and to duck and weave on the question of compensation for war victims? Why do not the British Government really lay themselves on the line in discussions with their counterparts in the Japanese Government?
Mr. Hurd: On the legal point, the hon. Gentleman knows the position. In 1951, both the Labour and Conservative Governments settled that question, so far as the law is concerned, in the San Francisco treaty of that year. So far as Governments are concerned, we are not talking about a legal case, although there is a case brought by former prisoners of war in the Japanese courts. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visited Japan in 1993, the Japanese Prime Minister expressed deep remorse as well as apologies for the fact that Japanese past actions had inflicted deep wounds on many people, including the former prisoners.
Column 373We have made it clear often to the Japanese Government that this issue is not disappearing and that the feelings aroused here are strong and go beyond those who suffered. We have discussed with them various ways of tackling that and we shall continue to do so. I made it clear to the Japanese Foreign Minister that the measures so far taken by Japan, and the efforts that the Japanese have made, are not sufficient to allay the anxieties and resentments here.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton: I join in all the tributes that have rightly been paid to my right hon. Friend on his outstanding service not only to the Government but to the Foreign Office over the years in which he has held the high and important office of Secretary of State.
My right hon. Friend's response to the question has been full and sympathetic, but am I right in suggesting that if the Japanese would go so far as to apologise, as the German people and the German Government have done, that would go a long way to meet the concerns expressed? Like many others who have met representatives of the Far East Prisoners of War Association and the Burma Star Association, I believe most fervently that the agreement made in 1951 was inadequate and that there is an excellent case for compensation for those people who were so badly abused.
Mr. Hurd: I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said at the beginning of his question, although there is an element of exaggeration in what has been said about my five and a half years at the Foreign Office. I am particularly glad that such remarks should come from those who have been among my sternest critics at moments during that period.
I sympathise with what my hon. Friend has said. We both know individuals who suffered at the hands of the Japanese. I have a friend in Witney who is one of the leaders of that group of former prisoners and internees. The matter is on that is discussed over and over again in Japan, where it is a matter of high controversy in a way that it is not in Germany. The recent Diet resolution, which was very controversial, was a general statement repeating the expression of deep remorse.
12. Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the Government's policy in respect of the special Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Marshall: I thank the Secretary of State for that response. Will he ensure that the topic of co-operation between the IPU and the UN is put on the agenda of the General Assembly of the UN? Will the Government support such an initiative? Will the right hon. Gentleman do his utmost to see that the matter is discussed at the General Assembly as soon as possible?