Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Madam Speaker: I can deal with the matter. I think that it was said that the Members concerned were members of trade unions, not sponsored. I shall examine the matter carefully. I think that the Leader of the House replied absolutely correctly. If there is any doubt, we have employed a parliamentary commissioner to deal with these matters instead of dealing with them by means of points of order.

BILLS PRESENTED

Hong Kong (Overseas Public Servants)

Mr. Secretary Rifkind, supported by Mr. William Waldegrave, Mr. Roger Freeman and Mr. Jeremy Hanley, presented a Bill to confer power to make provision for the making of payments to, and to permit early retirement by, certain Hong Kong overseas public servants; to authorise the provision of resettlement services to certain Hong Kong overseas public servants who retire early; and to confer power to make provision for the making in certain circumstances of payments to supplement pensions and gratuities paid to or in respect of retired overseas public servants in respect of service in Hong Kong: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 1.]

Chemical Weapons

Mr. Secretary Lang, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Rifkind, Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew, Mr. Secretary Portillo, Mr. Secretary Forsyth, Mr. Secretary Hague and Mr. Phillip Oppenheim, presented a Bill to promote the control of chemical weapons and of certain toxic chemicals and precursors; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 2.]

Audit (Miscellaneous Provisions)

Mr. Secretary Gummer, supported by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mrs. Secretary Shephard, Mr. Secretary Dorrell, Mr. Secretary Forsyth, Mr. Secretary Hague and Sir Paul Beresford, presented a Bill to extend the functions of the Audit Commission for Local Authorities and the National Health Service in England and Wales; to alter the financial year of that Commission and of the Accounts Commission for Scotland; and to make provision about the manner of publication of certain information required to be published in pursuance of a direction of either Commission: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 3.]

16 Nov 1995 : Column 129

Orders of the Day

Debate on the Address

[Second Day]

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question,



    Most Gracious Sovereign,


    We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.--[Mr. Hurd.]

Question again proposed.

Foreign Affairs and Defence

3.4 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind): The debate on the Loyal Address began yesterday with a contribution from my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd), my predecessor as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. I should like to use this opportunity to place on record what I believe to be the very great debt that this country owes to my right hon. Friend, whom I believe was one of our great Foreign Secretaries and an international statesman of the highest repute. Now, sadly, he suffers the fate of all retired Foreign Ministers and ambassadors: when he gets into the back of his car, he finds that it does not go anywhere.

The debate yesterday on the Gracious Speech concentrated--quite properly--on the domestic issues that deeply divide the nation and the political parties. Traditionally, while bipartisan policies are pursued in many areas, in foreign policy, there is less fundamental disagreement. Whether Governments come or go, the interests of the country do not change, and that is reflected in many aspects of our foreign policy. Towards the end of my remarks this afternoon, I shall draw attention to what I believe are differences in that matter in three important respects: the extent to which, on all the great and fundamental issues that have divided the country on foreign policy, the Labour party, since the days of Ernest Bevin, has been wrong--by its own admission-- [Interruption.] I said since the death of Ernest Bevin. I pay very great tribute to Ernest Bevin, who was a realist, a patriot and never ceased to fight for the interests of the country. I am afraid that that is more than can be said for many of his successors.

I also wish to draw attention to the clear unwillingness of hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench to accept the need to fight for Britain's interests whenever that might mean that we stand alone, and I wish to draw attention to the growing divergences on certain fundamental aspects of European policy.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) rose--

Mr. Rifkind: I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman later in my speech. Until then, he must wait in eager anticipation. In the mean time, I shall comment on a

16 Nov 1995 : Column 130

number of important issues on which I believe that there will be a substantial measure of agreement on both sides of the House.

I shall start with the situation in the middle east followng the tragic assassinatin of Yitzhak Rabin. A week ago, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I, accompanied by the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Liberal Democratic party, represented this country at Mr. Rabin's funeral. There is a clear appreciation that he was a man of extraordinary ability and talent. I draw attention to particular aspects of his character that are of crucial significance to the future of the middle east. I believe that he was uniquely able to inspire trust, both from his own people in order that certain concessions be made and from the traditional enemies of his country, and that has enabled great progress to be made.

Mr. Rabin was also a man of great courage, not just physical courage--clearly he had that in abundant supply--but moral courage. Recognising, as he did, that the interests of peace meant that the traditional policies of his country towards the occupied territories had to be changed, he was prapared to make that change in his fundamental position, despite what he knew to be the intense unpopularity that it would evoke in many quarters of his country.

Following Mr. Rabin's death, the greatest interest has been in the consequences for the peace process. Having been in Israel and having visited the countreis in the region, I have no doubt whatever that the peace process will continue. There is an overwhelming belief within Israel that his death should not be seen to have happened in vain. There is, however, no overstating the great sense of pain that exists within Israel as it comes to terms with the fact that fanaticism and extremism are not just qualities to be found in Arab countries, as many Israelis like to believe--it now has to be accepted as existing within Israel itself. The positive side of that coin is, of course, the growing common judgment, the common vision that the Israelis and Arab Governments in the region share of the need for the peace process to continue and of its irreversibility.

If I had any doubts about that irreversibility, they were clearly answered in a number of ways during the course of last week, when I was able to fly non-stop from Damascus to Tel Aviv, a flight that would have been inconceivable a few years ago; when, after seeing Yasser Arafat in Gaza at lunchtime, later that day he drove to Tel Aviv to pay his condolences to Mrs. Leah Rabin; when we heard King Hussein, in an extraordinarily brave speech in Jerusalem, talk of Mr. Rabin not only as his friend but as his brother. Those are clear, symbolic but nevertheless highly relevant ways of demonstrating the fundamental change that is taking place.

As for Israel's relationship with Syria--one of the most difficult relationships of all--I believe that in Damascus as well as in Tel Aviv there is a willingness to get the negotiating process going again. It will be slow and difficult, but I believe that the will exists.

The key to that, and to the whole future of the middle east in regard to Israel's relationship with its neighbours, is the future of the Palestinians. Visiting Gaza for the first time, but comparing what I saw there with what I understand to have been the situation there a year ago, I could only be struck by the extraordinary economic

16 Nov 1995 : Column 131

progress--the tremendous development of the social and economic welfare of the Palestinians in Gaza, and the degree to which that will be extended elsewhere.

The United Kingdom is very proud and privileged to be playing a part in that process, having contributed some £83 million over the past few years to assist the Palistinians. I announced a further project during my visit to Gaza. We are providing some of the observers for the election procedure in January, when the first direct elections take place; we are also assisting with the training of the Palestinian police force, and helping in a number of other ways.

I think that there is a great potential in the middle east, and that, if the peace process is brought to a satisfactory conclusion, the countries concerned will be able to bring together the unique ecnonic assets that both Israel and its Arab neighbours possess, and introduce unprecedented prosperity and econonmic and social development to the region. Moreover, at a time when we know that a grave threat of terrorism still exists in a number of countries in the regionm, it will enable all the moderate, responsible Governments to work more effectively together.

Only a couple of days ago, an extremist atrocity occured in Saudi Arabia, causing the deaths of a number of Americans and injuries to many people. We convey our deep condolences to those affected by that terrorist incident. The existence of terrorism in Saudi Arabia and in Israel emphasises the extent to which moderate, responsible Governments must work closely together as part of the international community to remove this scourge once and for all.

Let me now deal with Nigeria and the recent Commonwealth conference. There, too, we have seen events that, although tragic, have given rise to important new developpments. The United Kingdom Government have made no secret of their condemnation of what we believe to have been the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other eight Nigerians who were cruelly hanged by the Nigerian Government. It has been right and proper for the Commonwealth to respond in an unprecedented way. I believe that Nigeria's suspension from the Commonwealth, the action that we and others have taken in regard to the imposition of an arms embargo and the withdrawal of high commissioners, and the discussions that are taking place about whether further steps need to be taken at this time constitute a very appropriate response.


Next Section

IndexHome Page